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Amazon's WorkSpaces becomes generally available

Mikael Ricknäs | March 27, 2014
Amazon Web Services' hosted virtual desktops have become generally available, priced from US$35, but the company and its competitors have a lot of hurdles to overcome before this sort of technology is widely used by businesses.

WorkSpaces desktops can be integrated with Active Directory, which allows users to sign in with their regular credentials. Otherwise, users have to sign in to WorkSpaces with a separate password. Once set up, users can connect to their new desktop from PCs, Macs, iPads and Android-based tablets, including Amazon's own Kindle Fire family, after installing dedicated client-side software. When users move between devices, they can continue where they left off.

Amazon is also rolling out WorkSpaces Sync, which automatically backs up documents users create or edit to its S3 (Simple Storage Service).

There are four WorkSpaces bundles to choose between. The Standard and Standard Plus have one virtual CPU, 4.03GB of RAM and 50GB of storage, while the Performance and Performance Plus versions have two virtual CPUs, 8.05GB of RAM and 100GB of storage. They cost $35, $50, $60 and $75 per month and user.

VMware offers a standard desktop with one virtual CPU, 2GB or RAM and 30GB of storage for $35 per month, and an advanced option with two virtual CPUs, 4GB of RAM and 30GB of storage for $50 per month. Unlike Amazon, VMware lets users run Windows XP, 7 and 8, in addition to Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012. The company also lets users access their hosted desktops from thin and so-called zero clients as well as smartphones and Google Chromebooks.

Zero clients lack an operating system and have no general purpose processor, memory or disk.

On the software side, Amazon's Standard and Performance desktops have Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer 9, Firefox, 7-Zip and Adobe Flash preinstalled, and with the Plus versions Amazon also includes Microsoft Office Professional 2010 and antivirus software from Trend Micro.

Amazon WorkSpaces doesn't have any technical restrictions on the kind of software that companies can install on top of the desktops as long as they are compatible with the underlying OS. By default, users are configured as local administrators of their WorkSpaces. Administrators can change this setting and can restrict users' ability to install applications with group policies, according to Amazon

New services from Amazon and VMware will help increase interest for hosted desktops, but many IT organizations are still waiting to see what Microsoft will do. There has been a lot of talk about the Microsoft's Project Mohoro, but there has been no announcement yet, Hill said.

"Controlling the code and the platform gives Microsoft a lot of options. It is their game to lose," Hill said.

 

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