A week living on the new AWS WorkSpaces: Day 2 - TriNimbus

A week living on the new AWS WorkSpaces: Day 2

Day 2 – Tuesday
I have a confession to make… So far I have not been very faithful to doing everything in AWS WorkSpaces.
It’s just so tempting when I have so much work to get done, to just fall back into using my local PC.
This is not because the local PC is better but just because I have it already setup the way I like. Now if I’d just lost my PC and started using WS it would be a different story. In saying that though I have only just a month ago got my laptop so I am still missing programs on it. For example I still haven’t installed Microsoft Office. I’m so time poor that I haven’t had a chance to look again for my MS Office license. But then again it is something you rarely need so I’m not surprised I can’t find it. So WS is becoming a great help for working on Office documents since half my work involves them.

So what have I found under the hood of WS? Upon checking drives I found that I had three storage drives appearing. Two of them were mapped drives back to my local PC’s disk drives. The third was a “UserProfile” D drive which was about 50gb in size. I could only create folders in the root of D drive but could create any files in any sub folders I created. The D drive contained by default a “users” folder which held the contents of my documents, my pictures, etc. Everything for your windows user profile.
Firefox 26 and IE 9 were installed by default.
I did a YouTube test and was very surprised with the results. I played the trailer to Disney’s Maleficent at full screen on my laptop and although it wasn’t perfect, the audio came through fine with just a little bit of stuttering in frames, but I think this would be fine for work videos and training, but I wouldn’t want to be sitting down with popcorn and a coke to watch a movie with this sort of stuttering, especially if it was an action film. Keeping in mind that I’m running the slowest WS bundle too.

The impressive internet streaming performance prompted me to take a look at the network side. Right away I can see that it is definitely using Citrix technology. So its very comforting to know that Amazon are doing things right and providing an enterprise solution at a price point which everyone can afford. When I was pricing and architecting a Citrix solution previously in 2013 we were looking at needing and maintaining easily over 10 servers and needing over 500 users to bring the price per user cost down to $150/mth. This is why no one in medium to small business that I’ve met use Citrix and medium sized businesses that I have worked with that have embraced Virtual Desktops have used Microsoft Terminal/RDS Server, but even then they needed 2 Microsoft Servers minimum.

Running internet speed tests I found the following results:
Speedtest.net = 126.49Mbps (down) 29.58Mbps (upload) with 8ms ping
Verizon speed test = 197.02Mbps (down) 5.03Mbps (upload) with 42ms ping
I certainly haven’t been lucky enough to work in an office which gives me that sort of connection before (unless I was working late at night when no one else was on the network)
After I had a few things running on it I did notice my WS session slow down > bottleneck seemed to be cpu not internet though.
I only had chrome, a few tabs in ie, an active download and an install of windows essentials running; and cpu was hanging constantly around 100%
But for the general work I do, which is mainly admin, documentation and web based consoles, it has performed very well. Maybe later in the week as I get closer to the weekend I might run it through its paces with editing a family video, although I won’t be of a true business scale, such as video editing with the likes of Adobe or Sony products.

Oh and one last note for the day. Warren at AWS support did get back to me very quickly in regards to my concern about not being able to upgrade the performance of a bundle once you have created the users WS.
“The team advise that there is not yet a way to change the bundle that a user is on. They do not expect this to change before the public release, but have recorded this feedback as a feature request. We can’t provide an indication of when (or if) this will be addressed, but you can see details of new feature releases as they are announced at the following site…”
So this is disappointing, but it is also not the public release yet and who knows what AWS still have up their sleeves. I’m hoping that there might be a way by the time they go to public release, to take a backup/image of a users setup, similar to a AMI for EC2 instances. Then you’d be able to at least rebuild a standard setup for users in a different bundle quickly, and they can sync or restore from a 3rd party backup solution the files and documents they had on the WS drive. AWS WS does have a free sync application which I plan to explore tomorrow. Until then…

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