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Desktop as a Service

VDI vs DaaS: 5 Key Differences and 6 Leading Solutions

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) technology enables you to deploy virtual machines (VMs) as an on-premise or cloud resource. Desktop as a Service (DaaS) solutions provide the same capability, but as a managed service offered by cloud vendors. However, cloud management is not the only difference between VDI and DaaS.

In this post, we examine the main differences between VDI and DaaS, including architecture, platforms, pricing, control, as well as agility and elasticity. We also briefly review the leading VDI and DaaS providers, and show how NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP can simplify DaaS and VDI management across multicloud and hybrid architectures.

In this article, you will learn:

What Is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)?

VDI technology enables you to deliver desktops via virtual machines (VMs) hosted on-premises or in the cloud. These desktops are managed from a central server and deployed to user clients. Originally called end-user computing (EUC), this desktop virtualization method was made popular by VMware, which standardized the term VDI.

What Is Desktop as a Service (DaaS)?

DaaS is similar to VDI but is provided as a managed service from cloud vendors. In DaaS services, virtual desktops are hosted on managed cloud infrastructure and remotely delivered to user clients. These services can be combined with the cloud providers’ other services and are billed on a subscription basis.

VDI vs DaaS: 5 Key Differences

Although the end result is similar, VDI software and DaaS deployments have different benefits and challenges. Below is a comparison of these two options explaining these differences.

  1. Single-tenant vs multi-tenant

VDI deployments are based on a single-tenant model with resources dedicated to a single organization or user. This model provides you with complete control over the configuration and distribution of your resources. It also eliminates the chance that other users’ resource demands affect your own deployments.

In contrast, most DaaS services are based on multi-tenant models. In these models your service is hosted on servers or in data centers shared with other organizations. The services of each client are isolated and only available to that organization, but the resources are dynamically shared. This means other clients’ resource use or security can affect your own if services are compromised.

  1. Platform

In VDI deployments, you are responsible for all installation, maintenance, and management. If deployments are hosted on-premises, this means maintaining and housing hardware in addition to virtual machines. If deployments are hosted in off-site private cloud, your host provider maintains and may manage infrastructure for you.

With DaaS deployments, your infrastructure is managed, and you are not responsible for maintenance or management. The provider handles hardware monitoring, upgrades, availability, and troubleshooting. With DaaS, you also get access to technical support from your provider.

  1. Cost

VDI deployments require significant capital expenses (CapEx), particularly if you need to purchase or upgrade servers and data centers. However, once hardware is purchased and configured, organizations can begin paying down technical debt and do not have to worry about ongoing subscription costs. For enterprise-grade organizations with predictable growth and resource requirements, the upfront investment is often cheaper than DaaS.

In contrast, DaaS deployments require almost no CapEx, instead incurring ongoing subscription fees. This cost model makes it easier to dynamically scale operations and ensures that you are only paying for the resources you are actively using. For small to medium organizations with fluctuating requirements or those anticipating sharp growth, DaaS options may be cheaper.

  1. Control

In VDI deployments, you typically have full control over your infrastructure, configurations, and data. Additionally, because a single tenant architecture is used, it is easier to ensure that only authorized users can access data. With VDI, you can specify exactly which tools are used, how systems are monitored, where data is stored, and who has access.

With DaaS deployments, the provider controls your infrastructure and many aspects of configuration, monitoring, and data storage. Depending on the provider, you may not have visibility into these aspects. Additionally, DaaS services require Internet access, making it more vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches.

  1. Agility and elasticity

VDI deployments typically take a long time to set up and can be difficult to modify once established. For example, your scalability with a VDI deployment is limited by your server resources. If you need to scale services up, you must first purchase, install, and configure more hardware. Additionally, with VDI deployments, you have less freedom to try out different operating systems due to expensive licensing.

In comparison, you can typically get DaaS deployments up and running in minimal time. This is because the infrastructure and platform are already configured for you; you simply need to define desktop settings and users. Scaling with DaaS services only involves requesting additional desktop instances or user licenses. You don’t need to purchase or spend time preparing new hardware. Additionally, OS licensing is often built-in to service prices, meaning you can combine or change OS’ as needed.

Leading VDI Solutions

Introduced below are some of the top VDI solutions, including key features.

VMware Horizon
VMware Horizon is a VDI solution that you can use to manage virtual desktops and applications in the cloud or on-premises. It is often used by cloud providers as a basis for VMware-powered DaaS solutions. It also supports hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. Horizon provides IT teams with a single platform to control, manage, and monitor desktops.

Here are key features of VMware Horizon:

  • Integration with VMware’s Software-Defined Data Center
  • Provides access to Windows and Linux desktops
  • Offers role-based access controls and True single sign-on (SSO)

IBM Cloud
IBM Cloud is a full-stack platform that you can use to deploy VDI based on VMware. With IBM cloud, you can choose from a customer-managed, partially-managed, or fully-managed deployment.

The customer-managed option provides you full control and is based on the VMware Horizon 7 platform. Partially-managed services cover your desktops, applications, and the VDI platform and are based on VMware Horizon Cloud. Fully-managed services are provided entirely by IBM and are based on the IBM GTS Managed Horizon 7 platform.

Here are key features of IBM Cloud: 

  • Expert guidance on constructing and managing your VDI deployment
  • Secure access from globally distributed data centers
  • Flexible configuration options

Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops
Virtual Apps and Desktops is a VDI platform that provides a single console for the management and deployment of your desktops. You can use this service to manage web and software as a service (SaaS) apps, provide remote PC access, or deploy Windows and Linux desktops and applications. You can use this service on-premises or in the cloud.

Here are key features of Virtual Apps and Desktops:

  • Built-in optimization tooling
  • End-to-end security and compliance tools
  • Available on any cloud platform or with any hypervisor

Leading DaaS Solutions

Introduced below are some of the top DaaS solutions, including key features.

AWS WorkSpaces
AWS WorkSpaces is a DaaS solution hosted and managed by AWS. You can use it to provision both Linux and Windows desktops on a subscription or pay for use basis. This service is available in 13 AWS regions and desktops can be deployed globally. When deployed, desktops are contained within a virtual private cloud (VPC) for added security.

Here are key features of AWS WorkSpaces:

  • Bring your own license options
  • Integrates with Active Directory for user management
  • Available in a range of resource sizes

Learn more about Amazon WorkSpaces in our AWS VDI guide.

Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop
Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) is a DaaS solution hosted and managed by Azure. You can use WVD to deploy Windows 7 or Windows 10 desktops and applications to end users. It also provides support for Remote Desktop Services (RDS) environments.

Here are key features of Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop:

  • Provides extended security and support for legacy Windows 7 customers
  • Can integrate fully with Microsoft 365
  • Built-in migration tools are available

itopia is a DaaS solution based on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). It includes a unified management console that is designed to be user friendly with a gentle learning curve. With itopia, you can automate GCP deployments and manage your cloud workloads with zero scripting.

Here are key features of itopia:

  • Support for migrations from VMware or Citrix VDI
  • Built-in tools for optimizing cloud resources and costs
  • Built-in security, including multi-layer authentication and hardware encryption

Learn more about the differences between DaaS providers and platforms in our DaaS in cloud computing guide.

Optimize VDI and DaaS 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