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Amazon WorkSpaces Gets Performance Boost with SSD Volumes

Amazon WorkSpaces, the AWS Desktop as a Service (DaaS) offering, has been steadily gaining steam with AHEAD customers. And for good reason, too. It provides many of the benefits of a persistent virtual desktop without having to make significant investments in data center infrastructure, which significantly decreases the time it takes to stand up a virtual desktop environment.

On Tuesday, January 31, Amazon made available the latest enhancement for its WorkSpaces platform: all new WorkSpaces desktops will use general purpose SSD storage. SSD storage utilizes solid state, or flash drives, that provide better performance than traditional spinning hard drives. Many customers are implementing SSD drives in their on-premises data centers to improve application performance. Making SSD storage standard for WorkSpaces will provide faster provisioning times, quicker reboots and logins, and a higher performance user experience. This means applications and files will open faster from the local filesystem, which makes users happier.

Amazon WorkSpaces before this new feature announcement were deployed on magnetic storage, which sometimes resulted in sporadic performance issues. Reboots also took longer than expected, which sometimes would result in impatient users calling the help desk. For existing users to take advantage of this new performance increase, their Amazon WorkSpace will need to be rebuilt. This will cause a disruption to the end user which means this activity will need to be planned and may not be appropriate for all users immediately.

Optimizing Your Rebuild

Whenever Amazon adds new features to the WorkSpaces service (like this one), a rebuild is required. A rebuild is a destructive action that refreshes the operating system drive. Any applications and data located on the operating system drive are lost during the rebuild operation.

User data is redirected to another drive, which is snapshotted every 12 hours. During a rebuild operation, the user data drive is reverted to the last snapshot, and this could result in the loss of up to 12 hours of user data changes. This is also not configurable by administrators so it is beneficial to plan this after a user has been logged out for multiple hours.

At AHEAD, we are focused on designing enterprise WorkSpaces solutions that build upon the core Amazon offering. Our customers often require configuration of User Environment Management and Application Layering solutions on top of WorkSpaces to ensure user settings and application configurations are protected from rebuild activities. This allows our customers to take advantage of these new features as soon as they are released without worrying about data loss or application issues.

AHEAD uses Liquidware Labs ProfileUnity software to manage the user environment by capturing their user settings, including their Outlook signature, desktop wallpaper, and other application settings, and placing them onto a network share.  Liquidware Labs’s FlexApp application layering software also allows administrators to add, remove, and update applications without having to touch every desktop or deploy complex management tools like SCCM. This also avoids complexity of other packaging solutions by allowing administrators to install the application into a virtual disk that will be mounted on the user’s machine at login.   

By utilizing Liquidware Labs’s ProfileUnity and FlexApp solutions in an Amazon WorkSpaces environment, AHEAD can provide significant operational benefits for customers. This environment can help with the onboarding process by migrating the user’s desktop settings and application configurations into a new Amazon WorkSpace. It also eliminates the need to have end users configure their WorkSpace after rebuild or redeploy because they will not have to recreate their user settings or reinstall applications. Lastly, it provides user settings and application mobility for users who need a WorkSpaces desktop in multiple Amazon regions.

To learn more about the new enhancement for Amazon WorkSpaces, AHEAD’s WorkSpaces solution with Liquidware Labs, or other end-user computing solutions from AHEAD, contact us today!

portrait. Photo by Andrew Collings.