Amazon has offered AWS workspaces for about a year. Virtualized Desktop Interface. Think of it as a Citrix VM hosted on Amazon. Essentially it’s your desktop OS, but hosted elsewhere so you can access it from anywhere. When I first heard about this it immediately got me thinking about whether it’s possible to use this for classrooms and computer labs. You’re obviously still going to need some sort of thin client to access the cloud, but you’d essentially be done replacing the desktop every 4-5 years.
What Amazon is doing is actually pretty neat. The apps themselves are also virtualized, not just installed on the VMs that are deployed. When an app is patched, it happens in one location, not hundreds. No idea whether you can push down or tweak all the settings that prevent annoying nag screens, or settings specific to your environment.
Of course the licensing on this is still a bag of suck. $25/month for Windows plus $15/month for Office. Add into that the fact that much of the software that are used in classes have licenses that expressly forbid virtualization. Once those concerns are dealt with, I can easily see a scenario in which students just use their laptops to access a VM environment that we pay to maintain. True BYOD. No computer labs full of machines sitting idle for hours.
Back of the envelope calculations here:
75 watts x 24 hours x 365 days /1000 x .11 cents/kwh = $52.47/year in electricity costs
Add in the costs to actually image the computer every year, figure at least an hour, plus the purchase price of around $1000 for monitor and installation, you’re looking at around $1300 for 4 years or $325/year. Licensing alone for the Amazon stuff starts at $480/year. I’m sure there’s an EDU discount but still, the math doesn’t work yet.
I long for the day though…