Desktop as a Service (DaaS) has been around for several years now and offers potentially intriguing possibilities for businesses using the Cloud. DaaS comes from hosting virtual desktops in the Cloud instead of on a data server like virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). As with any technology, DaaS has its own sets of pros and cons.
Related: Virtualization Manager helps administrators manage resources, capacity and performance in the virtual environment.
Let’s get the cons out of the way first. DaaS doesn’t ensure the use of persistent desktops, complex application layering, or network connectivity. The lack of persistent desktops limits users to a common, shared interface with essentially no customization. Pinning programs to the Start menu or taskbar isn’t an option for users operating with DaaS. DaaS usually has more limited specs for users as well like less CPU, memory, and disk space than its VDI counterparts. This limitation means users can only run relatively simple applications like basic Microsoft Office products. Users trying to run things like computer aided design (CAD) software will likely struggle with DaaS. DaaS also inherently requires businesses to operate on the Cloud, so unless there’s another reason for the business to be using the Cloud, DaaS alone is rarely alluring enough.
There’s several positive aspects of DaaS, too, and these lead to some practical uses for DaaS today. DaaS can cost less than VDI systems. There are usually ways for DaaS to be designed to limit the amount of hardware purchased, and users only pay for the service when they need it. DaaS can be turned off for days, weeks and months at a time and consequently not cost businesses money, whereas VDI cannot. DaaS is serviced by a provider (like Microsoft Azure or VMware), so some of the work is taken out of IT’s hands (back to on-site hardware and technology reduction), which lessens the burden for IT personnel. Since the interface for DaaS is uniform across an organization, it’s relatively easy for users to learn, and its Cloud hosted architecture makes it easy for users to access their virtual desktops from any supported device.
Recent press on DaaS hasn’t been overwhelmingly positive. DaaS’s applications can be rather limited because of its lacking in customization and long-term licensing costs. The unavoidable truth is that most everyday businesses aren’t going to have their employees operating on DaaS virtual desktops. There are, however, interesting applications for DaaS when its most useful features are spotlighted. DaaS’s cheap up-front costs are ideal of a testing and development environment as proof of concept. Developers can easily test their applications on a clean desktop without any significant investment from their company, and once testing is finished, the machine can be shut down. DaaS is also ideal for companies with seasonal employees who may only need a desktop for a few months out of the year or for entities like retail stores whose employees don’t need to be able to customize their desktop interface.
Overall, there’s still a lot to be learned about and developed for DaaS. Most providers are still changing and developing their DaaS products. Once the DaaS market settles down and matures (hopefully in the next few years), its proper place in the business world will become clear. For now, businesses need to weigh their options when it comes to virtualized desktops to see if DaaS or VDI is truly more appropriate for their purposes.