AWS WorkSpace : The taste of cloud
Cloud is no doubt the most in-trend technology. Even the Artificial Intelligent systems leverage the benefits cloud extensively, making it even more demanded technology we have currently.
We’ve all been using cloud space for more than a decade, but apart from google drive, one hardly experiences the first-hand potential of cloud. This is because the entry barrier to this technology has been set so high, that a non-tech person is easily turned off to get the first-hand experience.
Ask someone about cloud, and the very first few word he speaks is servers. Now before cloud, you now have to understand servers, then APIs, and then storage volumes, etc etc. This is the barrier I was talking about. It becomes really tough to actually feel what cloud has to offer you. But no worries, you’re not alone. You’re just a previous version of me. The only difference is that, I took the long and tough road, but you won’t have to.
If you wish to learn more on cloud check this.
With this blog I wish to provide you with the first-hand experience of cloud, without you knowing anything about servers and all. If you’ve ever used a computer, that’s more than sufficient for you to go ahead with this.
Lets dive in :)
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
From now on I’ll be talking about virtual desktops, virtual because it will be somewhere up in the clouds, and not with you. VDI is the technology to provide you with your personal desktop, but more mobile than you’ve ever thought. Almost all cloud service providers have this service, but my love for AWS is so pure, I simply couldn’t resist. So compiling eveything till now, we will be taking a look at AWS WorkSpace (VDI) in the following blog.
All you need for this is to have an AWS account, and set up your AWS WorkSpace from the AWS official docs.
In response of COVID-19, AWS WorkSpaces Free Tier provides one WorkSpace with Windows Performance bundle with 80 GB Root and 100 GB User Volumes, for up to 200 hours, and 400 hours of Linux.
This is the best time for you to get your hands dirty with the services, all for free. Its so infectious, that I fear that after this COVID, I will have no options than to buy the premium for this.
AWS WorkSpace has a plethora of features for all. If you’re a student, it provides you an extremely mobile and an easily disposable desktop for all kinds of activities. If you’re a ML/AI enthusiast, this could be your heaven. If you’re more into graphics, I guess 16 vCPU, 122 GiB Ram would be enough. I won’t mention employees, because more than 70% of company provides their employees with a personal WorkSpace. Even a common man will find this extremely handy.
AWS WorkSpace feels like 99% you own PC, well that 1% depends on your internet connection. If you’ve unstable internet, probably this could be frustrating. Given that the only prerequisite to work in cloud is a stable internet connection, this becomes obvious.
Coming back to AWS, it gives you a number of specs to configure you want for your desktop. From 1 vCPU, 2GiB RAM upto 16 vCPUs, 122 GiB RAM, and trust me the 4CPU, 8GiB RAM it offers is significantly faster that your laptop with same config. Reason? Beacuse it provides you 4 vCPUs from Intel Xeon E processor family. Infact, it has options for different OSs. If you work on Windows, well and good, else you can also opt for Linux based desktops.
Under Free tier it provides only CentOS Linux
The best part about AWS WS is its accessibility. You must think that, if this is virtual desktop, it has to be used always on PCs only. Well, you underestimated it. AWS provides all kinds of options for accessing its WS. You name it, it has it for you.
The browser based connectivity provides you on the go, but AWS WS client application is recommended.
To be honest, its feature to bring desktops to mobile has changed my perspective of bulky PCs.
It has almost all kinds of feature you can expect from you own PC. You can browse internet, do development, designing, and much more. The kind of power and resources it provides you, is awesome.
The best part about this, is its internet speed. Its enormous. Well, the internet speed also depends on the AZ you select for you workspace. I personally prefer using WS if I have to do data intensive jobs, because it downloads GBs of data before you blink.
I used it to do my docker projects development.
That sounds like all gold, but no. I’ll talk about the downsides further.
Number of workspaces are monitored region-wise. In singapore, you need permissions to provision more than 1 workspace, but in N. Virginia you can provision multiple WS without explicit premissions.
It provides extreme flexibility. Whenever you log in, it autostarts the desktop.It stops the WS when it is idle for more than 1 hr
You’re only billed for number of hours you use plus the start and stop time, (which is few seconds).
The system of snapshot also is again of great utility. When you log in, you get the exact same state of desktop as you left it.
In Linux WS, it comes pre-installed with AWS CLI. You can directly jump in to manage your system. In Windows, however, You explicitly need to install aws-cli.
Not all AZs have WorkSpace option. That doesn’t matter afterall. Opt for N. Virginia wherever you live, and enjoy your 800 Mbps net speed.
Before going for subscription, you must try out the free tier. I openly admit, this may not be for you.
Few Downsides :
These are all my personal views, and depending on your needs and usage, you might never encounter this.
In free version of Windows, it doesn’t provide MS Suite. I missed using PowerPoint in WS. Well, you can purchase the Suite along with a powerful system.
The Windows instance on 4GB RAM (free tier) feels a bit slow. Given the fact that Windows is extremely RAM comsuming, this is self-explanatory. But 8GB, 8vCPU (paid) system is blazingly fast. I used it without a lag.
Watching videos on WS costs you more of your data. I meant to say far more than what it would if you directly watch from PCs. I won’t advocate binge watching on WS atleast.
In Linux OS, It doesn’t allow direct root login. The user in WS always has to be a sudoer.
In Linux, you only get CentOS as an OS option. Well, Ubuntu would have been a good choice for a general option.
The CentOS comes with aws-cli v1, ie an obsolete package. You need to install the latest aws-cli v2 separately. Well, for windows, you dont even get aws-cli installed.
The internet connectivity is superfast, but you don’t get internet within your docker containers. I don’t know why.
My hack : I figured it that the default nameservers in the resolf.conf file was an issue for containers to get internet connection. Simply overwrite the resolf.conf file with google’s nameserver, and you’re done!
$ sudo echo "namesever 126.96.36.199" > /etc/resolf.conf
Thanks for being a patient reader.
Well, that was my experience of WS, and I’m still exploring. If you have your own, I’ll be glad to hear it from you down below. Reach me out if you face difficulty setting up your AWS WS.