Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is a cloud computing offering where a service provider delivers virtual desktops to end users over the Internet, licensed with a per-user subscription.
The provider takes care of backend management for small businesses that find creating their own virtual desktop infrastructure to be too expensive or resource-consuming. This management typically includes maintenance, back-up, updates, and data storage. Cloud service providers may also handle security and applications for the desktop, or users may manage these service aspects individually.
Two kinds of desktops are available in DaaS—persistent and non-persistent. With a persistent desktop, users have the ability to customize and save a desktop so it will look the same way each time a particular user logs on. Non-persistent desktops are wiped each time the user logs out—they are merely a way to access shared cloud services. Persistent desktops require more storage than non-persistent desktops, which can make them more expensive. Cloud providers may allow customers to choose from both, allowing workers with specific needs to access a persistent desktop and providing access to temporary or occasional workers via a non-persistent desktop.
With DaaS, the cloud services provider hosts the infrastructure, network resources, and storage in the cloud and streams a virtual desktop to the user’s device, where the user can access the desktop’s data and applications through a web browser or other software. Organizations may purchase as many virtual desktops as they need through a subscription model.
Because desktop applications stream over the Internet from a centralized server, graphics-intensive applications have historically been hard to use with DaaS. New technology has changed this, and even applications such as computer-aided design (CAD) that require an immense amount of computer power to display quickly can now run easily on DaaS. When the workload on one server gets too high, IT administrators can migrate a running virtual machine from one physical server to another in just a few seconds, allowing graphics accelerated or GPU-accelerated applications to run uninterrupted. GPU-accelerated Desktop as a Service (GPU-DaaS) has implications for any industry that requires 3D modeling, high-end graphics, simulations, or video production. The engineering and design, broadcasting, and architecture industries can all benefit from this technology.
The benefits of DaaS include simplified management, increased flexibility, and lower cost of ownership compared to traditional models. Businesses that aim to offer remote work options and personal device flexibility can use DaaS to quickly and easily create a digital workspace. Users may log in to their virtual desktop from anywhere, via many different kinds of devices, and their desktop will look exactly the same as when they last visited from a different location. All they need is an Internet connection. Since the data lives in a centralized, remote location, it can be constantly backed up—no need for users to manage back-ups on their own or worry about data existing on a computer at the office but not at home.
A virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) allows organizations to remotely host desktop operating systems on endpoint devices from a centralized server. All of the data lives in the data center server—the endpoint is merely a way for users to access that data over the Internet. VDI requires a costly investment in network, storage, and compute infrastructure in the data center, in addition to an IT Team that is skilled in setting up and managing virtual infrastructures. With the Desktop as a Service model, cloud service providers bear the infrastructure set-up cost and the management cost, which can make DaaS much more affordable than setting up a new virtual desktop infrastructure in house, depending on the number of end users served and the price of a subscription.
A company with a large number of users can save money with either VDI or DaaS because the endpoint devices don’t need much computing power (most of the processing is happening in the data center). However, serving a large number of users requires a large IT staff that can handle any issues that come up. DaaS lets a company function with a leaner IT staff because the DaaS vendor will deal with deployment, connectivity problems, and other issues that come up for end users.
However, VDI gives a company’s IT staff more control over the desktop offering and more control over security than DaaS. A business with specific or stringent security or application requirements may not be able to find a DaaS provider that meets all of its needs in a cost-effective way.
Desktop as a Service offers some clear advantages over a traditional desktop model. Deploying or decommissioning active end users with DaaS is much faster and less expensive. The desktop is already configured, it just needs to be connected to a new device. For seasonal businesses that consistently experience spikes and drops in demand or employees, DaaS can save a lot of time and money. Desktop as a Service also allows companies to provide remote IT support to their employees, minimizing downtime.
DaaS allows businesses to save money in other ways. Because the devices that run DaaS require much less computing power than a traditional desktop machine or laptop, they are less expensive and use less power. Users also have more options in choosing a device. DaaS runs on a variety of operating systems and device types, which supports the trend of users bringing their own devices into the office and shifts the burden of supporting the desktop on all of those devices to the cloud service provider.
Finally, because the data is stored in the data center with DaaS, security risks are considerably lower. If a laptop or mobile device is stolen, it can simply be disconnected from the service. Since none of the data lives on that stolen device, the risk of a thief accessing sensitive data is minimal. Security patches and updates are also easier to install in a DaaS environment because all of the desktops can be updated simultaneously from a remote location.