Amazon delivers application streaming alternative to App-V from AWS

Amazon AppStream offers a cloud-based approach to application streaming, but there are challenges that may diminish the benefits to enterprises.

Amazon is preparing to enter the world of application streaming, but with a cloud twist.

Analysts see Amazon's play to get into the application streaming scene as an interesting one, but it's unclear exactly how much benefit AppStream will have in the enterprise, particularly with the challenges associated with cloud-based streaming.

With this there's going to be no data on the device.
Eric KleinSenior Mobility Analyst at VDC Research Inc.

Amazon's new AppStream service is available through the Amazon Web Service (AWS) cloud and offers application streaming to a variety of end user devices including mobile and desktops, according to the company.

AppStream's cloud-based service separates it from competitors such as VMware Inc.'s ThinApp and Microsoft's App-V, which are both server-based application streaming tools.

AppStream is meant for resource intensive applications, normally too sizeable to deploy natively on most devices, the company said. It believes AppStream will be useful for both gaming and enterprise mobile applications.

A software developer's kit (SDK) is included in AppStream that supports streaming applications from Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 to Fire OS, Apple Inc.’s iOS, Google Inc.’s Android and Windows. Amazon said it plans to deliver a Mac OS X SDK for next year.

AppStream also supports client applications that run on Kindle Fire OS, Windows 7 and higher, iOS 6 and higher and Android Ice Cream Sandwich and higher, the company said.

Amazon introduced AppStream during this week's AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, where it also launched a cloud-hosted virtual desktop platform called Amazon WorkSpaces.

AppStream is only currently available in "limited preview" form and an Amazon spokeswoman did not provide additional information when the service will be more widely available.

Uncertain enterprise impact for AppStream

Right now it's not likely companies have applications ready  to stream in the cloud and would probably have to take advantage of the AppStream SDKs to repurpose apps for that kind of use, according to Eric Klein, senior mobility analyst at VDC Research, Inc., a mobile analyst firm based in Natick, Mass.

There's also uncertainty because the SDK for Mac OS X isn't available yet and it's unclear how what will become available will impact app development for those using Apple.

"The challenge is application flexibility," Klein said.

Another problem is network connectivity and the need to find a good signal to get that streaming capability from the cloud, according to Michael Finneran, a mobile analyst and president of dBrn Associates in Hewlett Neck, N.Y.

Still, there are benefits that come from using the cloud for application streaming, including security.

"With this there's going to be no data on the device," Klein said. "What we're looking at is app virtualization and that could be a big benefit."

In conjunction with the unveiling of WorkSpaces, the infrastructure appears to be there for Amazon to make a name for itself in enterprise, Klein said.

"There's a view in the field that applications on a phone are short term and that they'll be going to a cloud-based solution soon," Finneran said. "But it all depends on the reliability of the network."

The opportunity to create applications from the ground up that can be streamed is going to be  interesting going forward, Klein said.

"But there's a fight going on for developers already," he said. "It's already there with Microsoft Windows 8, iOS and Android."

AppStream benefits from cloud base

Amazon said it believes applications for video production, graphics rendering, data visualization and medical imaging have potential to be useful over AppStream. It's also possible for there to be a hybrid scenario where part of the application is streamed over AppStream and another part is hosted natively on a device.

Streaming from the cloud provides the benefits of removing device constraints, adding multi-platform support, easier updates, the ability to let customers start using apps instantly and improved security, according to Mike Frazzini, the general manager of Amazon Games.

Developers are also able to capture touch input and translate it for streamed applications that traditionally use a mouse and keyboard, Frazzini added.

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