AWS, Cloud Computing

5 Mins Read

Empowering Remote Work with Amazon WorkSpaces – Part 1


Amazon WorkSpaces, a managed Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution by Amazon Web Services (AWS), provides virtual, cloud-based desktops, eliminating the need for hardware procurement and complex software installation. It has been instrumental in enabling remote work during global challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. It enhances security by storing user data on AWS, not on endpoint devices, which is crucial in the face of increasing cyber threats. By reducing the need for physical hardware, it contributes to environmental sustainability. Lastly, it promotes agile development by providing fast, responsive desktops accessible from any supported device, helping organizations adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities. Thus, Amazon Amazon WorkSpaces is a flexible, secure, and scalable solution that helps organizations navigate various global challenges.


Amazon WorkSpaces, a beacon of Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS), beckons enterprises with the promise of cloud-powered simplicity, scalability, high availability, and a pay-as-you-go pricing model. Let’s embark on a journey to demystify its architecture. VDI allows multiple instances to run on a centralized server, simplifying management, enhancing security, and facilitating remote access. On the other hand, Amazon WorkSpaces, a service offered by AWS, provides cloud-based virtual desktops known as Amazon Amazon WorkSpaces. These can be accessed from various devices, offering a fully managed desktop computing experience.

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VDI, or Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, is a technology that virtualizes desktop environments, allowing multiple instances to run on a centralized server. This centralization simplifies management, enhances security, and facilitates remote access from various devices. VDI improves resource efficiency by sharing computing resources, supports customization based on user roles, and streamlines backup and recovery processes. Despite its benefits, implementing VDI requires careful consideration of upfront costs, deployment complexity, and the need for a robust network infrastructure.


Amazon WorkSpaces

Amazon WorkSpaces is a service offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) that provides cloud-based virtual desktops. These virtual desktops, known as Amazon WorkSpaces, allow users to access their computing environment from various devices, such as laptops, tablets, or thin clients.

Amazon WorkSpaces provides a fully managed desktop computing experience, handling tasks like hardware maintenance, security, and software updates. Users can choose from different compute resources and operating systems to tailor the virtual desktop to their needs. This service is particularly beneficial for remote work scenarios, providing a scalable and secure solution for organizations looking to centralize and manage their desktop infrastructure in the cloud.

Architecture Diagram


Source: AWS Docs

Amazon WorkSpaces Reference Architecture

Behold the grandeur of the Amazon WorkSpaces Reference Architecture. While it may seem complex initially, fear not. We’ll navigate its intricacies together.

VPC — AWS Managed

AWS Managed VPCs, shrouded in mystery, are the backbone of Amazon WorkSpaces’ security. Although not directly accessible, these VPCs play a pivotal role. Elastic Network Interfaces (ENIs) act as bridges, fostering communication between AWS Managed VPCs and customer VPCs while maintaining a secure separation.

VPC – Customer

Crafted by customers in their AWS accounts, this VPC opens the gateway to the directory and Amazon WorkSpaces. The flexibility to select exposed subnets enhances customization.

Authentication/Session Gateways

The guardians of user authentication and session management, Authentication Gateways ensure secure virtual desktop access. Dive into the realm of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for an added layer of security through optional Radius integration or SAML 2.0.

Streaming Gateways

Fueling seamless interactions, Streaming Gateways deliver audio and visual data efficiently. PCoIP and WSP, riding on UDP ports, ensure a responsive virtual desktop experience, even in challenging network conditions.

AWS Directory Services

Central to Amazon WorkSpaces, Directory Services store and manage user information. Choose from Simple AD, AWS Managed Microsoft AD, AD Connector, or Cross Trust, each tailored to specific needs.

Supported Directories

Navigate the directory landscape with options like Simple AD, AWS Managed Microsoft AD and AD Connector. Establish trust relationships and extend on-premise Active Directory to the cloud, opening new realms of possibilities.

Design Considerations

Embark on a strategic journey with these design considerations to optimize your Amazon WorkSpaces deployment:

Amazon AppStream vs. Amazon WorkSpaces

Evaluate if Amazon WorkSpaces aligns with your needs or if Amazon AppStream might be a more suitable option for application streaming.

Directory Option Selection

Align your directory choice with organizational security policies, factoring in compliance requirements and user management preferences.

AWS Account and Amazon VPC Selection

Strategically choose the AWS account and Amazon VPC, defining network zones for controlled access and segmentation.

Workspace Volume Encryption

Enhance data security by evaluating the need for workspace volume encryption using AWS Key Management Service (KMS) Customer Managed Keys (CMK).

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Consider enabling MFA for an added layer of security. Choose the appropriate method, either through Radius integration or SAML 2.0.

Amazon Workspace Bundle Selection

Tailor your workspace bundle selection based on specific requirements, whether it’s Linux, Ubuntu, Windows, or varying compute power and software configurations.

Amazon Workspace Provision Automation

Streamline deployments and reduce manual efforts by automating the workspace provisioning process.

Self-Service Permissions

Empower users and reduce administrative burden by granting self-service permissions for workspace management.

Compliance and Data Governance

Navigate the regulatory landscape by considering compliance requirements and data governance policies in your Amazon WorkSpaces environment.

Monitoring and Performance Optimization

Proactively address performance bottlenecks and security issues by setting up robust monitoring and alerting mechanisms.

Cost Consideration

Navigate the cost matrix by evaluating factors such as workspace bundle selection, storage usage, user count, operating hours, data transfer, directory service costs, and more.

MFA Choices

As of today, Amazon WorkSpaces doesn’t integrate with AWS Identity Centre. Navigate the MFA landscape with these options:

Using Radius Instance

Implement MFA using AWS Managed Microsoft Directory or AD Connector along with a RADIUS server. Elevate user authentication security, regardless of the RADIUS server’s location.


Source: AWS Docs

Using SAML 2.0 Integration

Leverage the recently released SAML 2.0 Integration feature. Redirect users to your Identity Provider (IDP) for authentication, ensuring a secure pathway to Amazon WorkSpaces.


Source: AWS Docs


In this blog of Amazon WorkSpaces, we’ve dissected the architecture, delved into design considerations, explored directory options, and uncovered MFA choices. Stay tuned for future posts, where we guide you through implementing AWS Managed AD with AzureAD for authentication.

Drop a query if you have any questions regarding Amazon WorkSpaces and we will get back to you quickly.

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1. What is Amazon WorkSpaces?

ANS: – Amazon WorkSpaces is a cloud-based Desktop-as-a-Service solution offering simplicity, scalability, and pay-as-you-go pricing for virtual desktops.

2. How does Amazon WorkSpaces ensure security?

ANS: – It secures data through AWS Managed VPCs, Authentication/Session Gateways, and Streaming Gateways, providing a safe and responsive virtual desktop experience.

3. What directory options does Amazon WorkSpaces support?

ANS: – Options include Simple AD, AWS Managed Microsoft AD, AD Connector, and Cross Trust, each serving specific needs like compatibility with Microsoft Active Directory or on-premises credentials.

WRITTEN BY Navneet Nirmal Toppo

Navneet is a Research Associate at CloudThat. He is a Microsoft Certified Solution Professional and a Certified Network Security Specialist and who has experience in AWS, Azure, GCP & vSphere. He is passionate about cloud computing, cybersecurity, and learning new cloud-native technologies who strives to provide the best cloud experience to clients through transparency.



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