What is Desktop Virtualization?

Last Updated:
May 30, 2023

What is Desktop Virtualization?

Desktop virtualization is technology that preconfigures and abstracts a desktop operating system and its applications separately from a physical device. With desktop virtualization and an internet connection, a user can work from anywhere using any laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Desktop virtualization provides many advantages:

  • Centralized control for IT: with desktop virtualization, IT can provide employees with the applications they need to do their jobs—no more and no less.
  • Extend the life of physical machines: since a virtualized desktop runs separately from the device, corporate-issued machines don’t need to be replaced or updated as often as machines running local apps. It also allows employees to use a home computer to get their work done in a pinch.
  • Anywhere, anytime access, with any device: as noted in the introduction above, employees can be productive from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection. Some types of desktop virtualization allow employees to work offline, too.
  • Improved IT agility: IT can provision a new employee immediately, without a machine, and a lost or damaged machine doesn’t impact an existing employee’s productivity if they have access to a second machine like a home computer. Also, new apps or app updates can be quickly deployed from a centralized location.
  • Improved security: desktop virtualization ensures that data generated by employees is centrally stored and secured.

Types of Desktop Virtualization

The three primary desktop virtualization types are Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), Remote Desktop Services (RDS), and Desktop as a Service (DaaS).

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) hosts desktop environments on a centralized server and deploys them to end-users on request. With VDI, a hypervisor segments servers into virtual machines (VMs) that in turn host these virtual desktops. All processing is done on the host server. The virtual desktop image is delivered over a network to an endpoint device, which allows the user to interact with the operating system and its applications as if they were running locally. The endpoint may be a traditional PC, thin client device or a mobile device.

With VDI, IT can provide VMs with more power to employees who need to use CPU-intensive apps to do their work.

Microsoft® Remote Desktop Services (RDS) provides a centralized platform for delivering and managing Windows®-based applications and desktops to users via Microsoft’s remote desktop protocol (RDP). To implement RDS, IT utilizes several Windows Server® functions. The primary workload role is Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH), which has session-sharing capabilities to enable multiple users to access desktops and applications simultaneously on a single instance of Windows Server. For user access, Microsoft provides Remote Desktop clients for Microsoft Windows, Apple® macOS®, Apple iOS, Google Android™ and HTML5-capable browsers. To use a desktop virtualized by RDS, the user must have an active internet connection.

Desktop as a service (DaaS) is VDI technology, but is hosted in a public or private cloud, with the implementation managed by a third-party provider. Corporate IT defines the applications included in the desktop, while the provider purchases, implements, manages, and secures all hardware and software and provides end user support, freeing corporate IT to focus on more strategic corporate efforts. However, with DaaS, multiple companies share the cloud provider’s resources (aka multi-tenant), so one client’s use of resources or security can affect other clients in unforeseen ways.  

What is desktop virtualization primarily used for? No matter how it’s implemented, desktop virtualization is used primarily by organizations to provide employees with the software applications and OS (usually Windows) they need to do their job. But what about Windows ISVs who want to deliver applications—not desktops—from the cloud to their customers?

For ISVs delivering Windows applications to customers, desktop virtualization is overkill. Instead of desktop virtualization, consider GO-Global.
GO-Global is purpose-built for ISVs who want to provide their customers with Windows applications from any cloud. Its concurrent user subscription model aligns well with most ISVs’ subscription model—and ISVs who move to GO-Global find that they save up to 70% over the cost of desktop virtualization technologies.

To learn more about GO-Global’s application publishing solution, request a demo here or download a free 30-day trial.