AWS: Our virtual desktop will succeed where others have stumbled

AWS hopes that its new WorkSpace VDI service will appeal to enterprises with low cost and maintenance

Amazon Web Services' chief data scientist Matt Wood

Amazon Web Services' chief data scientist Matt Wood

With the launch of a new hosted virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) service called WorkSpaces, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is hoping to convert more enterprises to virtual work environments, something other IT companies have enjoyed only modest success in doing.

"Before today, VDI was very challenging. There was a lot of complexity and cost," said Matt Wood, AWS principal data scientist. "We see the opportunity in simplifying things, making it easy for customers to use VDI at an attractive price point."

As the name suggests, VDI encapsulates an instance of an operating system and its desktop within a virtual container that can be accessed over a network. Most all of the virtualization software vendors, such as Citrix, VMware and Oracle, offer VDI platforms.

The VDI approach offers a number of advantages over regular desktop deployments. A virtual desktop can be accessed from different devices, which can be handy for mobile workers, or workers who want to access their work materials from home. It offers a potentially more secure environment, because the administrator can manage the security settings a lot more closely and just regenerate a new VDI should the old one be infected with malware. It also allows employees to use their own preferred hardware, for those organizations interested in pursuing a BYOD (bring your own device) strategy.

Despite these appeals, VDI adoption in the enterprise has moved slowly over the past decade, perhaps due to cost issues and complexities in implementation. Amazon is hoping to lure more enterprises in through a combination of lower prices, less maintenance and superior performance.

As with other VDI offerings, WorkSpaces provides a virtual desktop environment that can be accessed from multiple devices, such as Apple Macs or iPads, computers running Windows, or Android tablets. When the user moves to another device, the desktop will be in the same state as it was in the previous device. "Persistent state is incredibly attractive to customers," Wood said. When the user logs on to a new device, the session on the previously used device automatically shuts down.

Although the user must have a network connection to use WorkSpaces, AWS did a lot of work in minimizing network latency, which can slow VDI responsiveness.

To help in this regard, WorkSpaces uses the PCoIP (PC-over-IP) remote display protocol, first developed by Teradici. Amazon also deployed its SDX (Streaming Experience) protocol, which is based not on the standard TCP (Transmission Protocol) but rather on the less chatty UDP (User Datagram Protocol). AWS also used variable bit rate (VBR) encoding to smooth performance in choppy bandwidth.

"It will adjust the bit rate coming down from the cloud depending on what conditions are on the network," Wood said..

It also includes multi-channel redundancy, for where there are two or more networks available. So if one network offers better throughput than another, "it is smart enough to know which one to use," Wood said.

WorkSpaces can provide advanced (for VDI) features such as video streaming and support for USB devices (except for printing).

Another advantage WorkSpaces can offer is a competitive price. During the opening keynote of the Amazon Re:Invent conference, being held this week in Las Vegas, Andy Jassy, Amazon senior vice president who heads up Amazon Web Services, noted that WorkSpaces costs about half of the typical in-house implementation.

The service, which is now offered in a limited preview, can be paid for on a month-by-month basis. A WorkSpaces desktop with one virtual CPU and 50GB of storage space will cost US$35 a month, and the "performance" desktop with 2 virtual CPUs and 100GB of storage will cost $60 per month.

Because AWS is handling details such as hardware maintenance and configuration, enterprises don't have to devote administrators and engineers to these tasks, potentially offering greater savings, Wood said.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags cloud computinginternetManaged ServicesvirtualizationAmazon Web Servicesdesktop virtualizationapplication virtualizationSoftware as a service

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?