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Cloud desktops don't get it done for everyone

DaaS has appeal, but that doesn't mean it works for everyone. If you have bandwidth limitations or workers would suffer from poor performance, it might not be right for you.

DaaS can help reduce the cost of user desktops and simplify ongoing maintenance, but before taking the plunge, companies should look at their desktop refresh schedule, available bandwidth and employee workloads.

As desktop as a service (DaaS) has matured, it has become a lot more popular. It is similar to desktop virtualization, except that the back-end infrastructure is hosted in the cloud. At first, DaaS might seem like a good fit for just about any organization because it allows companies to offload infrastructure costs and all of the related management, monitoring and troubleshooting tasks that go along with maintaining a healthy virtual desktop environment.

Like any new or trendy technology, however, DaaS isn't necessarily the best option for everyone. It isn't a good choice for workers who perform graphics-intensive work or companies that have a limited amount of Internet bandwidth available. Organizations must consider the logistical requirements and the effect DaaS will have on the business' bottom line when they're determining whether or not to implement the technology.

Considerations for doing DaaS

DaaS is most likely to be a good option for organizations facing a significant PC acquisition or upgrade. If a company needs to purchase a large number of PCs to accommodate an expansion or to replace aging hardware, then a DaaS subscription might be a smart move. Conversely, if an organization has just spent a lot of money on desktop hardware, it probably isn't the best time to make the transition to using cloud desktops.

Another equally important consideration for doing DaaS is the amount of available Internet bandwidth. Each DaaS session needs a small amount of bandwidth, and the requirements are usually low enough that the organization probably won't even notice any ill effects of hosting a small number of virtual desktops in the cloud. But large collections of hosted desktops can consume a significant amount of Internet bandwidth, and that usage can peak at certain times of the day. For example, most companies see bandwidth utilization spikes when users first log on in the morning.

Because of this, cloud desktops may not be a good fit for organizations with limited bandwidth, or in situations where the Internet service provider bills the organization based on the volume of bandwidth consumed.

Companies should also look at how a service outage would affect them. Most reputable DaaS providers use back-end infrastructures that are fully redundant to minimize the chances of an outage. Even so, an Internet connection outage can render the virtual desktops inaccessible, even if the DaaS provider is fully operational.

How to have it all with cloud desktops

Deciding whether or not to use cloud desktops does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition, however. It is becoming increasingly common for organizations to use DaaS for some users, but not for others. For instance, DaaS might be a really good fit for users who perform noncritical tasks that don't place excessive demands on hardware, such as users who spend the majority of their day working in Microsoft Office or a similar application.

On the other hand, an organization might consider using physical hardware or a locally hosted virtual desktop environment for users who perform mission-critical job functions. That way, those users will not be affected by a service outage.

Similarly, users whose job functions require higher than average desktop utilization might be better off working from physical hardware, or at the very least, a locally hosted virtual desktop. An example of such a job function might be an architect who spends his day working in a computer-aided design (CAD) program. Some DaaS providers do not allocate adequate hardware to virtual desktops to accommodate demanding workloads. Other providers do, but they charge a premium for virtual desktops provisioned with above-average hardware resources.

Graphically intensive applications consume a greater amount of Internet bandwidth than typical office applications, too. Even if bandwidth is not an issue, latency can be. Users who do graphically intensive work such as CAD drawing or video editing and have to deal with the latency of a remotely hosted virtual desktop are likely to have a less than optimal experience.

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What's your biggest concern about DaaS?
Desktops as a service is almost a misnomer, because those desktops are deployed virtually, meaning your information still goes into the cloud. That puts cloud security of your data as the biggest concern about DaaS. Because your own IT department doesn't have control of data, you have to have a certain element of trust in your DaaS provider.
I don’t see that as a concern that’s limited to DaaS. I think cloud security and handing over data are concerns for anything that uses a cloud-based service model. I think that my biggest concern related to DaaS is how to best leverage it to support DR processes and still get user buy-in if they don’t have something physical to fall back on.
It's an interesting conundrum: DaaS or VDI. I think VDI has definitely grown up quite a bit and matured so that it does make more sense for a lot of organizations -- especially those that have specific security or compliance needs. Here's a nice VMware Q&A that lays out why VDI is a good choice for some:


Karen J. Bannan, commenting on behalf of IDG and VMware.