Category: Amazon WorkSpaces


New Power Bundle for Amazon WorkSpaces – More vCPUs, Memory, and Storage

Are you tired of hearing me talk about Amazon WorkSpaces yet? I hope not, because we have a lot of customer-driven additions on the roadmap! Our customers in the developer and analyst community have been asking for a workstation-class machine that will allow them to take advantage of the low cost and flexibility of WorkSpaces. Developers want to run Visual Studio, IntelliJ, Eclipse, and other IDEs. Analysts want to run complex simulations and statistical analysis using MatLab, GNU Octave, R, and Stata.

New Power Bundle
Today we are extending the current set of WorkSpaces bundles with a new Power bundle. With four vCPUs, 16 GiB of memory, and 275 GB of storage (175 GB on the system volume and another 100 GB on the user volume), this bundle is designed to make developers, analysts, (and me) smile. You can launch them in all of the usual ways: Console, CLI (create-workspaces), or API (CreateWorkSpaces):

One really interesting benefit to using a cloud-based virtual desktop for simulations and statistical analysis is the ease of access to data that’s already stored in the cloud. Analysts can mine and analyze petabytes of data stored in S3 that is effectively local (with respect to access time) to the WorkSpace. This low-latency access will boost productivity and also simplifies the use of other AWS data analysis tools such as Amazon Redshift, Amazon Redshift Spectrum, Amazon QuickSight, and Amazon Athena.

Like the existing bundles, the new Power bundle can be used in either billing configuration, AlwaysOn or AutoStop (read Amazon WorkSpaces Update – Hourly Usage and Expanded Root Volume to learn more). The bundle is available in all AWS Regions where WorkSpaces is available and you can launch one today! Visit the WorkSpaces Pricing page for pricing in your region.

Jeff;

New – Managed Device Authentication for Amazon WorkSpaces

Amazon WorkSpaces allows you to access a virtual desktop in the cloud from the web and from a wide variety of desktop and mobile devices. This flexibility makes WorkSpaces ideal for environments where users have the ability to use their existing devices (often known as BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device). In these environments, organizations sometimes need the ability to manage the devices which can access WorkSpaces. For example, they may have to regulate access based on the client device operating system, version, or patch level in order to help meet compliance or security policy requirements.

Managed Device Authentication
Today we are launching device authentication for WorkSpaces. You can now use digital certificates to manage client access from Apple OSX and Microsoft Windows. You can also choose to allow or block access from iOS, Android, Chrome OS, web, and zero client devices. You can implement policies to control which device types you want to allow and which ones you want to block, with control all the way down to the patch level. Access policies are set for each WorkSpaces directory. After you have set the policies, requests to connect to WorkSpaces from a client device are assessed and either blocked or allowed. In order to make use of this feature, you will need to distribute certificates to your client devices using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager or a mobile device management (MDM) tool.

Here’s how you set your access control options from the WorkSpaces Console:

Here’s what happens if a client is not authorized to connect:

 

Available Today
This feature is now available in all Regions where WorkSpaces is available.

Jeff;

 

Try Amazon WorkSpaces at No Charge for Up To 2 Months

I am a big believer in hands-on experience. Except under very rare circumstances, the posts in my blog are written only after I have used the service in question. If you happened to read I Love My Amazon WorkSpace, you know that Amazon WorkSpaces is one of my most important productivity tools.

I would like to tell you about an opportunity for you to try WorkSpaces on your own at no charge. The new Amazon WorkSpaces Free Tier allows you to launch two Standard bundle WorkSpaces and use them for a total of 40 hours per month, for up to two calendar months. You can choose either the Windows 7 or the Windows 10 Desktop Experience, both powered by Windows Server. Both options include Internet Explorer 11, Mozilla Firefox, 7-Zip, and Amazon WorkDocs with 50 GB of storage.

In order to take advantage of the free tier you must run the WorkSpaces in AutoStop mode, which is selected for you by default. Unused hours expire at the end of the first calendar month and the free tier offer expires at the end of the second calendar month. After that you will be billed at the hourly rate listed on the Amazon WorkSpaces Pricing page.

To get started, follow the steps in the Quick Setup and choose a bundle that is eligible for the free tier:

This offer is available in all AWS Regions where WorkSpaces is available.

Jeff;

Use Amazon WorkSpaces on Your Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ With the New Samsung DeX

It is really interesting to watch as technology evolves and improves. For example, today’s mobile phones offer screens with resolution that rivals a high-end desktop, along with multiple connectivity options and portability.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to get some hands-on experience with the brand-new Samsung Galaxy S8+ phone and a unique new companion device called the Samsung DeX Station. I installed the Amazon WorkSpaces client for Android tablet on the phone, entered the registration code for my WorkSpace, and logged in. You can see all of this in action in my new video:

DeX includes USB connectors for your keyboard and mouse, and can also communicate with them using Bluetooth. It also includes a cooling fan, a fast phone charger, plus HDMI and Ethernet ports (You can also use your phone’s cellular or Wi-Fi connections).

Bring it all together and you can get to your cloud-based desktop from just about anywhere. Travel light, use the TV / monitor in your hotel room, and enjoy full access to your corporate network, files, and other resources.

Jeff;

PS – If you want to know more about my working environment, check out I Love my Amazon WorkSpace.

Amazon WorkSpaces Update – SSD Volumes and Cost Optimizer

If you are a long-time reader, you know that I am a full-time user and huge fan of Amazon WorkSpaces (read I Love my Amazon WorkSpace to learn more). Having a single environment that I can access from a wide variety of devices and web browsers allows me to stay focused on my work and eliminates a lot of friction.

Today I would like to tell you about SSD volumes and a new cost optimizer for WorkSpaces.

New SSD Volumes
Starting today, all newly launched Amazon WorkSpaces will use general purpose SSD storage for root and user volumes at no additional cost. These volumes provide better performance than magnetic volumes so you’ll get faster boot times and a better user experience when you run applications that are sensitive to disk latency.

Existing WorkSpaces can be rebuilt to upgrade them to use SSD volumes for storage (this will restore the system drive (C:) to its original state and recreate the data drive (D:) using the contents of the most recent automatic snapshot). Any existing data on the system drive will be lost.

There’s no extra charge for the new SSD volumes, and they are available in all regions where Amazon WorkSpaces operates (see the WorkSpaces Pricing page to learn more about both).

You can launch new WorkSpaces from the console in order to benefit from SSD storage. Simply select the desired bundle and proceed as usual:

WorkSpaces Cost Optimizer
Our customers use Amazon WorkSpaces in many different ways. Within a single organization, some use it full time, while others use it part-time while traveling or for working on specific projects. In order to meet the needs of our customers, WorkSpaces offers hourly and monthly billing options, along with the ability to switch between them as desired.

Building on this flexibility, our new Amazon WorkSpaces Cost Optimizer analyzes WorkSpaces usage data and automatically applies the most cost-effective billing option based on what it finds.

The Cost Optimzer is delivered as an AWS Solution that is deployed through an AWS CloudFormation template. The solution makes use of several different AWS services and features including CloudWatch Events, CloudWatch Logs, AWS Lambda functions, Amazon S3, AWS Directory Service, and the WorkSpaces API. Here’s an overview:

The Lambda function runs once a day. It analyzes the log data, determines the most cost-effective billing option, and then calls the ModifyWorkSpaceProperties function to set the option. All changes are logged to an S3 bucket.

You can use the solution as-is, customize it for your own environment, or take it apart and see how the combination of events, logging, serverless code, and APIs can be used to add efficiency to your organization in interesting ways.

Jeff;

New – Web Access for Amazon WorkSpaces

We launched WorkSpaces in late 2013 (Amazon WorkSpaces – Desktop Computing in the Cloud) and have been adding new features at a rapid clip. Here are some highlights from 2016:

Today we are adding to this list with the addition of Amazon WorkSpaces Web Access. You can now access your WorkSpace from recent versions of Chrome or Firefox running on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux. You can now be productive on heavily restricted networks and in situations where installing a WorkSpaces client is not an option. You don’t have to download or install anything, and you can use this from a public computer without leaving any private or cached data behind.

To use Amazon WorkSpaces Web Access, simply visit the registration page using a supported browser and enter the registration code for your WorkSpace:

Then log in with your user name and password:

And here you go (yes, this is IE and Firefox running on WorkSpaces, displayed in Chrome):

This feature is available for all new WorkSpaces that are running the Value, Standard, or Performance bundles or their Plus counterparts. You can access it at no additional charge after your administrator enables it:

Existing WorkSpaces must be rebuilt and custom images must be refreshed in order to take advantage of Web Access.

Jeff;

 

New – GPU-Powered Amazon Graphics WorkSpaces

As you can probably tell from my I Love My Amazon WorkSpace post I am kind of a fan-boy!

Since writing that post I have found out that I am not alone, and that there are many other WorkSpaces fan-boys and fan-girls out there. Many AWS customers are enjoying their fully managed, secure desktop computing environments almost as much as I am. From their perspective as users, they like to be able to access their WorkSpace from a multitude of supported devices including Windows and Mac computers, PCoIP Zero Clients, Chromebooks, iPads, Fire tablets, and Android tablets. As administrators, they appreciate the ability to deploy high-quality cloud desktops for any number of users. And, finally, as business leaders they like the ability to pay hourly or monthly for the WorkSpaces that they launch.

New Graphics Bundle
These fans already have access to several different hardware choices: the Value, Standard, and Performance bundles. With 1 or 2 vCPUs (virtual CPUs) and 2 to 7.5 GiB of memory, these bundles are a good fit for many office productivity use cases.

Today we are expanding the WorkSpaces family by adding a new GPU-powered Graphics bundle. This bundle offers a high-end virtual desktop that is a great fit for 3D application developers, 3D modelers, and engineers that use CAD, CAM, or CAE tools at the office. Here are the specs:

  • Display – NVIDIA GPU with 1,536 CUDA cores and 4 GiB of graphics memory.
  • Processing – 8 vCPUs.
  • Memory – 15 GiB.
  • System volume – 100 GB.
  • User volume – 100 GB.

This new bundle is available in all regions where WorkSpaces currently operates, and can be used with any of the devices that I mentioned above. You can run the license-included operating system (Windows Server 2008 with Windows 7 Desktop Experience), or you can bring your own licenses for Windows 7 or 10. Applications that make use of OpenGL 4.x, DirectX, CUDA, OpenCL, and the NVIDIA GRID SDK will be able to take advantage of the GPU.

As you start to think about your petabyte-scale data analysis and visualization, keep in mind that these instances are located just light-feet away from EC2, RDS, Amazon Redshift, S3, and Kinesis. You can do your compute-intensive analysis server-side, and then render it in a visually compelling way on an adjacent WorkSpace. I am highly confident that you can use this combination of AWS services to create compelling applications that would simply not be cost-effective or achievable in any other way.

There is one important difference between the Graphics Bundle and the other bundles. Due to the way that the underlying hardware operates, WorkSpaces that run this bundle do not save the local state (running applications and open documents) when used in conjunction with the AutoStop running mode that I described in my Amazon WorkSpaces Update – Hourly Usage and Expanded Root Volume post. We recommend saving open documents and closing applications before disconnecting from your WorkSpace or stepping away from it for an extended period of time.

Demo
I don’t build 3D applications or use CAD, CAM, or CAE tools. However, I do like to design and build cool things with LEGO® bricks! I fired up the latest version of LEGO Digital Designer (LDD) and spent some time enhancing a design. Although I was not equipped to do any benchmarks, the GPU-enhanced version definitely ran more quickly and produced a higher quality finished product. Here’s a little design study I’ve been working on:

With my design all set up it was time to start building. Instead of trying to re-position my monitor so that it would be visible from my building table, I simply logged in to my Graphics WorkSpace from my Fire tablet. I was able to scale and rotate my design very quickly, even though I had very modest local computing power. Here’s what I saw on my Fire:

As you can see, the two screens (desktop and Fire) look identical! I stepped over to my building table and was able to set things up so that I could see my design and find my bricks:

Pricing
Graphics WorkSpaces are available with an hourly billing option. You pay a small, fixed monthly fee to cover infrastructure costs and storage, and an hourly rate for each hour that the WorkSpace is used during the month. Prices start at $22/month + $1.75 per hour in the US East (Northern Virginia) Region; see the WorkSpaces Pricing page for more information.

Jeff;

 

Amazon WorkSpaces Update – Hourly Usage and Expanded Root Volume

In my recent post, I Love My Amazon WorkSpace, I shared the story of how I became a full-time user and big fan of Amazon WorkSpaces. Since writing the post I have heard similar sentiments from several other AWS customers.

Today I would like to tell you about some new and recent developments that will make WorkSpaces more economical, more flexible, and more useful:

  • Hourly WorkSpaces – You can now pay for your WorkSpace by the hour.
  • Expanded Root Volume – Newly launched WorkSpaces now have an 80 GB root volume.

Let’s take a closer look at these new features.

Hourly WorkSpaces
If you only need part-time access to your WorkSpace, you (or your organization, to be more precise) will benefit from this feature. In addition to the existing monthly billing, you can now use and pay for a WorkSpace on an hourly basis, allowing you to save money on your AWS bill. If you are a part-time employee, a road warrior, share your job with another part-timer, or work on multiple short-term projects, this feature is for you. It is also a great fit for corporate training, education, and remote administration.

There are now two running modes – AlwaysOn and AutoStop:

  • AlwaysOn – This is the existing mode. You have instant access to a WorkSpace that is always running, billed by the month.
  • AutoStop – This is new. Your WorkSpace starts running and billing when you log in, and stops automatically when you remain disconnected for a specified period of time.

A WorkSpace that is running in AutoStop mode will automatically stop a predetermined amount of time after you disconnect (1 to 48 hours). Your WorkSpaces Administrator can also force a running WorkSpace to stop. When you next connect, the WorkSpace will resume, with all open documents and running programs intact. Resuming a stopped WorkSpace generally takes less than 90 seconds.

Your WorkSpaces Administrator has the ability to choose your running mode when launching your WorkSpace:

WorkSpaces Configuration

The Administrator can change the AutoStop time and the running mode at any point during the month. They can also track the number of working hours that your WorkSpace accumulates during the month using the new UserConnected CloudWatch metric, and switch from AutoStop to AlwaysOn when this becomes more economical. Switching from hourly to monthly billing takes place upon request; however, switching the other way takes place at the the start of the following month.

All new Amazon WorkSpaces can take advantage of hourly billing today. If you’re using a custom image for your WorkSpaces, you’ll need to refresh your custom images from the latest Amazon WorkSpaces bundles. The ability for existing WorkSpaces to switch to hourly billing will be added in the future.

To learn more about pricing for hourly WorkSpaces, visit the WorkSpaces Pricing page.

Expanded Root Volume
By popular demand we have expanded the size of the root volume for newly launched WorkSpaces to 80 GB, allowing you to run more applications and store more data at no additional cost. Your WorkSpaces Administrator can rebuild existing WorkSpaces in order to upgrade them to the larger root volumes (read Rebuild a WorkSpace to learn more). Rebuilding a WorkSpace will restore the root volume (C:) to the most recent image of the bundle that was used to create the WorkSpace. It will also restore the data volume (D:) from the last automatic snapshot.

Some WorkSpaces Resources
While I have your attention, I would like to let you know about a couple of other important WorkSpaces resources:

Available Now
The features that I described above are available now and you can start using them today!

Jeff;

I Love My Amazon WorkSpace!

Early last year my colleague Steve Mueller stopped by my office to tell me about an internal pilot program that he thought would be of interest to me. He explained that they were getting ready to run Amazon WorkSpaces on the Amazon network and offered to get me on the waiting list. Of course, being someone that likes to live on the bleeding edge, I accepted his offer.

Getting Started
Shortly thereafter I started to run the WorkSpaces client on my office desktop, a fairly well-equipped PC with two screens and plenty of memory. At that time I used the desktop during the working day and a separate laptop when I was traveling or working from home. Even though I used Amazon WorkDocs to share my files between the two environments, switching between them caused some friction. I had distinct sets of browser tabs, bookmarks, and the like. No matter how much I tried, I could never manage to keep the configurations of my productivity apps in sync across the environments.

After using the WorkSpace at the office for a couple of weeks, I realized that it was just as fast and responsive as my desktop. Over that time, I made the WorkSpace into my principal working environment and slowly severed my ties to my once trusty desktop.

I work from home two or three days per week. My home desktop has two large screens, lots of memory, a top-notch mechanical keyboard, and runs Ubuntu Linux. I run VirtualBox and Windows 7 on top of Linux. In other words, I have a fast, pixel-rich environment.

Once I was comfortable with my office WorkSpace, I installed the client at home and started using it there. This was a giant leap forward and a great light bulb moment for me. I was now able to use my fast, pixel-rich home environment to access my working environment.

At this point you are probably thinking that the combination of client virtualization and server virtualization must be slow, laggy, or less responsive than a local device. That’s just not true! I am an incredibly demanding user. I pound on the keyboard at a rapid-fire clip, I keep tons of windows open, alt-tab between them like a ferret, and I am absolutely intolerant of systems that get in my way.  My WorkSpace is fast and responsive and makes me even more productive.

Move to Zero Client
A few months in to my WorkSpaces journey, Steve IM’ed me to talked about his plan to make some Zero Client devices available to members of the pilot program. I liked what he told me and I agreed to participate. He and his sidekick Michael Garza set me up with a Dell Zero Client and two shiny new monitors that had been taking up space under Steve’s desk. At this point my office desktop had no further value to me. I unplugged it, saluted it for its meritorious service, and carried it over to the hardware return shelf in our copy room.  I was now all-in, and totally dependent on, my WorkSpace and my Zero Client.

The Zero Client is a small, quiet device. It has no fans and no internal storage. It simply connects to the local peripherals (displays, keyboard, mouse, speakers, and audio headset) and to the network. It produces little heat and draws far less power than a full desktop.

During this time I was also doing quite a bit of domestic and international travel. I began to log in to my WorkSpace from the road. Once I did this, I realized that I now had something really cool—a single, unified working environment that spanned my office, my home, and my laptop. I had one set of files and one set of apps and I could get to them from any of my devices. I now have a portable desktop that I can get to from just about anywhere.

The fact that I was using a remote WorkSpace instead of local compute power faded in to the background pretty quickly. One morning I sent the team an email with the provocative title “My WorkSpace has Disappeared!” They read it in a panic, only to realize that I had punked them, and that I was simply letting them know that I was able to focus on my work, and not on my WorkSpace. I did report a few bugs to them,  none of which were serious, and all of which were addressed really quickly.

Dead Laptop
The reality of my transition became apparent late last year when the hard drive in my laptop failed one morning. I took it in to our IT helpdesk and they replaced the drive. Then I went back up to my office, reinstalled the WorkSpaces client, and kept on going. I installed no other apps and didn’t copy any files. At this point the only personal items on my laptop are the registration code for the WorkSpace and my stickers! I do still run PowerPoint locally, since you can never know what kind of connectivity will be available at a conference or a corporate presentation.

I also began to notice something else that made WorkSpaces different and better. Because laptops are portable and fragile, we all tend to think of the information stored on them as transient. In the dark recesses of our minds we know that one day something bad will happen and we will lose the laptop and its contents. Moving to WorkSpaces takes this worry away. I know that my files are stored in the cloud and that losing my laptop would be essentially inconsequential.

It Just Works
To borrow a phrase from my colleague James Hamilton, WorkSpaces just works. It looks, feels, and behaves just like a local desktop would.

Like I said before, I am demanding user. I have two big monitors, run lots of productivity apps, and keep far too many browser windows and tabs open. I also do things that have not been a great fit for virtual desktops up until now. For example:

Image Editing – I capture and edit all of the screen shots for this blog (thank you, Snagit).

Audio Editing – I use Audacity to edit the AWS Podcasts. This year I plan to use the new audio-in support to record podcasts on my WorkSpace.

Music – I installed the Amazon Music player and listen to my favorite tunes while blogging.

Video – I watch internal and external videos.

Printing – I always have access to the printers on our corporate network. When I am at home, I also have access to the laser and ink jet printers on my home network.

Because the WorkSpace is running on Amazon’s network, I can download large files without regard to local speed limitations or bandwidth caps. Here’s a representative speed test (via Bandwidth Place):

Sense of Permanence
We transitioned from our pilot WorkSpaces to our production environment late last year and are now provisioning WorkSpaces for many members of the AWS team. My WorkSpace is now my portable desktop.

After having used WorkSpaces for well over a year, I have to report that the biggest difference between it and a local environment isn’t technical. Instead, it simply feels different (and better).  There’s a strong sense of permanence—my WorkSpace is my environment, regardless of where I happen to be. When I log in, my environment is always as I left it. I don’t have to wait for email to sync or patches to install, as I did when I would open up my laptop after it had been off for a week or two.

Now With Tagging
As enterprises continue to evaluate, adopt, and deploy WorkSpaces in large numbers, they have asked us for the ability to track usage for cost allocation purposes. In many cases they would like to see which WorkSpaces are being used by each department and/or project. Today we are launching support for tagging of WorkSpaces. The WorkSpaces administrator can now assign up to 10 tags (key/value pairs) to each WorkSpace using the AWS Management Console, AWS Command Line Interface (CLI), or the WorkSpaces API. Once tagged, the costs are visible in the AWS Cost Allocation Report where they can be sliced and diced as needed for reporting purposes.

Here’s how the WorkSpaces administrator can use the Console to manage the tags for a WorkSpace:

Tags are available today in all Regions where WorkSpaces is available: US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Oregon), EU (Ireland), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), and Asia Pacific (Sydney).

Learning More
If you have found my journey compelling and would like to learn more, here are some resources to get you started:

Request a Demo
If you and your organization could benefit from Amazon WorkSpaces and would like to learn more, please get in touch with our team at workspaces-feedback@amazon.com.

Jeff;

Amazon WorkSpaces Update – Support for Audio-In, High DPI Devices, and Saved Registrations

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a huge fan of Amazon WorkSpaces. In fact, after checking my calendar, I verified that every blog post I have written in the last 10 months has been done from within my WorkSpace. Regardless of my location—office, home, or hotel room—performance, availability, and functionality have all been excellent. Until you have experienced a persistent, cloud-based desktop for yourself you won’t know what you are missing!

Today, I am pleased to be able to tell you about three new features for WorkSpaces, each designed to make the service even more useful:

  • Audio-In – You can now make and receive calls from your WorkSpace using popular communication tools such as Lync, Skype, and WebEx.
  • High DPI Device Support – You can now take advantage of High DPI displays found on devices like the Surface Pro 4 tablet and the Lenovo Yoga laptop.
  • Saved Registration Codes – You can now save multiple registration codes in the same client application.

Audio-In
Being able to make and to receive calls from your desktop can boost your productivity. Using the newest WorkSpaces clients for Windows and Mac, you can make and receive calls using popular communication tools like Lync, Skype, and WebEx. Simply connect an analog or USB audio headset to your local client device and start making calls! This functionality is enabled for all newly launched WorkSpaces; existing WorkSpaces may need a restart. With the launch of this feature, voice communication with headsets is available to you at no additional charge in all regions where WorkSpaces are available today.

When a WorkSpace is created using a custom image, the audio-in updates are applied during the provisioning process and will take some time. To avoid this, you (or your WorkSpaces administrator) can create a new custom image after the updates have been applied to an existing WorkSpace.

High DPI Devices
To support the increasing popularity of high DPI (Full HD, Ultra HD, and QHD+) displays, we added the ability to automatically scale the in-session experience of WorkSpaces to match your local DPI settings. This means that fonts and icon sizes will match your preferred settings on high DPI devices making the WorkSpaces experience more natural. Simply use the newest WorkSpaces clients for Windows and Mac and enjoy this enhancement immediately.

Saved Registration Codes
Many customers access multiple WorkSpaces spread across several directories and/or regions and would prefer not to have to copy and paste registration codes to make the switch. You can now save up to 10 registration codes within the client application, and switch between them with a couple of clicks. You can control all of this through the new Manage Registrations screen:

To learn more about Amazon WorkSpaces, visit the Amazon WorkSpaces page.

Jeff;