AWS Goes Back to the Future, Launches Cloud VDI Service

Amazon releases to general availability its new WorkSpaces, a fully managed desktop computing service, saying it will cut VDI costs in half.

Amazon Web Services, far and away the market leader in providing hosted applications, Web services and development environments in the cloud, is finally catching up in another part of the IT world: virtual desktop implementations.

It's a strange fact that AWS, so far ahead of the curve in hosted cloud services that most other competitors can't even see its dust, was so equally far behind a slew of other companies -- such as Dell Wyse, VMware, Moka Five, nComputing, and Hewlett-Packard -- in a sector that is some 15 years old.

In truth, the VDI business has always had some type of nagging problem shadowing it over the years: expense, management complexity, latency and implementation difficulties being foremost among them. Only in the last few years have most of these issues been solved.

With this as background, AWS on March 26 announced the general availability of Amazon WorkSpaces, a fully managed desktop computing service in the cloud that was originally introduced in limited preview at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas last November.

Talking Trash About Private Clouds

At the same time, Amazon made it a point to talk trash about private clouds -- which, according to a number of industry studies, are now the most popular type of cloud now being built.

"All the things you have to spend a lot of money for in a private cloud -- security, full automation, monitoring, many other things -- we already have at AWS," Andy Jassy, Amazon Web Services vice president for Cloud Services, told about 4,000 attendees at an AWS Summit in San Francisco.

Jassy also cited a recent Forrester Research paper that concluded that "92 percent of private clouds are still falling short of the core requirements of self-service, full automation, tracking and monitoring."

"If you're not planning on using the public cloud in some significant fashion, you will be at a significant competitive disadvantage," Jassy said. "Private clouds offer none of the benefits of a robust public cloud and are simply a stopgap solution."

One enticement for WorkSpaces is that it will cost about half that of current VDI systems, Jassy said. Go here for more details.

Seamless Movement Among Devices

AWS said the service will work on a number of devices and will allow users to seamlessly move their sessions between desktops, tablets and smartphones. Amazon provided a pricing guide showing a range of $35 to $75 per workspace used per month. There is no upfront fee and Workspaces can be added or deleted on a monthly basis.

The desktop virtualization offering marks a departure for AWS in that the company’s traditional offerings focused on replacing traditional data center operations, but WorkSpaces offers a direct inroad to customer-device management.

"We believe that eventually very few enterprises will run their own data centers," Jassy said. "That guides our approach in how we build. We will meet enterprises where they are now, but we will make it simple to transition to where the future workloads will be, in the cloud."

VDI technology, which stumbled for a few years until some of its inherent problems were solved, is a hot sector again. Earlier this month, VMware launched its Horizon DaaS (desktop as a service), a new cloud-based service that it claims delivers cost-effective, enterprise-class virtual desktops running on VMware vCloud Hybrid Service.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...