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Desktop as a Service

DaaS in Cloud Computing: Top Providers and Use Cases

On the most basic level, Desktop as a Service (DaaS) provides controls for remote deployment of cloud-based virtual desktops. However, DaaS offerings vary significantly between providers and vendors.

DaaS platforms provide infrastructure for virtual desktop implementations, whereas DaaS providers are the vendor entity delivering the DaaS solutions for customers. Currently, there are three main DaaS providers dominating this area of cloud computing—Amazon WorkSpaces, VMware Horizon Cloud, and Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop.

In this post, we’ll examine main areas of DaaS in cloud computing, including definitions of basic concepts and a review of the top three vendors. We’ll also show how NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help simplify DaaS management across multi-clouds and hybrid architectures.

In this article, you will learn:

DaaS Provider vs DaaS Platform: What’s the Difference?

When discussing Desktop as a Service (DaaS) in cloud computing, services may be referred to as platforms or providers. You may hear these terms used interchangeably, but the two are not always offered together and vendors can offer one or both.

DaaS platforms
DaaS platforms are what ties the hardware and software used for DaaS together. Platform backends are responsible for virtualization hosts, networking, security and storage. Meanwhile, frontends take care of image management, brokering, optimization, and billing. DaaS platforms are the infrastructure of virtual desktop implementations.

DaaS providers
DaaS providers are vendors that customers interact with. For example, Citrix has a DaaS platform but relies on a network of Citrix Service Providers to provide desktop services to customers.

Combination platform providers
There are also combination vendors, such as dinCloud and VMware. Customers can get desktop services directly or through partner networks that provide DaaS services and tools based on VMware or dinCloud platforms. In the case of VMware, these partners can host VMware’s Desktone platform. For dinCloud, desktops are hosted on dinCloud servers and managed by the partner.

Top Providers of DaaS in Cloud Computing

For most organizations, working with DaaS providers is the best option since this provides access to managed services and support. Below are three of the largest DaaS providers currently available.

Amazon WorkSpaces
Amazon WorkSpaces is an AWS Desktop as a Service product that you can use to access Linux or Windows desktops. When using this service, you can choose from a variety of software and hardware configurations and multiple billing types. You can use WorkSpaces in multiple AWS regions.

WorkSpaces operates on a server-based model. When you use the services, you choose from predefined bundles of OS, storage, and compute resources. The bundle you choose determines the max performance you can expect and your costs. For example, in one of the Standard bundles, you can access Windows 7 or 10, two vCPUs, 4GB memory, and 100GB of storage for $44 a month.

WorkSpaces also includes an option to bring existing Windows licenses and applications. With this option, you can import your existing Windows VM images and run those images on dedicated hardware. The caveat of bring your own license is that it is only available for Windows 7 SP 1 and select Windows 10 versions. Additionally, you must purchase at least 200 desktops.

Learn more in our guide to the AWS DaaS offering.

VMware Horizon Cloud
VMware Horizon Cloud is a DaaS offering available as either a server or client-based option. These services are provided from a VMware-hosted control plane that enables you to manage and deploy your desktops and applications centrally.

With Horizon Cloud you can access fully managed desktops in three configurations:

  • Session desktops—ephemeral desktops in which multiple users share resources available on a single server.
  • Dedicated desktops—persistent desktop resources are provided to a single user. This option uses a client-based model.
  • Floating desktops—non-persistent desktops tied to a single user. These desktops can provide users with a consistent experience through Horizon Cloud features, like User Environment Manager, which enables administrators to persist settings and user data. This option uses a client-based model.

Learn more in our guides to DaaS VMware offerings.

Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop
The Windows Virtual Desktop service is an Azure Desktop as a Service offering. It is available in server or client-based variations. If you are a Windows 10 Enterprise or Microsoft 365 Enterprise customer, you can access this service for free.

With this service, users can access Windows 7 and 10 machines. The Windows 7 machines are designed to provide extended security and support for organizations that are not ready or able to transition to Windows 10 environments. For example, if organizations with legacy applications incompatible with Windows 10.

Additionally, Windows Virtual Desktop includes an option for multi-session Windows 10 deployments. These deployments mimic server-based models but are based on Windows 10 Enterprise instead of Windows Server. This option is designed to provide the benefits and capabilities of a traditional desktop with the flexibility of virtual desktops.

Learn more in our guide to VDI vs DaaS, which goes into an in-depth comparison between the two solutions.

Using DaaS for Desktop Disaster Recovery

One of the most useful ways organizations can leverage DaaS is for disaster recovery (DR). Traditional disaster recovery plans require you to maintain backup workstations which take up space and resources. With DaaS, you can eliminate these devices and the storage required by building failover resources in the cloud.

Desktop DR in the cloud
When you plan for DR with virtual, cloud-hosted desktops you can outsource much of the maintenance and management that DR requires. For example, your IT can rely on the vendor to manage back-end infrastructures, maintain host servers, and ensure network and storage connectivity.

Additionally, because cloud services are naturally distributed and include data redundancy, there are no single points of failure. This can be especially important in times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 global pandemic (read our blog about the challenges of providing VDI services during the crisis). DaaS services are available across regions and availability zones, ensuring that you can access your desktops from almost anywhere. This ensures that your recovery resources are always available. 

How is DaaS different from virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)?
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) implementations can provide some of the same benefits as DaaS. However, these implementations are typically built on-premises. This on-premise hosting means you are still responsible for maintaining, managing, and housing hardware. It also means you may still be facing a single point of failure. In contrast, DaaS is always hosted off-site.

Additionally, the costs and scalability of DaaS are more flexible than VDI. With VDI, you must purchase hardware and are limited in scalability to the resources you have available. With DaaS, there are often multiple billing options to choose from and you can freely scale as needed.

Other DR options in the cloud
If DaaS isn’t the right choice for you, there are still cloud-based options to choose from. For example, you can upload image or file-level backups of your machines to cloud storage. You can then access these backups as needed to restore individual files or whole virtual machines.

One thing to be aware of about this method is that the background scripts used to backup resources can impact performance and consume excess resources. This is particularly true for machine images. To avoid this waste, you can create an initial backup and just update image blocks as needed. This significantly reduces the work that scripts must perform.

Optimizing Cloud DaaS Storage with Cloud Volumes ONTAP

NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP, the leading enterprise-grade storage management solution, delivers secure, proven storage management services on AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. Cloud Volumes ONTAP supports up to a capacity of 368TB, and supports various use cases such as file services, databases, DevOps or any other enterprise workload, with a strong set of features including high availability, data protection, storage efficiencies, Kubernetes integration, and more.

To find out more about DaaS and how Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help you run virtual desktops on cloud resources, download our guidebook on Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in the Cloud. You can also learn about case studies of major companies who turned to Cloud Volumes ONTAP to make their DaaS deployments cost-effective, highly available, and easy to orchestrate with the flagship NetApp cloud solution.

NetApp’s Virtual Desktop Service (VDS) is a global control plane for virtual desktop management that functions as an extension of the cloud. VDS supports Remote Desktop Services (RDS) on Azure, AWS, GCP as well as on-premise environments. It also provides native support for Microsoft's Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) solution in Microsoft Azure. To learn more visit the NetApp VDS solution page.

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Yifat Perry, Technical Content Manager

Technical Content Manager