The Appeal of Desktop-as-a-Service: Better than VDI?

Park Place Technologies


Chris Adams November 07, 2017

VDI was considered revolutionary, but its best days always seem to be in the future.

In this “Bring Your Own Device” gig economy in which employees expect secure access to everything from anywhere, wouldn’t it be great to turn the whole thing over to a third-party? That’s the argument behind Desktop-as-a-Service implementations — getting rid of the headaches and expense of desktop management.

To listen to the strongest DaaS advocates, it’s as if the old dummy terminal has been reborn as the DaaS client, but transformed by the new capabilities of the cloud. Sleek centralization and a hands-off approach to what, admittedly, isn’t always IT’s favorite task set — what’s not to like?

Well, we’ll get to that. But let’s take a step back to VDI, or virtual desktop infrastructure, where the last great hope for desktop administration simplicity was pinned and how it has led to DaaS.

The Pros and Cons of VDI Drive Development and Adoption of DaaS

The term “virtual desktop infrastructure,” was coined by VMWare to describe a variation of client-server (a.k.a. server-based) computing using virtual machines to provide desktop and later mobile applications to employees, contractors, and others. Since the introduction in 2006, enterprises have looked to VDI to move processing from PCs to servers and centralize desktop-related functions.

Whether implemented for personal devices or kiosk-style for more publicly accessible, pooled devices, VDI presented a dream of desktop ease that didn’t always come through:

  • Simplified desktop management with central hosting
  • Efficient provisioning and de-provisioning with standardized images
  • Secure management with constant monitoring and detection
  • Easier patching and upgrading

To its credit, VDI has greatly reduced end-point costs of PCs in many cases. But the financial benefits tended to fade once the other infrastructure expenses, from storage and server costs to technical expertise requirements, were accounted for.

This white paper mapping the push from VDI to DaaS highlighted the “false starts and failed proofs of concepts” that left some enterprises less than impressed with VDI. Problems include:

  • Infrastructure complexity. Although things get easier at the PC/device end, centralized planning, configuration, management, and maintenance are often unwieldy with VDI.
  • Implementation complexity. VDI involves multiple IT disciplines, which can cause issues in siloed IT organizations. Getting it right also means months of planning, testing, and staging.
  • Troubleshooting complexity. With infrastructure complexity come problems down the road. The involvement of server, storage, networking, endpoint, and security teams, to name a few, can lead to extended downtime and angry, unproductive users.
  • Upfront investment. A related issue is the cost of all of the above. From a hardware perspective alone, there is a lot of server, storage, and networking capacity required by VDI, which can be expensive to purchase and scale.
  • Unused capacity. The IT organization generally needs to provision sufficient capacity within the data center to handle future expansion needs. Depending on growth rates, significant resources can remain untapped or underutilized for a long period of time.
  • Bandwidth issues. Global access can be hindered based on users’ proximity to network bandwidth, and latency can quickly become a problem.

VDI was considered revolutionary, but its best days always seem to be in the future. This year, 2017, was supposed to be a key tipping point, according to some analysts. Instead we may see something very different—an exodus to the next technology. The fact is, despite some VDI success stories, many organizations were unable to realize the full potential.

A prescient 2014 report by IDC found a clear divergence in the futures of on-premises VDI, with a five-year CAGR of 3.7% through 2018. Hosted “Workplace-as-a-Service” (now more commonly referred to as DaaS) was forecast for 42.5% CAGR over the same period.

Sounds like things are heading the way of DaaS. So what can one expect from this “VDI in the cloud”? We’ll delve deeper in the next post.

Chris Adams is President and COO of Park Place Technologies. Contact him at cadams@parkplacetech.com.

About the Author

Chris Adams, President and Chief Executive Officer
As President and CEO, he works side-by-side with other key leaders throughout the company managing day-to-day operations of Park Place. His key objectives include streamlining work processes and ensuring that all business initiatives and objectives are in sync. Chris focuses on key growth strategies and initiatives to improve profitability for Park Place, and is responsible for European and Asia-Pacific sales and service operations.