VMware beats Amazon to the punch with release of its cloud desktops

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One of the big reveals at the AWS Re:Invent conference in November was WorkSpaces, Amazon’s take on desktop virtualization run from its public cloud. At that time, it announced a limited preview of the service; fast forward four months and AWS WorkSpaces is still in limited preview while VMware is crowing about the actual launch of VMWare Horizon Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS).

And, salt to wound, Horizon’s low-end list price is $35 per desktop per month “for a full Windows client experience.” That matches the low-end price promised by Amazon. As desktop virtualization expert Brian Madden points out, even though VMware is using technology acquired with Desktone in October, this is still a moral victory.

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Desktop virtualization — an umbrella term for several technologies including Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) — aims to make it much easier for IT to manage diverse client computers by automatically pushing out patches and updates to all devices. It also enables companies to make use of lower-end, low-cost machines without sacrificing full PC perks. Desktop-as-a-Service is a relatively new flavor of desktop virtualization which lets companies deploy, provision and manage desktops from a public or private cloud. In some ways it’s a throw-back to the old thin-client days where a pared-down end-point device would run the “skin” of an application but the brute computing stuff happened on some other computer.

Amazon’s announcement was viewed as a frontal assault on VMware and Citrix, the leader in desktop virtualization. Given Amazon’s history of rolling out services fast and furious, it does seem a little odd that WorkSpaces is not yet publicly available although, as Google has shown, the line between preview or beta or trial software and generally available software is pretty darn thin.

VMware stressed that Horizon can run desktops from off-premises public cloud, provided that public cloud is VMware-hosted vCloud Hybrid Services, or is a partner-hosted cloud running VCHS. Or you can use Horizon via an in-house private cloud running VMware vSphere. Or you can run a mix of desktops some runnign from the public cloud(s) and private cloud. There’s a ton of choice,  provided you run VMware technology everywhere. Of course, with Amazon WorkSpaces, you are locked into AWS; so this notion of reliance on cloud lessening vendor lock-in is looking more and more specious these days.

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