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First Look – AWS AppStream 2.0

So what is Amazon AppStream 2.0? Here is the extract from the AWS Website: Amazon AppStream 2.0 is a fully managed, secure, application streaming service that allows you to stream desktop applications from AWS to any device running a web browser, without rewriting them. AppStream 2.0 provides users instant-on access to the applications they need, and a responsive, fluid user experience on the device of their choice. With AppStream 2.0, you can easily import your existing desktop applications to AWS and instantly start streaming them to an HTML5 compatible browser. You can maintain a single version of each of your apps, which makes application management easier. Your users always access the latest versions of their applications. Your applications run on AWS compute resources, and data is never stored on users’ devices, which means they always get a high performance, secure experience. Unlike traditional on-premises solutions for desktop application streaming, AppStream 2.0 offers pay-as-you-go pricing, with no upfront investment and no infrastructure to maintain. You can scale instantly and globally, ensuring that your users always have the best possible experience.

Summary

We like the simplicity of this product, and we hope it stays this way. The solution removes the complications of profile management, user settings and negates the need for other expensive delivery / middleware products solutions like Citrix – and just focuses on delivering the applications to the users. We believe you just need to couple this solution with the following additional components to be a viable replacement to some of your business applications:

  1. The image builder, to start hosting & testing your own applications (Update: Image Builder now available since end of Jan 2017 stay tuned for an update)
  2. A low latency link to the AWS Availability zone.
  3. A storage product like google drive, box, dropbox, or webdrive so you can be sure your clients/customers data is protected and automatically in the cloud and not in the local instance (and a policy that enforces this)

Useful Notes during the Test

  • Fleet build takes approximately 30-35+ minutes at creation
  • If you stop the fleet and start it again, the startup time is just as long as the initial creation.
  • You need an individual instance for every user so 5 servers in a fleet = 5 concurrent users.
  • Instances of Appstream do not appear under EC2
  • Opening and displaying the demo applications is lightening quick
  • Connecting from London to Ireland Appstream instance was laggy (keyboard and mouse) in fact at time it was worse than normal RDP, with a latency ave of 371ms
  • Connecting from a site with a Direct Connection to AWS and a latency of 30ms the experience was much improved
  • The entire session ran in a browser windows over HTML5 and full screen mode looked great.
  • Youtube in firefox actually would run and display videos – but in no use-able fashion, even browsing the youtube page with all the video thumbnails was borderline unusable, the session was laggy, and unresponsive, in comparison RDP actually performs better with the same youtube page, resolution and site (not that this would be the main purpose for the platform anyway, just interesting for a comparison)
  • Keys would sometimes get ‘stuck’ so instead of typing you could end up closing windows instead (but bashing the Windows, CTRL and Alt keys quickly fixed this.
  • As Appstream is only currently available in US East – N Virginia, US West-Oregon, EU – Ireland, AsiaPacific – Tokyo – I couldn’t test the new London Zone.
  • Creation of the streaming URL (username to access the instance) failed if I change the logonID to the same ‘instance’ within the same fleet (I only had one instance), after that user had logged in (im guessing this is because the session was still active / running for the previous user as there was no log off button, only a disconnect.
  • Currently image availability is only limited to Windows 2012 with the AWS demo applications (Firefox OpenOffice, Notepad++)
  • A image builder component is planned which is exciting to see what options it will have. <Stay tuned for an update review>
  • We modified settings and saved files to desktop, documents and the X:\ session share all which remained available so long as we used the same connection string (or recreated one with the same ‘loginID’ aka Windows username)
  • You can choose the VPC Appstream runs on so you should be able to run it on your internal VPC (note: we didn’t test or try this)
  • For 3 users and 6 hours of running we were billed $13.23 USD which included:
    • $4.19 per user per month RDS Cal
    • $0.11 per hour the instance was running (whether the users were connected or not)

Note: you will need an instance per concurrent user so hourly usage = $0.11 * number of concurrent users

1 user, 8 hours a day – 160 hours a month = $21.79 (Annualised $261.48)

1 user, 24 Hours a day – 480 hours a month = $56.99 (Annualised $683.88)

We are excited to see where Amazon will take this new service and how we can leverage this for our customers and as a business tool especially if it means removing the complicated middle layers of delivery software.

Walk Through

Description Screenshot
Opening the AWS Console and selecting Appsteam 2.0

Create a ‘stack’

Get the naming right

Cant choose any other image at this point

Spin up the template ‘instance’ and select the resources

Choosing the details network Subnet in our default VPC

Choose your ‘fleet’ size (1 streaming instance = 1 concurrent user)

You still pay for the resources whether users are logged in or not as the instance will remain on unless you instruct AppStream to stop it.

Review the rest of the deployment details then click ‘create’

Wait for the creation of the fleet instance There is little feedback at this point and the whole process took over 35 minutes

After waiting for a while and when the console said it was active I tried creating a streaming URL

This failed, as the instance was still not ready

Turns out you need to be using the Fleet details tab for the progress of the instance (status)

Note: seems they are bringing an image builder option so you can deploy your own images (assuming where you can install your own applications)

Update: This has been released as of End of Jan 2017! Review coming soon!

Running instances are NOT created in EC2  
Finally the fleet was running

Create the streaming URL – which you can set to expire

Once that had been created however I was unable to reauthenticate a second time i the user name was NOT the same as the original streaming URL ‘userid’

But based on that all my settings and saved files ‘still existed.

 

Open the URL

 

Launch your apps

The Appstream ’task bar’ gives you the following options

‘Start’

All Windows

Upload and Download files

Copy and Paste

Settings (display resolution and info re session details)

And a full screen option or numerous other options

The Appstreamed application opens ‘seamlessly’ (to use a Citrix term)

Closing the app, ‘ close the window

More apps could be launched from the ‘appstream’ start button

Multiple apps running

Currently there seems to be restricted access to the local disks / shared (when test saving a notepad++ document)

 

I tested a save to Session Folder, Desktop and Documents directory – and I am assuming these settings & documents ‘stick’ as I only have the one machine, not multiple instances in the ‘fleet’ and also one device to one user ‘requirement.

 

This makes sense to keep the solution simple and not have to over complicate it with user profiles and the like.

At the time of writing this the only option was to disconnect the session, there is no option to reboot from the session, or log off?

You can do this from the fleet details ‘management page’.

Stopping the instance took sub 10 seconds to stop.

However starting it again (which I now deeply regret) took another 35+ minutes)

Server was back online But all settings, documents created were gone (as expected for a demo really)