Finally, Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS)
Sasha Vidovic, Senior Service Desk Consultant
Bob Ivkovic, Principal of IT Architects
September 13, 2019
There’s a service for everything in IT, so why not a service for desktop support. Well, it’s finally here and we call it Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS). I’m sure you’re so wrapped up with your own desktop support services that you don’t even know that the popularity of cloud-hosted desktops is growing. There’s been a myriad of IT vendors coming up with their own brand of DaaS, but it’s too complicated to understand which features, deployments, and maturity they offer in replacing what you’ve got and spent a lifetime building.
What is the Definition of DaaS?
Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) is a type of cloud virtual desktop infrastructure that is managed by third-party providers such as Amazon, Citrix, and VMware. All maintenance of the cloud desktop infrastructure is handled by the third-party, making it convenient for organizations to readily deploy desktops in the cloud. DaaS is a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) hosted in the cloud and offered as a subscription service, typically charged for by the seat so that organizations only pay for the services they need. From an architecture standpoint, it is based on a multi-tenancy architecture deployment where a single application instance is delivered to multiple users, or what we call tenants. Just think of all the common services provided to all the tenants in an apartment building – utilities, cable, cleaning, etc. The DaaS vendor is responsible for managing the infrastructure supporting everybody’s desktops just like the landlord manages accommodations for the tenants in an apartment or office building.
What are the Benefits of DaaS?
Most everyone is on this cloud services bandwagon, so why not DaaS? Many companies are struggling to meet service desk expectations and are willing to move away from managing their on-prem IT infrastructure and business systems, whether in their data center or co-location. Some of the key benefits of DaaS are the following:
Reduced hardware costs
DaaS significantly reduces hardware costs to keep operations running. Organizations can reuse existing hardware to access cloud-based desktops rather than purchasing new equipment year after year. DaaS can reduce computer hardware expenditure by over 50% annually.
Security of the virtual desktops is handled by the provider so business owners can be confident that their systems are safe and secure. Data is safely stored in a data center, and not on individual devices which can be vulnerable to attacks.
Virtual desktops can be accessed from virtually anywhere, allowing employees greater flexibility to get work done at the office or remotely. People don’t have to worry about where their files are stored because everything is safely stored in the cloud and accessible at any time.
Virtual desktops are managed by third-party providers, making costly and time-consuming maintenance a thing of the past. Thus, desktop applications and user profiles are no longer maintained in-house.
There are many benefits to DaaS apart from the operational tasks that come to mind such as upgrades, software fixes, patch management, disaster recovery, security, user provisioning, and migrating between environments. However, going from a capital expense (capex) to operational expense (opex) model is a game-changer. This is a key benefit from a financial perspective and less risky from an executive management position. The organization no longer has to worry about maintaining IT assets. Depreciating assets are left to the cloud vendors. As a service desk consultant, I see the key benefit of DaaS being able to access corporate data and applications from a wide range of company-provided and BYOD devices. Technology is changing too fast to be able to manage everything on our own.
Who are the Major DaaS Players?
There are many vendors with competitive DaaS product offerings, and growing rapidly. Some of the more popular vendors with mature DaaS platforms include the following:
• Amazon Web Services – Workspaces
Amazon’s Workspaces allows customers to use either Linux or Windows desktops on various virtual hardware and storage configurations. A base set of applications come with each WorkSpace depending on the operating system: 1) Linux desktops include LibreOffice, Firefox, and Evolution mail; or 2) Windows 7 and 10 desktops include Internet Explorer 11, Firefox, and 7-Zip. Customers can also purchase Microsoft Office Professional for an additional cost. Workspaces supports customer’s on-premise Microsoft Active Directory (AD) for Group Policy management and end-user credentials. Applications are deployed to virtual desktops. WorkSpaces also allows customers to use their existing RADIUS server for multi-factor authentication (MFA). Users can access WorkSpaces through a client app on a Windows or Mac machine, Google Chromebook, Apple iPad, Amazon Fire tablet, and Android tablet. Access can also be gained through a Chrome or Firefox browser. WorkSpaces supports encryption root volume and user volume encryption without storing user data on the local device. Amazon WorkSpaces also provides compliance options such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR.
• Citrix – Managed Desktops
Citrix Managed Desktops (CMD) is a turnkey service billed directly to Citrix. CMD uses Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop to deliver virtual desktops hosted on Microsoft Azure IaaS (compute, storage, and networking) and managed by Citrix. Customers can provision a variety of Windows machines, including Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 10 EVD (Enterprise Virtual Desktops) Multi-Session, and Windows Server 2016 (with RDSH). The operating system and application licenses can be purchased through the Citrix subscription or customers can use their existing licenses through a Bring Your Own License (BYOL) program. CMD offers a variety of AD authentication options and supports domain-joined and non-domain-joined desktops.
• Cloudalize – Desktop-as-a-Service
Belgium-based Cloudalize provides a DaaS solution for office/knowledge workers (offered only in EMEA) and globally for power users (engineers, architects, etc). Subscriptions include the cost of operating system licenses, but customers will need their own application licenses. The company hosts its own data centers using both Citrix and proprietary infrastructures and all workspaces must run a Windows 10 experience on a Windows 2016 Server.
• dinCloud – dinWorkspace
dinCloud’s dinWorkspace DaaS solution allows customers to provision virtual desktops that are hosted on hardware in dinCloud’s US-based data centers. It’s data centers maintain SOC 1 Type II, and SOC 2 Type II compliance, ISO 27001, NIST 800-53/FISMA, and PCI Compliance. Customers can provision a variety of Windows and/or Linux desktops managed through Citrix-based, Microsoft-based, or proprietary tools.
• Microsoft – Windows Virtual Desktop
Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) allows companies to run Windows desktops hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. WVD allows customers to provision Windows 7 or 10 virtual machines running Office 365 ProPlus and third-party applications. Companies using Remote Desktop Services (RDS) will be able to migrate their existing Windows Server remote desktops and apps to Azure. Companies with Windows or Microsoft 365 licenses can get access to WVD machines by purchasing Azure compute, storage, and networking resources used to host each virtual machine.
• VMware – Horizon Cloud
VMware’s Horizon Cloud DaaS solution allows companies to provision Windows virtual desktops using either their existing Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure or a VMware-managed IBM Cloud infrastructure. VMware offers two Horizon Cloud subscriptions: 1) Per named user (for users who need dedicated virtual desktops); or 2) Per concurrent connection (for virtual desktops that will be shared by multiple users). Horizon Cloud with IBM Cloud customers purchase both the Horizon Cloud user license and capacity on IBM Cloud from VMware. Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure customers purchase the Horizon Cloud user license from VMware and buy the Microsoft Azure capacity from Microsoft. Although VMware plans to support Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop, it has no intent to be a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP). Therefore, it will not resell Microsoft licensing or Microsoft Azure capacity, and customers will purchase their own Microsoft software licenses and Azure capacity.
As a service desk consultant for the past two decades, I’ve worked with organizations to establish desktop competency centers from scratch. With the advent of Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS), we can get rid of the “from scratch” philosophy. This has now all culminated into a service to manage desktop deployment and maintenance. Organizations are striving to become operationally and cost-effective in applying new technologies in favor of supporting their user desktops. And the only way to do this is through DaaS.
Mr. Sasha Vidovic is a Senior Service Desk Consultant affiliated with IT Architects in Calgary, Alberta, and Mr. Bob Ivkovic is a Principal with IT Architects. IT Architects (www.itarchitects.ca) is an information consulting firm specializing in business process optimization, system evolution planning, and the deployment of leading-edge technologies. If you require further information, Sasha and Bob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-630-1126.