Guest Talk USA

AWS Is Now Even Better for End-User Computing Needs

Karen Gondoly

The growing adoption of services like AWS has ushered in a new era for end-user computing, offering the necessary flexibility, scalability, and access to powerful tools like Office365 that businesses require.

The cloud offers a number of well documented benefits with its inherit abilities to scale up and down to provide the correct amount of compute without investing in new hardware, and to support work-from-anywhere with ease. Given the breath of services supported by AWS and their level of support, along with the recently announced support for Office365 applications in Amazon WorkSpaces, there’s never been a better time to look at modernizing your workforce with a move to AWS.

“Access to dedicated workspaces, workforce apps, and multiple OS support are now achievable through the integration of Office365 and AWS.”

By: Karen Gondoly

The increasing shift of business applications to the cloud has been an ongoing process as organizations seek to increase the agility, innovation, and cost-efficiency of IT systems. This escalation to cloud-based apps not only reduces the capital cost and total cost of ownership but also speeds deployment — lowering time to revenue. 

The integration of Office 365 into Amazon Workspace is an excellent example because it allows companies to leverage cloud-based virtual desktops alongside Microsoft’s productivity suite. This provides users with access to Office 365 applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, directly within Amazon WorkSpaces, enhancing productivity and flexibility. As such, businesses are provided with secure, scalable, and cost-effective virtual desktops, without additional fees or complicated setup processes.

As a practitioner in the space, I have worked with many enterprise users who have already moved their workloads to AWS, and I’ve learned much along the way. Here’s a sample of the use cases I’ve seen lead organizations into the cloud, followed by some useful tips should you decide to do the same. 

1. Dedicated workspaces – With the aforementioned newly announced support for Office365 applications in Amazon WorkSpaces, organizations of all sizes can leverage the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provided by Amazon WorkSpaces to provide dedicated workspaces to employees of all types. Office365 is available for WorkSpaces and WorkSpaces Core, meaning organizations can choose the management plain that best suits their needs, either the native WorkSpaces console or a third-party console that allows them to manage Amazon WorkSpaces and AWS EC2 side-by-side, to provide the right computing resource for all users.

2. Access to applications – The key to employee performance is giving them the right applications to do their job, but different applications require different levels of compute. If these users are running graphically or computationally intense tasks, these can be run on the larger GPU-enabled instances in AWS EC2. Moving these resources to a cloud absolves IT from the burden of hardware maintenance, frees up space in the corporate data center, and allows pools of resources to be shared by a group of users.

To keep power users productive from anywhere, they need a high-performance display protocol that provides an at-desk experience. Conveniently, they can connect to end-user computing instances in AWS using the NICE DCV high-performance display protocol at no extra cost.

3. Linux – Not all employees want to use Windows. Some, such as developers and engineers, prefer Linux. Linux instances in AWS are less expensive than their Microsoft Windows counterparts, making Linux workloads even more ideal for running in AWS. 

4. macOS – Just like users have an operating system of choice so do some applications, and those tend to be applications that require macOS. AWS macOS EC2 instances provide an easy way to present users with access to these applications without requiring everyone be sent into the wild with a corporate-owned macOS device.

5. Failover or DR environments – For any application and any operating system, AWS has tools that make it easy and more cost effective to provide backup, failover, and DR environments. 

Keys to success when using AWS for remote workers

Using a public cloud as part of a remote work solution, or generally as part of building a hybrid cloud, requires one to think differently about how to use and manage hosted resources. For example, on-premises virtual machines can often remain running when not in use with little or no ill side-effects. That is not the case if that machine is hosted in the public cloud where users pay a usage fee.

No matter what cloud is selected, here are some key design considerations for practitioners in the field.

1. Diligently manage capacity – EC2 instances used for application access do not typically hold data, rather these applications access data stored elsewhere. Therefore, one can consider these instances as ephemeral. Manage and automate capacity so that instances are launched just when they are needed and terminated when users are done. This allows the minimization of both compute and storage costs (don’t forget to delete that EBS Volume!) 

2. Never leave an instance running – For EC2 instances that are persistent, manage cloud costs by being diligent about shutting down instances when they are not in use. Don’t just rely on the end user to do this. Put in place methods that monitor remote sessions to determine if the user logged out or disconnected, or if they have been sitting idle, for example, and automatically shut down instances so IT doesn’t have to monitor the AWS console and user behavior.

3. Be aware of cloud limitations – We like to think of the cloud as providing infinite capacity, but behind that imaginary cloud lies real hardware and, depending on demand, the instance size planned for launch or start may not be available. Always have a plan to failover to a backup availability zones or region in the event it is not possible to satisfy user demand within the primary region and zone.

4. Put security top-of-mind – Public clouds are publicly accessible, but virtual desktop instances don’t have to be. Design your VPC, security groups, firewalls, authentication methods, and the entire architecture with security at the fore-front. Make sure these instances are locked in a private network, implement rock-solid access control rules, and require MFA for access to any resources hosted in a public cloud.

The growing adoption of services like AWS has ushered in a new era for end-user computing, offering the necessary flexibility, scalability, and access to powerful tools like Office365 that businesses require. This has been a compelling IT use case for organizations contemplating a migration to the cloud, not only because of the cost savings but the boost in productivity driven by the approach. The integration shows the commitment by AWS to offering business-driven solutions that cater to the diverse needs of today’s workforce, including the support for various operating systems and the provision for high-performance computing needs.

Adding a public cloud component into the remote access or hosted desktop/application solution is a powerful way to modernize work-from-anywhere organizations, and is equally applicable if that “anywhere” is the beach or an office. By keeping cloud options open, one can design the best solution for the company and end users.

About the Author

Karen Gondoly is CEO of Leostream, a vendor neutral platform providing a comprehensive and scalable solution for organizations to securely deliver and manage remote access to physical and virtual machines hosted on-premises and in cloud environments.

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