Driving Desktop Direct:

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

Array’s Desktop Direct shifts desktop remote control from hosted services back to a premise solution and builds on the greening of the enterprise by leveraging PC power management technology.

Desktop Direct comes as an add-on for Array Network’s SPX Series appliances. The SPX series comes in a variety of capacities, ranging from the SPX1800, which offers support for 100 concurrent users and throughput of 100 Mbps to the SPX6800, which supports as many as 64,000 concurrent users and throughput of 850 Mbps. The SPX series of appliances are primarily designed as SSL VPN appliances, which offer secure remote access via VPN to remote workers.

Adding Desktop Direct to the appliance is a logical progression to bring additional capabilities to the remote worker, while still ensuring the utmost in security and administrative control. The SPX series also incorporates a SPI Firewall, network address translation and can function as a proxy based application firewall, making the device a one stop solution for a firewall, VPN and remote access security.

Before diving into Desktop Direct, an SPX series appliance needs to be integrated into the existing network and setup for outside access. Proper integration of the SPX unit is key to making Desktop Direct work properly and helps to create a single sign-on security model that is closely integrated with the existing security policies in place.

Desktop Direct runs as a secure proxy on the SPX Series appliance and is capable of simultaneously connecting tens of thousands of remote users with their office desktops using the RDP protocol present on virtually every Microsoft operating system.

Administrators will find deployment simple. Desktop Direct integrates with existing authentication servers or local databases; once a user group is set up, the administrator need only enable RDP thin client access and define a URL for user login. SSL encryption and a built-in firewall protect data in transit as well as protecting internal desktops and resources.

End users will find accessing remote desktops relatively straight forward. End users are sent an e-mail notifying them of the login URL for the new desktop remote access service. When end-users log into the URL on the corporate network, they are presented with a screen that has automatically discovered the hostname of the machine the user is on and asks the user to create a "pet name" for this computer.

End users select a familiar name which they will be able to instantly recognize when they log-in remotely, hit enter and have officially "registered" their office desktop for remote access. A one step process requiring virtually zero IT involvement.

When end users log into the URL from outside the corporate network, they will immediately be presented with their registered office desktop. If the end-user has registered more than one desktop on the corporate network, a simple screen will appear presenting a list of the end-user’s registered desktop "pet names"; once click and the user is connected with their desired desktop.

The advantage here is that many usability problems are eliminated, because Desktop Direct integrates with existing authentication mechanisms, the end-user’s login credentials the same as their familiar Windows login. In addition, Desktop Direct removes the need to install agents on either the corporate or remote desktop.

Desktop Direct also incorporates many security features that further strengthen the remote access model. For example, administrators can prevent remote users from printing or even copying files. In essence, security policies can be defined to prevent data leakage in most forms from occurring, which proves to be much more secure than the typical hosted remote control solution, where the end user ultimately has full control over the remote system.

While the features and capabilities of the Desktop Direct-SPX series appliance combo are too numerous to  list here, solution providers can be pretty much sure that the product addresses most any remote access and SSL VPN need.

Even so, the real selling point for the technology comes down to economies of scale - unlike managed service offerings that charge per named user and per device on an ongoing basis, Desktop Direct requires only a one-time purchase of hardware and an appropriate number of concurrent user licenses. Because users are not all logged in at the same time, the ability to purchase concurrent user licenses as opposed to named user licenses further reduces costs by eliminating oversubscription.

What’s more, because Desktop Direct runs on the same SPX platform that drives Array’s SSL VPN solution, purchased licenses may be shared between Desktop Direct users and SSL VPN users. Of course, solution providers can see additional benefits from the appliance based solution simply because of hardware margins and integration services.

The company offers solution providers a partner program named The Array Networks Partner Program, which is designed specifically to help partners market, sell, and support Array products and solutions. Distribution is handled via Ingram Micro and prospective partners are required to meet certain revenue goals and training targets, depending upon the partner level desired. Product pricing starts at $4,995 for a SPX1800 Desktop Direct Edition and 25 concurrent user licenses. 


Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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