Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is as old as virtualization technology. VMware announced VDI alliance way back in 2006. While IaaS, PaaS and SaaS became synonymous with cloud, it took a long time for desktops to show up there. VDI has always been confined to the data center or at most to an MSP-owned infrastructure. But that seems to be changing fast with Amazon, VMware, Citrix and Microsoft battling it out to win the Desktop as a Service or DaaS war.

It all started with AWS announcing Amazon WorkSpaces at its annual re:Invent conference last year. Although it has a long way to go in terms of feature set, Amazon should be credited for bringing desktops to the public cloud. Having strengthened the end-user computing group with the new leadership team, VMware was quick to announce Horizon DaaS on its vCHS platform a week before the general availability of Amazon WorkSpaces. Armed with Desktone and Airwatch acquisitions, VMware is aiming to make a mark in this segment.

Citrix is not far behind in the DaaS race. At the recent Synergy event, Citrix outlined its vision for integrated workspaces called Citrix Workspace Services (CWS). Citrix is betting its farm on Azure by deploying its centralized DaaS control center on Microsoft's public cloud. Just last week, Microsoft announced Azure RemoteApp to deliver Remote Desktop Services (RDS) based applications on a variety of devices. One of the other announcements that got buried under all this was the availability of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 desktops on Azure for MSDN subscribers. Dell is also busy figuring out how to leverage their Quest acquisition in the DaaS world. With Google announcing support for Microsoft Windows Server, we cannot rule out its entry into DaaS as well.

Are customers ready to move their desktops to the cloud? What's in it for them? That's the theme of Structure's Mapping Session next month. Seth Bostock from IndependenceIT, Sumit Dhawan from VMware, and Mitch Parker from Citrix will be joining me in this discussion and Ashar Baig from Gigaom will be moderating the panel. The conversation will include the perspective of service providers, infrastructure providers and analysts.

Why are the giants only now waking up to the DaaS call? The answer lies in the adoption of the public cloud by enterprises followed by the momentum of BYOD. With organizations willing to move line-of-business applications to the public cloud, it makes sense to keep the desktops closer to the apps. On the other hand, employees want to access corporate applications from their phones and tablets, which forces IT to centralize desktop access. Public cloud and BYOD are creating the perfect storm for DaaS market adoption. Whichever company wins the DaaS market is closer to getting labeled as the enterprise cloud.

Regardless of which company wins, Microsoft will have the last laugh. Every DaaS deployment translates into more licenses of Microsoft Windows, which in turn drives additional revenue to Microsoft. So, in the DaaS game, it's always a win-win situation for Microsoft.

Janakiram MSV is the principal analyst at Janakiram & Associates. He can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @janakiramm.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock user rangizzz.