Cisco (CSCO) has announced a new desktop-as-a-service offering, marking the third big non-virtualization vendor to offer such a service recently, following Amazon.com and Dell.  Could this mean that desktop as a service, a long-promised technology that still hasn’t hit mainstream, is finally ready for prime time? 

We’ll get back to that question in a minute. First, here are some of the details of Cisco’s new offering. The networking giant, which announced its DaaS offering this week, is partnering with (virtualization heavyweights) Desktone by VMware (VMW) and Citrix (CTXS). The service will be hosted on Cisco’s Unified Computing System infrastructure and it will be offered through partners including ChannelCloud, Logicalis, Proxios, Netelligent, and Quest in the Americas; Dimension Data in Asia Pacific Japan and China; and Adapt and ANS Group in Europe, Middle East and Africa. (Check out more coverage over at Talkin' Cloud)

Cisco noted that its system can be hosted by business customers on-premise or in the cloud. The pitch to cloud service providers goes like this:

“With the Cisco DaaS solution, cloud providers can offer their business customers scalability, security, performance, and efficiency. At the same time, these cloud providers gain operational capabilities such as management tools, licensing components and the ability to deliver desktops to multiple customers from one platform. The Cisco DaaS solution provides fast, easy and economical entry for cloud providers to this rapidly growing market and brings new service and revenue opportunities.”

Sounds good so far. I wonder if many CSPs have a strong opinion about whose infrastructure they run on, Cisco or HP or IBM or something else. For its own part Cisco says that its UCS infrastructure provides improved density of hosted virtual desktops – up to 252 virtual desktops on a single UCS blade server. Other promised features include support for end user applications that require high-quality rendering for immersive 3D graphics and new UCS Solution Accelerator Packs for Desktop virtualization that Cisco says provide simplified ordering.

Is it a surprise that Cisco is pushing DaaS? Not if you consider that Cisco loves any technology that creates lots and lots of network traffic. Does this offering from Cisco and the offerings from Amazon and Dell mean that DaaS has finally arrived and will soon hit the mainstream? Personally, I’m reserving judgment for now. I’ve been seduced and then frustrated by the promises of DaaS before.