Nutanix Glossary

What is Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS)?

April 13, 2023 | min

Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) is a cloud-based desktop virtualization service hosted by a third-party enterprise. How does DaaS work? The third-party cloud provider manages all backend resources, such as desktop storage, compute and networking, including the virtual cloud machines that run the desktop operating systems. The desktop as a service provider streams the virtual desktops to end-user devices, allowing any time, anywhere access to desktops and applications. Like most cloud services, DaaS is subscription-based in a multi-tenant environment. Organizations can also deploy a desktop infrastructure in a private cloud in a local datacenter.

The differences between DaaS and VDI

Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) is effectively a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) that someone else hosts and manages.

The following are some of the relative advantages and disadvantages that can help you decide which desktop provider to use.

DaaS solutions over VDI as a service:

  • Easier to implement and administer than VDI; can be as simple as opening a browser on your desktop that supports HTML5. It doesn’t require a virtualization expert on staff.
  • Deploy new desktops on demand to meet end-user needs; no need to purchase additional hardware first.
  • Get to see how it performs in full production capacity, under load, without an up-front financial outlay.
  • Pay only for what you use; no heavy upfront investment.
  • Low to no CapEx. It’s all OpEx unless you choose to run your DaaS solution on-premises due to compliance issues.
  • Releases in-house IT from managing the technology stack, freeing them to work on the virtual desktops, client work and applications.
  • Enables BYOD.

When selecting the best DaaS solution, there are a range of key considerations, such as where the solution is hosted, performance levels, scalability, security, and data location.

VDI vs. DaaS

VDI may be cheaper in the long run, depending on the specifics of the deployment. While DaaS providers have lower up-front expenditures due to no CapEx investment, the cost of DaaS deployments vary depending on the subscription model and the features included, such as VM instance size and the software entitlements (licenses).

Regulatory requirements of specific industries and countries may not allow DaaS. For example, the healthcare industry has HIPAA regulations and the financial industry has SEC regulations. Different regions have regulations around data sovereignty, such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules in the European Union.

VDI provides greater control over the virtualized desktops and the underlying hosting virtualization infrastructure. For example, there are technical requirements that DaaS does not meet, such as USB redirection or using multiple monitors.

VDI also enables greater control over issues such as performance, such that you can manage performance without having to “buy up,” as you would with DaaS. VDI allows you to keep your sensitive data on-premises.

You can, however, run DaaS in your own private cloud on-premises. VDI also removes a layer when faced with troubleshooting--this approach may be preferable if you have the expertise and sufficient resources.

However, it’s not necessary to choose one or the other. These two approaches can complement each other. Some users prefer to have a DaaS overlay of their VDI deployment. For example, the DaaS market allows the user to modernize legacy applications with zero code refactoring.

Not all legacy Windows apps perform well in a DaaS environment due to latency or hardware requirements. By having both an on-premises and cloud-hosted option, you can cover more conditions and have a high-quality and secure cloud computing user experience.

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