Amazon Workspaces: What lies ahead and beneath?

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On the surface, Amazon’s newly introduced Amazon WorkSpaces is Desktop as a Service. But it may represent a strategy that is actually much deeper than that, and one that could bring whole new customer segments into the Amazon Web Services Marketplace.

Today, in order for enterprise applications to move to the cloud, they have to achieve an “escape velocity” to break free from the company’s data center. Firms often use scorecards to rationalize which applications will escape to the public cloud and which remain in house. Even in firms where the CIO mandates “cloud first” deployment, entrenched corporate culture and fear of cloud often preserves the status quo and hinders a move to the cloud. That is not good news for AWS.

DaaS as gateway to cloud

On the other hand, selling companies desktops in the cloud is nothing but good news for AWS. Each desktop requires CPU, memory, storage, network, GPU – and AWS offers all those resources. The arrival of these new desktops in AWS creates demand for services located in close proximity. Just as workers moving to a new city demand local services, the arrival of desktops in AWS creates demand for reporting, data warehouse, and content management services —  all running in AWS.

To date, small and medium businesses that don’t have Netflix-like IT skills or a very specific need for AWS have gotten along just fine without cloud and could continue to do so for quite some time. To move those shops over the hurdle, desktop as a service is a brilliant tactic.

Today, a firm subscribing to five hundred desktops would spend in excess of $17,000 per month on DaaS with AWS. And once in the cloud, such firms might as well do their disaster recovery (DR) there. And if they need to recover their applications to AWS, they may wonder why they should wait for a disaster and decide to run critical applications in a cloud that’s become familiar to them.

Identifying Amazon WorkSpaces as “Desktop as a Service” may be a misrecognition that transposes the platform and the service. The act of branding WorkSpaces as Amazon rather than as Amazon Web Services suggests that WorkSpaces seeks recognition from a less cloudy set of users. And, if the Amazon WorkSpaces brand appeals to a broader set of users, why limit the brand to Desktop as a Service alone? To persuade otherwise busy people to move their desktops to the cloud it makes sense to offer more than just a desktop as reward for that move.

Predictions for WorkSpaces and AWS Marketplace

Here are some possible scenarios that could emerge out of Amazon’s WorkSpace gambit.

  • 1. WorkSpaces reveals itself as a reinvention of the Virtual Private Cloud network abstraction. I anticipate enterprise applications subscribed seamlessly into WorkSpaces. I suspect AWS has been working to enable secure AWS Marketplace application endpoints visible to specific desktops within a WorkSpace.
  • 2. Today an application in the MarketPlace is restricted to a single Amazon Machine Image or AMI. Yet each native AWS web services is designed to be elastic and available. In a WorkSpace, third-party services will be exposed as an endpoint in AWS in order to create the end user experience required for ubiquitous adoption of SaaS as unit of composition and delivery within AWS.
  • 3. WorkSpaces will incorporate metrics to enable enterprise, developers, and ISVs to understand the overall resource efficiency of applications. To create a thriving, growing ecosystem, AWS needs to drive efficiency of ISVs in the MarketPlace so as to create a market for single function, highly efficient web services to be consumed by developers, and to drive efficiency of coarse-grained applications consumed by end users.

Desktop as a Service seems easy for Main Street users to understand and to like; something Main Street will value. But will we see pushback? Will we discover a subculture of desktop huggers— people who will resist relinquishing their applications to the cloud? And will they get together with the server huggers and form a support group?

joaguin1WorkSpaces eliminates the technical challenge of building out a bespoke virtual desktop infrastructure. Moving VDI to AWS may almost be enough to make VDI mainstream (finally!). If WorkSpaces can also provide a simple way for mainstream businesses to securely subscribe to and manage AWS Marketplace applications, even better.

Amazon WorkSpaces may become the construct through which ISVs can provision and manage subscriptions to their applications in AWS, and through which businesses subscribe to those services. Since inception, AWS has worked hard to build out a set of foundation services developers use to build applications.

Now, Amazon WorkSpaces could be the vehicle to bring the customers (their virtual desktops and devices) who will buy applications built on those services. Designed effectively, this marketplace maintains incentives for ISVs to build and optimize efficient web services. Moving the mountain of desktops to AWS creates the demand to drive an explosion of new applications and services in AWS.

A market where customers can subscribe to and manage applications or components, and manage the desktop (or virtual device) seems familiar—a little bit like shopping online on Amazon.com.

While some firms outside of Silicon Valley may not yet appreciate the need for elastic infrastructure, most will get the value of being able to scale costs as their business changes. Desktop as a Service may be the first of many services delivered via the WorkSpaces metaphor. Amazon WorkSpaces suggests more than a single service. Amazon WorkSpaces suggests a platform branded for a mainstream customer and which ISVs and developers will use to manage and provision application services to a new kind of AWS customer.

Brian McCallion is founder Bronze Drum Consulting, a New York City-based consultancy and a member of the Amazon Partner Network. He can be reached at bmccallion@bronzedrum.com or followed on Twitter: @BrianMcCallion
 

Art courtesy of Joaquin Torres Garcia

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