Desktop as a Service

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Desktop as a Service

by Geoff Keston

Docid: 00021383

Publication Date: 2002

Report Type: TUTORIAL


Corporate networks continue to make increasingly greater use
of cloud services
and technologies. Even user desktops are sometimes delivered as a
cloud-based service. This approach, “desktop as a service,” can
save money, simplify administration, and improve security, but only
when used in the right way and in the right circumstances.
Employing it effectively can be challenging, so organizations need to
understand the technology and how it is developing to make the right
choices for their particular needs.

Report Contents:


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Over the past few years, the IT industry has popularized the phrase
"everything as a service."


Faulkner Reports
Desktop Infrastructure Tutorial
Overview Tutorial
Server Market Drivers

From software to
communications to storage and processing, more technologies
are being centrally
managed and delivered over the Internet. This trend has taken time
to reach desktops, but Amazon, Citrix, Dell,
Microsoft, and VMware have all
major pushes into the
market. These providers offer desktop
as a service (DaaS), charging a subscription fee instead of a
traditional licensing fee. The services
running the desktop software in a centralized data center and
letting users access that software remotely.

DaaS frees
IT administrators of many management burdens and enables software to be
more easily delivered to a geographically dispersed workforce
uses a diverse range of devices. These benefits have a strong appeal,
but the
technology is still somewhat new and the marketplace is changing. With
these notes of caution in mind, it would be wise for enterprises to
carefully consider the DaaS model. If the model makes
sense for an organization’s particular business goals, the
concern is how to adopt it successfully. This requires a philosophical
change from managing IT as a collection of things, like PCs, to
managing it as a service.


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along with commercial vendors and their customers, have increasingly
come to think of most technology as being a service — centrally
and delivered over the cloud. Desktops are one of the last technologies
go through this transition. The advent of desktop as a service (DaaS)
follows the rise of
software-, and platform-as-a-service models.

desktops reside on a
virtual machine, which is software that
runs on a single physical server (or an interconnected group of
servers) but simulates the presence of multiple desktop platforms. With
DaaS, the
virtual machine is located remotely at a service
data center with users accessing it over the cloud. (Often, vendors
host their own virtual desktop infrastructure, which users
access over a
LAN, WAN, or private cloud. For more information on this model, see the
Faulkner Information Services report “Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.”)

Virtual machines
typically have the following features:

  • A single management console
  • A deployment wizard for distributing and changing desktop
  • Tools to manage the underlying hardware (e.g., processors)
    for performance
  • Tools to manage the underlying storage mechanisms, in some
    cases to enable
    configurations such as storage area networks and load balancing
  • The ability to simulate the behavior of a local application
  • Software license management tools
  • Centralized security management (e.g., virus scanning)

Desktop as a service uses a remote display protocol to present
a desktop from
a central server on a remote device. The leading remote display
protocols include Citrix HDX, Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol, and
VMware Blast Extreme.1

service-based approach to desktops is well-suited to the era of
bring-your-own-device programs, in which employees
use their personally owned smartphones and tablets to access enterprise
services, and to the era of online file-sharing services like Dropbox
and Google Drive, in which files are stored and shared over the cloud.2
DaaS is designed for a dispersed
workforce that uses more than just PCs and that is accustomed to
accessing resources online. Specifically, DaaS offers the following
potential benefits:

  • Simplifies
  • Accommodates
    dispersed workforces
  • Works on
    many types of devices
  • Makes
    stopping and restarting work easy to do
  • Simplifies
  • Reduces
  • Makes
    costs more predictable
  • Simplifies
    patching and routine maintenance
  • Centralizes
    key processes, like security and storage, to make them easier to manage
  • Prevents
    sensitive data from being stored on user systems, where it might be
    more difficult to control
  • Integrates
    with existing authentication systems, like Microsoft Azure
  • Simplifies
    business continuity and disaster recovery


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most prominent DaaS offerings include:3

  • Amazon WorkSpaces
  • Citrix XenDesktop
  • Dell Desktop Virtualization
  • Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop
  • Nutanix Xi Frame
  • VMware Horizon Cloud
  • Workspot Desktop Cloud

Many providers offer “private label” desktop virtualization,
in which they
manage the technology but let other companies resell the service under
brand names. Providers offering private label desktop services include CloudJumper and Evolve IP.

Technology writer Gregg Keizer views the emergence of DaaS in
context of the broader move toward “as-a-service” offerings, such as
for software (SaaS) or platforms (PaaS). “Some companies want to shift
PC acquisitions from a substantial
once-every-X-years capital expenditure (capex) to an ongoing (monthly)
operational expenditure (opex), while others simply want to outsource
as much IT as possible,” he says.4 These are all
reasons for adopting service models for other technologies. Keizer also
explains that avoiding security problems with older desktops and
appealing to the Web-focused working habits of younger corporate
employees are other reasons sometimes cited as reasons for using DaaS.


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How Widely Will the Technology Be Used?

Some studies have forecast that the market will expand
significantly. For example, a study published in 2018 predicted that the worldwide DaaS
market will grow at a compound rate of 49.38 percent until 2022, when
it will hit $4.67 billion.5

But it is
also possible that, even with strong growth, virtual desktops will
continue to account for only a small number of all corporate
workstations. In a roundtable of industry members hosted by analyst
group IDC, participants talked about the technology’s slow growth. For
example, Robert Young of IDC claimed that as of 2017 companies were
“dipping their toes” in DaaS.6 Part
of the reason that DaaS had not yet grown more quickly, according to
participants, may be that many organizations are hosting their own
virtual infrastructures rather than using a service.

Form Will the Technology Take? 

However widely virtual desktops will be used, it remains
uncertain exactly what form, or forms, they will
take. One open question is what type of cloud architectures
virtualization services will use. Some insight into this question might
be gathered from VMware’s Horizon DaaS, a
service that lets
enterprises choose between two different cloud approaches, public and
private.7 With the public cloud service, the
provider offers desktops to
customers for a subscription fee. (VMware partners can use the
technology to offer services branded under their own names.) With the
private service, the customer itself maintains all or most of the
infrastructure and delivers desktops to employees via VMware

customers options about the underlying technology, such as whether to
host it on a public or a private cloud or a combination of both, could
become a common practice. Citrix offers a service that is
similar to Horizon DaaS, called Citrix Workspace.8
And Amazon and IBM have similar services. This reflects a
transition from thinking in
terms of reproducing
desktops to thinking in terms of delivering needed software and
services to any platform. The worldwide workspace-as-a-service
market is forecast to grow at a compound annual rate of 9.7 percent
until 2025, increasing from $4.9 billion in 2019 to $8.54 billion in

licensing issues are still being worked out: For example, Microsoft’s
doesn’t allow providers to offer Windows desktops as a service unless
they use a dedicated infrastructure for each customer.10
The rule restricts service providers and may inhibit the technology’s
wider use.


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Consider Whether DaaS Is Right for You

Despite the
technology’s benefits, DaaS may not be the right choice for many
enterprises. Some might prefer traditional desktop systems, while
others might want to manage their own virtual desktop software system.
Starting with a small scale use of one DaaS offering can help an
enterprise to identify how it might work for their needs, and it can be
useful in evaluating specific providers.11 Also
as part of the pilot usage, organizations can consider total cost of
ownership and security,12
which may not be as straightforward or as easy to evaluate beforehand
as they might seem. Another related consideration is how much
management the customer will need to perform.13
Service providers may not perform certain functions, so enterprises
must consider what their own responsibilities will be.

Organizations that previously evaluated DaaS may want to reconsider the
technology now that Microsoft offers Windows Virtual Desktop, which
provides Web-browser-based access to Windows through Microsoft’s Azure
cloud service; the new version simplifies the setup and configuration processes compared
to the older Windows Remote Desktop Services.14
In fact, beyond wanting to use Windows Virtual Desktop to minimize
their management burden, enterprises may find themselves compelled to
use cloud-based desktops. Microsoft is changing its policies (making
local account creation harder, for example) to push the use of its cloud
services. Virtual Desktop is becoming, if it isn’t already, the
presumed default option for enterprise desktops.15

An analysis by Gartner regarding implementing DaaS recommends
considering the types of users for whom the technology will be
employed, for example, whether it is specifically for contractors or
disaster recovery rather than full-time, on-site employees.16
And the analysis also advises factoring in cost as just one decision
element, not the lone goal; with this in mind, performance and
functions matter too.17

Take a Services Approach

Adopting a DaaS model is not
just a technical change, but a
philosophical one. In a traditional client-server network, desktops
are physical assets and IT administrators can walk down the hall to
inspect, update, or repair them. But a services model emphasizes the
needs of users, treating them like customers. In other words,
delivering desktops (or other functionality) as a service is like
managing online banking or a social networking site. Users
will expect convenience, round-the-clock access, and fast

This philosophical change takes
time and effort to
make. IT staffs
will have to teach themselves to interact differently with users, and
they will have to learn the skills needed to manage new technologies.
Therefore, it is helpful to approach the transition as a multi-phase
project that needs to be carefully planned and monitored.


1 Bram Wolfs. “A Comparison Between
Display Protocols and Codecs.” November 29, 2017.

2 Janakiram
“What’s Driving the Adoption of Desktop as a Service.”
October 23, 2014.

3 This list is based in part on the
following sources:

  • “Best Desktop as a
    Service (Daas) Providers.” G2.

  • Nathan Hill and Michael Silver. “Market Guide for Desktop as a
    Service.” Gartner. November
    6, 2019.

4 Gregg Keizer. “FAQ: What the
Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) Trend Is All About.” Computerworld.
September 26, 2018.

5 “Desktop as a Service Market….” HTF Market Intelligence. September 1, 2018.

6 Eddie Lockhart. “Why the
Desktop-as-a-Service Model Hasn’t Taken Off.” TechTarget.
March 10, 2017. 

7 Serdar Yegulalp.
“VMware One-Ups Amazon for Windows Desktops as a
Service.” InfoWorld. March 10, 2014.

8 “Citrix Announces Workspace
Services Cloud-based Platform
for DaaS, Virtual App Delivery and Mobility.” Citrix. May 6, 2014.

“Workspace as a Service (WaaS) Market – Growth, Trends, and Forecast
(2020 – 2025).” Mordor

10 Simon
Sharwood. “Windows 10 Keeps Microsoft’s Odd Desktop-as-a-Service
Rules.” The Register.
August 18, 2015.

11 Nathan Hill. “When Midsize
Organizations Should Select Desktop as a Service.” Gartner.
January 31, 2017.

12 Robert Sheldom. “Six Considerations
for IT Before Moving to a DaaS Provider.” TechTarget.
October 2017.

13 Ibid.

14 Ryan Williams. “Does Windows Virtual
Desktop Live Up to the Hype?” ITProPortal.
October 24, 2019.

15 Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols. “With
Windows Virtual Desktop, the Bad Old Days Are Coming Back.” ComputerWorld.
October 9, 2019.

16 Nathan Hill and Michael Silver.
“Market Guide for Desktop as a Service.” Gartner. November
6, 2019.

17 ibid.

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the Author

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is the author of more
250 articles that help organizations find opportunities in business
trends and technology. He also works directly with clients to develop
communications strategies that improve processes and customer
relationships. Mr. Keston has worked as a project manager for a major
technology consulting and services company and is a Microsoft Certified
Systems Engineer and a Certified Novell Administrator.

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