Alternatives to Amazon WorkSpaces

As organizations look for sustainable, cost-effective ways to support remote work, cloud desktops are often proposed as a potential solution. But the term “cloud desktops” is often applied loosely to a whole range of products and can end up causing some confusion when IT departments and CTOs are trying to identify the optimal technology for their workforce.

Here, we’re going to focus on two different approaches to cloud desktops by two different providers.

The first is Amazon WorkSpaces, a cloud-based virtual desktop solution that offers organizations the choice of providing Microsoft Windows, Amazon Linux and Ubuntu Linux desktop environments to their users. Then we’ll compare Amazon WorkSpaces to Cameyo, a Virtual App Delivery (VAD) platform that shifts the focus off the operating system and toward on-demand access to ALL your apps – Windows, Linux, SaaS, and internal web apps – from any device, regardless of OS.

By breaking things down like this, we’ll address some FAQs about each solution by looking at them through the lens of user experience, workloads, use cases, and pricing.

The basics of Amazon Workspaces

If you’re familiar with traditional virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), Amazon WorkSpaces functions largely in the same way. It’s the cloud-based iteration of VDI called desktop-as-a-service (DaaS). We won’t delve too deeply into those technology models here because we’ve teased out their distinctions previously in posts like this one and this one. The key difference between VDI and DaaS is that the latter takes the on-premises infrastructure of the former and migrates it into the cloud — and in the case of Amazon WorkSpaces, Amazon Web Services (AWS) specifically.

One of the attractive features of Amazon WorkSpaces is the apparent choice that it offers. It allows organizations to provision their users with virtual Microsoft Windows, Amazon Linux or Ubuntu Linux desktops. These desktop environments are known as WorkSpaces, and they’re hosted in the AWS cloud, the retail and software giant’s cloud-based infrastructure that powers large parts of the web. For this reason, an AWS account is a strict prerequisite.

Each WorkSpace is associated with a virtual private cloud (VPC). A VPC is a virtual network that’s not too dissimilar from a traditional on-premises network. At the same time, this is also where things get a little complicated. Admins are expected to configure their VPC by creating subnets, assigning IP addresses, identifying gateways and endpoints and linking their VPC back to on-premises networks via AWS Virtual Private Networks (AWS VPNs). There is extensive documentation and entire webinars around all these processes that would be difficult to summarize here.

On top of the VPC, IT will need to configure the directories to set up secure access for WorkSpaces users. These directories are managed via the AWS Directory Service. Here, too, organizations have multiple options: Simple AD, AD Connector, or the AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory (aka AWS Managed Microsoft AD). And, once again, there’s extensive documentation for all these directory types that’s beyond the scope of this comparison post.

What’s the user experience like? Amazon Workspaces users access their virtual desktops through a dedicated WorkSpaces client application from a supported endpoint device. Windows WorkSpaces can be accessed using a web browser like Firefox or Chrome. End users log in with their respective directory credentials (including multi-factor authentication), after which data traffic is relayed through multiple gateways. They then interact with the virtual desktop through the client.

What about WorkSpaces pricing? Amazon WorkSpaces pricing is incredibly complex. It’s based on variables like the number of virtual CPUs, RAM and storage available to each virtual desktop and charges monthly subscription fees or even hourly billing. There are so many plans and tiers that they can’t be condensed to a single description or table.

What are some WorkSpaces use cases? If end users need a full virtual desktop to support a particular high-performance or specialized workload, then Amazon WorkSpaces could make sense — provided IT is also prepared to configure the VPC, directory service and so on. They’ll also need to have devices that support the WorkSpaces client. Furthermore, both end users and IT will have to pick a lane when it comes to the operating system. The Windows version of Amazon WorkSpaces is needed to deliver Windows apps, and the Linux version is needed to deliver Linux apps.

The basics of Cameyo’s Virtual App Delivery

Cameyo is a streamlined, modern alternative to VDI and DaaS like Amazon WorkSpaces. Instead of delivering virtual desktops, Cameyo delivers virtual apps via an OS-agnostic cloud desktop. To that frame distinction another way, it’s the difference between handing end users an entire library and just giving them access to the books they need.

With Camyeo’s on-premises or cloud-based Virtual App Delivery (VAD) platform, Windows or Linux apps are “published” by means of a simple admin interface. Once published, end users can then securely access these apps from any device either through an HTML5 web browser or via progressive web apps (PWAs). It doesn’t matter what devices those users are on – Windows, macOS, ChromeOS, IGEL OS, Linux, iOS, Android, etc. Whereas Amazon WorkSpaces requires a client to run on each device in most cases, Cameyo is client-less. Any authorized user can access Cameyo-published apps from their device of choice.

The chief advantage here is that Cameyo does not deliver the Windows or Linux operating system to users but it does deliver the full desktop version of apps. This approach to virtualization is much more efficient because it isn’t attempting to replicate the full desktop experience on a remote endpoint. Furthermore, it enables organizations to deliver all their essential applications—from Windows and Linux to SaaS and internal web apps—to any device. Importantly, this applies to legacy apps as well. Cameyo eliminates the usual DevOps costs associated with app modernization because niche or legacy software titles can still be delivered to end users, regardless of the apps’ supported operating systems.

Additionally, rather than using granular configurations and pricing permutations as a substitute for freedom of choice, Cameyo offers flexibility where it counts. Organizations can use Cameyo’s fully hosted solution in Google Cloud or Azure. Customers can also opt to self-host Cameyo in any cloud, including AWS, or in their own on-premises data centers. By contrast, Amazon WorkSpaces only runs in the AWS cloud.

What’s the user experience like? In a word: seamless. Any authorized user has simple, secure access to Cameyo-published apps through your preferred SSO (including multi-factor authentication) provider and their native HTML5 web browser. They can easily work with Cameyo’s virtual apps alongside all the other software in their device environment.

What about Cameyo’s pricing? Cameyo has a simple, per-user/per-month pricing model. The fully-hosted version of Cameyo also includes the necessary RDS cals AND includes cloud usage, eliminating the bill shock associated with so many virtual desktop products. If you’re planning to self-host Cameyo in your own on-premises or cloud environment, then RDS cals and usage are not included, but the per-user price is reduced as a result. Get in touch with us and we’ll give you a personalized quote based on your requirements.

What are some VAD use cases? Because of its versatility and “as-needed, on-demand” delivery model, Cameyo lets you scale and optimize its use for your specific implementation. That makes it ideal for everything from small business all the way up to Fotune 500 enterprises with 50,000+ employees. Its architecture is also perfect for organizations that have adopted or are looking to adopt Zero Trust policies. This is because Cameyo is built on a Zero Trust security model that locks down RDP ports (here’s why that’s so important), and it eliminates the need for risk-prone VPNs.

VAD is the app-centric alternative to Amazon WorkSpaces

Despite the cloud credentials of AWS, Amazon WorkSpaces is still an old-school approach to virtualization. Virtual desktops are costly, complex, often have security issues, and don’t deliver a seamless end-user experience. And the options that Amazon WorkSpaces provides are still limited by being bound to AWS cloud, the WorkSpaces client and the Windows or Linux operating systems. 

Virtual App Delivery represents a more agile, scalable, cost-effective and flexible approach to getting apps in the hands of end users on any device. It gives users a true cloud desktop — a digital workspace that adapts to their usage and environment while also enhancing network security for your organization. Sign up now for your free trial of Cameyo to start delivering Windows and Linux apps to your users. And if you’d like more info on Cameyo stacks up to DaaS solutions like Amazon WorkSpaces, schedule a demo with our VAD experts.