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Is Amazon WorkSpaces (AWS) like a cheap wine?

I chose a cheap wine at Amazon WorkSpaces (AWS)

For a while now Amazon offers Desktop as a Service (DaaS) in what they call WorkSpaces. I always wondered, how good do these desktops perform? At the moment of writing, I’ve been investigating the performance for a week. The whole user experience felt like choosing a cheap wine at the supermarket.

If you are looking for a new workspace there are a lot of DaaS providers. Choosing one is like buying wine in the supermarket. You never know what you are going to get. But once you found a nice brand, you still have to choose between rose, white or red wine.

i chose a cheap wine at amazon workspaces aws wine options

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 taste should I choose and do my applications always perform as I’ve come to expect from SaaS (Software as a Service) providers?

i chose a cheap wine at amazon workspaces aws microsoft office options

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 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.

i chose a cheap wine at amazon workspaces aws application metrics

Application metrics

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.

Rome wasn't conquered in one 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!

 i chose a cheap wine at amazon workspaces aws avg application start time

Avg. application start time for the last 24 hours

Not only the application start times went through the roof, also the logon times reached a maximum of 200 seconds.

 i chose a cheap wine at amazon workspaces aws login information

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 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.

 i chose a cheap wine at amazon workspaces aws application start time

Application start time for the last hour

I didn’t want to give up on AWS 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.

i chose a cheap wine at amazon workspaces aws technical support

Well what can I expect for $52? Can I get a 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 turning this bad wine into a good wine?  What tweaks should I use for my AWS WorkSpaces? Maybe the minimum of 200 Windows Desktop OS BYOL or the future desktop delivery from VMware on AWS 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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About the author

Jasper Geelen (@jaspergeelen) has a background in ICT and joined Login VSI as a pre-sales engineer in 2015. He loves drinking a lot of coffee (some might call him an addict). In his spare time, Jasper enjoys a beer and he is part of a football / soccer team. He also coaches a team of younger football players.


Tags: Login VSI, Login PI, Microsoft, #VDILIKEAPRO, Monitoring, Windows, DaaS, Desktop Delivery, Amazon, Application Start Times, Multi Tenancy, Cloud, SaaS, Virtual Desktop, User Experience

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