VDI vs DaaS: What Is the Difference

Today’s cloud computing landscape is filled with an incredible variety of services, which provide solutions for organizations of any size. Among these services, there are many that seem similar or even the same, but actually provide different features and capabilities. This article defines and compares the two options: VDI and DaaS.

What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is an architecture that uses a single server to host and serve many virtual machines (VMs), each with a virtual desktop. It is designed to allow organizations to serve controlled desktop environments to users regardless of device or location. These desktops are hosted remotely but provide almost the same desktop experience as a client host.

VDI works via a hypervisor, like VMware or Hyper-V, which creates and manages VMs. These VMs are then deployed to users who connect remotely and can use any applications or permissions provided by the VM. All processing and storage typically happen on the host server and once the user disconnects, they no longer have access to any VDI assets.

When VDI desktops are implemented, you can set up either persistent or nonpersistent machines.

  • Persistent — the same VM is retained and served as it to a user. Generally, persistent desktops are one to a user with workloads, settings, and assets being retained between each session. This enables a user to personalize their desktop as they would with their own computer.
  • Nonpersistent — a generic desktop is created each time a user needs one. These VMs are typically created on-demand from a template image and do not store any changes or data between sessions. This enables organizations to only operate resources as needed and to strictly control desktop environments.

VDI is traditionally deployed on-premise, but you can also use VDI in the cloud. You can do this using a fully managed service, like DaaS, or you can create your own private cloud VDI.

What Is Desktop as a Service

Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is a cloud service for remotely deploying desktop environments. It is essentially VDI that is managed by a cloud provider. DaaS eliminates the need for managing or maintaining the infrastructure, resources, or operating systems that desktops are hosted on.

With DaaS, you are only responsible for desktop configuration, data management, and access/permissions management. DaaS is also multi-tenant, meaning that desktops for multiple customers share infrastructure. This is in contrast to VDI where only one customer (you) uses infrastructure resources.

DaaS is offered by several major cloud providers, including:

  • VMware Horizon Cloud
  • Amazon WorkSpaces
  • Azure Windows Virtual Desktop
  • Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops

VDI vs Desktop as a Service

VDI and DaaS are very similar in a lot of ways. However, these solutions can provide specific benefits or pitfalls that might make you prefer one over the other. Below you can learn about the pros and cons of each.

Things To Consider When Deploying VDI or DaaS

When deciding which desktop solution is right for your needs, there are several aspects to consider.

Choose your infrastructure wisely

Your infrastructure choice is what determines your flexibility and costs in the future. If you already have on-premises resources that you can use for VDI, it probably makes more sense to use those resources and pay down your technical debt. However, if you need to purchase new servers, you might want to consider using cloud resources for virtualization.

Another consideration is a hybrid infrastructure that combines VDI and DaaS. This model enables you to extend the life of existing resources while still granting the scalability that comes with DaaS. It can also be a good option if you have some data that needs to remain on-premises but don’t want all operations to be restricted.

Choose a vendor-neutral connection broker

A connection broker is a gateway that connects users to the desktops being served. By choosing a vendor-neutral broker you allow yourself greater flexibility in the types of services you use. This can help you better match resources to performance needs and optimize costs. You can also avoid vendor lock-in that might otherwise tie you to a service that isn’t as worthwhile as you originally thought.

Leverage control over your desktops

Regardless of which option you are using, you need to be mindful of how your desktops are made available to users. This means applying your own security and access control tooling, in the case of VDI. For DaaS, it means properly configuring provider supplied controls or integrating your own management services, such as Active Directory.

Another issue is the runtime of your desktops. In a VDI environment, leaving desktops running may not be as much of a concern. You are not charged by the compute resources you use or by active or inactive connections. In contrast, many DaaS packages charge for any live time. This means that any time your desktop is idle, you’re wasting money. However, you can avoid this by choosing a monthly fee plan rather than a pay for use one.


While VDI and DaaS may seem similar, these are actually two different services, each offering distinct advantages and disadvantages. Notable advantages of VDI include full control over resources and infrastructure, and the ability to store everything on-site. However, this means the organization is entirely responsible for managing and security VDI operations.

Alternatively, DaaS enables organizations to leverage remote desktop without having to do management tasks, but this comes at the price of far less control. Yes, hybrid can provide the middle ground, but organizations going hybrid need highly skilled in-house staff to manage a hybrid infrastructure.



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