In the past, companies simply gave their employees a standard desktop computer. Back then, people only worked in the office and from one device. Today, that model no longer works for many companies.
Today, corporate IT faces different challenges. Many employees are mobile and work from different locations at different times. Often, they also want to use different devices while doing so, sometimes a laptop, sometimes a computer at home, sometimes a tablet. Such challenges make it difficult for enterprise IT to provide support and protect corporate data.
The new Amazon WorkSpaces product now gives IT the ability to address these challenges with a unified, cloud-based desktop. Users can connect to their work environment from multiple devices and (if desired) from anywhere and access their applications, documents, and intranet resources they need to get their work done, whether they're using a desktop computer, a laptop, or even an iPad or Android tablet.
So what does Amazon Workspaces offer in terms of capabilities - both for the user and the administrator?
Amazon WorkSpaces provides a Microsoft Windows-based desktop environment in the cloud. It's easy to provision and maintain, and can be accessed from a variety of endpoints. To do this, the user simply installs the WorkSpaces client application and connects to their desktop. This desktop feels like a Windows 7 environment to the user - technically it is based on Windows Server, but the environment has been designed to behave like Windows 7 from the user's perspective.
The WorkSpaces environment has persistent disk space and comes ready configured with additional utilities and productivity applications.
The administrator can currently provide four different packages to their users that have different hardware specifications and included applications. Here are the packages:
Standard - 1 vCPU, 3.75 GiB main memory 50 GB persistent storage.
Standard Plus - 1 vCPU, 3.75 GiB main memory 50 GB persistent storage, Microsoft Office Professional, Trend Micro Worry-Free Business Security Services.
Performance - 2 vCPU, 7.5 GiB main memory 100 GB persistent storage,
All bundles also include Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Firefox, Internet Explorer 9, 7-Zip, the Java Runtime Environment (JRE), and other utilities. The bundles can be customized by administrators to include the company's own customizations.
Each user has between 50 and 100 GB of persistent AWS storage for their WorkSpace (the exact amount depends on the bundle selected). This persistent storage is automatically backed up to Amazon S3 on a regular basis. Like all S3 data, this backup has 99.99999999% persistence and 99.99% availability per year.
Prices are per month per user:
- Standard - US$ 35 per user per month.
- Standard Plus - US$ 50 per user per month.
- Performance - US$ 60 per user per month.
- Performance Plus - US$ 75 per user per month.
Use cases for WorkSpaces
There are many use cases for Amazon WorkSpaces. Here are a few examples:
Mobile Workers - WorkSpaces allows employees to access their work environment on the go from their iPads, Kindles, and Android tablets. This allows employees to be productive on the go without having to lug around heavy equipment
Secure WorkSpaces - The WorkSpaces environment can be used to create extra-secure work environments.
Students, Seasonal and Temporary Workers - With WorkSpaces, you can create temporary work environments for students, temporary workers, or even outside consultants, and easily delete these environments when they are no longer needed.
Developers- With WorkSpaces, local and out-of-office developers can work efficiently and use the development tools they need. At the same time, source code and other intellectual property remains protected.
So how does Amazon WorkSpaces work in the background?
As part of the setup process, a virtual private cloud (VPC) is created. This VPC can be connected to the corporate network via VPN or DirectConnect. This allows access to an existing Active Directory and intranet resources.
WorkSpaces runs on Amazon EC2 instances within the VPC. Communication between the EC2 instance and the client is done using the PCoIP (PC-over-IP) protocol. The client must be able to connect using TCP and UDP ports 4172 and TCP port 443.
The persistent storage space is regularly backed up to S3, as already mentioned.