Seven steps towards achieving simplified DaaS
Desktop as a service (DaaS), a cloud-hosted infrastructure which provides a smooth desktop experience to end users typically outsourced and handled by a third party, has been heralded as the natural heir to the ageing desktop estate for some time.
Although hyped as a simple and quick solution, the technical complexity and high costs frequently associated with early DaaS user experiences mean there have been more than a few false dawns. Yet the market is showing no signs of giving up and the adoption rate of DaaS solutions is growing by the week.
Accelerated availability of cloud services is a key driver for this. Companies of all sizes, enterprises included, are attracted to the flexibility, scalability and cost-savings on offer. As service offerings mature and early obstacles overcome, the eventual widespread adoption of DaaS seems inevitable. Some of the big industry names certainly seem to think so. For example, Citrix recently overhauled its product portfolio to place more emphasis on its DaaS-driven enterprise application and data delivery products. At the same time Microsoft is widely tipped to release a product of its own in the coming months. It seems that 2016 may finally be the year when enterprise DaaS comes of age.
Here, we look at some of the major benefits that can be achieved by using DaaS and highlight why CIOs should consider providing their workforce with a DaaS-type solution and take the first steps towards leaving the processor-centric past behind.
Offer browser-based access to applications
A distributed, mobile and agile workforce needs fast, convenient access to business systems and applications so they can work effectively from their own personal workspace regardless of location or endpoint device. A good way to achieve this is to deploy centrally managed remote access software that integrates HTML5 access technology. This approach provides workers with role-defined access to any corporate system or application.
In addition to supplying workers with access to back-end services via their browser, the software can also give IT administrators immediate insight into who accessed what application, when, and for how long. An ability to integrate with cloud services including SQL as a service, backup, automatic scaling and recovery is also an asset. AWS Cloud Formation and Azure Template Manager are good examples of such software-defined systems.
Make the end user experience natural
Most users are not at all technical and have minimal interest in learning new systems, especially if it means a lot of training. However a DaaS solution that offers users a similar look, feel and performance via a browser to what they would find in the office has been demonstrated to encourage rapid, wide-reaching uptake by individuals. Browser-based access has the added advantage of being fully customisable to suit different end users’ needs. It is by far the simplest way to manage access to corporate services across the whole spectrum of devices that end-users might be end up using.
Early DaaS deployments have been closely associated with VDI technology. Unfortunately one of the big drawbacks with large VDI implementations is the amount of administrative effort they require. VDI applications are published from a single golden image. Every time there is an update – even if it’s a minor modification to a single application – you have to update absolutely everything.
Furthermore, it is not unusual for VDI implementations to have more than a single Virtual Machine instance; thus updates must be managed across multiple images. This places a large burden on IT support. DaaS solutions, on the other hand, can be modular in their design. This makes them very flexible. They are also easier to maintain since every app can be serviced individually. DaaS is even more flexible and brings further cost savings in a Remote Desktop Services (RDS) environment where remote services can be delivered via an existing Windows environment rather than a costly VDI infrastructure.
Include the flexibility to mix managed/self-managed services
Most DaaS solutions have a multi-tenancy capability. While this is clearly an advantage for service providers servicing multiple businesses on the same premises it has benefits for the enterprise too. Multi-tenancy is a useful way to isolate critical applications or environments – such as a research department or a test lab. It also makes it possible to maintain separate (but still centrally-managed) third party contractor environments.
If, at the same time, you can give IT support teams freedom to choose between managed or self-managed services it should help speed up delivery of hosted desktops and applications deployments. In some cases it makes perfect sense to offer a degree of self-management to a customer or a department as it helps to reduce the workload for the central helpdesk.
DaaS environments significantly reduce the amount of support required to service virtual and physical hardware. As computing resources and licensing are consumed on a per usage basis, this opens up the possibility of significant cost savings, especially for international enterprises spanning multiple continents and time zones. DaaS also allows you to scale up, or down, easily at a moment’s notice in line with the business’s changing needs. DaaS’s innate flexibility even allows you to create specific desktops or application packages on the fly to fulfil IT budget demands or new end-user requirements.
Reduce support calls
Dealing with end-user support calls takes up much of a helpdesk’s daily workload. Many support calls – regarding applications availability, printing or connectivity for example - are relatively minor but it still takes time to troubleshoot each of these problems. DaaS, coupled with the right analytics software, can give the IT department immediate insight into the exact cause of the end-user’s problem. Eliminating the time it takes to diagnose common problems in this way allows the IT department to modify and resolve issues much faster.
Treat different roles separately
One of the management benefits of DaaS is the ability to group applications and users together centrally according to their Active Directory listing or role. In this way groups or individuals can be managed separately by ascribing them with different policies. One policy might allow the service provider to manage matters like infrastructure, networking, hardware and maintenance. Another might allow tenants to deal with high-level task like publishing an app. For example in the case of Office 365, Microsoft manages the exchange servers and storage while the users select what apps to buy.
Many of the key benefits of DaaS can be implemented simply and elegantly in the enterprise today – you don’t have to wait. The right solution can give you all the functionality of a VDI workspace that’s fully customisable for the needs of different individuals at a price that is much more akin to RDS. By following the seven steps discussed above CIOs can provide full enterprise mobility that is flexible and infinitely scalable while giving IT the freedom to speed up resolution times and implement policies that allow different departments or customers to access their own individually tailored range of services.
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