What is Cloud VDI? A Primer

Now that the adoption of hybrid and remote work policies is at an all-time high, many organizations are eyeing cloud-based virtual desktop infrastructure, or cloud VDI for short, as a potential lynchpin in their IT toolbox. What better way to keep their end users plugged in and productive than by replicating the in-house computing environment via the cloud?

As we’ll see, that isn’t a rhetorical question. Full-fledged virtual desktops aren’t always necessary (or advisable) for the modern hybrid workplace because most users’ work hinges on apps, not operating systems. Solutions like Virtual App Delivery (VAD) are therefore often a more streamlined, cost-effective approach than on-premises or cloud VDI. But to fully evaluate and determine which approach is best for you, it’s important to understand the use cases and limitations of VDI as a cloud service.

What Is Cloud VDI?

The concept of cloud VDI can initially be a little confusing because it goes by different names. While some solution providers call it “cloud-based VDI” or “VDI in the cloud” depending on their preferred virtualization approach, it’s also often described as desktop-as-a-service (DaaS).

Naming aside, all DaaS implementations stick to the same general framework: End users access a remote computing environment—one that’s powered by a data center or cloud infrastructure—via a client on their machines. The client acts as a window through which they can view a familiar desktop-style workspace and interact with software applications as if they were running locally.

The use cases for VDI, cloud-based or otherwise, range from equipping specialized workforces to supporting flexible workplaces. Some of the more common use cases include:

  • Remote work: Microsoft Windows remains the world’s most popular desktop operating system, which naturally puts it at the center of many users’ work ecosystems. Organizations that want to keep out-of-office employees productive see Windows virtual machines as a way to provide those employees with familiar workspaces, even when they’re working from home or hot-desking.
  • GPU-intensive computing: The manufacturing, life sciences, architecture, engineering, digital effects and construction industries all require high-performance computing that’s performed by top-tier graphics cards (GPUs). If those demanding workloads aren’t supported by their field laptops or thin-client endpoint, VDI lets employees tap into an on-premises or cloud infrastructure that offers the raw compute power they need.
  • Disaster recovery: Given the rising number of ransomware attacks and severe weather events, more organizations are creating contingency plans to ensure business continuity in the face of an emergency situation. A VDI solution can be a part of that disaster recovery strategy, as it provides end users with a backup desktop environment (though this is often cost prohibitive).

How Is Cloud VDI Different from Classic Virtual Desktop Infrastructure?

Conventional VDI is essentially the forerunner of cloud-based desktop virtualization. The key difference between them is that desktop-as-a-service, like most cloud computing initiatives, transfers the hosting backend from an on-premises or in-house data center to a cloud provider like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure.

One of the obvious benefits to this approach is that it shifts the maintenance and oversight of VDI’s extensive, expensive IT infrastructure onto the cloud service’s shoulders. This move to VDI as a cloud-native managed service also introduces a little more flexibility into VDI deployments. With DaaS, an organization can choose, say, Citrix or VMware as their VDI solution but host it via their preferred third-party cloud service.

Additionally, these cloud solutions can offer desktop virtualization that’s optimized for different workloads. For example, instead of having to limit their desktop environment to Windows, organizations can look for a DaaS solution that allows them to mix and match. They can then provide select end users with alternative operating systems, including one of the many specialized Linux distros.

At least one drawback that cloud VDI shares with conventional VDI is complexity. Yes, the backend IT infrastructure may be transferred to the cloud, but the VDI deployment itself still has to be managed by professional IT staff. On the frontend, the user experience can suffer from cumbersome authentication procedures, high latency during a VDI session or basic incompatibilities between the remote access client and devices like their smartphones.

Modern Virtualization Alternatives to Cloud VDI

With such a clear need for a seamless user experience, secure access and a digital workspace that’s optimized for remote connections from anywhere and on any device, the market is shifting away from VDI or DaaS and towards the adoption of Virtual App Delivery (VAD).

Unlike VDI technologies, VAD isn’t about desktop virtualization, which is designed around hosting virtual machines that put entire operating systems in users’ hands. Instead, like its name suggests, VAD focuses on securely delivering apps to end users.

This approach is much more right-sized in the vast majority of use cases. When a remote or hybrid employee works mostly with SaaS applications but also a handful of Windows-based apps (like their CRM suite, ERP solutions, etc.) equipping that employee with a complete Windows desktop environment is simply overkill. A VDI deployment creates unnecessary work for the IT staff and saddles the employee with more functionality than they need, and it often introduces security risks. And when you tally up all the pricing and oversight that factors into the true cost of DaaS and the true cost of VDI, VAD is consequently more cost-effective too.

On the whole, VAD’s on-demand app-centric virtualization model results in faster deploymentsreduced costs and better security  than VDI or DaaS—not to mention a smoother user experience and effortless scalability.

Cameyo’s Virtual App Delivery (VAD) Approach

Cameyo maximizes all the intrinsic benefits of VAD. With Cameyo’s Virutal App Delivery solution, it’s now possible for end users to securely access ALL of their business-critical apps via any HTML5-capable browser. That means they can easily work with the full-featured desktop versions of their standard productivity software from anywhere and on any device—even an iPad or a Chromebook. And provisioning is a breeze for IT staff. Whether you choose to use Cameyo with a cloud provider or on your own on-premises servers, all it takes is a few clicks to publish an app and grant a user access rights.

To learn more about Cameyo and how virtual app delivery can prove the more secure, more budget-friendly solution to DaaS in most deployments, sign up for your free trial or schedule a demo today. We also recommend checking out our case studies to see how organizations across multiple industries have leveraged Cameyo to equip their end users with the apps they need on demand.