New Amazon WorkSpaces Thin Client provides cost-effective, secure access to virtual desktops
The new Amazon WorkSpaces Thin Client improves end-user and IT staff productivity with cost-effective, secure, easy-to-manage access to virtual desktops. The devices are preconfigured and shipped directly to the end user, ready to deploy, connect, and use.
Here’s my testing setup:
The Thin Client is a small cube that connects directly to a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and other USB peripherals such as headsets, microphones, and cameras. With the optional hub it can also drive a second monitor. The administrator can create environments that give users access to Amazon WorkSpaces, Amazon WorkSpaces Web, or Amazon AppStream 2.0, with multiple options for managing user identities and credentials using Active Directory.
Thin Clients in action
As a very long-time user of Amazon WorkSpaces via a thin client, I am thrilled to be able to tell you about this device and the administrative service behind it. While my priority is the ease with which I can switch from client to client while maintaining my working context (running apps, browser tabs, and so forth), administrators will find it attractive for other reasons. For example:
Cost – The device itself is low cost ($195 in the United States), far less expensive than a laptop and the associated operating system. Because the working environments are centrally configured and administered, there’s less work to be done in the field, leading to further cost savings. Further, the devices are far simpler than laptops, with less parts to break, wear out, or replace.
Security – The devices are shipped with a secure “secret” that is used to establish a trust relationship with the administrative service. There’s no data storage on the device, and it cannot host rogue apps that could attempt to exfiltrate data. It also helps to reduce risk of data leakage should a worker leave their job without returning their employer-supplied laptop.
Ease of Management – Administrators can easily create new environments for users or groups of users, distribute activation codes to them, and manage the environment via the AWS Management Console. They can set schedules for software updates and patches, verify compliance, and manage users over time.
Ease of Use – Users can unpack and connect the devices in minutes, enter their activation codes, log in to their virtual desktop environment, and start to work right away. They don’t have to take responsibility for installing software patches or updates, and can focus on their jobs.
There are lots of great use cases for these devices! First, there are situations where there’s a long-term need for regular access: call centers, task workers, training centers, and so forth. Second, there are other situations, where there’s a transient or short-term need for access: registration systems at large events, call centers stood up on a temporary basis for a special event or an emergency, disaster response, and the like. Given that some employees do not return laptops to their employers when they leave their job, providing them with inexpensive devices that do not have local storage makes a lot of sense.
Let’s walk through the process of getting set up, first as an administrator and then as a user.
Getting started as an administrator
The first step is to order some devices and have them shipped to my users, along with any desired peripherals.
Next, in my position as administrator, I open the Amazon WorkSpaces Thin Client Console, and click Get started:
Each Amazon WorkSpaces Thin Client environment provides access to a specific virtual desktop service (WorkSpaces, WorkSpaces Web, or Amazon AppStream 2.0). I click Create environment to move ahead:
I give my environment a name, indicate that I want patches applied automatically, and select WorkSpaces Web:
Next, I click Create WorkSpaces Web portal and go through those steps (not shown, basically choosing a VPC and two or more subnets, a security group, and an optional Private Certificate Authority):
I refresh, and my new portal is visible. I select it, enter a tag for tracking, and click Create environment:
My environment is ready right away. I keep a copy of the activation code (aci3a5yj) at hand to use later in the post:
I am using AWS Identity Center as my identity provider. I already set up my first user, and assigned myself to the MyWebPortal app (the precise steps that you take to do this will vary depending on your choice of identity provider):
Finally, as my last step in this process in my role as administrator, I share the activation code with my users (that would be me, in this case).
Getting started as a user
In my role as a user I return to my testing setup, power-on, go through a couple of quick steps to select my keyboard and connect to my home Wi-Fi, and enter my activation code:
Then I sign in using my AWS Identity Center user name and password:
And my WorkSpace is ready to use:
As an administrator, I can manage environments, devices, and device software updates from the Thin Client Console. For example, I can review the list of devices that I manage:
Things to know
Here are a couple of things that are important to know:
Regions – The Thin Client Console is available in the US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), Asia Pacific (Mumbai), Canada (Central), and Europe (Frankfurt, Ireland, London) Regions.
Device Sales – The Amazon WorkSpaces Thin Clients are available in the United States now, with availability in other countries in early 2024.
Pricing – Devices are priced at $195, or $280 with an optional hub that allows you to use a second monitor. There’s a $6 per month fee to manage, maintain, and monitor each device, and you also pay for the underlying virtual desktop service.