Cisco Targets Service Providers With New Cloud DaaS Program


After multiple stops and starts, Cisco says it's finally time for desktop-as-a-service to take off.

The networking giant Tuesday expanded its desktop virtualization portfolio with the launch of the Cisco Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution, aimed at helping cloud service providers offer up virtual desktops via a subscription-based model.

The introduction of Cisco DaaS, according to Cisco, comes as demand for DaaS and virtual desktop infrastructures in general approach critical mass. Cisco said it projects 59 million new virtual desktop users to emerge between now and 2016, driven by lower storage costs and other issues that have traditionally hindered adoption.

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Cisco's DaaS solution is based on the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), along with desktop virtualization software from Citrix and Desktone, the DaaS vendor VMware acquired in October.

Cisco partners, at a first glance, viewed Cisco DaaS as more of a reference architecture built around UCS and existing VDI brokers than a standalone DaaS offering.

"This looks like a way for Cisco to pimp out UCS," said one source, who requested anonymity. "This isn't huge news, just more bundling of multivendor hardware [and] software."

Jamie Shepard, regional vice president, North America for Lumenate, a Dallas-based national solution provider that has invested heavily in UCS, also sees Cisco DaaS as more of a reference architecture than anything else.

"I think it's a good reference architecture and it's a decent step, but I don’t really believe that it fits into the entire model," Shepard said. "It's missing some pieces right now."

Bill Smeltzer, executive vice president and CTO of Focus Technology Solutions, a Seabrook, N.H.-based solution provider, agreed.

"I think as converged infrastructure gets more and more common and commoditized and mainstream, the differentiation will always be getting up that application stack," Smeltzer said. "Desktop-as-a-service to me is just another example of an application. [Cisco is] saying 'Hey, listen, we are going up the stack beyond the hardware and getting to application delivery.' I really don't look at it any differently than Exchange running on vBlock, as an example."

But, as Cisco sees it, DaaS is much more than that. After selling desktop virtualization products for the past three and a half years, Cisco said this week's DaaS launch also marks the debut of a new Cisco Powered program for service providers that is built specifically around DaaS.

"A reference architecture is a component of this, but it's more about the program we are putting around it," Satinder Sethi, vice president, Engineering at Cisco, told CRN.

Sethi said the program will involve Cisco providing financial, marketing and demand generation assistance for its service provider customers. He said Cisco is also providing a full suite of advanced services and applications to go along with the DaaS architecture.

In addition, because of the way UCS is built, service providers are not limited to DaaS but can expand into additional services associated with virtual desktops, Sethi said.

Cisco has longstanding partnerships with both Citrix and VMware, and Sethi said there's plenty of room for both to flourish in the DaaS program. "Service providers and end customers want choice. Citrix and VMware have unique capabilities. We've been certifying solutions for both and are seeing growing adoption on both ends," he said.

Cisco's DaaS launch comes just one month after Amazon Web Services unveiled Amazon Workspaces, a service that lets customer rent access to virtual desktops running in the AWS cloud for a monthly fee.

Sethi said that while Amazon Workspaces is a server-based VDI service, Cisco DaaS will also encompass hosted VDI and application streaming. "We provide all the different models for enterprise desktop virtualization," he said. "Our program SLA is also extremely different than what Amazon offers today."

Out of the gate, Cisco said DaaS will be available through partners including ChannelCloud, Logicalis, Proxios, Netelligent, Quest, Adapt and Dimension Data.

PUBLISHED DEC. 17, 2013