Is Amazon WorkSpaces (AWS) like a cheap wine?
For a while now Amazon has offerered Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) in what they call Amazon WorkSpaces.
At Login VSI, we always wondered, how well do these desktops perform? At the time of writing, we’ve been investigating the performance for a week. The whole Amazon WorkSpaces user-experience felt like choosing a cheap wine at the supermarket.
Spoiled for choice, looking for new DaaS Workspace providers
If you are looking for a new workspace there are a lot of DaaS providers. Choosing one is like buying a bottle of wine at the supermarket: you never know what you're going to get, but once you find a nice brand, you still have to choose between a red, a white or even a rosé.
The same happens at one of the biggest DaaS providers: Amazon WebServices (AWS). The Chardonnay of the DaaS providers.
A workspace from the cloud is ideal. No need for #VDILIKEAPRO engineers. Even a newby can set it up. But what flavors should I choose? And do my applications always perform as I’ve come to expect from SaaS (Software as a Service) providers?
Tasting the performance of the DaaS environment
So, let’s give it a go! I ordered one bottle, the Standard Plus desktop, to measure the performance of the DaaS environment. At first, Amazon WorkSpaces made me really happy. My desktop was setup in less than 20 minutes. And the delivered single-user Windows Server 2008R2, with desktop experience, gave me the ability to change almost everything. If you are wondering why it’s still 2008R2, well that’s Microsoft's licensing. You can get around that by bringing your own licenses but then you need to subscribe for at least 200 desktops…a bit much for my research.
To measure and guard the performance in the Amazon DaaS environment, I setup Login PI. With the multi-tenancy ability in Login PI I could measure the performance of my desktops from anywhere in the world. My simulated user was running before lunch and I could already show the first results to my #VDILIKEAPRO colleagues, so far so good.
The taste testing for Amazon WorkSpaces continues...
Rome wasn't built in a day, so I let my simulated user run overnight. The next day I was a bit shocked. Looking at the graph (Avg. application start time for the last 24 hours), it was showing that the start-up times, on average, of the applications where multiplied by ten!
Avg. application start time for the last 24 hours
Not only did the application start times go through the roof, but also the logon times reached a maximum of 200 seconds.
Login information from the last 24 hours
Imagine what you can do in 200 seconds. Even the trailer of Netflix series Narco’s is shorter. Luckily rebooting the machine via the Amazon WorkSpaces (AWS) console was easy. This solved the issue for a few hours. When watching the full episode of Narco’s, together with glass of wine, I could directly see in my live dashboard that the performance dropped again.
Application start time for the last hour
Technical Support from an Amazon WorkSpaces Sommelier
I didn’t want to give up on Amazon WorkSpaces that quickly, so I tried to get some technical support from AWS. Why is the performance dropping so much? What did they do in their environment? Unfortunately, the support was limited and not available for my Basic Support Plan.
Well, what can I expect for $52? That I can get an Amazon WorkSpaces technical engineer on the phone for this amount of money? A desktop in the cloud is maybe not something you grab out of the store. For a good wine, you also ask for advice from a professional. I chose a cheap wine and took a guess at Amazon Workspaces. Who can help me turn this bad wine into a good wine? What tweaks should I use for my Amazon WorkSpaces? Maybe the minimum of 200 Windows Desktop OS BYOL or the future desktop delivery from VMware on Amazon WorkSpaces can satisfy me?
Needless to say, my quest to run a cheap but reliable desktop from the cloud does not stop here. I am committed to getting this to work as expected. You will read more on that in my next articles. Not just for AWS. A competition has been started at the #VDILIKEAPRO office, so other providers will also be tested soon. Stay tuned!
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