What is VDI on AWS using Amazon WorkSpaces

What is VDI on AWS?

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a technology that helps IT departments to run multiple operating systems, manage desktops and applications remotely in a virtual machine. The user can only transfer keyboard, mouse, and monitor signals through the network connection. With the help of VDI, you can retain data from applications and access devices, servers, and workstations from any location. Many large enterprises are nowadays investing their time and money in Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions for hybrid and multi cloud deployments. It reduces the load on staff members and provides a great end user experience.

what is vdi on aws
Amazon WorkSpaces Architectural Diagram of VDI

AWS stands for Amazon Web Services. The role of AWS is to provide reliable, scalable, and inexpensive Amazon Workspace (a cloud service) that handles the challenges that take place when managing VDI. AWS offers virtual desktops to businesses that demand large-scale VDI infrastructure. Users can access the fully synchronous storage facility of Amazon workspace for Windows platforms, Mac computers, mobile devices, Chrome, and Firefox browsers.

What is Amazon Workspaces?

Amazon Workspaces is a cloud based desktop computing service that enables IT administrators to access a virtual Linux or Windows virtual desktop. To avoid security challenges when managing local VDI systems, AWS helps users remotely access cloud applications, services, and files. Further, it helps reduce the complexity and high cost of local VDI systems.

To set up an Amazon Workspace, sign in to AWS Management Console and locate the workspace items. Amazon Workspaces comprises many in built capabilities, memory, storage, and base application sets. To create a workspace, first and foremost, the user requires choosing a bundle or creating a custom one that suits their organizational requirement. These bundles include computing resources, storage, and applications. Further, depending on these bundles, the administrators can help create five virtual desktop images for each Amazon region. Once you have created a workspace following the instructions, you will find a directory server linked to your account. Keep in mind that the end user devices (Windows, Macintosh computers, Ubuntu Linux, Chromebook, iPad, and zero client devices) can connect with these workspaces from any supported computer.

Apart from the console, the platform also provides WorkSpaces Application Manager (WAM) that enables the administrators to offer desktop applications in containers. WorkSpaces Application Manager (WAM) job is to make the deployment process much easier with these containers. WAM Studio packages applications and WAM Player validates applications are the two tools that help in managing the containerized apps.

AWS WorkSpaces Pricing Model

The pricing model of Amazon Workspaces is billed every month or by the hour. The prices are quoted depending on the number of bundles used and active user workspaces. The rates can vary for various locations.

For Monthly billing

A fixed amount is chargeable for the Unlimited usage for the month. The payment depends on the operating system and bundle performance. It is the ideal pricing model for you if you are willing to use Amazon WorkSpaces for your primary desktop. For US East regions, the monthly pricing model for Windows bundles ranges from $25 to $140 per user based on the available resources.

For Hourly billing

Alternatively, a small monthly fee is chargeable under the hourly billing model for each workspace infrastructure and storage costs. Many part time workers, freelancers, job sharing, or training users prefer this pricing model. For US East regions, the hourly pricing model for Windows bundles ranges from monthly $7.25 per user and hourly $0.22 to monthly $19.00 per user and hourly $1.53

Additional storage charges are also applicable for both monthly and hourly billing models, starting at $0.10/GB. Also, for the application bundle (Microsoft Office Professional Plus, Trend Micro security, and other utilities) starting price is $15 per month. Amazon supports Amazon WorkSpaces Cost Optimizer to analyze WorkSpaces usage and help organizations convert them to effective billing options.

Things to Consider for AWS Windows Licensing

For Desktop as a service (DaaS) deployment, you must have a license. If your organization holds Windows 10 Enterprise or Pro licenses use it, or else AWS provides a Bring Your Own License (BYOL) arrangement. Windows desktops on WorkSpaces are a bit expensive. Trying BYOL arrangements will help save costs and deliver a consistent user experience. But, when using BYOL arrangement, keep in mind these facts:

  • Follow the detailed Amazon documentation to meet several requirements of BYOL and become eligible for it.
  • AWS runs your WorkSpaces environment in the cloud on a dedicated hardware meeting Microsoft’s hardware qualification when using BYOL.

Integrations with Active Directory/AWS Directory Service

Integrating Amazon WorkSpaces with Microsoft Active Directory (AD) helps create a trust connection that permits you to appoint users to virtual desktops in any domain in an on premise Active Directory. It uses AWS Directory Service for Microsoft AD that detects authentication requests and redirects to domain controllers automatically. This implies with the existing Microsoft Active Directory credentials; users can access their workspace without clearly stating a domain name.

Another method, for each on premises domain, makes use of an AD Connector that is best suitable for organizations with a single domain or POC projects with limited users.

Keep yourself updated on a few limitations of the managed Microsoft AD service:

  • Minimum 20 AD directories
  • Minimum 5 AD snapshots for 180 days
  • For each directory, a minimum of 20 domain controllers
  • For standard Microsoft AD, Minimum 5 shared domains, or for Enterprise Microsoft AD, a minimum of 5 shared domains

Best Practices for AWS WorkSpaces 

For a successful Amazon WorkSpaces deployment, follow the below listed practices.

Network Considerations

Each workspace collaborates with AWS Directory Service and Amazon virtual private cloud (VPC) in AWS. AD, AD Connector, and Microsoft AD are the AWS Directory Service configurations that demand two subnets, each having a unique availability zone.

Here are a few things to consider before creating subnets:

  • The number of workspaces you are willing to create in the foreseeable future?
  • The Types of users that will exercise your workspaces?
  • For the setup, the total number of Active Directory domains that will participate?
  • The Corporate user accounts are stored in AD or any other location?

WorkSpaces Images and Bundles

Each organization must follow a correct procedure to create and replicate desktop images. It can be difficult to maintain golden images. Also, it is more time consuming and can affect the resource utilization in AWS WorkSpaces.

For managing WorkSpaces Images and Bundles, consider these points:

  • The image must not comprise passwords or other crucial data.
  • Make sure workspace instances comply with the software licenses
  • Avoid adding license details in the image.
  • It is better to use CloudFormation templates or additional automated methods to save time on creating and updating golden images.
  • Use scripts to create images automatically on the basis of these applications.
  • On the launch of the image, there is a bootstrap function in each image that allows them to read runtime.
  • To facilitate easier organization images, tag them consistently.

Workspace Management

Let users administer and have more control over the self service workspace with Amazon Workspaces. By learning how to launch, configure, and manage the workspace, you can lower the burden of IT support staff members.

Here is the list of following activities that users can perform for their local clients in Amazon WorkSpaces:

  •  You can save the credentials of the client and reconnect without repeating the login process.
  • Reboot a workspace
  • Improve workspace root and user directory size
  • Select compute instance type for your workspace bundle
  • Make changes to the workspace running mode as per the need (AlwaysOn, AutoStop, or AutoStop Time)
  • Use images to rebuild the workspace.

Address DaaS Challenges with Hysolate

For delivering a desktop experience in the cloud, most users prefer DaaS as a perfect solution. But when working remotely and running intensive workloads with a low bandwidth environment, user experience is lacking. Also, users accessing offline desktops is not permittable, and you need a management overhead. However, less on compared with on premise VDI deployment.

Also, consider the pricing factor for the solution. You might require a large infrastructure investment from the DaaS vendor to host desktops and store them in the cloud. Further, passed on to organizational users. As a result, it creates huge OpEx expenses. To resolve the problem, Hysolate follows an Isolated workspace as a service (IWaaS). Under the innovative approach, users can run a local isolated operating system on their machines deployed and managed from the cloud.

The Isolated workspaces allow:

  • More access on employees corporate devices
  • High chances to get a 3rd party generated content in an isolated zone
  • In their everyday environment, you have more access to IT admins, DevOps, developers, and additional privileged users

All the computing resources run locally on user machines while the workspace behavior is managed in the clouds. Thus, reducing large and costly infrastructure, providing a better local user experience offline availability.

VDI on AWS Amazon Work Spaces - Conclusion

You can use the above listed practices to easily deploy and manage virtual desktops with Amazon Workspaces. By using the Amazon workspaces, you are eliminating the overload of deploying hardware or installing complex software. As a result, delivering an easy desktop experience with a few clicks. Follow these practices for a successful Amazon Workspaces deployment.

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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