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DaaS vs VDI – Which Solution is Right for your Business?

Desktop virtualisation has created a revolution in how computer systems have been delivered over the last 15 – 20 years. Coupled with a dramatic increase in Internet bandwidth there is a seismic shift from people running applications on expensive, high spec, local PCs to moving all that computing power to virtual machines and cloud-based services.

VDI and Desktop as a Service, sometimes called Hosted Desktops, are two similar technologies, both designed to provide greater flexibility and cost savings for running traditional desktop applications.

In this article we set out to compare DaaS vs VDI solutions and then offer some Pros and Cons for each system, each of which will be more or less appropriate depending on whether you are a small business with half a dozen users or a multinational with thousands of users across multiple sites running thin clients.

 

The two types of VDI deployment

VDI stands for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.  Desktop virtualisation provides a Virtual Machine (VM) operating system for each individual user.  In the same way as a local PC traditionally provides a Physical Machine operating system for each user.  The difference is that all the virtual machines are running on a powerful server, or “farm” of servers enabling the system resources (Memory, CPU etc.) to be spread across all the users, evening out the peaks and troughs of individual demand and, in theory, reduce the overall cost of computing power.

VDI is often thought of as something that is managed on local, on-site servers with the company’s own IT staff having complete control of the infrastructure.  Whilst this is fairly common there is a shift to moving these virtual machines to cloud based services. 

So, the two types of VDI solutions are:

Local Virtual Desktop Infrastructure VDI

Cloud Hosted Virtual Desktop Infrastructure VDI

With the latter, the whole environment may be built, managed, maintained and supported by an outsourcing company, and this is where VDI strays into being Desktop as a Service solution (DaaS).

There are also hosted virtual desktop solutions that are not a managed service but require IT skills within your team or an outsourced IT company.  These include things like Microsoft Azure Windows Virtual Desktop or Amazon Workspaces.

 

The two types of Desktop as a Service

We discussed how a VDI deployment provides virtual operating systems for each individual user, and how if the infrastructure supporting those VMs is cloud based and outsourced then it becomes a type of Desktop as a Service solution (DaaS).   DaaS however, has alternative architectures available to it.  One DaaS offering, which has been around a long time, longer than virtualisation or cloud, is Hosted Remote Desktop Services aka Hosted Terminal Services.

Remote Desktop Services still provides an individual user desktop, with no discernible difference to the user experience from a VDI solution, but instead of lots of VMs, one for each user, it has perhaps just one virtual machine, i.e. one operating system, and all the users connect to the same machine.  This has a lot of advantages to VDI, especially in managing updates to applications or operating systems, and also in reducing the amount of overall resource the system uses, both in terms of disks, but also in terms of memory and CPU.  You don’t need resources for 20 operating systems if you have 20 users, you just need enough for one, plus enough for the applications the users are running.  Less resource equals less cost.

Pros and Cons of on-site VDI compared with DaaS

Pros

  • Onsite or locally managed virtual desktop solutions give the company complete control in how resources are managed.
  • Individual virtual machines can be tailored to the specific needs of users. One user may need extra processing power to run data analysis applications where another may simply be running Office apps.
  • Technical problems or Security issues such as Malware affecting one virtual machine may not necessarily affect others.
  • Not as reliant on Internet availability/reliability (as long as everyone works on site)
  • Fixed cost, fixed workload.
  • Single tenant, so unaffected by other customers usage or security issues.
  • Large organisations with hundreds or thousands of users and a large IT department may find running their own virtual desktop solution more cost effective than outsourcing.

Cons

  • Requires in house IT skills to manage the virtual desktop infrastructure.
  • Updates to OS or applications needs to be managed by company’s IT team.
  • Significant upfront capital investment.
  • Moderately difficult to deploy.
  • It can take a long time to upscale infrastructure.
  • Expensive/difficult to downgrade.
  • Licences usually have to be purchased rather than rented.
  • Periodic licence and resource upgrade/replacement required, needs to be managed by internal team instead of a provider as part of a managed service.

Pros and Cons of DaaS (including VDI as a Service) compared with onsite VDI

Pros

  • No in-house technical skills required, it is a managed service looked after by the provider, the customer does not have to worry about infrastructure. (unless using services such as Azures Windows Virtual Desktop which does require in house skills).
  • The provider running the DaaS services deals with support of technical issues.
  • The providers data centres have a host of resilience measure to reduce risk of downtime, such as multiple power feeds and diesel generators, multiple internet feeds, fire and flood warning and suppression.
  • Data centres will also have a range of physical and technical security systems.
  • In house IT resources can concentrate on managing local clients and applications
  • Greater flexibility to scale up or down making it more cost effective, resources can be added in minutes rather than days/weeks.
  • Can use cheaper PCs or Thin Clients for users.
  • Greater range of devices that can be used to connect to desktops.
  • No complex network infrastructure for remote workers, users can connect from around the globe.
  • Provider manages updates to operating systems.
  • Opex cost based on actual usage.
  • Quick to deploy.

Cons

  • Requires due diligence to ensure DaaS services provider is trustworthy and secure
  • Requires a reliable internet connection or “failover” spare connection.
  • Customers gives up a level of control to the provider, although this should not prevent the customer demanding specific requirements.

Pros and Cons of Remote Desktops vs VDI when provided as Desktop as a Service Solution

Pros

  • Single operating system for the remote desktop server therefore any upgrades to OS or applications only need to be installed once.
  • Disk space is reduced as only one operating system, rather than OS files for every desktop VM.
  • Simpler architecture, easier to support, less to go wrong.
  • Easier to provide a consistent user experience.

Cons

  • Less flexibility to provide a “high spec” desktop for super users who need more processing power or memory.
  • Managed and locked down environment may be too constrictive for some super users or software developers.

To find out more about Hosted Desktops, VDI and Desktop as a service, please visit some of these additional articles below

Hosted Desktops

What is Desktop as a Service

Desktop as a Service FAQs

Hosted Desktops vs Azure Windows Virtual Desktop

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