Desktop virtualization is one of those technology implementations that’s had trouble finding its footing. From the company perspective, it can be easier, more efficient and more secure to manage operating systems and applications centrally in a virtualized desktop infrastructure (VDI); if that’s all there was to it, adoption may have been more widespread by now.
Persistent issues such as infrastructure costs, software licensing hassles, a need for new skill sets and users’ concerns over slow networks and application latency have bogged down virtual desktop deployments. Some companies have simply bitten the bullet, especially now that worker mobility, multi-device remote network access and data security are front-of-mind concerns.
Enter cloud-based Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS), an alternative to internally hosted VDI. They are the same … but different. They are the same in most functional aspects. Both VDI and DaaS serve up a consistent virtual desktop interface, data and applications to thin clients, standard PCs and all manner of interchangeable mobile devices. Data is centrally hosted and accessed by devices, but is not stored on the devices. The differences are in infrastructure – the provisioning, cost, management and location of the virtual desktop infrastructure.
The VDI server load is internal so server capabilities – processing power and storage – must be sized to accommodate the increased load. So, too, the network infrastructure must expand for the initial implementation each time you need to scale up VDI. This requires capital investment and, probably, the addition of new skills.
DaaS requires all the same things, but now it’s the responsibility of the service provider to do it all. For you, it’s now OPEX and not CAPEX. Launching new desktops is quick and simple, as is decommissioning them. Testing DaaS in different departments to see where and what works best is fast and something that is quite difficult to do using less flexible and adaptive internal VDI systems.
“The real advantages of DaaS are the scalability, security, data protection and portability of the desktop experience,” says Mike Meyer, Peak 10 Solutions Engineer. “Administrators can control every aspect of end-point security, as well as deploy data protection services with the added benefit of the back-up platform and data source being in close proximity to each other. And, when a roving executive moves from his or her work device to a home device, the virtual desktop – including all the icons and even the pictures of the grandchildren – is exactly as it was when he or she left the office. “
Mike points out another interesting use case for DaaS – call centers. Throughout the day individuals rotate through the same cubicles by shift. “Each user can have his or her own desktop experience, yet share a common piece of hardware. This is ‘portability’,” he says.
As with many cloud services, outsourcing frees internal staff to focus on more critical business issues and timely opportunities. It also provides you with a predictable monthly expense and allows you to use capital in other parts of your business.
All this assumes that the DaaS provider operates state-of-the-art facilities that are efficient, highly secure (preferably compliant with security standards) and adaptable to your requirements, along with the necessary technical prowess to monitor and manage it 24/7.
VDI and DaaS both share many of the same benefits, and each can raise questions that are particular to individual circumstances. Begin the decision-making process with a careful analysis of your needs, and an assessment of how well these options can meet those needs. Be sure also to investigate multiple DaaS providers; this area of the cloud is advancing quickly and differences between providers – technically, operationally and attitudinally – can be significant.