DevOps, DaaS & AWS WorkSpaces: Facilitating Self-Service Across the Organization

  • November 08, 2016

According to IT Revolution press (hat tip to Gene Kim for the great article on this), there are three principles underpinning DevOps: an emphasis on the performance of the entire system over silos; creating tight, right to left feedback loops; and fostering a culture of continual experimentation, learning, and the understanding that practice is prerequisite to mastery. Today we’re going to examine how these underpinnings apply when it comes to DevOps, DaaS & AWS WorkSpaces and facilitating self-service across the organization.

Rewind a few years and you might remember that it was often the line of business spearheading cloud computing — often as shadow IT projects — as a way to facilitate self-serve access to resources to more quickly meet their departmental goals. The rise of self-serve IT coincided not accidentally with the growth of DevOps as organizations looked to more effectively and efficiently meet departmental needs while streamlining processes across development and operations.

Today, a self-serve methodology is a key tenet of effective DevOps organizations and an important way that teams emphasize the performance of the whole system over silos. While self-service technologies like Service Catalog exist to facilitate ‘easy button’ access to resources, a key front-end piece of the puzzle is Desktop-as-a-Service, which is offered by AWS as WorkSpaces.

AWS WorkSpaces offer users access to their desktop, applicable applications, files, and data on-demand from any supported device at any time. The overarching goal of DaaS is to ensure secure, always-on access to employees to simultaneously ensure flexibility and productivity. Moreover, according to ESG, “Collaboration and communication are simplified with virtual workspaces as employees have access to the tools and resources they need to work together and interact in a productive team setting.”


Tight Feedback Loops

With AWS Workspaces, organizations are able to integrate feedback and respond to business needs more quickly. Let’s take a new company acquisition for example. With DaaS in this situation, IT is able to easily scale up and quickly add new employees. Specifically, with the ability to integrate into Active Directory, WorkSpaces allows IT to seamlessly apply employee credentials and assign the appropriate applications, files and data sets to which they should have access.

More strategically, a move to DaaS shortcuts the number of resources IT needs to dedicate to tactical support activities. The reason for this is two-fold:

  • First: IT can centrally manage DaaS, rather than spending their time traveling to different offices or locations and in the process saving significant time. Moreover, AWS WorkSpaces proactively manages patching, anti-virus, and other maintenance activities for the organization, further reducing the time investment needed.
  • Second: As employees can seamlessly access their desktop from a wide variety of supported devices, the number of help desk tickets generated is drastically decreased. IT departments note a significant fall-off in the number of support requests for things like help VPN-ing into the office or BYOD support.
    All this decrease in tactical support means a significant amount of time savings that can be used for more strategic initiatives. With tight DevOps feedback loops, operations can now spend more time planning, implementing and delivering on those projects feedback says will benefit the organization most.


Continual Experimentation and Learning

There are many great use cases for DaaS that AWS WorkSpaces will effectively implement for organizations. One of the favorite applications our AWS consultants have for WorkSpaces is in learning environments. This is because WorkSpaces is easily provisioned for students to access the specific resources they need for a class. Resources can be added as the course progresses and students can easily be removed once the class is over.

At Flux7, our DevOps experts have used WorkSpaces as a foundational tool to facilitate corporate training. Specifically, we worked with an EDA ISV who required a secure environment for its trainees, each of whom was to have an identical laptop. Trainees could not BYOD due to the specifications required on the laptops. IT maintained 600 laptops whose only use was a once a year training classes. In addition to regular maintenance, IT had to run around and troubleshoot them as things broke during the sessions.

Fast forward three years: Trainees now login to a portal with their trainee ID to create a WorkSpace. They then login to this WorkSpace over a secure channel where they find all their needed resources pre-installed. And, the WorkSpace is equipped with a Dropbox-like feature to sync a specific folder with any new content the instructor downloads during class, which removes the need for support during training.

The instructors see a fringe benefit in that they are able to autonomously decide and create the WorkSpace image their students will see, rather than having to coordinate with IT on what software they would like to see installed on the trainee laptops. And, since all systems start off with the exact same hardware spec and image — which has been vetted by the instructor — there’s minimal chance of atypical support requests due to a mismatch in configuration between instructor and student machines.

WorkSpaces are ideal for a wide variety of educational settings as well as environments where employees often work remotely, for seasonal workers, or organizations that have the need for safe, secure, reliable desktops that help ensure the productivity of knowledge workers.

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