From The Expert Feature Article
March 11, 2014

Cloud vs. Enterprise: Bye, Bye VDI; Hello DaaS

After patting ourselves on the back for virtualizing every server in sight, it was only natural to catch virtualization fever. Once afflicted, the logic that everything must be virtualized set in. The usual suspects, VMware and Citrix, were the vendors of choice for the next big thing: virtual desktops. Nostalgic reminders of your last virtualization adventure made you believe that once again your CIO would consider you a virtualization hero. You were so convinced that you had even taken it upon yourself to calculate your future bonus based on the hype and savings you had seen on those readily available desktop virtualization ROI calculators, which abundantly popped up on the Internet like weeds.Yet, like so many trying to be the hero, they ended up a zero. Why? Well, in my opinion…

Liars Figure and Figures Lie

I’m a DaaS architect. The failure of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has inevitably landed you here, with me. And just like the character Neo in the famous movie “The Matrix,” you will quickly get around to asking me the inexorable question of, “Why are you here?” So let’s begin: everything you know, think you know, or were told about virtual desktops is wrong. Virtual desktops are the absolute worst workload you will ever try to host in your entire IT career on any hypervisor, anywhere. I say that as a man with 20+ certifications including CCIE, VCP, EMCTA, MASE; certifications and experience painfully earned while running one of the largest DaaS providers for the last 3 years, and admittedly making every mistake you did or are about to. With candor, I must say that you’ve got the wrong servers, wrong network, wrong storage, and wrong software solution to solve the problem. I know; everyone told you that VDI should just “blend right in” with your existing virtual serve environment. Shame on them! VDI, very quickly became a novelty --- not a true Windows desktop replacement. It was justified as a disaster recovery option to “get us by” if chaos strikes or as a remote access VPN replacement to keep corporate data within the castle’s walls.    Response time when typing in MS Word lagged, most videos didn’t work particularly in high resolution, and flash heavy websites stepped all over the “MMR” (multi-media redirection) techniques often used in VDI. User complaints never ended; every single problem wasn’t just blamed on Windows now, now VDI was blamed. 

Shameless Channel Cads

I’m not referring to Cad as “computer aided design”. Heck, if someone had designed VDI right it wouldn’t be such a flop! No, a Cad from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary is a person “who acts with deliberate disregard for another’s feelings or rights”. You have a right to a solution that works when you fork over millions of dollars. Instead, your feelings got crushed when none of it worked as expected and your wallet was squashed with it. Did the channel Cads care? No! “Solutions” popped up faster than you could whack-a-mole them: flash memory or SSD accelerated front ends to SAS (News - Alert)/SATA spindle based storage, insatiable 30amp sucking blade systems, network switches for the future of networking with 10g/40g/100g that take 4 men just to rack the beast, thin clients that cost more than laptops, and a dizzying array of software to protect, manage, and maintain a VDI infrastructure reference design that was spiraling out of control, right along with the budget and lack of results. Few noticed the life being sucked out of them through their electrical bill (especially if the IT manager wasn’t the one paying for it) or the fact that these were pieces to a much larger VDI puzzle which remained unsolved.

Math 101

Economics is one of the reasons VDI failed miserably and why DaaS wins every single time. After a while, even the larger vendors of VDI in private clouds were backing off their ROI claims and just trying to dazzle users with the “coolness” factor of VDI. Granted, we’re businessmen; albeit ones who love technology, but we get really excited when it makes us money or saves us on cost. VDI was part of the “big lie” around private cloud. Enterprise cannot compete with the cloud, but why? Simply put: while cloud is known for its endless innovation of near alien technology, there’s a lot of math that goes into the economics as well. You could put a rack of cloud next to a rack of enterprise and it’s literally night and day. 1u/2u pizza box servers replace blade systems. Ultra-low latency 40gbps infiniband replaces Ethernet. Object oriented storage with advanced erasure coding techniques replace RAID fueled SAN/NAS storage with de-duplication. Regular power cords replace 30amp 208v circuits to all gear reducing cost per rack by over $10,000/month. But the exponential savings don’t stop there: storage alone goes from 24.6 cents per GB/month with two unencrypted copies of the data, to 4.6 cents per GB/month with three encrypted copies of the data. You can’t compete with cloud, heck you can’t even buy the technology cloud uses.

Bye, Bye VDI, Hello DaaS

One principle we all learned is still true to this day: convergence of anything equals cost savings and efficiencies of great magnitude. This is why private cloud is ultimately doomed, because when it’s not leveraging commodities of scale, it’s too expensive. Rather, the right question to ask is how many public clouds should I host my data in? The world’s largest distributors and value added resellers do not do their own clouds for this reason. DaaS is a turn-key instant on virtual desktop running true Windows 7 (>250 seats) or Win2k8 made to look like Windows 7 (they are 100% code compatible with each other) that can be connected back to your offices worldwide via the Internet, P2P VPN tunnel, full mesh private MPLS, or P2P circuits.  At < $40/user a month, it can be provisioned for 10,000+ users in an hour while sitting atop the best infrastructures on the planet. DaaS can be upgraded in ways VDI and physical endpoints cannot: you can have up to 48vCPU, 512GB memory, and an unlimited amount of storage. We call these fantasy desktops, but people do build them in the cloud because they are always there 24x7x365, ready to be used by any Android (News - Alert), iPad, Chromebook, Windows and Linux device.

Most DaaS today connects you from those endpoints to a Windows desktop, but new flavors of base operating systems are coming this summer such as Ubuntu (News - Alert) Linux Desktop, Android, and Chrome. Prefer Linux or trying to learn it? Moved to an iPhone but want to keep your Android apps? Don’t want the cost of an iPad and just got a Chromebook, but need Windows reduced to an app? DaaS saves the day.    

The Future

In the coming years you will be able to login to every resource you have from anywhere in the world at high speed with local response times. You can thank object oriented storage for this as it replicates worldwide. webRTC and HTML5 powered virtual desktops that are already just drag/drop extensions in Google (News - Alert) Chrome (and soon other browsers) will make integration, skins/customization, and overall experience of blending the Web, VoIP, video, chat, and DaaS together so very easy. For now though, I still get asked, “Will that run in a virtual desktop?” I still remember when people asked that about virtual servers.

Mike L. Chase ([email protected]) is EVP and Chief Technology Officer for dinCloud, a cloud services provider and transformation company that helps businesses and public/private organizations rapidly migrate to the cloud through the hosting of servers, desktops, storage, and other cloud services via its strong channel base of VARs and MSPs. Visit dinCloud on LinkedIn (News - Alert):

Edited by Cassandra Tucker