In the virtualization space, you’ll hear a lot of talk these days about cloud PCs and cloud desktops. The term has even been adopted in enterprise IT circles to describe various virtualization strategies that involve cloud services in some capacity.
But there’s still some confusion about what the basic concept of a cloud PC does and doesn’t entail. Can it be broadly applied to any virtual desktop solution? Is it Windows-specific or does it extend to every operating system? How does it factor into the trend toward hybrid and remote work?
The answer is both more straightforward and more nuanced than you might think.
At its heart, a cloud PC is any solution that enables people to access all of the apps and data they need to be productive on any device. That’s it in a nutshell.
However, there are different ways to achieve that, and not all of them utilize the cloud to the same extent. As we’ll also see, their differences have implications on cost, security and ease of use.
Diverging paths to virtual desktops and apps
There are three main approaches to delivering cloud PCs. One is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). The second, which grew out of conventional VDI, is desktop-as-a-service, or DaaS for short. The third—and the most modern evolution of virtualization technology—is Virtual App Delivery (VAD).
Let’s take a brief look at each one of those with a particular focus on the digital workspace experience they offer end users.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
VDI is a legacy desktop virtualization solution that’s used to recreate a classic desktop environment on remote endpoints. Because it was developed several decades ago, it predates cloud-based computing and is therefore not cloud-native. When it comes to popular VDI solutions, Citrix is the most traditional example.
VDI implementations are complex and involve many moving parts. Basically, they rely on virtual machines (VMs) that contain operating system images. In most use cases, the operating system is Microsoft Windows (although Linux is also an option), and the VMs are hosted on a hypervisor server located in an on-premises data center. The operating system images are assigned to remote clients when they connect to the server through some sort of provisioning and authentication mechanism like Active Directory.
The purpose of VDI is to mimic the desktop environment of a local PC, but retaining this familiarity can come at the expense of the broader user experience. For example, users are often expected to negotiate with virtual private networks (VPNs) to get behind the organization’s firewall. VDI performance is also subject to latency and bandwidth issues.
DaaS takes the VDI template and moves key infrastructure into the cloud. Some form of dedicated cloud solution will be used for the hosted desktops and authentication, and the pricing generally follows the subscription-style model common to many SaaS solutions. As a result, DaaS is more in line with what people have in mind when they’re talking about cloud PCs.
Unlike classic VDI, DaaS is usually a managed service, which enables organizations to offload some of the administrative responsibility and technical support. DaaS also brings some of the benefits of cloud infrastructure, such as improved scalability and location-based server optimization when users establish a remote desktop session.
But, in keeping with its pedigree in desktop virtualization, DaaS is very Windows-centric. It’s primarily designed to deliver a user experience that mirrors the traditional PC—even when users are connected via mobile apps with an Internet connection. So while it’s true that DaaS is more in keeping with the popular idea of a cloud PCs, it still revolves around the Windows operating system (Windows 10, Windows 11, Windows 365 Cloud PC, etc.) and is better thought of as a Windows virtual desktop in the cloud.
Virtual App Delivery (VAD)
VAD, like DaaS, is cloud-native, but its aim is to streamline the cloud desktop experience and decouple it from the operating system. Instead of trying to replicate Windows OS on endpoint devices, VAD prioritizes providing users with all of their critical apps, regardless of which device they’re using.
The result is a true, platform-agnostic cloud desktop that’s easier to use, more secure and better suited to most workflows. Virtual App Delivery allows users to work with the same Windows desktop software they’re accustomed to, yet it enables them to access that software seamlessly and on demand from a Chromebook, Apple Mac laptop, Android smartphone, iOS mobile devices (e.g., iPad, iPhone) or even a Linux desktop. Any device with a modern HTML5 browser.
And because VAD was designed for the cloud computing era, it takes full advantage of high-performance cloud infrastructure for better scalability, optimization and security than VDI or DaaS.
Cameyo: A versatile, cost-effective cloud pc
As the innovator of Virtual App Delivery, Cameyo freed the cloud PC from its reliance on the Windows operating system. The result is an ultra-flexible, Windows-independent cloud desktop that users can access from any device.
With Cameyo, users are able to connect to select applications via an HTML5-capable web browser, such as Chrome, Safari or Firefox. Although the connection is HTTPS-encrypted and secured through multiple technologies, for the user it’s as quick and as straightforward as clicking on a web bookmark (or an app icon, using Caemyo PWAs). They can then work with the desktop versions of their applications in real-time. That’s how Cameyo makes it possible to run CPU-intensive applications like the Adobe Creative Suite and AutoCAD on a Chromebook.
If you want to empower your people with the right tools they need for remote and hybrid work but you don’t want to drag all the legacy issues of the Windows operating system into the cloud, then VAD is the cloud PC experience you’re looking for. Sign up for your free trial of Cameyo today and discover why it’s more effective (and far more cost-effective) than complex VDI or DaaS implementations. Or, if you’re still wondering whether VAD is right for your use case, request a demo to have one of our engineers take you through the specifics.