Notes taken by an American Intern at the emergency meeting of Kazhak Village Elders…
Summary: AWS Workspaces is reflection of a weakness in AWS business and it is a great time for competitors to step on the gas in product execution.
AWS Workspaces starts on wrong premise that enterprises want to use VDI, but can’t because its expensive and complex.
The reason enterprises are not doing VDI is not because its complex, its because its not such a good idea.
The idea that you need to have same configuration across all use devices is an idea that should have died back in the 80s. Unfortunately, some of the control freaks of the 80s are still working in IT an while they are becoming a rare breed of IT Mgrs that no one likes, the reality is that most LOB managers recognize higher productivity that can be had by enabling end users and not by controlling end users. This in addition to the employees mixing their consumer apps and expecting similar experience from their enterprise apps ( what some term as COIT) is leading to variety of devices and configurations per user.
Lets say if IT dictates user must use IE8 and user users some personal apps while at work. She may use a third party password manager like LastPass or 1Password. Now, if IT were to do a configuration push every night and reset the configuration and thus lose all the local storage, you would have a pretty pissed off employee in the morning.
Lets say the user has purchased a copy of Balsamiq, because they needed to do quick prototyping, and next morning, IT pushes a configuration refresh – you have a pretty pissed off employee in the morning.
My point is the desktop, laptop is personalized per employee – this is both required and encouraged.
But, you say, I can’t meet my compliance and my auditor won’t be happy. Fuck the auditor. Seriously. If your company goes out of business because you are 100% compliant but not building new products because you have treated your employees like rats, your auditor won’t pay your salary.
So, we looked at it from end user perspective, what about the cost reduction aspect?
Its not like AWS Workspace is magical and works in Ether. You still need to buy desktops and laptops and the laptop suppliers have deals with OS manufacturers like Microsoft to bundle the OS with the machine. So, you pay for the machine and then you have to pay like $500 / yr/ user ? Thats not very smart, is it? You can use your own internal calculators to arrive at your cost savings, but my guess is, you won’t be saving money.
Now, lets look at each use case AWS Workspaces promises to solve:
1. Mobile Device access
So, when has it become acceptable to force a Windows 7 experience onto an iPad?
2. Secure Workspace ( compliance )
Addresses the egos of IT control freaks. You need to fire them, not enable them as a CIO, if you want to keep your department relevant.
3. Remote Employees
So, your auditor is going to be happy that an employee is reviewing a patient information on a public train? Really? And a public Starbucks Wi-fi is going to be more secure than data on a laptop? Give me a break.
4. Seasonal Workers
Ok, this is half decent – but, don’t you already have device wipe policies – do you want to pay $500/user/yr for a wipe functionality?
5. Student Workspaces
Ok, this makes sense – but again, this is a problem that has been solved using less expensive and may be less elegant solutions. In this case, AWS Workspace may be the Vitamin you may not be able to afford.
6. Developer Workspaces
Don’t even get me started – you try to control developer environments and force them to use NetBeans, you aren’t going to have much luck hiring programmers, would you?
In fact, when I went thru the use cases list, I kinda felt sorry for the product marketing guy who wrote it – you were trying to tell a story that doesn’t exist. Feel your pain bro. This reads pure desperation – they had to write about a product even they don’t believe in.
So, you ask Why AWS is doing it – isn’t AWS so smart, they can’t ever make a mistake?. I can only think of two reasons and I don’t know if they are right or not.
Reason #1: This is a pet project of Andy Jassy – he wanted a comparison against his HBS classmate who runs the End User Computing for VMware. ok, I get it, Business Schools, Big Egos, whats the big deal wasting few millions here and there right. Yeah, I get it. Ivy League thingy. Its unlikely though, since Jeff Bezos is known as a penny pincher, he may not let a thing like this happen at Amazon.
Reason #2: AWS is hitting a ceiling on their growth – they are trying all kinds of stuff to see what sticks. This may be the Google Wave of AWS – they will try this and finding no one is using it, will kill it next year. If this is true, then AWS peak is over and they are on a downward slope and this gives an opportunity for a right competitor to attack them. ( Protip: you won’t do it using a on-premises business model). This is more likely reason and this is an important signal. This is time for would be competitors to step on the gas in terms of product execution. This also is a signal that AWS does not have a long term product roadmap they are executing towards, but are out of ideas.
Good luck guys.
Note: As someone pointed out, this may be good for some select industries such as call centers, manufacturing floor kiosks. Not discounting that, but those guys are generally last to move towards something like this. ( Welcome folks to correct me, but from what I see, they are often laggards , but I have limited experience ).