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Cisco is entering the desktop as a service game, targeting cloud service providers and MSPs

Cisco is entering the desktop as a service game, targeting cloud service providers and MSPs

After several years selling desktop virtualisation products Cisco announced a Desktop as a Service offering this week, targeted at cloud service providers. Cisco, which said it expects 59 million individual users of virtualised desktop infrastructure worldwide by 2016, is partnering with virtualisation incumbents Citrix and VMware to deliver the service.

The virtualised desktop infrastructure service is based on the networking giant’s Unified Computing System and datacentre architecture, the foundation of the company’s existing on- premise VDI solution. The company will offer private and hybrid cloud deployment options provided by software and middleware partners Citrix and Desktone, which was acquired by VMware earlier this year.

“Many organisations are looking for ways to achieve the benefits of desktop virtualisation without the need to install and maintain equipment or make capital investments,” said Satinder Sethi, vice president, engineering at Cisco.

“Not only is Desktop as a Service a great solution for a growing number of companies, but Cisco’s offering is uniquely architected to help cloud service providers achieve rapid time-to-market while economically scaling their business,” he said.

Cisco didn’t release any details about pricing or when the service will be available but it did confirm its intial partners in the global rollout, which include managed service providers and datacentre operators like ChannelCloud, Logicalis, Proxios, Netelligent, and Quest in the Americas; Dimension Data in Asia Pacific; and Adapt and ANS Group in EMEA and Russia.

Spokespeople from Citrix and VMware, which both offer their own desktop virtualisation services, said that the companies have a lot of customers in common with Cisco, and a shared interest in offering more flavours of the service to the benefit of service providers.

“This enables partners to differentiate with flexibility in desktop deployment models while preserving margins to help them capture new service and revenue opportunities,” said Mitch Parker, group vice president and general manager at Citrix.

Cisco’s push into cloud-based VDI comes at a time when other cloud service providers are stepping up efforts in this space. Amazon recently announced its Workspaces VDI offering, which AWS senior vice president Andy Jassy claimed would cost half as much as other comparable platforms. Microsoft is also said to be reading an Azure-based DaaS platform.

But unlike AWS and similar cloud providers, Cisco is targeting cloud service providers, re-sellers and managed service providers, which means the company will have to convince channel partners they can effectively monetise the service for it to gain traction in the market. The company is banking on the quality of the underlying infrastructure (and acquisitions) and its partnerships with well-established regional datacentre players and virtualisation incumbents so it can move up the stack, but it is embarking on a much longer game rather than knocking on the doors of enterprises directly.