Cisco Launches Cloud Desktop Virtualization Solution

The company is partnering with Citrix and VMware in a solution that is aimed at both enterprises and cloud service providers.

Cisco Systems is teaming up with VMware and Citrix Systems to offer service providers and enterprises a cloud-based desktop-as-a-service solution, which will complement Cisco's existing on-premises virtual desktop infrastructure offering.

The new Cisco Desktop as a Service (DaaS) offering will be based on the networking giant's Unified Computing System (UCS) converged data center solution and the company's enhanced desktop virtualization solution. The new cloud offering will give service providers a new service to offer their customers, while at the same time, enterprises will be able use the solution to launch a DaaS solution in their private clouds.

"Many organizations are looking for ways to achieve the benefits of desktop virtualization without the need to install and maintain equipment or make capital investments," Satinder Sethi, vice president of engineering at Cisco, said in a statement, adding that for cloud service providers, the solution will help them "achieve rapid time-to-market while economically scaling their business."

Cisco's offering, announced Dec. 17, comes a month after public cloud giant Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced its own cloud-based desktop virtualization solutions. AWS officials said Amazon Workspaces is in preview, but that the service will be available for less than half the cost of a traditional virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) offering, with prices between $35 and $75 per workspace used each month.

They also said Amazon Workspaces will enable users to move their sessions seamlessly between PCs, tablets and smartphones.

Cisco officials said their DaaS solutions are highly secure and offer a consistent user experience across multiple devices, and can be accessed from anywhere and at any time. The company enhanced its existing desktop virtualization offering to increase the scalability and performance of the cloud-based solution, while optimizing costs and attracting a wider set of use cases.

The enhancements include improved density—offering up to 252 virtual desktops on a single UCS blade server—and support for applications that require high-quality rendering of immersive, 3D graphics. In addition, new Solution Accelerator Packs for Desktop Virtualization for the UCS offers simpler ordering, according to Cisco officials.

Cisco currently is offering two DaaS solutions. One is based on Citrix's virtual desktop technology, which offers anywhere and anytime access to desktops, apps and data, centralized management, up-to-date security and compliance and a pay-for-what-you-use monthly expense model.

The other solution is based on the Desktone virtual desktop technology. VMware acquired the company in October. Buying Desktone gave VMware an alternative to offer customers who want a desktop virtualization environment but don't want to pay upfront for on-premises VDI technologies.

The desktop-as-a-service market is getting increasingly competitive, with players like Cisco, AWS and VMware getting into the space. In addition, Citrix last year launched its own efforts around cloud-based DaaS.

Even component makers are getting into the space. Nvidia last year unveiled its VGX graphics processor, which company officials called the "world's first virtualized GPU" and aimed squarely at cloud-based desktop virtualization deployments.