VMware's Desktone Acquisition Rounds Out Cloud Services Strategy

NEWS ANALYSIS: VMware will further diversify its business beyond virtualization with its acquisition of Desktone, which offers cloud-based desktop-as-a-service capabilities.

Desktone, the company offering service providers a desktop virtualization cloud service, has joined the VMware cloud. VMware announced on Oct. 15 at the European session of its VMworld user conference that it had acquired the Massachusetts-based company for an undisclosed sum.

The Desktone acquisition further rounds out VMware’s strategy to shift from being solely seen as a virtualization provider to one also offering a range of cloud-based services to the enterprise.

Desktone was founded in 2007 with the goal of offering desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) capabilities to service providers, which include Dell, Fujitsu, NEC, Time Warner Cable, Dimension Data and Logicalis. These companies then provide that service to end user customers.

The DaaS model is built around the cloud needs of multi-tenancy, high availability, geographic distribution and self-provisioning—capabilities that are not offered or offered as add-ons by virtual desktop vendors.

The ability of VMware to bring those capabilities to enterprise customers would be welcomed by organizations struggling to manage mobile workforces operating in varied locations and using various devices. Device virtualization is seen as a solid choice for companies eager to equip their workers with core business applications but concerned over privacy, security and compliance needs.

In a blog post about the Desktone acquisition, Gartner Research Analyst Gunnar Berger wrote: “As a part of Desktone’s offering they enable a single management pane across multiple geos; this greatly simplifies desktop management on a global scale and is another important feature for SPs. That’s all well and good, but let me tell you what I read between the lines of this software. If I can manage multiple datacenters across the globe in one management pane, why not simplify this and give enterprises a single management pane between multiple branches?”

Bringing the cloud capabilities developed by service providers to the enterprise level is an ongoing trend. The use of Hadoop for managing large sets of unstructured data, the use of open standards to develop enterprise data centers and the ability to use cloud-based resources to supplant or augment enterprise data centers are all cloud-driven concepts.

Desktop virtualization has been around for a long time, but network capacity, image management and user provisioning have proven technically difficult. Equally difficult have been the license issues surrounding virtualization.

Most recently, Microsoft added additional remote capabilities when it announced Windows Server 2012 R2. Microsoft stated it "is introducing the Microsoft Remote Desktop app, available for download in application stores later this month, to provide easy access to PCs and virtual desktops on a variety of devices and platforms, including Windows, Windows RT, iOS, OS X and Android.”

A stumbling block for virtual applications in mobile environments has been that most mobile devices are touch-screen devices utilizing a wide variety of screen sizes. Enterprise applications were not built with the touch screen in mind and the virtualization layer bears the burden of translating (or at least managing) swipes to clicks.

The acquisition of Desktone also offers a promising path to VMware’s partner network. VMware grew by nurturing its partner program and recently some of those partners have grumbled as the company became more focused on end users and cloud capabilities.

The Desktone acquisition at least holds the possibility that those partners could start offering a cloud-based desktop management service. The acquisition also offers enterprise customers a path away from bearing the day-to-day responsibility of virtual desktop management. The concept underpinning VMware is to push its virtualization heritage up into the cloud and to bring its customers along with it.

As The Register noted last spring when Desktone teamed up with GreenBytes, a virtual desktop deduplication provider, “customers can treat their entire virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) as a subscription service, and not buy any computing or storage resources to run it—merely acquiring the users' devices.”

The opportunity to buy the service instead of creating the service is appealing to many enterprise organizations. Now VMware has to prove it can bring Desktone’s service provider skills to the enterprise technology infrastructure.

Eric Lundquist is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Lundquist, who was editor-in-chief at eWEEK (previously PC WEEK) from 1996-2008, authored this article for eWEEK to share his thoughts on technology, products and services. No investment advice is offered in this article. All duties are disclaimed. Lundquist works separately for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this article and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.