Sunday, July 29, 2007

'Desktop as a service' coming soon to a PC near you

Desktop virtualization as a service has gotten a big boost with Desktone Inc.'s announcement today of $17 million in venture capital funds that will allow the company to finance global sales, marketing, and development.

Desktone, a Chelmsford, Mass., startup offers what it says is the industry's first unified virtual desktop platform. I call it "desktop as a service." The company's turnkey solution provides enterprises an on-ramp to virtual desktop computing that integrates all virtualization layers -- storage, applications, client devices, servers, processing, and network technologies -- allowing them to be controlled from a single management console.

The ability to deliver a PC operating environment in a way users are accustomed to via grid/utility efficiencies in a way that appeals to the realities of enterprise IT departments and needs may be a seed that has a long way to grow. But compelling economics and the movement generally to services delivery portends a fast-growing new market segment for home, SMB and large business users. Telcos and cable providers will need to provide these kinds of services, for sure.

The first round of Desktone financing was co-led by Highland Capital Partners and SoftBank Capital. It also included Citrix Systems, Inc., a leader in application delivery infrastructure, and China-based Tangee International.

Desktone's management lineup boasts a collection of industry heavy hitters, including CEO Harry Ruda, formerly CEO of Softricity, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2006; COO Paul Gaffney, formerly CIO of Staples and a senior VP at Schwab Technology; CFO Michael Hentschel, who hails from Resilience, Avaterra, and TechVest Ventures; CTO Clint Battersby, who has over 15 years experience in LAN, WAN, Internet and storage acceleration; and executive VP Scott Andersen, former CEO of GlobalServe and Exist.

Ron Fisher of SoftBank Capital said his comnpany's interest in Desktone's technology was spurred by the growing need to manage large-scale PC and server environments. "Enterprises have a tremendous need to accelerate desktop virtualization adoption in a way that is cost-effective and simple, and doesn't drain IT resources," Fisher said.

The Desktone announcement comes on the heels of the news that Cisco Systems has plans to invest $150 million in virtualization giant VMWare, Inc. That news was accompanied by an announcement of a collaboration agreement between the two around joint development, marketing, customer and industry initiatives.

The stars and planets finally appear to be aligning in a way that makes utility-oriented delivery of a full slate of client-side computing and resources an alternative worth serious consideration. As more organizations are set up as service bureaus -- due to such IT industry developments as ITIL and shared services -- the advent of off the wire everything seems more likely in many more places.

Of course, there are those who will maintain that "software plus services" is the only best bet. The competition of the more fully virtualized desktop approaches like Desktone with the heavy, PC-based OS legacy can only be good for the IT use market -- and overall productivity.