Thinking about AWS WorkSpaces….

Recently, two events got me thinking more and more about AWS WorkSpaces.  What is AWS Workspaces?  Basically it’s VDI on AWS, but here’s the official AWS definition/description:

Amazon WorkSpaces enables you to provision virtual, cloud-based Microsoft Windows or Amazon Linux desktops for your users, known as WorkSpaces.  Amazon WorkSpaces eliminates the need to procure and deploy hardware or install complex software.  You can quickly add or remove users as your needs change.  Users can access their virtual desktops from multiple devices or web browsers.

The first event of course, is my recent Citrix XenDesktop / Receiver / NetScaler experience in which I was told by Citrix support that installing Receiver via the CLI is no longer supported if you’re load balancing StoreFront using NetScalers.  I still can’t believe it and I still haven’t gotten over it….it continues to irk me incessantly.

The second event took place a couple weeks ago when discussing a VDI migration/upgrade for a VMware Horizon environment with Unidesk 2.  In short, the project consisted of:

  • migrating from Unidesk 2 to Citrix App Layering
  • upgrading the vCenter 5.5 server hosting the VDI environment
  • upgrading the Horizon components from 6.x to the latest version of 7.x
  • migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10
  • migrating from predominantly persistent desktop pools to more non-persistent desktop pools
  • also, we need a VDI DR plan

There’s a bunch of stuff going on!  As we’re discussing all of these moving parts and how best to go about successfully completing the project the admin says, “I’m worried I may run out of storage space and my storage vendor told me a new shelf would be $70,000.”  And in that moment, I had an epiphany:

Amazon WorkSpaces eliminates the need to procure and deploy hardware or install complex software!!!! (Exclamations added by me for who has an epiphany that ends with a period?) and I thought to myself, “Why should I care about storage, or compute, or RAM?  Forget about on-prem installations of Citrix XenDesktop and VMware Horizon….deploy virtual desktops with WorkSpaces and let AWS worry about storage, compute, and RAM, and certificates, and delivery controllers, and load balancers, etc.!”

As I write this post, I freely acknowledge that I may be wearing WorkSpaces rose colored glasses and still influenced by the glorious thoughts I had in that moment.  Allow yourself to be taken away for a moment and picture yourself in a boat on a river.  Join me in the VDI Utopia to which I was carried away.

Imagine, deploying virtual desktops with AWS Workspaces:

  • No need to deploy hardware
    • again, I don’t have to care about storage, compute, or RAM.  I don’t have to expand anything, buy anything, install anything, upgrade anything, etc.
    • Forget about buying $70,000 disk shelves!!
  • No need to deploy Citrix infrastructure
    • no SQL servers for databases
    • no Delivery Controllers
    • no StoreFront
    • no PVS/MCS
    • no Citrix Access Gateway
    • no Citrix Receiver Add Store window
  • No need to deploy VMware infrastructure
    • no vCenter
    • no Connection Brokers
    • no View Composer
    • no UAGs
    • no AppVolumes
  • No load balancers
    • no NetScalers or whatever else
  • No certificates
  • Simplified Windows licensing
    • no KMS servers, use the Amazon provided license for the OS you are deploying

Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly….

As I drifted past tangerine trees and marmalade skies, my head was stuck in the clouds but after some time, I returned to reality with the belief that a whole new world had been opened to me.  In all seriousness, the epiphany I experienced has caused me to really consider the pros and cons of AWS Workspaces.  It has caused me to consider the viability of AWS Workspaces as an alternative (and/or a complement) to Citrix XenDesktop or VMware Horizon?

To this end I plan on testing AWS WorkSpaces:

  • I want to create my own desktop image.
  • I want to connect WorkSpaces to an existing Active Directory domain and apply GPOs on them.
  • I want to test accessing a WorkSpace using a web browser and the WorkSpaces client.
  • Finally, I want to test Liquidware Profile Unity for profile management and FlexApp for application delivery.

I’m sure more tests/use cases will come up as we step through this but I’m excited to dig a little deeper into AWS WorkSpaces to evaluate it’s strengths and weaknesses.  Hopefully this upcoming series will be beneficial to you as well….stay tuned.

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