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How does VDI on AWS work?

Amazon WorkSpaces offers several virtual desktop infrastructure configurations, enabling businesses to categorize workers into different user types to match their roles and needs.

Virtual desktop infrastructure allows IT to provide users with a uniform, carefully crafted selection of virtual...

desktop images. With traditional VDI, IT manages, backs up and secures desktop instances in the data center. Only input and output data -- keyboard, mouse and displays -- actually move across the network to the user's device. Users could also access the persistent instance from any device, allowing them to move from desktops to laptops and other devices without worrying about the different system setups or data.

Amazon WorkSpaces addresses some challenges of managing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) on AWS, offering the benefits of virtual desktops on demand while relieving businesses of the need for extensive VDI infrastructure. End users access WorkSpaces instances from Windows and Mac computers, Chrome and Firefox browsers and mobile endpoints, including Chromebooks and tablets. Synchronized storage ensures that users can access data on all devices.

As with traditional VDI, there is no ubiquitous desktop configuration or image; each user's computing needs are different. But IT teams can use VDI on AWS to categorize similar computing and storage needs into user types for faster configurations. Amazon WorkSpaces offers four desktop configurations for VDI on AWS -- with varying amounts of vCPU, memory and solid-state disk (SSD) storage. This means businesses can match virtual desktop capabilities with user types, according to the following:

  • Value: One vCPU, 2 GB memory and 10 GB SSD storage
  • Standard: Two vCPU, 4 GB memory and 50 GB SSD storage
  • Performance: Two vCPU, 7.5 GB memory and 100 GB SSD storage
  • Graphics: Eight vCPU, 15 GB memory, 1 GPU with 4 GB dedicated video memory and 100 GB SSD storage

Every instance type includes Windows 7 or Windows 10, in addition to a web browser and the 7-Zip compression/decompression utility. Bundles contain additional software, including Microsoft Office Professional 2010 or Microsoft Office Professional 2013.

But IT teams can also use WorkSpaces instances to install and run any other licensed software. This means users can access much of the same software they currently use on personal endpoints. Users with current Windows 7 or Windows 10 desktop licenses can use them in WorkSpaces instances and receive a discount, but that requires running a minimum volume of instances each month.

WorkSpaces also integrates with local authentication tools, such as Active Directory, to enable users to log on to WorkSpaces instances with on-premises credentials for VDI on AWS security. IT teams can use a secure trust relationship with AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory or access the AWS Directory Service Active Directory Connector. IT manages WorkSpaces instances with group policies, deploys WorkSpaces instances with familiar tools like Active Directory and implements multifactor authentication with an on-premises RADIUS server.

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This was last published in March 2017

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