Q: What Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) offerings are available on Windows Azure?

A: There are many conversations today around Desktop as a Service (DaaS). People are wondering what services are available in the public cloud and, specifically, Windows Azure since some other public cloud providers have started to offer DaaS solutions.

It is important to firstly understand that all the public DaaS solutions are based on session virtualization and not virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) since there is no way to license Windows client OSs in a virtualized public cloud environment. As a refresher, with VDI each user connects to a virtual machine (VM) that is running a client OS.

With session virtualization, users connect to a session on a Windows Server OS that's running Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) with the Desktop Experience enabled. This gives exactly the same end-user experience, they can run Internet Explorer, see the Start screen, run Office and more. The benefit of session virtualization is a far greater density of users on the server, since each user just has a session instead of an entire OS.

Windows Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) allows RDSH to be deployed in VMs. This means customers can deploy their own session virtualization (DaaS) with Windows Azure, they just need to bring their own RDS CALs and Office licenses etc as shown. Once again, the same user experience.

Some Microsoft partners are providing DaaS solutions for users who just pay a monthly price to use the model, shown above, based on Windows Azure.