Start-up Tempts Biggies into Providing DaaS
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Harry Ruda, the guy who sold Softricity, the application virtualization start-up, to Microsoft two years ago, is now flogging the virtualized desktop-as-a-service, DaaS so-called, a logical extension to Softricity when you stop and think about it.
His new venture, Desktone, is ambitious. It means to have
carriers like Verizon, whose traditional communications services are
increasingly in jeopardy, and tier one computer companies like IBM use their
infrastructure to deliver the outsourced service as service providers to large
Desktone will have a revenue-sharing arrangement with the
service providers, which could include SoftBank in
Naturally it’s supposed to eliminate the complexity of VDI and eradicate the barriers to adoption. The enterprise doesn’t have to build or deploy anything; it just has to sign up. And the service provider gets to turn a profit on its data center.
When exactly any of this will go live depends on ironing
out some existing bugs. Maybe by the end of the year. And we’ll have to see
what the latency is like.
Desktone calls its scalable hosted subscription-based
platform Virtual-D and expects the service to run $60-$80 a month per desktop,
a savings of anywhere from $300-$800 a year, Ruda calculates, depending on a
company’s TCO, and cheaper than if you did it yourself.
It’s got Merrill Lynch using it sans service provider and
Merrill says Desktone’s open architecture will let it swap the best-in-class
virtualization technologies as they become available.
It could be Xen, XenSource, VMware ESX or Microsoft’s
Desktone has also tied up with Wyse for low-power thin
clients, promising users meaningful cuts in CAPEX and OPEX. Rich or repurposed
clients can also be used.
The way Virtual-D works, the enterprise is supposed to be
able to manage the virtual desktop environment – via a web-based interface –
supported by the physical resources owned and maintained by a third party that
reside either locally or with the service provider.
The enterprise can do virtual resource management, virtual
desktop administration and template lifecycle management. It’s also supposed to
be able to continue to use whatever operating systems, best practices, help
desk and security policies it used before.
Well, as long as the operating system is XP – for now at
The applications are streaming via Microsoft’s RDP or
Virtual-D kicks in an Access Fabric, a set of distributed services that links the authorized users to their virtual desktops.
This DNS-like Access Fabric is supposed to be “unique,” described by Desktone as an intelligent system that automatically delivers best-fit desktops according to user entitlements, policies, access location and available resources.
Desktone also provides a self-service policy-based portal
accessible from a browser where users go to access their virtual desktops,
manage them or create new ones without relying on IT. It is supposed to help
with troubleshooting and requests for additional resources.
At the service provider end are the racks of hardware and
software that form the building blocks of a virtual desktop utility grid that
can scale to carrier-class size.
Desktone calls them “Elements” and provides a “Service
Manager” or framework that ties the Elements into a grid. The Service Manager
creates a loosely coupled “federation” of Elements, it says, manages pool
across the Elements and collects data on Element status.
It promises to integrate all the virtualization layers
including storage, applications, client devices, servers, processing and
network technologies under a single management console.
Service providers can build Virtual-D Elements themselves
using Desktone’s blueprints or get them pre-fabricated from Desktone partners.
After a $1.5 million angel round, Desktone, which was
started in 2006 by Eric Pulier, who also started SOA Software, US Interactive
and IVT, picked up $17 million in first-round funding about a year ago from
Highland Capital Partners, SoftBank Capital, Citrix Systems and the China-based
Ruda says the brains behind the technology is Paul Gaffney,
the former CIO of Staples. The company has maybe 40 people, more than half of
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