Simple and Effective: Amazon AppStream 2.0

16 October 2017 | By Rohit Athalye

Background:

Amazon entered the application streaming market in 2013, and since then they have come a long way. Their first offering, Amazon AppStream was not widely embraced, due primarily to the technical configuration / setup complexity and lack of flexibility once deployed.

At the end of 2016, Amazon announced the general availability of Amazon AppStream 2.0. It has been ten months since the offering was introduced to core AWS regions, and since the response has been notably improved.

What is Amazon AppStream 2.0?

According to Amazon, “Amazon AppStream 2.0 is a fully managed application streaming service that provides users instant access to their desktop applications from anywhere, on any connected device. Amazon AppStream 2.0 simplifies application management, improves security, and reduces costs by moving a company’s applications from their users’ physical devices to the AWS Cloud. The Amazon AppStream 2.0 streaming protocol provides users a responsive, fluid performance that is almost indistinguishable from a natively installed application. With Amazon AppStream 2.0, organizations can realize increased flexibility, improved scalability, and the agility to support a broad range of compute and storage requirements for their applications.

Simply put, Amazon AppStream 2.0 allows you to stream your native Windows applications to any device via a web browser using HTML5. As with everything in life, we like to look at the pros and cons of what AppStream 2.0 has to offer:

Pros:

Ease of setup

Configuring Amazon AppStream 2.0 is simple and does not involve a lot of technical complexity. You can have an AppStream 2.0 environment up and running within 30 minutes, by using the configuration wizard. The underlying reason it’s so simple: fewer moving parts plus Amazon fully manages the backend infrastructure services.

Ease of access

Amazon AppStream 2.0 does not need any additional software to be installed. All you need to do is via your web browser, navigate to your AppStream 2.0 URL and log in. You will then be presented with the list of application available to you. Click on the desired application and VOILA!!!

Scalability

This is where AWS is at it’s best. Amazon AppStream 2.0 takes complete advantage of this and scale out their deployments locally or globally using AutoScaling features. AutoScaling allows a minimum fleet of servers to be always running which in turn reduces the overhead typically associated with infrastructure provisioning.

Integration

Not only does Amazon AppStream 2.0 seamlessly integrate with existing AWS deployment but also with Microsoft Active Directory. You also can also deploy AppStream 2.0 within your Virtual Private Cloud (VPC).

Cons:

Compatibility

Amazon AppStream 2.0 only allows users to run applications on Windows Server 2012 R2. At this time, no other legacy Windows operating systems are available to be deployed. Hence, legacy applications might not work with AppStream 2.0. However, reading from history, AWS will expand coverage quickly and based on customer demand.

Latency

In reality Amazon’s claim of “responsive, fluid performance that is almost indistinguishable from a natively installed application” falls short of the expectations for a number of reasons. The performance of the system, as perceived by the end user almost entirely depends on the performance of their network. On high latency – low bandwidth connections this is more obvious, but it still runs efficiently on reliable network connections.

How much will Amazon AppStream 2.0 cost?

Amazon adopts pay-as-you-go model and charges for the following components:

  • Fleets – charged hourly for number of running instances (Always On), number of instances which have users connected (On-Demand)
  • Users – number of users that have been assigned to a stack
  • Image Builders – number of images that are running. You will be charged regardless of whether the administrator connected to the image.

Let’s look at what the pricing would look like per user for a general purpose on-demand instance. Pricing details can be found here.

  • General Purpose Medium On-Demand Instance cost/hour: $0.10
  • General Purpose Medium Image Builder Instance cost/hour: $0.10
  • Number of users: 1 (8 hours/day @ 20 working days)
  • Microsoft RDS CALS: $4.19 / user
  • Total Monthly Cost: $20.19 / user approx.

Conclusion

Amazon AppStream 2.0 is a simple yet efficient application streaming product which can fulfill a number of use cases at a very competitive price when compared to much talked XenApp Essentials. It is still early days for both these products, and we will eventually see an increase in functionality and decrease in cost as they continue to evolve. Stay tuned for our upcoming post, ‘Comparing XenApp Essentials with AppStream 2.0’.

Feel free to contact us to discuss how we can help you with choosing the right solution for your business.

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