Is desktop-as-a-service ready for business?

Licensing complications and an immature market limit where DaaS is useful, but desktops in the cloud are ideal for specific situations.

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For companies looking to reduce the cost and complexity of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), the attraction of desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) technology is that you can greatly reduce upfront investment. “It’s pay as you go and you only pay for what you need,” says Mark Lockwood, an analyst at Gartner.

VDI often costs more and delivers less value than expected, Lockwood warns. “VDI is complex and it seems like there’s always something extra you have to buy. You have to worry about bursting, you have to worry about the user experience.” With VDI, you have to pay for the infrastructure up front and depreciate it over time; you also have to buy infrastructure for your peak level of usage. “You’re going to spend a ton of money on storage, on compute, on data centers; and if people don’t use it, you still have to pay for that,” Lockwood points out.

“With DaaS, you only buy what you need and you pay for it month to month,” Lockwood says.

Appealing as that might sound, there are several reasons why you can’t treat DaaS as a replacement for VDI. For one thing, you can’t get all of the same features yet. “There are things you can do with on-premises VDI from Citrix or VMware that you can’t do today with a lot of cloud providers,” Lockwood cautions. “Persistent desktops are not available from all providers. You may not be able to do app layering. You may not be able to get a full GPU as an option. You have to be very careful not to assume that you can do with a DaaS provider what you can do with in-house VDI.”

In fact, you need to check carefully what different DaaS providers offer, because the term covers everything from Microsoft’s Azure Remote App to a full desktop that people can use like a PC. Some services offer a full stack, including capacity management and performance monitoring. Some don’t.

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