VDI vs DaaS: How to Choose?

What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is the traditional way of serving virtual desktops to corporate users. It involves setting up servers in the local data center, running virtualization software and virtual desktop management infrastructure, from providers like VMware or Citrix, and has high upfront costs.

VDI is centralized, so the IT team is responsible for managing the infrastructure. This means that hardware, software, licenses and distribution are all handled internally. The IT department has full control over the VDI site and can keep sensitive data on-premises.

What is Desktop as a Service (DaaS)?

Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is a cloud-hosted VDI service, offered by providers like Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Google, VMware, and Citrix. With DaaS, organizations do not need to provision servers or manage VDI infrastructure—both hardware and the VDI control plane is fully managed by the service provider.

DaaS systems are subscription-based, usually billed on a per-user basis, with little or no initial investment. All infrastructure setup and maintenance is handled by the DaaS provider.

VDS vs. DaaS: What is the Difference?

Below we cover some of the key differences between on-premises VDI and cloud-based DaaS services.

See a head-to-head comparison between a popular VDI and DaaS solution in our article: Windows Virtual Desktop vs. Citrix

Architecture

The main components of a VDI architecture are a hypervisor and a connection broker.

A hypervisor decouples any physical hardware from an operating system (OS) residing in a server, which is located at the data center. The hypervisor enables you to serve multiple virtual desktops from one physical server.

A connection broker is a software gateway in charge of connecting desktop users with individual desktop instances. The connection broker serves as a layer that authenticates each user, rather than an endpoint device.

Typically, VDI technology uses a dedicated point of delivery (PoD) model, which contains predefined network, compute, and storage resources dedicated to supporting a specific number of virtual desktops. The PoD is isolated from other systems, to ensure any desktop fluctuations do not interfere with other workloads located in the data center.

A DaaS architecture, on the other hand, serves VDI using a multi-tenant delivery model. First, you purchase a subscription, which defines how many virtual desktop instances you want to use on a monthly basis. Next, the cloud vendor starts managing the back-end tasks, including data backup, security, upgrade, and storage.

When you purchase a DaaS subscription, if not specified otherwise in the agreement, you are still required to manage your virtual desktop images, your applications, and the security of your workloads.

Cost

VDI requires a high capital expenditure (CapEx), especially if you need to purchase or upgrade servers or prepare a data center facility. However, if hardware already exists, organizations can pay off their technical debt and save the ongoing subscription fees charged by cloud service. For enterprise-level organizations with predictable growth and resource requirements, the initial investment is usually less expensive than DaaS.

DaaS requires almost no upfront investment, but there are ongoing subscription fees. This cost model allows you to dynamically scale your operations and pay only for the resources you are using. For small to medium-sized organizations with major changes in the number of desktops, or fast growing organizations, the DaaS option may be cheaper.

Setup

VDI requires managing all areas of the infrastructure yourself. This includes hardware, operating systems, applications and related software. You are responsible for addressing any problems that may arise, from software patches to hardware replacements.

DaaS is a cloud-based service that is fully set up by a third-party service provider. Organizations do not need servers and data center facilities. The provider configures, manages, and monitors the platform as needed, usually with a guaranteed service level agreement (SLA).

Data Backup

VDI typically does not come with backup built in. It will require you to set up, test and manage backup and business continuity infrastructure and processes.

DaaS service providers typically back up data as part of their service. Backup functionality is built into the service or underlying cloud infrastructure, and does not require special setup. However, backups may incur additional costs, typically according to storage volume used.

Agility

VDI is a complex infrastructure that requires large efforts and major costs to build. Organizations typically take a long time to complete upgrades to the VDI software, to allow users to benefit from new features. Changes such as scaling up or down, or adding new types of hardware such as GPUs, involve a major effort and may be limited by your budget and IT update cycle.

DaaS offers greater flexibility. For example, if one of your requirements is to accommodate temporary workers, seasonal workers, or contract workers, the DaaS option lets you add seats when needed and per usage, and scale down when the desktops are no longer needed, without wasting underutilized resources.

DaaS deployments let you deliver virtualized desktops quickly for urgent needs. In addition, you can easily support new technological trends, such as software innovations or the latest CPU or GPU hardware, because these options are typically added and offered as a subscription option by the DaaS provider.

End User Experience

VDI virtual desktops must be physically deployed near end users to provide a good user experience. If the data center is too far away from users, high latency and low bandwidth can have a significant impact on the user experience. To support users in multiple locations, you may need to deploy a VDI infrastructure in multiple regions (e.g. a VDI site in each branch office).

Additionally, VDI solutions may not be able to provide the operating system or application versions that users expect. Some VDI solutions may be limited to non-standard operating systems such as Windows Server. This can cause incompatibility and inconvenience to users.

With DaaS, because cloud providers have data centers around the world, you can easily support end users in multiple regions. You can deploy virtual desktops near each group of users simply by selecting the nearest cloud region.

In addition, DaaS solutions generally offer more choices when it comes to operating systems and virtualized applications. Ideally, virtualized desktop users should have the same UI and application compatibility as a dedicated workstation.

Addressing VDI Challenges with Hysolate Isolated Workspace as a Service

Creating and managing a VDI solution is a large project and a huge undertaking for an organization. Creating, planning the infrastructure correctly, and making sure everything is tested, has the proper sizing to support the target population requires thousands of hours of work and a huge investment. In addition, running the servers on premise, involves tremendous costs of purchasing the servers, and of course maintaining the infrastructure leading to high OpEx and CapEx costs.

With that said, in today’s remote first world, users connecting to the datacenter VDI solution, sometimes over a VPN tunnel will get poor performance and user experience and desktops are not available when offline.

Hysolate solves these problems with an innovation called isolated workspace as a service (IWaaS). Users get a local isolated operating system running on their machine deployed within minutes which is managed from the cloud.

Isolated workspaces enable:

  • A higher level of freedom on employees corporate devices
  • Ability to receive 3rd party generated content in an isolated zone
  • Access to IT admins, DevOps, developers, and other privileged users in their everyday environment
  • Access to employees from personal, unmanaged devices

The behavior of the workspace is managed in the cloud, while all of the computing resources run locally on user machines.

This eliminates the need to invest in a large and costly infrastructure, and provides a better local user experience, with offline availability.

Learn more about our Isolated- Workspace as-a-Service platform