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Economy class: AWS points set-your-own-cap Fleets service at cloudy desktop apps

Do users dream of Elastic fleets?

Amazon made Fleets available for AppStream desktop applications this week, as the prospect of tighter lockdowns and more remote work looms.

Fleets have been around on its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service on Amazon Web Services for years. It let you start a group of instances in a single operation, but more importantly, set limits on them – for instance, cap how many will start, or choose spot or reserved instances, which are cheaper than the usual on-demand instances.

AWS is a big business for Amazon now, and still growing fast. Originally, way back in 2006, AWS offered three services: Simple Storage Service (S3) – an object database in the cloud; Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) – the ability to rent VMs and entire clusters online; and Simple Queue Service (SQS) – which is broadly how your cloud instances talk to each other to share work. The cloudy-server biz did so well that Amazon branched out into cloudy desktops, too.

The original AppStream service appeared in 2013 but was relaunched in 2016 and just got support for streaming Linux applications and desktops. AppStream was previously Windows-only.

As opposed to a virtual server instance, AppStream delivers one interactive graphical desktop-type app at a time, accessed via a web browser rather than via VNC or RDS as you might if you run your own application server. It contrasts with the company's Workspaces virtual desktop PC service, which Microsoft only caught up with in 2019, after nearly five years.

With AppStream fleets, AWS now provides the ability to set the number and type of server instances that will be needed to supply these applications, while sparing customers the need to manually manage virtual servers. Amazon calls it "serverless," which as usual really just means "we'll worry about the servers for you." Which isn't such a bad thing, really. ®

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