Given the large-scale trend toward hybrid and remote work going forward, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has garnered fresh attention among organizations that want their end users to move seamlessly between in-house and offsite productivity. But many IT managers have understandably balked at the high total cost of on-premises or data center VDI solutions, a snowballing expense that we’ve previously discussed in detail.
To that end, cloud computing has sought to help reduce cost & complexity within the field of virtual desktops. Just like everything from digital file storage to Microsoft Office apps, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model has been extended to virtualization and digital workspaces too. Organizations that don’t want to invest in all the infrastructure and oversight of conventional VDI now have the choice of implementing a desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) solution instead.
With the reduced upfront costs of DaaS, its subscription-style pricing and the smaller footprint of cloud infrastructure, it’s not hard to see why it might appear to be an attractive solution (at first glance) for organizations that want the functionality of end-user computing without the initial investment.
Yet, as we’ll see below, the suggested cost savings of DaaS comes with multiple asterisks. Let’s take a look at the true cost of DaaS, and what alternatives exist for a simpler, more secure, more cost-effective digital workspace.
How Is Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) Different from VDI?
DaaS, sometimes referred to as hosted desktop services, is the cloud-based counterpart to on-premises VDI. DaaS is therefore better thought of as a subset or variant of virtual desktop infrastructure than a unique offshoot of it, which is why so many of the major players in VDI—companies like VMware, Citrix and Microsoft—also offer a DaaS solution of some kind.
There are, however, some basic differences between DaaS and conventional VDI. Here’s where DaaS services tend to stand apart:
- Pricing: Rather than paying upfront hardware costs for servers to host the virtual machines (VMs) and handle licensing, DaaS customers pay a periodic fee to a third-party service provider. Like many SaaS solutions, this fee is usually based on “seats,” or the number of users.
- Cloud infrastructure: VDI requires organizations to supply and manage their own hardware and software infrastructure, which is housed either on-premises or in a data center. DaaS, by contrast, is a cloud service. This means that a third-party—whether it’s the DaaS service provider or a separate cloud provider—is responsible for all the backend infrastructure.
- Control: The architectural differences between DaaS and VDI have implications for visibility and control. By moving infrastructure under the service provider umbrella, organizations also cede a certain amount of control over their DaaS solution. For example, customers may end up sharing server resources with other DaaS tenants. Customers are also reliant on the DaaS service provider to address any security issues.
- Flexibility: DaaS providers are usually able to accommodate evolving virtualization demands better than classic VDI. This means customers can select digital workspaces depending on their use case. They could choose different operating systems, for instance, or opt for a DaaS solution targeted at high-performance workloads. These choices also allow for more cost-effective, responsive scalability.
What Is the True Cost of DaaS?
As a cloud service with subscription pricing, DaaS deployments require almost no CapEx for backend equipment. This removes one of the most significant financial barriers to virtual desktop implementation. The DaaS provider and/or a third-party cloud solution shoulders all infrastructure purchasing, operation and management costs.
Where CapEx does factor in is with endpoint clients. Depending on their DaaS solution and their virtualization use case, organizations might have to purchase dedicated devices that are compatible with each of those variables. If we take Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops as just one of many examples, customers have the choice of Microsoft, AWS or Google as their cloud service provider. But to make full use of the service, end users need to run the Citrix Receiver on their client device, and the availability and device requirements of that app are up to Citrix. That could prove challenging for organizations that have adopted more cost-effective BYOD (bring-your-own-device) policies.
It’s also important to remember that DaaS and other cloud solutions don’t provide hosting infrastructure for free. They’ll offset their own CapEx through the pricing of the ongoing SaaS-style subscription fees. And when it comes time to migrate to a more high-performance tier or increase the number of users, the subscription fees will rise accordingly.
All of that, incidentally, comes on top of the “hidden” consulting costs, support costs and management costs that plague DaaS.
Is the DaaS Cost Worth It?
There are a lot of moving parts at play here. Whether or not the cost of DaaS makes sense compared to VDI ultimately comes down to your individual use case and everything that feeds into a particular DaaS solution. Here are some questions that will help you evaluate whether or not DaaS is a viable solution for your organization:
- Is the ongoing subscription pricing of DaaS easier on our long-term budget than the upfront costs of VDI?
- Are we willing to sacrifice some of VDI’s control and visibility for the sake of scalability and cost savings?
- Will we be able to retain BYOD policies and avoid purchasing new endpoint devices to get the workspaces we need?
- Can our DaaS solution support our preferred operating system(s) and give our end users access to critical software, including legacy Windows apps?
- Does DaaS remain cost-effective even if our remote users encounter authentication and user experience issues that hinder their productivity?
- And perhaps most importantly – Do our users truly need a full virtual desktop environment (VDI or DaaS) at all, or do they really just need ultra-secure access to all of the apps they need to be productive on any device (which does not require a desktop)?
If the answer to each of those questions is yes, then DaaS might possibly be a more budget-friendly alternative to VDI. This is often the case for small to medium-sized businesses that are still figuring out what sort of virtualization works best for their preferred workflows and their workloads. Large organizations with disparate desktop virtualization needs might also prefer DaaS for the options it provides when it comes to operating systems, virtual machines and cloud services.
Digital Workspace Alternatives to Virtual Desktops
When you’re considering virtualization strategies, it’s easy to get caught up in the binary choice of on-premises VDI or cloud-hosted DaaS. But both involve desktop virtualization, which means limiting your potential solutions only to what virtual desktop infrastructure has to offer. Your options are actually much broader!
Virtual Application delivery (VAD) is a next-gen virtualization approach that equips end users with the apps they need to stay productive – all without the need for virtual desktops or VPNs. From remote & hybrid work to distance learning, VAD presents a secure and cost-effective alternative to providing users with entire desktops when all they need (or want) is secure access to all of their applications.
Cameyo takes the inherent optimization of VAD even further by enabling end users to access full-featured desktop apps on any device—up to and including iOS and Android mobile devices as well as Chromebooks. Cameyo achieves this by delivering all of your apps – legacy Windows, internal web, and SaaS – seamless via HTTPS. That means any user with a modern HTML5-capable browser such as Firefox, Chrome or Safari (on macOS or iOS) can utilize desktop versions of Microsoft Office, the Adobe Creative Cloud suite or legacy Windows ERP/billing software. Even a small-footprint, high-performance cloud solution like Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop doesn’t offer the same streamlined, versatile and right-sized virtualization as Cameyo’s VAD platform.
“Cameyo is by far more cost-effective compared to the other solutions we tested,” said Amitt Mehta, CM\EO at Moblize. His company leveraged Cameyo in combination with AWS to smoothly cloud-enable Windows-only AI and Big Data software for a number of users in the oil and gas industry.
“Not only is Cameyo’s pricing more attractive, but where we really see the cost savings is the overall reduction in complexity and the time required to manage the solution on an ongoing basis. I’d say Cameyo reduces total cost of ownership related to integration complexity and management by at least 25 percent.”
Compared to both VDI and desktop-as-a-service, Cameyo’s digital workspaces could offer your organization superior scalability, more cost-effective pricing, a simpler user experience and effortless integration with Chromebooks as well as BYOD iOS and Android devices. Take advantage of our free trial of Cameyo to see just how VAD supports remote users without the need to provision entire VMs. We also encourage IT managers to request a quote to better estimate Cameyo’s cost savings versus the total cost of DaaS or VDI.