Amazon today announced a new cloud-based desktop service that may suit companies where more workers are using their own devices to connect to the enterprise.

Amazon WorkSpaces allows end-users to access their documents or applications remotely from Amazon Web Services (AWS) by both computers and mobile devices, including iOS, Android and Amazon Kindle Fire tablets.

A company's Active Directory can be integrated so users can continue to logon with their work credentials. Including storage, directory access and a desktop, it costs $35 per user per month.

'One to Thousands'

The new service appeals to the same enterprise market as Google's Chromebooks, which also provide cloud-based management of files and apps. Chromebooks are substantially cheaper than PCs or Macs. Other virtual desktop solutions, including Citrix' XenDesktop, are available and commonly used in large companies.

Why would Amazon join that market? At the AWS conference in San Francisco, Gene Farrell, general manager for Amazon WorkSpaces, told CMSWire "the biggest advantage is that you don't have to buy a bunch of hardware and software in advance to set up virtual desktops." Instead, he said, they can be provisioned, "from one to thousands" on demand from the AWS console. A company only pays for what it uses.

Farrell said Amazon tends to focus on what customers want — which he defined as something that is easier  to set up and administer than other solutions. 

But is it easier for a potential business? We asked Magnus Thorne, senior manager for dev ops at Apigee, which offers an enterprise-grade API Management Platform. He told us there could be value in connecting Mac users who need to use Microsoft Office because of the tendency of Office to crash more often on Macs than on Windows machines – assuming that accessing the suite from the AWS cloud would mean less crashing.

Learning Opportunities

More to Support

But, he said, "from an IT point of view, I'm just doubling the amount of desktops that I have to support." While there is value in maintaining "a stable, central image of virus-free workspaces," he said, virtual desktops give him "double the number of instances to manage."

Such a setup, Thorne said, means that "instead of just a Mac, I now have a Mac and a virtual system."

Paul Duffy, Amazon's senior manager for product management, allowed the use of the service would depend on the customer.

"We hear from customers that they have changing requirements," he said. "It might be they have a lot of bring-your-own devices, in which case they're not managing those devices as they would have been in the past. A customer I was talking to the other day had a very static workforce and would never provision that number of desktops."