A simple definition of DaaS (Desktop as a Service) is that it is managed VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure)—a virtual desktop that an outside service manages. VDI service is managed locally while the cloud service provider handles a DaaS system.
In many cases, it is that simple—but not always.
Co-location and various breeds of service providers are blurring the lines between VDI and DaaS. Businesses differ widely in the applications they need, so exploring the differences and overlap between DaaS and VDI can help elucidate exactly what kind of services to implement.
A typical instance of VDI with co-location involves rental of server space and power; often networking is part of the package. At the off-premises site, the hardware involved is dedicated to the company renting the service. Under these circumstances, the business may get value out of physically having the servers off-premise. This might be the case when the home office simply does not have the space or the cooling abilities.
The co-located VDI system is functionally the same as on-premise VDI; the separate physical location is the defining factor.
Co-location with partial services
Co-location providers tend to offer a variety of levels for managing network and services. On the basic end of the spectrum, the provider might help with configuration and storage; others might do more work handling the desktop platform.
Depending on the depth of service, this type of management might seem more like basic VDI with some management, or it might start to shade towards comprehensive cloud-based management. This is when service starts to be closer to DaaS than VDI.
True DaaS service comes from fully cloud-hosted providers with large scale, automated services, and multi-tenant systems. When a smaller company or a different breed of provider offers the same experience for the client as part of VDI service, the decision to call it DaaS is more or less a formality.
Many VDI providers offer full outsourcing of desktops, in which the hardware and software are all delivered by the off-premise provider. They also manage the infrastructure and software; the end user only manages Windows. Many users would never have a reason to examine whether the operating system location or multi-tenancy issues would define the system as VDI or DaaS.
When it comes to managed VDI versus true DaaS, the bottom line (figuratively and literally) is the same for most businesses. When looking at different types of virtual desktop services, an apples-to-apples comparison becomes easier when the commonalities and minor points of differentiation are clear.