I have been thinking a lot about the evolution of virtualization lately and so I was intrigued when a company I had never heard of called Desktone asked to come in for a briefing. When I heard that the company specialized on desktop virtualization I was intrigued. I was even more interested when I learned that the founder came from Softricity, the OS virtualization company bought by Microsoft.
What I liked about Desktone is its focus on desktops as a service. The company has been around since 2006 and has its developers in Shaghai. The company has taken a $17 million investment round. I liked David Marshall’s overview of the technology.
What is important about what Desktone has to say is that the desktop environment can become a service offering. While I don’t expect the masses of Microsoft Windows desktops to all move en masse to desktop as a service, it is an approach that is a leading indicator of where the desktop is headed. Think back to when Windows became the platform for desktop computing. In those days, customers wanted a easy to use and pragmatic way to write letters, create a spreadsheet, follow up on email, and surf the web.
What has changed over the past five years is the growing complexity of the desktop environment. Simply put, the desktop moved from its role as a terminal for corporate applications and a tool for productivity applications into a true computing platform. The implications are complex and startling. Customers who thought of their desktop as personal where suddenly forced to deal with everything from viruses, security of stored data, updates to the operating system, the need to coordinate between service components on the desktop and the server. Now, add to this, the need to add more power on the desktop to support the growing needs for a growing number graphics and computing requirements — and of course power.
What Desktone is proposing is that service providers establish themselves as the provider of desktop capability. Clearly, an emerging player like Desktone couldn’t take on this goal but its partners are stepping up. In my discussion with CEO, Harry Ruda, the company has signed on partners including IBM, Verizon, Softbanks, and T-Systems. These companies all plan to use desktone to offer the virtual desktop as a subscription based service. Therefore, the desktone service provides an annuity stream for companies like Verizon as an alternative to the corporate desktop. Desktone has signed up a few high profile customers like Merill Lynch. Merrill Lynch are signing up for a very simple reason — they simply cannot get any more power in their data centers — even if they wanted to pay for it. Likewise, Verizon, which has substantial data center capacity in New York City simply cannot take on new co-location customers without a managed services approach.
What I found very interesting about Desktone is how the company positions the technology. The company seems want to from the traditional approaches to desktop virtualization right to the world of cloud computing — of course, for the desktop world. I am providing a link to Dana Gardner’s blog on the topic. Unlike some of the clouds that we hear a lot about, Desktone’s version is based on a private cloud that will be owned and run by the serivce providers. The approach is intended to treat the virtual desktop as PCs connected to a service provider that provides the “virtual container” for the desktops. This solves a lot of problems for both Desktone and service providers. In essence, the end customer is responsible for their own operating system and PC application licenses. Desktone is provide a virtual desktop grid — what Desktone called an access fabric. This fabric is intended to provide a management platform for desktop virtualization.
Desktone has an interesting opportunity. It is stretching what we have traditionally thought about for desktop virtualization. While desktop virtualization is not new but it is changing dramatically. One only has to look at the work that VMware, Citrix, IBM, Microsoft and HP are doing — to mention but a few of the players that understand the importance of virtualizing the device in front of the customer. I think that desktop as a service is the right conversation for the industry to be having just about now.