Spurred by COVID-19 and the resulting need for businesses to quickly and securely enable their employees to work remotely, interest in desktop virtualization has surged over the past year. Evolve IP, VMware, Citrix, Amazon, and Microsoft are just a handful of companies that now offer persona-based products and remote access solutions.
With a growing array of desktop virtualization solutions from which to choose, it can be difficult to discern the differences between the various technologies. This blog will focus on the two most popular forms of desktop virtualization: VDI vs DaaS; exploring each solution in detail, along with the similarities and differences of both, so that you can choose the best solution for your business needs.
What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)?
VDI technology enables businesses to deliver desktops via virtual machines. The desktops are hosted on-premises or in the cloud and are managed from a central server rather than on a local PC and deployed to user clients. Since VDIs are centrally located, the business’ IT team is responsible for managing them. The hardware, software, licensing, and deployment are all handled in-house.
What is Desktop as a Service (DaaS)?
Similar to VDI technology, DaaS services replicate physical workstations virtually. However, the technology is provided as a managed service from cloud vendors. TechRepublic’s Brandon Vigliarolo, writing about the differences between VDI vs DaaS1, notes that “DaaS is VDI that’s someone else’s problem.” The virtual desktops are hosted on managed cloud infrastructure and remotely delivered to user clients. These services can be combined with the cloud providers’ other services and are billed on a subscription basis and are usually charged by the seat. For example, Evolve IP’s virtual desktop solutions integrate VoIP communications solutions, contact center software, identity and access management, and features like call recording.
VDI vs DaaS: 5 Core Differences
When discussing desktop virtualization solutions, I find it helpful to think of the technology in terms of housing. All housing performs the primary function of providing shelter. However, not all housing is the same. For instance, you have single-family homes and apartment complexes, multi-level floorplans and single-floorplans, modern architecture and Victorian architecture, and so on. Similarly, all desktop virtualization technologies enable businesses to deliver desktops via virtual machines, yet no two solutions are identical.
Keeping with the home analogy, VDI deployments are like a single-family home whereas most DaaS services are akin to an apartment complex where many families share dedicated, centralized compute resources. VDI uses a single-tenant model with resources dedicated to a single organization or user. The business purchasing the VDI has complete control over the configuration and distribution of resources. There is no risk of other families moving in and affecting their solution’s deployment.
In contrast, most DaaS services are based on multi-tenant models. Multiple organizations share the infrastructure on which the DaaS solution is hosted. Although each client shares the infrastructure, they only have access to their own resources and data, much like an individual residing in an apartment building can only access and pays for the utilities (e.g., water, lights) in their own apartment.
In VDI deployments, much like homeowners, the business is responsible for all installation, maintenance, and management. If the VDI is hosted on-premises, maintaining and housing hardware in addition to virtual machines is the business’ responsibility. If deployments are hosted in an off-site private cloud, the host provider maintains and may manage infrastructure for the business.
With DaaS deployments, the solution is managed by the provider. Like an apartment Superintendent, the DaaS provider is responsible for all maintenance or management. The provider handles hardware monitoring, upgrades, availability, and troubleshooting.
Just like putting a down payment on a new home, VDI deployments require significant initial capital investment. However, once the hardware is purchased and configured, businesses can begin paying down technical debt and eventually own the infrastructure outright.
In contrast, DaaS deployments, like renting an apartment, require moderate capital expenses, instead incurring ongoing subscription fees. This model is based on user, system performance, and data storage monthly subscription models that can be increased and reduced as needed. Businesses also increase savings by not having to provide and maintain physical equipment like office-based workstations, laptops, smart phones, and complex server infrastructures.
When you buy a home, you have the freedom to keep the home as is or renovate it to your heart’s content. Remove a wall, add a bathroom, remodel the kitchen – no problem – you’re in control. VDI deployments are similar in that businesses typically have full control over their virtual desktop infrastructure, configurations, and data. Additionally, because a single-tenant architecture is used, businesses can specify which tools are used, how systems are monitored, where data is stored, and who has access.
With DaaS deployments, the provider controls the infrastructure and many aspects of configuration, monitoring, and data storage. Just like a renter whose gas provider is determined by the apartment owner, these back-end activities often go unseen by the business purchasing the DaaS solution.
Imagine moving houses every year or so because you want to experience living in a different neighborhood or try out a new floorplan. The logistics would be a nightmare, not to mention the costs. Moving apartments, however, would be as simple as finding a new apartment in another neighborhood and not renewing your rental agreement in the old apartment. Desktop virtualization scalability is equally as nuanced depending upon the solution selected.
VDI deployments are time-consuming, complicated, and can be difficult to modify once in place. Scalability is often limited by existing resources, such as servers. Businesses wanting to scale VDI services up must first purchase, install, and configure additional hardware themselves. Additionally, VDI deployments make it more difficult to try out different operating systems due to expensive licensing.
DaaS deployments, on the other hand, can be quickly implemented, and changing operating systems as needed is relatively easy. This is because the infrastructure and platform are already configured so all the business must do is define desktop settings and users. Scaling with DaaS services is as simple as requesting additional desktop instances or user licenses. There is no need to purchase or spend time preparing new hardware. The DaaS provider takes care of this. Additionally, OS (operating systems) licensing is often built-in to service prices, so businesses can combine or change OS’s as needed.
When it comes down to it, choosing a desktop virtualization technology for your business is very much like a person deciding between buying a house or renting an apartment. Both deployments have their unique pros and cons and must be considered carefully. There is no right or wrong option, however. If you align the solution with your unique business needs, either one will feel like home.
1 Vigliarolo, Brandon. “VDI vs. DaaS: What is the difference, and which is best for your virtualization needs?” Tech Republic, 23 October 2020, https://www.techrepublic.com/article/vdi-vs-daas-what-is-the-difference-and-which-is-best-for-your-business-virtualization-needs/.
What Does your Virtual Desktop Strategy Look Like?
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