AWS AppStream—Making the Best Use of Your Budget

By CMD Technology Group

4 min read

Tight budget? Lean IT staff? Ever-changing workforce? BYOD adoption? That’s the real world for many IT leaders.

As we have addressed in the past, cost should not be the only consideration when deciding which technologies to implement. But the reality is that cost or investments can be the factor that weighs the heaviest when making decisions. We have never met an IT manager with an unlimited ​budget. You don’t always get what you pay for, and the most expensive isn’t always the best option.



AWS AppStream 2.0 to the Rescue

We have talked extensively about the practicality of a digital workspace solution so we will take a look at AWS AppStream 2.0 from a cost perspective. In a future post, we will do a deep dive into implementing this solution.

What makes AWS AppStream 2.0 so appealing when budgets are tight? Well, how does zero upfront costs sound to you? For one, you don’t have to worry about hardware or infrastructure; no need to provision hardware based on forecasts or ballpark figures that are generally way off. Even when forecasts are spot on, there is the issue of underutilization at least for some of the time. For example, you forecast that within five years your teenage children will need vehicles. Do you purchase all the vehicles now and let them sit in the garage unused? Or do you purchase the one you need now and buy the remainder of vehicles as needed? Why does it make more sense to buy as needed? Because there is no underutilization. There are no vehicles in the garage waiting to be used. Next year the manufacturer will make cars that use water for fuel etc. So many reasons not to buy now.

The same holds true for provisioning hardware. We can estimate that within five years, we will need to support 100 users, but right now, we have 20. During the ramp up to 100 users, our costly devices are sitting underutilized. Will we have 50 users within two years, or will it take three years? During that time, technology will have only improved. Hardware costs will decline. The initial investment which seemed like such a good idea is not so much anymore. How many times have we heard the newly hired IT manager blurt out, “who came up with this idea?”?

Hindsight is 20/20, but forecasts last several years while budgets are yearly. No one cares what we spent last year because budgets have a use it or lose it workflow: If you don’t use it this year you won’t get it next year.

AWS AppStream 2.0 eliminates the need to spend resources coming up with forecasts. Do you have one remote worker on the other coast? Or 100 in different regions? It doesn’t really matter. With pay-as-you-go pricing, there is never over or under-provisioning — no more over or under-utilization. If you have a fluid workforce, autoscaling will take care of provisioning while you sleep. Create a minimum and maximum capacity policy, and you’re set.

When we say that AppStream 2.0 has no minimum, we mean no minimum. Well, you need at least one instance. As you can see from the screenshot above, I have set the minimum capacity to 1 and the maximum capacity to 1. Since this is a pay-as-you-go service, I will never pay for more than one instance. In some cases, I will not even pay for one instance.

One other feature that is very useful from a cost perspective is On-Demand Fleets. This feature takes pay-as-you-go down to a whole new level: down to the hours of use. Most businesses have part-time staff that do not need 8 hours of use per day or don’t need access every day. On-Demand instances allow this flexibility. Fleets that sit idle have a small per-hour cost, which is less than when in use.

In addition, you can completely stop your Fleets. In the screenshot above, you can see my personal Fleet aptly named MyFleet. Under status, you will see that it is Stopped. When a Fleet is stopped, you will not be able to run any instances, but you will also not incur any hourly usage fees. I don’t need my fleet running all the time, and there are months where I don’t use it at all. My total cost for the month if I don’t use it: $0.00. Remember, I did say, “In some cases, I will not even pay for one instance.”

You will notice from the screenshot below other configurable options that provide further methods of reducing costs. ​Disconnect timeout ​lets a user re-enter a previous session instead of creating another instance. I would bump this up to 60 minutes because usage fees are billed hourly. ​Idle disconnect timeout​ is a feature recently added that will disconnect a user if they are not actively using the instance. This is very useful so that you are not paying for your “hardly working” staff.

AWS AppStream 2.0 is an easy and cost-effective solution for providing the tools that your workforce needs to be productive while allowing them to use whatever devices they prefer (BYOD). In the battle against who is better, Apple vs. Microsoft vs. Linux, iOS vs. Android we have to adopt a who cares attitude. “Bring it” is a better mentality. Let your workforce use whatever they want and whatever will make them more productive. Bottom-line: a productive workforce is a cost-saving strategy.

As you can see, AWS AppStream 2.0 has been purpose built with cost reduction in mind. It seems every new feature added makes it better and costs less. As a side note: performance is amazing as well. I recently used it on a trip to SE Asia, and I connected to my instance through a VPN without any issues. I always update my AppStream Fleet before travel in case something happens to my laptop, and I have to use a hotel computer. Or if I’m visiting a country that has the right to inspect laptops…think proprietary information loss (cost savings). But that’s a story for another post.

Please contact us if you would like to see AppStream 2.0 in action.

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