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A virtual desktop technology rapper feud: Will DaaS win out?

It's VDI vs. DaaS in this East Coast-West Coast rapper feud between two of our contributors. Which prediction about virtual desktop technology will win out?

Although the "year of VDI" never really came about, the desktop virtualization industry has seen many changes over the past year. Cloud computing, the consumerization of IT and improved graphics delivery have all contributed to a better virtual desktop experience -- making virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) viable in more organizations.

To help you get a handle on the big picture of VDI, we posed this question to five desktop virtualization experts:

What technologies or trends had the biggest impact on VDI in 2013?

Earl Follis: People talk. And I like to talk back to people. I occasionally have lunch or sip an adult beverage with my distinguished colleague, Ed Tittel. Lately, Ed and I have been discussing -- and cussing -- the current state and future prospects of VDI versus Desktop as a Service (DaaS). Our conclusions have turned into something of an East Coast-West Coast-style rapper feud, with each of us believing in a different path for these technologies.

Ed is of the opinion that there is plenty of room under the virtual desktop technology tent for both VDI as well as DaaS. I understand his point that, technically, neither technology overwhelms the other in terms of usability and feature sets. These are two relatively equal technologies as far as capabilities are concerned, depending on your requirements and budget. But I still have my doubts that VDI and DaaS will peacefully co-exist for years to come.

Now that viable, mature VDI platforms are on the market, there still has not been a huge push among Fortune 1000 companies to implement large-scale VDI environments. There are as many reasons for the slow adoption of production VDI as there are companies considering VDI. My research concludes that the complexity of VDI, the upfront costs to build the necessary infrastructure and a murky return on investment proposition are the most common VDI roadblocks.

Where Desktop as a Service shines

Desktop as a Service offers relief on all three of those fronts.

Though the two virtual desktop technologies are in a technical dead heat, DaaS will likely become the standard of the future because of the low upfront costs of implementation, the fact that DaaS infrastructure is spread across multiple tenants in a cloud (keeping ongoing costs low) and the fact that companies won't have to train and pay for VDI expertise that is very difficult to find and retain.

I agree with Ed that there is room for both technologies, but I believe that the market will eventually speak and that DaaS will be the winning virtual desktop technology in the long run. Perhaps Ed and I will instigate this brewing rapper feud (my rapper name could be Big-E!) based on our differing opinions about the future of virtual desktops. Or maybe I'll order us both another beverage so that we can all just get along…

Stay tuned for more responses to this question as we determine the biggest trends of the year.

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Will DaaS overtake VDI, or is there room for both in the virtual desktop technology space?
Great article, and I think this begs for further discussion. You really just hit the tip of the iceberg.

When VDI was incepted, and during the hype cycle, it was seen as a end-all-be-all technology that was going to save money by creating operational efficiencies and getting rid of end client capex cost. Why not? As we know now, it is actually a complicated technology to implement correctly and the best user experience for the end user requires investment in operations and engineering on the back end. What has happened is that the market has shifted in response. VDI is no longer a blanket solution for any technology challenge. Instead, it is a very targeted technology that is deployed surgically within an enterprise or organization looking to reap the benefits from the heightened security features, centralized management, or common user experience persistence necessary in places like call centers.

All of that said, DaaS is a very viable technology that has similarities and differences with VDI. Common misconception is that DaaS is VDI. This is wrong. DaaS is, in most cases, Windows Server in Windows 7 mode. According to Microsoft licensing, two or more customers of a DaaS provider may not share the same hardware platform. Considering this, multi-tenancy is a challenge that can only be met with Windows Server. With the average MSP deal in this area being between 10 and 15 users, I think it's pretty obvious that the ROI is a challenge unless you buy your servers off of ebay. Last point to make is that while DaaS with Windows Server is meeting some of the market demands, the third party ISV community would need to permit installation and support of their software on Windows Server in addition to the consumer grade Windows 7 and Windows 8. The kernels are different between them, so this is a task that many ISVs have not attempted. Can be challenging depending on the specific needs of the end user.

Jeez, didn't mean for this to be so long.

tl;dr - DaaS has a way to go still, and VDI remains expensive. MS needs to change their licensing policies.
Great remarks, all of them. I now know I need to talk to DaaS providers and find out if they're delivering Windows 7 desktops using your model or not. Should be an interesting learning experience all by itself! Thanks,
Thanks! Happy to help. Feel free to reach out if you'd like to geek out on this further.