Both virtual desktop infrastructure and Desktop as a Service (DaaS) products operate on the same or similar technology and deliver many of the same benefits to administrators and users, including simple updates for desktop groups, remote access to applications and data, and less (or no) hardware to manage. Both VDI and DaaS take the processing load away from the local client, allowing a wide variety of user endpoints.
There are some huge differences in how you purchase and administrate VDI compared to DaaS, however. Depending on your expertise, staff, and existing infrastructure, one may be a better fit for your business.
If your IT department is already operating largely as a broker and manager of cloud services, DaaS is more of a natural fit. A cloud-first policy means you likely have little infrastructure on-premise and you’re used to juggling SLAs and vendors while managing via web portals.
DaaS keeps the background infrastructure off your plate. With a Desktop as a Service solution, the provider manages:
Basically, ensuring the availability and performance of your desktop environment is left to the data center or managed service provider. You’ll still need to manage your desktop pools, user groups, applications, and clients, however. With DaaS, just as with VDI, the administration of desktops is greatly simplified.
DaaS desktops can also be added to disaster recovery plans or migrated between cloud data centers fairly easily. Private networking and private cloud options are available to ensure your data remains private and segregated, while also avoiding any “noisy neighbor” performance issues. If lower costs are a priority, public cloud hosted desktops provide the flexibility and ease of administration with a lower monthly commitment.
DaaS is more flexible than VDI because you haven’t committed to a hardware purchase. Similar to a Pay As You Go (PAYG) cloud model, this translates to adding and removing desktops as they’re needed. DaaS usually includes support and service each month, saving even more time for your IT team to help users.
If you have on-premise infrastructure and an existing virtualization platform, you may want to explore virtual desktop options that fit with your current environment, as you’ll likely have lower costs to add licensing for VDI software that integrates.
While security concerns with the cloud are largely overblown, you may want to keep particularly sensitive information in your own data centers. VDI does allow more granular control over your security methods, and naturally over your hardware itself.
Licensing is a challenge with both VDI and DaaS, as many software vendors don’t have specific options for this kind of application or operating system delivery. You may need to bring your own license for DaaS with some providers – others can offer Windows licensing for each of your users as part of a DaaS package. If you have existing license agreements for operating systems or applications, you might want to explore VDI to see if you can adjust your licensing and implement it alongside or instead of your current desktop OS and application delivery.
Customization is one final reason to go VDI over DaaS. VDI allows administrators more control over endpoints and user pools. For example, you might want to create a separate, more powerful user group with more resources committed to their desktops, because they have more demanding apps. This is possible with DaaS but depending on the provider it might be more difficult to set up, if they rely on prepackaged tiers.
If you have the IT expertise and staff bandwidth in-house, plus some capital on hand if you need additional hardware for the added load of VDI, then virtual desktops administrated in-house might be the best fit.
Hosted VDI is third option. Similar to DaaS, the hardware administration is taken care of by a cloud provider, but instead of preconfigured tiers or packages, all administration is left to your staff. You get the raw infrastructure and the VDI platform (often VMware Horizon), but have to set up everything else.
Virtual desktops are a great way to reduce hardware spend on user devices (as thin clients and other inexpensive options are available, since the workloads are processed in the data center), spend less time managing desktops by leveraging user pools for updates, improve security, and encourage remote work.
While VDI installed and managed in-house may work with your existing infrastructure and staff, a Desktop as a Service provider can often deliver greater security, better uptime, and still offer customization. The cost-benefit ultimately has to be weighed by every individual organization to see if these features offer an ROI.