AWS News Blog

Amazon AppStream 2.0 – Stream Desktop Apps from AWS

My colleague Gene Farrell wrote the guest post below to tell you how the original vision for Amazon AppStream evolved in the face of customer feedback.


At AWS, helping our customers solve problems and serve their customers with technology is our mission. It drives our thinking, and it’s at the center of how we innovate. Our customers use services from AWS to build next-generation mobile apps, create delightful web experiences, and even run their core IT workloads, all at global scale.

While we have seen tremendous innovation and transformation in mobile, web, and core IT, relatively little has changed with desktops and desktop applications. End users don’t yet enjoy freedom in where and how they work; IT is stuck with rigid and expensive systems to manage desktops, applications, and a myriad of devices; and securing company information is harder than ever. In many ways, the cloud seems to have bypassed this aspect of IT.

Our customers want to change that. They want the same benefits of flexibility, scale, security, performance, and cost for desktops and applications as they’re seeing with mobile, web, and core IT. A little over two years ago, we introduced Amazon WorkSpaces, a fully managed, secure cloud desktop service that provides a persistent desktop running on AWS. Today, I am excited to introduce you to Amazon AppStream 2.0, a fully managed, secure application streaming service for delivering your desktop apps to web browsers.

Customers have told us that they have many traditional desktop applications that need to work on multiple platforms. Maintaining these applications is complicated and expensive, and customers are looking for a better solution. With AppStream 2.0, you can provide instant access to desktop applications using a web browser on any device, by streaming them from AWS. You don’t need to rewrite your applications for the cloud, and you only need to maintain a single version. Your applications and data remain secure on AWS, and the application stream is encrypted end to end.

Looking back at the original AppStream
Before I get into more details about AppStream 2.0, it’s worth looking at the history of the original Amazon AppStream service. We launched AppStream in 2013 as an SDK-based service that customers could use to build streaming experiences for their desktop apps, and move these apps to the cloud. We believed that the SDK approach would enable customers to integrate application streaming into their products. We thought game developers and graphics ISVs would embrace this development model, but it turns out it was more work than we anticipated, and required significant engineering investment to get started. Those who did try it, found that the feature set did not meet their needs. For example, AppStream only offered a single instance type based on the g2.2xlarge EC2 instance. This limited the service to high-end applications where performance would justify the cost. However, the economics didn’t make sense for a large number of applications.

With AppStream, we set out to solve a significant customer problem, but failed to get the solution right. This is a risk that we are willing to take at Amazon. We want to move quickly, explore areas where we can help customers, but be prepared for failure. When we fail, we learn and iterate fast. In this case, we continued to hear from customers that they needed a better solution for desktop applications, so we went back to the drawing board. The result is AppStream 2.0.

Benefits of AppStream 2.0
AppStream 2.0 addresses many of the concerns we heard from customers who tried the original AppStream service. Here are a few of the benefits:

  • Run desktop applications securely on any device in an HTML5 web browser on Windows and Linux PCs, Macs, and Chromebooks.
  • Instant-on access to desktop applications from wherever users are. There are no delays, no large files to download, and no time-consuming installations. Users get a responsive, fluid experience that is just like running natively installed apps.
  • Simple end user interface so users can run in full screen mode, open multiple applications within a browser tab, and easily switch and interact between them. You can upload files to a session, access and edit them, and download them when you’re done. You can also print, listen to audio, and adjust bandwidth to optimize for your network conditions.
  • Secure applications and data that remain on AWS – only encrypted pixels are streamed to end users. Application streams and user input flow through a secure streaming gateway on AWS over HTTPS, making them firewall friendly. Applications can run inside your own virtual private cloud (VPC), and you can use Amazon VPC security features to control access. AppStream 2.0 supports identity federation, which allows your users to access their applications using their corporate credentials.
  • Fully managed service, so you don’t need to plan, deploy, manage, or upgrade any application streaming infrastructure. AppStream 2.0 manages the AWS resources required to host and run your applications, scales automatically, and provides access to your end users on demand.
  • Consistent, scalable performance on AWS, with access to compute capabilities not typically available on local devices. You can instantly scale locally and globally, and ensure that your users always get a low-latency experience.
  • Multiple streaming instance types to run your applications. You can use instance types from the General Purpose, Compute Optimized, and Memory Optimized instance families to optimize application performance and reduce your overall costs.
  • NICE DCV for high-performance streaming provides secure, high-performance access to applications. NICE DCV delivers a fluid interactive experience, and automatically adjusts to network conditions.

Pricing & availability
With AppStream 2.0, you pay only for the streaming instances that you use, and a small monthly fee per authorized user. The charge for streaming instances depends on the instance type that you select, and the maximum number of concurrent users that will access their applications.

A user fee is charged per unique authorized user accessing applications in a region in any given month.  The user fee covers the Microsoft RDS SAL license, and may be waived if you bring your own RDS CAL licenses via Microsoft’s license mobility program. AppStream 2.0 offers a Free Tier, which provides an admin experience for getting started. The Free Tier includes 40 hours per month, for up to two months. For more information, see this page.

AppStream 2.0 is available today in US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), Europe (Ireland), and AP-Northeast (Tokyo) Regions. You can try the AppStream 2.0 end user experience for free today, with no setup required, by accessing sample applications already installed on AppStream 2.0 To access the Try It Now experience, log in with your AWS account and choose an app to get started.

To learn more about AppStream 2.0, visit the AppStream page.

Gene Farrell, Vice President, AWS Enterprise Applications & EC2 Windows

Update: Sign up for the January 20th webinar now to learn more! Register here.