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Cloud computing has already transformed software, IT infrastructure and application development. Now it’s coming for the desktop computing market.
Desktop as a service (DaaS) hosts desktop operating systems in the cloud and streams them to users’ endpoints. IT benefits from this model because admins can offload infrastructure maintenance and management, decrease costs, add flexibility and simplify desktop provisioning.
The DaaS approach can make a lot of sense for organizations that have already implemented VDI because DaaS provides even more advantages, including more flexibility around costs, scalability and management. And if a business has already implemented virtual desktops, end users will be familiar with the experience of accessing a hosted desktop.
VDI abstracts a desktop OS from the user’s endpoint hardware, centralizes management for IT and simplifies desktop provisioning through automation as well as bulk patching and updating. DaaS takes even more responsibilities off IT’s hands. The following are some of the top benefits that may make DaaS attractive to companies that already run virtual desktops:
Cost flexibility. DaaS offers a pay-as-you-go model that allows businesses to better control the number of hosted desktops they support. IT can remove and add desktops based on user needs, which helps shops adjust to the changing workforce and reduce financial waste. In some cases, DaaS may even be cheaper out of the box than VDI, but its pricing and total cost of ownership depend on many factors, from the endpoint devices to the storage and media options users require on their virtual desktops. For that reason, there is a lot of variety in pricing among popular DaaS providers.
Scalability. When scaling up a VDI environment, organizations are limited by on-premises infrastructure capacity, and IT has to account for usage peaks. In a DaaS scenario, the cloud service provider handles those capacity issues, so organizations can easily add new desktops when needed or deprovision a desktop when a person leaves the company.
Simpler management. Some DaaS offerings offload everyday management tasks, such as patching and updating desktops, to the service provider. DaaS providers also take on much of the back-end infrastructure management; they maintain host servers, storage and network connectivity so IT doesn’t have to.
Why add DaaS to VDI?
Despite these benefits, not all organizations will want to move all of their desktops into the cloud. It often makes sense to offer cloud desktops only to specific sets of users or for certain applications. Organizations might need to supply contractors or traveling employees with cloud desktops for a short period of time, for instance. Or, certain specialized applications may work better over a hosted service provider’s connection, making the workers who use those apps prime candidates for DaaS.
In fact, vendors in some verticals offer their applications hosted through DaaS for a cheaper price than the on-premises versions, said Jeff Wilhelm, CTO of Envision Technology Advisors in Pawtucket, R.I.
“I could see a use case where a law or accounting firm would have embraced VDI for most of their line-of-business applications, however [they] would still leverage a vendor’s DaaS for a specific application, if proven to be less expensive,” he said.
Cloud bursting is another scenario in which DaaS can supplement VDI because it provides cloud-hosted desktops on an as-needed basis. This approach allows organizations to host a desktop or application in a private cloud or data center, then spin up additional instances in the public cloud when the on-premises version’s capacity is full. Most cloud bursting capabilities that cloud service providers offer are not yet fully automated, so IT must still manually provision the cloud-hosted desktops or apps.
Another reason an organization that has adopted VDI might want to add cloud-hosted desktops is for disaster recovery (DR). A DR site is usually a duplicated data center in another location, but with DaaS, IT can set aside preconfigured cloud-hosted desktops to use in case of emergencies. There’s no hardware that could get outdated, and IT doesn’t have to manually update or patch those desktops because the service provider takes care of that maintenance. When disaster strikes, IT can simply spin up the DaaS instances that are waiting in the wings, which lets users access their most critical applications before things are back up and running.
DaaS is not a necessity
Whether companies use DaaS for disaster recovery, a small group of specialized workers or processing spikes, it’s easier for organizations that already have VDI to move desktops to the cloud because they can use the same virtualized infrastructure to host those desktops. For instance, if IT runs Citrix virtual desktops through XenDesktop and XenApp, the organization can use Citrix service providers that support that VDI software to transition virtual desktops to Citrix-based DaaS services.
DaaS is not a necessity if you already have virtual desktops. It can increase complexity, because enlisting a cloud provider adds an extra entity to deal with in terms of licensing and management agreements. Some organizations still don’t trust the security of the cloud, so DaaS may not be an option for their applications that handle sensitive data. And adding DaaS to a successful VDI implementation without specific objectives in mind may be a case of trying to fix something that isn’t broken.
When organizations consider integrating DaaS with VDI, they should examine which users would benefit the most from cloud access and how those use cases can benefit from the flexible costs, scalability and management of cloud-hosted virtual desktops.
Everything you need to know about DaaS
Five questions to ask DaaS providers
How to use DaaS for DR