DaaS as Desktop Solution: A Look at the Pros and Costs

Park Place Hardware Maintenance

Chris Adams November 14, 2017

As helpful as application streams may be, few employees rely on only one or two browser-based applications to do their jobs. DaaS can answer their broad needs by providing complete desktop capabilities in a hosted environment.

DaaS and its little brother, application streams, can have a transformative impact on IT enterprises moving to the cloud. The technologies are gaining in popularity for good reason. Here’s an overview of their advantages.

Application Streaming Moves Power-Hungry and Legacy Apps to Cloud Server Farms

Application streams made Gartner’s latest top 10 list of technology trends affecting infrastructure and operations, alongside microservices and interconnect fabrics. Much of the original appeal was the ability to get applications with more extreme processing requirements off the local desktop and onto more capable, centralized servers.

This move can have a significant impact on desktop specifications, lowering the cost of equipping individual employees involved in such fields as CAD, 3D graphics, simulation, gaming, media editing, medical imaging, and life sciences with enough compute power to do their jobs. Performance can also be improved, assuming adequate network speed.

Application streams found additional business cases thereafter. The newer AWS AppStream, for example, is marketed as a means of serving any Windows application to nearly any Windows and/or non-Windows device, including those running Android, iOS, and Chrome. This adds flexibility, especially when it comes to legacy applications no one wants to rewrite for the cloud. It can also help developers of new applications by:

  • Enabling custom code and apps to be published to a specific user base
  • Avoiding large downloads by end-users
  • Protecting proprietary code from piracy
  • Offering a single cloud environment to run the app, thus reducing testing complexity

The Pluses of Full-Service DaaS

As helpful as application streams may be, few employees rely on only one or two browser-based applications to do their jobs. DaaS can answer their broad needs by providing complete desktop capabilities in a hosted environment. Like VDI, DaaS hold great potential to:

  • Reduce desktop support requirements, as conventional software distribution and administration go away
  • Centralize updating and management and bring an end to version incompatibilities
  • Automate provisioning, backups, and other repetitive tasks
  • Ease provisioning of entire desktops for large workforces or in small businesses with limited expertise
  • Facilitate BYOD (bring your own device)
  • Provide secure network access to employees, contractors, and others
  • Increase security compared with physical desktops, as little, if any, data is stored locally
  • Minimize the risk of viruses and eliminate the need for virus scanning and firewalls
  • Drive hardware cost-savings over fully equipped PCs, as the PC itself does little computational work and can keep paced with increasingly powerful applications over time
  • Reduce end-user downtime caused by poor device/application management
  • Transition from capital investment that must be depreciated to a predictable, subscription-based operational expense
  • Simplify post-acquisition integrations of disparate desktop environments across newly combined business units
  • Provide developers with desktop environments for testing purposes

Many of these advantages gain increased importance in industries using large numbers of temporary workers or contractors, as well as in companies with high turnover rates. Clearly, the “gig economy” has DaaS written all over it.

The Cost of Hosting Desktops

An IDC white paper makes some bold claims about DaaS—that it can reduce capital expenditures 56% annually while cutting OPEX at the same time. One provider asserts that virtual desktops “cost two times less” than PCs while offering security, disaster recovery, and mobility advantages.

These figures pitted DaaS against traditional desktop management. But what about organizations already benefiting from VDI or considering such virtualization? Lining up a third-party subscription service with assumptions about on-premises requirements for an apples-to-apples comparison is difficult, but the folks at the consultancy AHEAD gave it a try.

Comparing AWS WorkSpaces with VDI in a 2016 write-up, they found:

  • Hardware costs were $125,000 versus $75,000 for VDI and AWS respectively, making DaaS the cheaper solution from an equipment standpoint.
  • Software costs were $100,000 for VDI but included with the AWS subscription, tipping clearly in the WorkSpaces direction.
  • One-time engineering costs were minor in both cases, from $2,000 for AWS to $8,000 for VDI.
  • Operational costs, however, split wide at nearly half a million ($480,000) for VDI and a more comforting $120,000 for AWS.

For those keeping track, total cost of ownership was a bit over $720,000 for the AWS DaaS over five years and more than $1 million for the on-premises VDI. It makes a good case for DaaS, at least as priced through Amazon, but is that the whole story?

Stay tuned.

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.