Who delivers the first Desktop-as-a-Service cloud

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Just a couple of days ago virtualization.info wrote about the upcoming launch of Smart Business Desktop, the IBM Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) cloud computing infrastructure powered by VMware, Citrix, Wyse Technology and Desktone products.

We can’t wait October to try what IBM claimed to be an industry first, even if we just spotted a company that seems to have a DaaS offering well before the Big Blue: tuCloud.
The startup promises to deliver on-demand Windows Vista or Windows 7 (with Aero) hosted desktops with up to 4GB RAM within 24 hours maximum (so it’s not in real-time through a self-service provisioning portal as we expect the IBM DaaS to work).

tuCloud offers pay-per-use and pre-pay pricing models, starting at $120 (or 100 Euros) for the first desktop (1GB RAM) plus $65 (or 50 Euros) for additional ones.
A customer can ask up to 100 virtual desktops and, paying an extra, it can have its environment preconfigured with popular commercial products.
There’s even an option to have offshore virtual desktops, where the customers access the cloud through a SSL channel, save everything in a ciphered online storage, surf the web through a transparent proxy, don’t live any trace in the system logs, and have their IP scrubbed from outbound communications.
Of course tuClouds accepts anonymous payments for this service and, granted, they are going to have a lot of problems with it.

The company website doesn’t reveal which virtualization platform serves the virtual desktops states that it supports Microsoft RDP and that power users can have PCoIP, the protocol that Teradici is co-developing with VMware.
Now, because the software-only version of PCoIP is not ready yet, it’s easy to guess that tuCloud is only supporting PCoIP if the customer can have the proper hardware on its client.

A closer look at the footnotes in fact seems to imply that Windows 7 virtual desktops with Aero are only possible when connecting with PCoIP.
tuCloud supports thin clients from Cranberry, HP, Thinspace and Wyse Technology. It seems that the company can deliver any of these at the customers site.

Who’s behind tuCloud?
The company, which seems to be based in UK, is managed by the CEO Guise Bule.
The Bule’s profile on LinkedIn reveals that tuCloud exists at least since January 2006, even if the website was registered only in February 2008.
No other information seem available about the company or the management team.

How tuCloud can offer this DaaS service?
Exactly like for IBM and anyone else will ever provide a DaaS offering, the first question is: how the company is dealing with the licensing issues of the guest operating systems and the applications installed inside the virtual desktops?

Microsoft has a special license for this called Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktops (VECD) which allows Software Assurance (SA) and non-SA customers to remotely access a Windows client operating system deployed on a VDI environment.

The problem is that this license is per-device and it’s a yearly subscription. So if a DaaS customer accessed his virtual desktop from his device only for 1 month, the cloud provider still has to pay the entire year subscription for him. It cannot simply transfer the remaining 11 months on another customer because the device is different.
And what about the other ISVs licensing terms that should be considered when DaaS customers install, for example, Adobe PhotoShop?

It is very hard to be the first. We’ll see the company will address the questions.