Research Director, IT Service Management and Client Virtualization
It is cliche at this point to say that the COVID-19 pandemic radically changed the way that we work. From location to time, from blurring the boundaries between work and life to profound restructuring of the labor market, the past two years ushered in changes many thought were decades away. This, perforce, forced a change to all software markets supporting remote work, asynchronous work, and workforce automation. To meet this challenge, organizations purchased a wide variety of solutions including virtual client computing (VCC).
Desktop as a service (DaaS) is one modality of the virtual client computing market and is encompassed in the larger VCC IDC MarketScape (see IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Virtual Client Computing 2022–2023 Vendor Assessment, IDC #US49857422, November 2022) published contemporaneously with this one. It is also, however, a unique approach to application and desktop virtualization, combining software, prescriptive infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and some degree of professional services, many of which are automated or included within the design.
DaaS emerged as a potential service offering alongside more general cloud computing as was initially focused on including cloud infrastructure resources into existing virtualization solutions. However, it quickly became apparent that more was needed. In particular, customers pushed for defined specialized IaaS configurations, often including graphics acceleration, for specific use cases. They also began to push for opinionated architectures, monitoring solutions, and professional operations and management solutions.
This later need was originally met (and still is in some cases) by professional systems integrators and managed service providers (managed SPs). However, the resource constraints which appear as early as 2017 and became acute in 2020 pushed providers forcefully into offering more and more automation and inbuilt observability, sometimes isolated from the larger cloud environment, sometimes focused on endpoint management, and sometimes integrated into the larger ecosystem.
This larger ecosystem concern again forced divergence on the “DaaS” market, leading to a wide variance between solutions all offered under the same label. Customer interviews and survey results both point toward this being a large area of confusion, one which will be addressed in future research projects.
Finally, DaaS’ genesis as a “cloud first” technology means DaaS has been particularly susceptible to the trend revealed in IDC’s June 2022 Future Enterprise Resiliency and Spending Survey, Wave 5, where enterprises look first to their primary public cloud providers as their primary strategic technology provider, followed by their primary hardware vendors. This has forced the public cloud providers to step up, offering unique DaaS solutions that meet the strategic requirements of their largest customers.
Desktop as a service is one of several components in an end-user computing strategy and an extension of both the enterprises employee engagement/labor and compute management strategies. As such, it needs to be considered in that larger context, especially as companies reconsider their cloud spending.
Before considering DaaS, the IT teams need to think about how they intend to provide reliable, transparent, and operatable access to the corporation’s:
With this framework in place, DaaS represents one way to acquire the software needed for employees to work through the processes of organizing data and resources using tools provided by partners and suppliers. In particular:
Microsoft is positioned in the Leaders category in this 2022–2023 IDC MarketScape for worldwide desktop as a service.
Based in Redmond, Washington, Microsoft is a public cloud, operating system, and software provider with a long history of providing virtual application and desktop solutions both natively and in coordination with partners.
Microsoft’s Windows 365 offering is a fully managed, automated desktop-as-a-service solution embedded in the Azure public cloud. It allows for the rapid provisioning of templated desktop designs with regular, stable, and projectable costs. The resulting “Cloud PC” is managed through Microsoft’s existing endpoint management and security solutions or can be incorporated into third-party solutions as necessitated by the enterprise’s computing strategy.
Microsoft, both through its position as the developer of Windows and its long history in the market, has a broad and deep ecosystem of both relationships and technology related to virtualization. It works with established players like Citrix and VMware as well as start-ups and stable new providers to ensure the viability of its solutions in a wide range of use cases, including application virtualization.
Customers used to more traditional VDI solutions indicated that Windows 365 seems to have a high price point relative to the flexibility and features it provides. This criticism is valid within the VDI context, but arguably Windows 365 is more comparable to a fully functional offering in a “device as a service” context, with the device being fully embedded in a public cloud.
In addition, Windows 365 by itself lacks a dedicated protocol to accelerate graphics and virtualization performance. Microsoft has already addressed this concern through its extensive partner network, first with Citrix and then with recently announced collaboration with VMware. For general or limited use, this is unlikely to impact performance, but for extended remote or mobile use, it will become a factor.
Microsoft is well positioned to support DaaS for enterprises that already use its endpoint management technologies, that have users who primarily use M365 for productivity, or that access workloads located mostly in the Azure cloud.
Vendors were selected for this IDC MarketScape based on the following criteria:
For the purposes of this analysis, IDC divided potential key measures for success into two primary categories: capabilities and strategies.
Positioning on the y-axis reflects the vendor’s current capabilities and menu of services and how well aligned the vendor is to customer needs. The capabilities category focuses on the capabilities of the company and product today, here and now. Under this category, IDC analysts will look at how well a vendor is building/delivering capabilities that enable it to execute its chosen strategy in the market.
Positioning on the x-axis, or strategies axis, indicates how well the vendor’s future strategy aligns with what customers will require in three to five years. The strategies category focuses on high-level decisions and underlying assumptions about offerings, customer segments, and business and go-to-market plans for the next three to five years.
The size of the individual vendor markers in the IDC MarketScape represents the market share of each individual vendor within the specific market segment being assessed.
IDC MarketScape criteria selection, weightings, and vendor scores represent well-researched IDC judgment about the market and specific vendors. IDC analysts tailor the range of standard characteristics by which vendors are measured through structured discussions, surveys, and interviews with market leaders, participants, and end users. Market weightings are based on user interviews, buyer surveys, and the input of IDC experts in each market. IDC analysts base individual vendor scores, and ultimately vendor positions on the IDC MarketScape, on detailed surveys and interviews with the vendors, publicly available information, and end-user experiences in an effort to provide an accurate and consistent assessment of each vendor’s characteristics, behavior, and capability.
Virtual client computing software enables a client computing model that leverages a range of brokering software and display protocols to enable server-based client computing and improves upon the limitations associated with the traditional distributed desktop environment.
The VCC market includes products that:
Virtual client computing has traditionally been used for specific, tightly managed, and secured use cases and for low-volume remote access (about 10% of the employee population). Recent years have seen a shift in this, with VCC becoming more of a general-use computing/remote access solution.
Desktop as a service is a submarket of the broader VCC market, which includes solutions that bundle: