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Cloud Computing: CDI - Desktops in the Cloud

Introducing Cloud Desktop Infrastructure

Reuven Cohen's "Elastic Vapor" Blog

Over the last few weeks we have seen a noticable spike in desktop centric cloud computing inquires. What's more, this spike has been from a particular market segment, that of ISPs and telecoms who all seem to have had a sudden and dramatic increase in interest in this area.

For those of you who don't know about CDI (Cloud Desktop Infrastructure) or what I like to call desktops in the cloud, it's an Internet-centric computing approach to desktop management and deployment that combines the traditional thin-client, utility hosting, and cloud storage. It is designed to give system administrators and end-users the best of both worlds: the ability to host remotely managed desktop virtual machines in a data center while giving end users a portable PC desktop experience.

There are a few companies directly focusing on this space, notably a new startup called Desktone. Desktone describes their service as the ability for virtual desktops be outsourced and provided via subscription service. Think Amazon EC2 for your Desktop. For the most part Desktone has been vague about how they actually enable their service or how they overcome things like license management or network latency over a wide area. But regardless, they seem to have a clear vision for this new area of cloud computing. One of their biggest deals so far has been with Verizon, who appear to be rolling out some kind of hosted desktop offering via Desktone.

To give some background, the VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) space is a fairly well established segment with numerous players including VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, Quest, Ericom, and Sun. Most if not all have focused on more traditional approaches utilizing centralized virtual desktop deployment architectures. It would seem that except for a couple notable exceptions the VDI space is ripe for disruption.

Recently Microsoft has jumped into the fray via a new set of APIs called "Terminal Services Session Broker" which they describe as:


…a set of APIs that ISVs can use to create connection brokers for other kinds of devices. Basically, these APIs allow you to lobotomize the TS Session Broker and replace its brain—its brokering mechanism—with a new plug-in. This plug-in can contain a new set of rules that support redirection to other types of destinations. It can also provide different means of deciding the best target for new connections, such as load balancing rules based on server resources or login time…


Combined with new cloud friendly(er) licensing, the new API would seem to indicate that Microsoft is not only taking direct aim at the estiblished VDI solutions but also taking steps toward a cloud-centric desktop future.

Will we soon see our desktops hosted by an ISP like Verizon or AT&T or is this just more cloud hype? I know one thing is for sure, I certainly wouldn't want to use a cloud desktop service if I'm forced to use "metered" bandwidth such as what Comcast is attempting to do.

So what do you think?

More Stories By Reuven Cohen

An instigator, part time provocateur, bootstrapper, amateur cloud lexicographer, and purveyor of random thoughts, 140 characters at a time.

Reuven is an early innovator in the cloud computing space as the founder of Enomaly in 2004 (Acquired by Virtustream in February 2012). Enomaly was among the first to develop a self service infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platform (ECP) circa 2005. As well as SpotCloud (2011) the first commodity style cloud computing Spot Market.

Reuven is also the co-creator of CloudCamp (100+ Cities around the Globe) CloudCamp is an unconference where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies exchange ideas and is the largest of the ‘barcamp’ style of events.

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Most Recent Comments
mmckay 09/02/08 01:29:50 PM EDT

The concerns over metered bandwidth may not be relevant. The connection to a desktop uses relatively low bandwidth. All the info that is passed between the server and the client are the keyboard and mouse movements/clicks and a graphical update. This involves relatively low bandwith to the client and means that the VDI solution may simplify the last quarter mile problem.

The server will have access to data-center quality, very high bandwidth connections and I doubt that the connection will be metered. Your virtual desktop will have access to this connection and can be used to download/upload gigabits of data quickly - even while you control it with a dial-up modem. Storage is more of an issue and there will likely be limits on that instead.

The key will be low latency Internet connections between the client and the host. If the latency is large, the VDI will be frustrating or impossible to use.