Leaders and Innovators in EUC – AWS and The Modern Desktop

AWS was one of the pioneers in desktop and applications as a service (DaaS and AAAS), and it is hard to believe that its pioneering DaaS product, WorkSpaces, is over a decade old.

AWS was one of the pioneers in desktop and applications as a service (DaaS and AAAS), and it is hard to believe that its pioneering DaaS product, WorkSpaces, is over a decade old. In that time, it has branched out to an entire family of products to meet the needs of modern remote use. Over the past ten years, Amazon has not been content to rest on its laurels; instead, it has been constantly improving its offerings and releasing new features and services.  For example, in the last year, AWS has released a thin client and secure enterprise browser.

Brian Beller and I recently talked to Muneer Mirza, General Manager of End User Experiences at Amazon Web Services, for an overview of AWS’s End User Computing services. Muneer has spent 15 years at Amazon, with the last five focused on EUC.

Brian and I haven’t visited the AWS EUC product line in a while, so we asked Muneer for an update on what AWS is offering to address its users’ needs. Below is a quick synopsis of that conversation.

AWS WorkSpaces

For a bit of background, Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a suite of products and services under its WorkSpaces and AppStream families, designed to provide remote users with scalable, secure, and efficient virtual desktop and application streaming.

AWS WorkSpaces is a fully managed desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) solution that lets you provide users with a full virtual Linux or Windows desktop. It supports delivering desktops to laptops, tablets, and smartphones. WorkSpaces also supports persistent storage, so users can save their work and settings and access them from any device.

WorkSpaces supports various operating systems, applications, and hardware profiles to ensure users have the computing power they need.

Last year, Microsoft modified its licensing policy to allow users with specific licenses to run Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise/business, Microsoft Project, and Microsoft Visio on Amazon WorkSpaces. This was a significant win for WorkSpaces users.

Using WorkSpaces, users securely access their desktop environments using credentials provided by AWS Directory Service or an existing Microsoft Active Directory (AD) environment. For security reasons, data stored on WorkSpaces is encrypted, both in transit and at rest, and administrators can enable other security policies such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and restrict access based on IP addresses. These features ensure that corporate data remains secure, even when accessed from remote locations or on personal devices, aligning with modern workplace trends towards remote work and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies.

AWS AppStream

AWS AppStream 2.0 focuses on delivering applications rather than full desktop environments. AppStream 2.0 is a fully managed application streaming service that enables users to stream desktop applications from AWS to any device without re-writing applications. This service is particularly beneficial for software vendors and enterprises looking to provide access to resource-intensive applications, such as CAD, GIS, and 3D modeling software, over the web. AppStream 2.0 ensures that applications run smoothly and efficiently, regardless of the end-user device’s capabilities by offloading the processing power to AWS’s infrastructure.

AppStream 2.0 integrates with other AWS services, such as Amazon S3 and AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), to provide seamless data access and robust security controls. By leveraging AppStream 2.0, organizations can reduce the complexity of application deployment, enhance security, and provide users with a consistent and high-quality experience across various devices and locations.

Amazon WorkSpaces Secure Browser

Amazon WorkSpaces Secure Browser (previously known as Amazon WorkSpaces Web) is a cloud-based managed service that provides secure, low-latency access to internal websites and SaaS applications from its bespoken web browser. It supports secure web access use cases without deploying full virtual desktops.

WorkSpaces Web offers a lightweight, cost-effective solution for accessing web-based resources while ensuring that data and applications remain secure. WorkSpaces Secure Browser works with a user’s existing web browsers, but web content is streamed to the user’s web browser, while the actual browser and web content are isolated in AWS. This service is particularly useful for contractors, remote workers, and employees who only need secure access to web applications.

Amazon WorkSpaces Thin Client

Amazon WorkSpaces Thin Client is a hardware offering from Amazon that reduces end-user computing costs and simplifies device logistics by shipping a thin client directly from Amazon fulfillment centers to WorkSpaces users’ locations. After receiving the device it just takes a few minutes to set up the device and requires no assistance from IT to do so.

For the management of the WorkSpaces Thin Client AWS has a web-based console to centrally monitor, manage, and maintain devices and their connectivity to AWS virtual desktop services.

Amazon WorkSpaces Core

Amazon WorkSpaces Core is designed for customers who want to integrate AWS’s desktop virtualization capabilities with their existing VDI tools. This technology can be used by Horizon, Citrix, and other VDI services. Unlike the fully managed Amazon WorkSpaces, WorkSpaces Core provides the underlying infrastructure for other virtual desktop technologies. This service is designed for organizations with complex IT environments that require a high degree of customization and control while benefiting from AWS’s unmatched scalability and proven reliability.

Closing Thoughts

Muneer did a great job of covering the range of AWS EUC offerings. Overall, AWS offers a versatile range of solutions that cater to different business needs, from fully managed virtual desktops to secure web access to the physical client used to access these services. Each service is designed to enhance productivity, security, and flexibility, making it easier for organizations to support remote work and other modern workplace demands.

More information about the AWS family of WorkSpaces offerings can be found at https://aws.amazon.com/workspaces/

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Tom Fenton

Tom Fenton has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 27 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 20 years focusing on virtualization and storage. He previously worked at VMware as a Senior Course Developer, Solutions Engineer, and in the Competitive Marketing group. He has also worked as a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, where he headed the Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on Twitter @vDoppler

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