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Amazon EC2 vs Amazon WorkSpaces: What are the differences?

Amazon EC2 and Amazon WorkSpaces are both cloud-based services provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS) for computing and desktop virtualization, respectively. While Amazon EC2 offers virtual servers in the cloud, Amazon WorkSpaces provides virtual desktops. Let's explore the key differences between them:

  1. Purpose: Amazon EC2 is designed for running applications and workloads in a virtual server environment. It allows users to provision and manage virtual servers, known as instances, to run their applications and services. On the other hand, Amazon WorkSpaces focuses on providing virtual desktops, allowing users to access their desktop environment, applications, and data from various devices.

  2. Use Case: Amazon EC2 is commonly used for a wide range of workloads, including web applications, batch processing, data processing, and enterprise applications. It offers flexibility in terms of instance types, operating systems, and networking configurations, making it suitable for different use cases. Amazon WorkSpaces, on the other hand, is particularly useful in scenarios where users require access to their personal desktop environment and applications from different devices, including laptops, tablets, and thin clients.

  3. Resource Management: Amazon EC2 grants users precise control over virtual server instances, allowing them to select instance types, configure networking, storage, and security settings. Users can scale the number of instances to suit their needs and maintain complete control over the software stack on these instances. On the other hand, Amazon WorkSpaces provides managed virtual desktops, abstracting the underlying infrastructure. Users can specify the desired hardware bundle for their virtual desktops, while AWS handles infrastructure and resource management.

  4. Desktop Experience: Amazon EC2 provides a headless server environment, meaning there is no graphical user interface (GUI) by default. Users typically access their EC2 instances remotely using secure shell (SSH) or remote desktop protocol (RDP) to perform server administration and application management. Amazon WorkSpaces, on the other hand, provides a full desktop experience with a GUI. Users can access their virtual desktops through client applications on their devices and have a familiar desktop environment with applications and files.

  5. Data Persistence: In Amazon EC2, data persistence is typically achieved through storage options like Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes or Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). Users can attach persistent storage volumes to their EC2 instances or use object storage for data storage and backup. In Amazon WorkSpaces, user data and profiles are automatically saved and preserved in a managed storage service. When users access their virtual desktops in different sessions, their data and settings persist, providing a consistent experience.

In summary, Amazon EC2 is suitable for running applications and workloads in a virtual server environment, offering granular control over the server instances. Amazon WorkSpaces focuses on providing virtual desktops, allowing users to access their desktop environment and applications from multiple devices.

Decisions about Amazon EC2 and Amazon WorkSpaces
Jerome/Zen Quah
Shared insights
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Amazon EC2Amazon EC2DigitalOceanDigitalOcean

DigitalOcean was where I began; its USD5/month is extremely competitive and the overall experience as highly user-friendly.

However, their offerings were lacking and integrating with other resources I had on AWS was getting more costly (due to transfer costs on AWS). Eventually I moved the entire project off DO's Droplets and onto AWS's EC2.

One may initially find the cost (w/o free tier) and interface of AWS daunting however with good planning you can achieve highly cost-efficient systems with savings plans, spot instances, etcetera.

Do not dive into AWS head-first! Seriously, don't. Stand back and read pricing documentation thoroughly. You can, not to the fault of AWS, easily go way overbudget. Your first action upon getting your AWS account should be to set up billing alarms for estimated and current bill totals.

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Craig Finch
Principal Consultant at Rootwork InfoTech · | 6 upvotes · 187.9K views

We first selected Google Cloud Platform about five years ago, because HIPAA compliance was significantly cheaper and easier on Google compared to AWS. We have stayed with Google Cloud because it provides an excellent command line tool for managing resources, and every resource has a well-designed, well-documented API. SDKs for most of these APIs are available for many popular languages. I have never worked with a cloud platform that's so amenable to automation. Google is also ahead of its competitors in Kubernetes support.

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Stephen Fox
Artificial Intelligence Fellow · | 2 upvotes · 190.9K views

GCE is much more user friendly than EC2, though Amazon has come a very long way since the early days (pre-2010's). This can be seen in how easy it is to edit the storage attached to an instance in GCE: it's under the instance details and is edited inline. In AWS you have to click the instance > click the storage block device (new screen) > click the edit option (new modal) > resize the volume > confirm (new model) then wait a very long time. Google's is nearly instant.

  • In both cases, the instance much be shut down.

There also the preference between "user burden-of-security" and automatic security: AWS goes for the former, GCE the latter.

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Most bioinformatics shops nowadays are hosting on AWS or Azure, since they have HIPAA tiers and offer enterprise SLA contracts. Meanwhile Heroku hasn't historically supported HIPAA. Rackspace and Google Cloud would be other hosting providers we would consider, but we just don't get requests for them. So, we mostly focus on AWS and Azure support.

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Pros of Amazon EC2
Pros of Amazon WorkSpaces
  • 647
    Quick and reliable cloud servers
  • 515
    Scalability
  • 393
    Easy management
  • 277
    Low cost
  • 271
    Auto-scaling
  • 89
    Market leader
  • 80
    Backed by amazon
  • 79
    Reliable
  • 67
    Free tier
  • 58
    Easy management, scalability
  • 13
    Flexible
  • 10
    Easy to Start
  • 9
    Elastic
  • 9
    Web-scale
  • 9
    Widely used
  • 7
    Node.js API
  • 5
    Industry Standard
  • 4
    Lots of configuration options
  • 2
    GPU instances
  • 1
    Simpler to understand and learn
  • 1
    Extremely simple to use
  • 1
    Amazing for individuals
  • 1
    All the Open Source CLI tools you could want.
    Be the first to leave a pro

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    Cons of Amazon EC2
    Cons of Amazon WorkSpaces
    • 13
      Ui could use a lot of work
    • 6
      High learning curve when compared to PaaS
    • 3
      Extremely poor CPU performance
      Be the first to leave a con

      Sign up to add or upvote consMake informed product decisions

      What is Amazon EC2?

      It is a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers.

      What is Amazon WorkSpaces?

      With a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, customers can provision a high-quality desktop experience for any number of users at a cost that is highly competitive with traditional desktops and half the cost of most virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions. End-users can access the documents, applications and resources they need with the device of their choice, including laptops, iPad, Kindle Fire, or Android tablets.

      Need advice about which tool to choose?Ask the StackShare community!

      What companies use Amazon EC2?
      What companies use Amazon WorkSpaces?
      See which teams inside your own company are using Amazon EC2 or Amazon WorkSpaces.
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      What tools integrate with Amazon EC2?
      What tools integrate with Amazon WorkSpaces?

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      What are some alternatives to Amazon EC2 and Amazon WorkSpaces?
      Amazon LightSail
      Everything you need to jumpstart your project on AWS—compute, storage, and networking—for a low, predictable price. Launch a virtual private server with just a few clicks.
      Amazon S3
      Amazon Simple Storage Service provides a fully redundant data storage infrastructure for storing and retrieving any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web
      Amazon EC2 Container Service
      Amazon EC2 Container Service lets you launch and stop container-enabled applications with simple API calls, allows you to query the state of your cluster from a centralized service, and gives you access to many familiar Amazon EC2 features like security groups, EBS volumes and IAM roles.
      Beanstalk
      A single process to commit code, review with the team, and deploy the final result to your customers.
      JavaScript
      JavaScript is most known as the scripting language for Web pages, but used in many non-browser environments as well such as node.js or Apache CouchDB. It is a prototype-based, multi-paradigm scripting language that is dynamic,and supports object-oriented, imperative, and functional programming styles.
      See all alternatives