NaviSite wants to host your virtual desktops

Seeking to capture a slice of market share in the emerging field of virtual desktop services, NaviSite, a Time Warner Cable managed service provider of cloud-based products has announced its next major endeavor: a desktop as a service (DaaS) offering aimed specifically at enterprise customers.

The service will allow enterprises to centrally manage virtual desktops while giving users the ability to access applications and data from a variety of platforms, from laptops to desktops and from tablets to smartphones.

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"Enterprises can now rapidly provision a secure virtual desktop for users that can be accessed on any device, anywhere without the upfront costs and complexity of traditional desktops while adhering to corporate security and compliance policies," said Denis Martin, executive vice president and CTO at NaviSite. "Two years ago ... there was a lot of interest in VDI, but no one was willing to write the check for it because when they tried it and it didn't work very well. Now, this stuff kind of kicks butt."

NaviSite powers the virtual desktop service using the latest offerings from a range of leading providers. The core servers supporting the DaaS offering are HP ProLiant BL490c G7 Virtualization Blades outfitted with Intel Xeon X5675 processors and running VMware.

End users access their virtual desktops using client software from Desktone, which is available for a range of operating systems, including Windows 7 and XP, Linux and OS X. It can be downloaded in the Apple and Android app stores and can run on most Android and iOS devices, Desktone officials say. The DaaS offering ranges in price from $50 to $110 per user per month based on the level of compute power and RAM used.

NaviSite's announcement launches the company into the still developing field of DaaS offerings. Larger vendors, including IBM Global Services and CompuCom, already offer DaaS, while a growing group of cloud-based providers are attempting to enter the market, says Mark Margevicius, research director for client computing at Gartner.

DaaS "is really part of the euphoria associated with cloud computing right now," he says. "This is a natural extension of the cloud as a platform that will be used to service many types of workloads, and desktop is one of the latest."

The market, Margevicius says, is in "its infancy, and there's only one way to grow, and that's up." DaaS offerings appeal to a variety of customers, from enterprises looking to simplify and ease management of their desktops, to businesses that need flexibility in providing desktop clients to contracted workers, for example.

While Margevicius couldn't comment specifically on NaviSite's DaaS offering, he said the prices are in line with those from other VDI vendors. "The most important things enterprise customers are looking for is a full fidelity desktop experience, with access to all of the applications and the ability to configure that desktop as they wish and access it from anywhere."

For NaviSite, today's announcement marks an extension of the firm's suite of cloud-based managed services, including infrastructure as a service, managed application services -- including Oracle E-business products -- and managed messaging services, such as Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and IBM Lotus Notes. DaaS brings the company closer to being a turnkey IT resource firm for enterprise customers, Martin said.

It also marks the result of investments the 650-person company made three years ago when NaviSite built three cloud nodes, on the East Coast, West Coast and in Europe, to service the growing cloud-based offerings the company would provide. NaviSite had revenues of $126 million in fiscal year 2010.

"We as a company made a very specific decision because we were convinced that cloud computing was dramatically going to change the way IT was dispensed, at least in the enterprise community, and perhaps even beyond," Martin said.

Time Warner Cable purchased NaviSite last year for $230 million. That came on the heels of some major telecommunications carriers, such as Verizon and CenturyLink, extending their cloud-based offerings through acquisitions.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social media. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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