In late March Amazon Web Services released their desktop-as-a-Service – AWS WorkSpaces. For those that are unaware, AWS WorkSpaces offers you a cloud-based desktop experience. This desktop can be accessed by any device you wish, including laptops, iPad, Kindle Fire, or Android tablets.
You have the option of selecting different hardware and software WorkSpaces bundles, that range from standard, which is starts at 35 dollars per month to performance plus which is priced at 75 dollars per month. It’s also good to see that you can install your own software any time you want.
One thing to keep in mind is that all WorkSpaces Bundles provide the Windows 7 experience to users (provided by Windows Server 2008 R2 with RDS). One of the more interesting features, is that you can integrate your virtual desktop with your on-premises Active Directory. Glancing at the FAQs, it stats that an admin can lockdown a workstation using group policies, which is pretty cool. Here is an excerpt.
Q: Once users connect to their WorkSpace can they personalize it with their favorite settings?
An administrator can control what a user can personalize in their WorkSpace. By default, users can personalize their WorkSpaces with their favorite settings for items such as wallpaper, icons, shortcuts, etc. These settings will be saved and persist until a user changes them. If an administrator wishes to lock down a WorkSpace using tools like Group Policy, this will restrict a user’s ability to personalize their WorkSpaces.
The initial desktop setup is very easy and I expect, would be completed by the admin in your organization. I will go through a quick setup, just to get a handle on how easy it is to provision a desktop. I will have another blog post outlining how to connect your virtual desktop to your on-premises Active Directory – stay tuned.
The one good thing is the users of the desktops don’t need a AWS account, the admin does the initial provisioning. In my case its just one user – me.
Login with your AWS account, and select WorkSpaces
You are then presented with the AWS WorkSpaces console, click the getting started button.
Select your option – the quick setup will get you up and running in no time, the advanced setup provides you with the ability to connect to your on-premises Active Directory.
You now select the WorkSpace bundle you are interested in, I went with the standard bundle. As well, this is where you enter user details. You can add as many users as you like. When your done, select the blue Provision WorkSpaces button in the lower right hand side.
At this point your workstation is being prepared for you. This will take about 20 minutes to complete. You can view the status of the build by clicking the blue button – View the Workspace Console in the lower right hand side.
Here is a look at the WorkSpace console, as your virtual desktop is being prepared.
Once your desktop is ready, you will get an email outlining a few additional steps that need to be completed. You will be asked to complete your user profile and download a WorkSpace client, as well as launch the Client and enter your registration code, and finally launch your desktop.
The following screen shots outline the process. Once you get your email, click the user profile link and you are asked to create a password.
Then you are sent over to download your client software, I am using a mac, so I downloaded the mac version.
Then you are asked to enter your registration code, which is in your email.
An finally here it is, you are asked to log into your virtual desktop.
And bingo-bango here is your Desktop-as-a-Service – AWS WorkSpaces.
I have to say, its pretty snappy.
Well I hope the screen shots were helpful, the overall process did not take very long. The longest part was waiting for the desktop to be built (10-20 minutes at the most). Thats a lot quicker than some internal IT departments. One thing I noticed was how snappy and responsive the desktop is – its almost like having a real desktop in the office. Now I just might be in a good zone, but its really nice.
Overall, it was easy to setup and at the moment seems pretty slick. Stay tuned for my future posts as I work with service, if there is something you would like me to test, just let me know in the comments below.