Workspace as a service offers channel partners DaaS alternative

Channel executives contend workspace as a service offers the ability to support BYOD environments and provides a less jarring shift to the cloud than desktop as a service.

As a managed service provider that caters mainly to banks, Solis Security has to be careful about the products it offers to customers. The company provides desktop as a service but DaaS hasn't been a big winner with the banks due to reluctance over moving everything into the cloud, said Chris Loehr, president.

"If you're doing DaaS, you've also made the decision to have your servers, files, and databases in the cloud," Loehr explained. "If you have a little data center and you're not moving it to the cloud, you might as well do virtual desktops internally. There's not a big win in my opinion, to do DaaS in the cloud and having everything else on premises."

Chris Loehr, president, Solis SecurityChris Loehr

Enter workspace as a service (WaaS), which Loehr called the "best of both worlds." WaaS provides cloud-based management of access to applications and data but not necessarily a user's entire desktop -- it can be on any device, wherever they are. Solis recently partnered with Vertiscale, which offers a cloud-based WaaS platform to provide secure, remote and compliant access to its clients' applications and data from any device.

Loehr said Vertiscale will help Solis Security's clients maintain compliance with regulations and reduce its exposure to cyberattacks.

WaaS is becoming a critical tool for managed service providers (MSPs), which are now managing 31% more mobile devices and 26% more laptops and PCs than they were in 2014, according to Vertiscale.

Jon Senger, CTO and co-founder, VertiscaleJon Senger

MSPs can bring customers onboard with Vertiscale to get secure access to the data and apps of their choice in a few minutes, said Jon Senger, Vertiscale co-founder and CTO. Whereas companies have traditionally used mobile device management or mobile application management platforms for adherence with corporate BYOD policies -- which sometimes led to an employee's personal data having to be wiped -- WaaS lets IT personnel determine what apps a user needs to be productive and helps manage access without crossing the barrier between personal and professional data.

Gartner has projected that more than 40% of companies will mandate BYOD policies in 2016 and that figure will more than double to 85% by 2020.

WaaS vs. DaaS

Seth Bostock, CEO, IndependenceITSeth Bostock

What is meaningful to a service provider is the ability to deliver all of a customer's apps and data from the cloud with defined rules, said Seth Bostock, CEO of IndependenceIT. The company's Cloud Workspace platform allows a partner to deliver a software-defined data center, and then deliver workspaces and applications wherever a user is.

"What our tool does is automate and provide enhanced workflow for a channel partner to do that very rapidly," Bostock said. Historically, vendors such as Citrix and VMware have given partners "puzzle pieces" to do that, but it has proven time-consuming and costly, he said.

DaaS and WaaS are often used interchangeably but they have distinct differences, added Chip Buck, founder and CTO of IndependenceIT. WaaS essentially lifts the entire local area network that had existed on premises and brings it into the cloud. With DaaS, channel partners have to bolt together multiple different components: Tools for application layering management, often file server management, profile management, data layer management and even networking, he said.

Chip Buck, CTO and founder, IndependenceITChip Buck

"Our view was to take all those components and rather than have them be discrete items administered by a highly technical person, automate them as a collection and allow an IT administrator or manager in business to select service elements and create them automatically," Buck said.

"Workspace as a service looks at the role of employees holistically from an application perspective instead of just blowing desktops out there," Senger agreed. "That gives the employer the freedom to use whatever device it wants. Desktop as a service kind of looks at the same approach," but from a desktop perspective along with the infrastructure required. Giving a user access to a desktop "requires a lot more juice in the server room," he added.

IndependenceIT has been working with partners since 2012 when the company launched the first version of its workspace as a service software and has been channel-only ever since. As on-premises hardware needs refreshing, there is a greater push to adopt cloud for workspaces, Bostock said.

Max Pruger, chief sales officer, CloudJumperMax Pruger

CloudJumper, which recently launched as a WaaS vendor with its nWorkSpace offering, is also 100 percent channel based. The company's nWorkSpace offering is a "full workspace in a box," that is a "simple turnkey management solution," said chief sales officer, Max Pruger.

"The way we're trying to define [workspace as a service] is … the culmination of technology brought into a single pane of glass with an overarching delivery mechanism," he said. "You log in using any browser, it's all there. You don't need a remote monitoring and management product."

Solis Security's Loehr said the ability to go into Vertiscale and spin up virtual servers and then be able to provision and deploy workspaces quickly to those who need it is a huge benefit of WaaS.

Workspace as a service: Management in the cloud

For MSPs with clients that have been in business for 20 to 30 years that are used to having their systems run on premises, WaaS is ideal, Loehr believes, because "only the management portion is in the cloud. All your desktops and servers are still in-house." The MSP adds virtual servers in order to present the apps an end user needs, from wherever the client's data center is hosted, he emphasized.

"When you do desktop as a service, no matter where your employee is they're going to have access to all the same stuff all the time," he noted. But from a security perspective, he added, WaaS makes it easier for a company to give employees a different type of access when they're working remotely versus when they are at work.

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