Breaking down the DaaS offerings from Amazon, VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix

Part of our presentation at BriForum London was breaking down the offerings of different DaaS platforms, and I thought it would make for a useful article for those that weren't able to attend. What follows is an outline of the offerings from Amazon Web Services, VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix.

Part of our presentation at BriForum London was breaking down the offerings of different DaaS platforms, and I thought it would make for a useful article for those that weren’t able to attend. What follows is an outline of the offerings from Amazon Web Services, VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix. It’s important to note that this is a point-in-time reference, so this is accurate as of June 12, 2014.

Each solution is different in terms of technology and core offerings, so we’ll get into what OSes are used, persistence, management, integration, and when available, pricing.

And now it’s time for a breakdown…

AWS Workspaces

(Click here for a comprehensive rundown of AWS Workspaces)

OS: Windows Server 2008 R2 only

Virtualization Type: Each user has a virtual machine that runs a standalone copy of Windows Server 2008. There is no RDSH involved.

Licensing: Because Server 2008 R2 is used under SPLA, there is no other licensing needed.

Protocol: AWS Workspaces uses Teradici’s PCoIP protocol. Teradici’s license with VMware is non-exclusive. Other than that commonality, it has nothing to do with VMware. PCoIP is the only protocol supported.

Persistence: Fully-persistent desktops that also includes a User Volume (D: drive) that is backed up every 12 hours. Rebuilding a desktop preserves the User Volume, so the user keeps their data even if the OS is rebuilt (just like with physical desktops).

Integration / Management: Amazon has a non-negotiable maintenance window from midnight to 4:00 AM on Sunday. Updates are done by Windows Update by default. You can domain-join your VMs to your on-premises domain, but you can also leverage any other services you have in EC2.


  • Pricing does not include outbound internet (though it does include the protocol). So, internet browsing and data transfer traffic is billed at the AWS rack rate.
  • Can start small with as little as one user.
  • AWS has datacenters in Ireland, US West, US East, and Sydney
  • Base package also includes Workspaces Sync, which is like a generic DropBox to sync files from a Mac or PC with the virtual desktop.

Pricing (per user):

  • Tier 1: $35/mo for 1 vCPU, 4GB RAM, 50GB storage
  • Tier 2: $50/mo for 1 vCPU, 4GB RAM, 50GB storage, Office 2010 + Trend AV
  • Tier 3: $60/mo for 2 vCPU, 8GB RAM, 50GB storage
  • Tier 4: $75/mo for 2 vCPU, 8GB RAM, 50GB storage, Office 2010 + Trend AV

More on AWS Workspaces:

50 Questions about AWS Workspaces DaaS

VMware Horizon DaaS

(Click here for a comprehensive rundown of VMware Horizon DaaS)

This section is dealing only with the VMware-hosted solution. Horizon DaaS is also sold by partners with different offerings and additional services. You can even deploy Horizon DaaS on-premises if you don’t want to use VMware Horizon View.

OS: Windows 7, Windows 8, Server 2008 R2, Server 2012. Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2 support is coming soon.

Licensing: When using server OSes, the price you pay includes licensing. If you want to use client OSes (Win 7, Win 8), you have to bring your own licenses.

Protocol: Since this is what used to be the Desktone platform, there are customers running with HDX, however you can imagine that since VMware runs the show HDX is no longer available for new customers. PCoIP is the default option (and has been for a few years dating back to the Desktone days), though VMware has added their own improvements (Unity Touch, realtime audio/video, etc...). RDP and NX4 are also supported. VMware also offers web browser access via their Blast protocol.

Persistence: Persistent and non-persistent desktops are both possible

Integration / Management: BYO updates, SSL certs, domains


  • Starts at 50 users
  • The connection broker can connect to multiple providers, so you could use VMware itself and other Horizon DaaS partners to spread the load and provide fault tolerance.

Pricing (per user):

  • Tier 1: $35/mo for 1 vCPU, 2GB RAM, 30GB storage
  • Tier 2: $50/mo for 2 vCPU, 4GB RAM, 30GB storage

* This is list pricing, so your mileage may vary

Microsoft Azure RemoteApp

(Click here for a comprehensive rundown of Microsoft Azure RemoteApp)

OS: RDSH on Server 2012, so just apps, no desktops. It’s basically RemoteApp from the cloud.

Licensing: Nothing to note. Microsoft is playing by their own rules and using an RDSH-based solution. Cost is inclusive of licensing.

Protocol: RemoteFX (RDP)

Persistence: Each account comes with 50GB of persistent storage. The image itself is not persistent.

There are two versions of Azure RemoteApp: Cloud-only and Hybrid. Everything above is common between them. What follows are the differences.

Applications (Cloud-only): Limited to just Microsoft Office suite (including things like Visio).

Applications (Hybrid): Fully custom, any application. The caveat is that you have to create the image on-site and upload the VHD file into Azure.

Integration / Management (Cloud-only): Because Cloud-only is only Microsoft apps, it is fully-managed. You can sign up online, and they’ll do everything for you. They handle all the updating, since they know if the updates will break their own applications. Users authenticate via Azure AD or their Microsoft account.

Integration / Management (Hybrid): After upload the VHD file, Microsoft handles scaling. Customer is responsible for patching and updates. Users authenticate with ADFS or cloud AD populated by DirSync.


  • New clients released, though not for WinRT or Windows Phone.

Pricing (per user):

Free while in Tech Preview. Costs not yet announced.


While Citrix doesn’t offer a DaaS solution on their own, they have a large partner network that provides DaaS services. Each partner is different in terms of supported OSes, licensing (although the Microsoft SPLA limitations still apply), and the integration / management services they provide. Of course, they also differ on cost.

Citrix has promised to update their partner website to make it easier to find Citrix partners that offer DaaS solutions, but until that happens you can visit the Citrix DaaS page to fill out a form that will put a DaaS provider in touch with you.

Of course, we’re waiting with bated breath for more details, any details really, about Workspace Services. Until then, have a look at our coverage from Synergy 2014.

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@GabeKnuth  The Horizon DaaS reference to the "Connection Broker" is not quite correct.  The ability to connect to multiple providers does not exist in the product today.  Also, there is no Connection Broker in the traditional View sense of the term.  The broker for the environment is referred to as a Tenant Appliance which is configured via AD BIND to extend the customer AD environment for exposure to desktop entitlements.  Customer can leverage backhaul to the HDaaS environment via IPSec VPN or MPLS for access to HDaaS desktops from their private network, or leverage dtRAM for PCoIP proxy access to desktops via the public Internet.


Some notes on Amazon Workspaces.

Name is Amazon Workspaces, not AWS. Part of their branding efforts to rename certain services to Amazon vs AWS.

User data persist over rebuilds but if you install applications they probably have to be reinstalled if they are installed on c:\ (which is just hidden)

Even if they have service maintenance they will not rebuild your appliance, if a new version of the base build comes out you will receive an email that they advice you to rebuild it.

For AD integration you an either connect to your own AD (hosted/on-prem) or setup their own hosted AD service.

Workspaces can of course interact with other services you have in AWS and have same benefits as usual with intra zone at no charge.


Why cant we have a true Daas where users install their own app bu they will never go away when the vendor upgrade their platform?