In the age of information, software is at the center of everything we do as a society and higher education is no exception. Universities must provide constant access to academic software for their students in order to compete with each other and promote enrolment. This expectation has been compounded by the disruption to service and education of 2020's COVD-19 pandemic.

Imaging products, such as Microsoft's SCCM have historically provided the solution to the problem, but even these technologies have been outgrown, and are no longer appropriate for or even capable of delivering every piece of software to every delivery context. The two industry-standard technologies that offer a solution to this are application virtualization and VDI (desktop virtualization).

What is AppsAnywhere and what is Amazon WorkSpaces?

AppsAnywhere is a software delivery platform that provides the best application virtualization technology in higher education and integrates with all leading delivery technologies to ensure universities can deliver 100% of their apps, all the time, no matter the context. Users can access applications through a consistent and accessible front-end portal. IT can use smart provisioning and context detection to select the best delivery method based on the end-users situation.

Amazon WorkSpaces is Amazon's VDI offering and it expands on legacy VDI solutions such as VMware and Citrix. Described as a DaaS (Desktop-as-a-Service) solution, it is able to remove many of VDI's historic barriers that have been especially prohibitive to universities through the subscription model.

VDI is the idea of creating a virtual machine (VM), executing software titles on the VM, and pixel-streaming to the end device.

Read more about VDI in 'The ultimate guide to VDI', by AppsAnywhere >

AppsAnywhere vs Amazon WorkSpaces overview

AppsAnywhere Amazon WorkSpaces
Deliver 100% Windows apps? Yes No
Deliver Mac applications? Yes No
Deliver cross-platform? Yes, with integrations Yes
Deliver to zero/ultrathin clients? Yes, with integrations Yes
Can leverage end-device hardware? Yes No
Offline delivery? Yes No
Cost per-user? Very low Medium/high
Scalability High Medium-low
Performance with graphics-intensive apps? Very good Limited by network and AWS
Available fully-hosted? No Yes
Available on-premise? Yes No
Analytics/reporting engine? Yes Basic

Front-end portal?

Yes Basic

Further info

AppsAnywhere and Amazon WorkSpaces are different delivery technologies, and so are not wholly comparable on a feature-for-feature basis. the below information will expand upon table entries.

Delivery 100% of Windows Apps: AppsAnywhere is capable of delivering 100% of Windows applications because of its unparalleled application virtualization technology, allowing any Windows app to be packaged and virtualized. Amazon WorkSpaces is able to deliver most, but not all Windows applications. It is a VDI technology that offers ServerOS, which is notorious for being incapable of delivering some Windows applications; especially higher education apps.

Deliver Mac apps: AppsAnywhere can deliver Mac applications to Macs. Amazon WorkSpaces can not deliver any Mac applications.

Deliver cross-platform: AppsAnywhere integrates with all leading delivery technologies. Through leveraging these integrations, AppsAnywhere is capable of delivering cross-platform. Amazon WorkSpaces, being a VDI technology, pixel-streams application information to end-devices. As with all VDI solutions, if the end-device can display this pixel data, it can be used to access apps delivered by WorkSpaces.

Deliver to zero/ultrathin clients: AppsAnywhere can deliver to zero/ultrathin clients through leveraging integrations. Amazon WorkSpaces can deliver to zero/ultrathin clients for the same reasons it can deliver cross-platform.

Can leverage end-device hardware: AppsAnywhere is able to leverage the hardware capabilities of end-devices to save on usage of server-based computing power and offload some of the work to students' often powerful personal machines. Amazon WorkSpaces simply transmits pixel data to end devices, and so it cannot make use of end-devices computing hardware to help execute applications.

Offline delivery: Once an app has been virtualized and delivered using AppsAnywhere's application virtualization technology, that app can then continue to be used offline. Amazon WorkSpaces requires a constant internet connection and any interruption to that connection will prevent software titles from being usable.

Cost-per-user: AppsAnywhere's cost-per-user is very low, due to its smart provisioning, contextual delivery, and its ability to offer insight into how delivery technologies are used, AppsAnywhere usually reduces delivery costs in comparison to delivery estates not using it. Amazon WorkSpaces manages to absorb some of the 'hidden costs of VDI' by including them in its overall cost. However, VDI is still an extremely expensive technology, and even inexpensive VDI can cost more than alternative delivery technologies.

Scalability: AppsAnywhere is simple and affordable to implement at scale thanks to smart provisioning, its ability to fine-tune which delivery methods are used in each context, and also due to the insight provided by AppsAnywhere Analytics. Amazon WorkSpaces' 'pay-as-you-go' model means it is much more scalable from a cost perspective. However, it is still not a viable approach to attempt to deliver all university software using WorkSpaces, even if WorkSpaces were capable of this.

Performance with graphics-intensive apps: AppsAnywhere allows IT to select the most appropriate delivery method for graphically-intensive apps so they can be delivered with a high-quality user experience. Amazon WorkSpaces will perform well with graphics-intensive applications providing there as a solid and strong network connection. If the network is spotty or unreliable then performance is compromised. Even with the most solid network connection, however, graphics-intensive applications have the potential to drive usage costs very high.

Available fully hosted: AppsAnywhere isn't available fully-hosted, though many of its integrations are. Amazon WorkSpaces is a fully-hosted solution, hosted in Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Available on-premise: AppsAnywhere is an on-premise solution. WorkSpaces is not available on-premise.

Analytics/reporting engine: AppsAnywhere Analytics provides insight into usage data on a number of key metrics to help inform provisioning decisions and reduce costs across the board in software delivery. Amazon WorkSpaces publishes performance-based data-points to Amazon CloudWatch for analysis and diagnostics.

Front-end portal: AppsAnywhere provides a consistent and simple-to-use front-end interface for every single app it delivers; to the end-user, the experience never changes whether you're delivering cross-platform, Windows apps or Mac apps, etc. WorkSpaces provides a basic front end with a consistent experience throughout Windows apps, however, though users will have to use an entirely different tool for delivery of non-Windows apps.

Key capabilities

All the features and capabilities of traditional VDI

WorkSpaces is a VDI solution, and so all the features, benefits, and functionality you would expect to see in VDI deployments are present in WorkSpaces. Much of Amazon's marketing around this product focuses on how rapidly deployments can be made, how workflows and app delivery can be simplified, and how costs can be reduced versus providing physical machines. You can read more here.

Free to implement

Much like Windows Virtual Desktop, Amazon WorkSpaces is free to implement and universities pay based on usage. The means upfront costs are technically zero and universities only pay for what they use. 

Many 'hidden VDI costs' are absorbed

CALs and VDA licenses are absorbed into the cost of Amazon WorkSpaces, and so they will not crop up as unexpected costs during implementation. If a university already owns CALs or VDA licenses then the cost can be deducted from WorkSpaces usage costs. As WorkSpaces is fully in AWS, expensive VDI server infrastructure, and specialist staff are not necessary.

'Pay as you go'

With WorkSpaces', universities only pay for what they use, making this a more affordable and financially viable solution than legacy VDI such as Citrix or VMware.


Amazon WorkSpaces is a solid VDI technology with a pricing structure that makes it more accessible and scalable for universities than legacy VDI. However, it is still subject to many of the historic pitfalls to VDI and the fact that it is predominantly designed for commercial enterprise usage.

Can't deliver 100% of Windows apps

Amazon WorkSpaces offers ServerOS. This, in itself, is not a problem, however, ServerOS is widely known to have trouble delivering certain software titles. Inconveniently, many of these are higher education titles. AppsAywhere can work alongside Amazon WorkSpaces to deliver those applications through application virtualization.

Can only deliver Windows apps

WorkSpaces is incapable of delivering Mac applications, which can be limiting to student groups and courses that may require this. It means that other technologies are necessary to deliver non-Windows apps to managed and BYO devices. AppsAnywhere can achieve this and work in unison with WorkSpaces to provide an excellent user-experience while delivering 100% of academic software titles, Windows or otherwise.

Can't utilize end-hardware

Being a VDI technology, WorkSpaces pixel-streams to end devices with applications being run and executed server-side. In some situations, this is a benefit, however it means that graphically-intensive apps can demand a lot of network bandwidth, require a constantly strong network connection and that WorkSpaces cannot leverage end-device hardware, which many consider to be an 'untapped resource' in higher education software delivery. AppsAnywhere's application virtualization technology allows IT to make use of the hardware in, often powerful, student-owned devices, helping to keep VDI usage costs/server infrastructure requirements low.

Software can't be used offline

Another flaw of VDI's approach to executing applications on a server and pixel-streaming to the end device means that a constant and reliable network connection is required. This means that should the connection be insufficient or drop out, students will no longer be able to use their apps. WorkSpaces is no exception to this. Once again, AppsAnywhere's application virtualization technology provides a solution to this as, once software has been virtualized and delivered, the network connection is no longer necessary and student can continue to use apps on the move or during internet disruptions.


Amazon WorkSpaces sits somewhere between Windows Virtual Desktop and legacy VDI solutions when it comes to cost, with WVD coming in as the cheapest option and legacy solutions being so expensive that they're not viable as anything other than an exception for many universities.

CALs/VDA licenses

WVD is the only VDI solution capable of truly removing these costs, however, WorkSpaces is able to include them in its costs to keep them to a minimum and prevent them from cropping up after budgets have been calculated. Neither of these licenses affect the cost of AppsAnywhere itself as it is not a VDI solution, rather it can integrate with all leading VDI technology.


Just like WVD Amazon WorkSpaces is a service-based model and so the cost paid is proportional to usage. With measured usage, WorkSpaces' costs can be kept to a minimum. While AppsAnywhere does involve upfront costs on a license-based model, its cost does not go up with usage over time, providing a reliable technology to use in the majority of contexts which can then integrate with VDI technologies, such as WorkSpaces, where necessary.

Potential for cost savings elsewhere

Amazon WorkSpaces is cheaper than traditional VDI due to a number of previously mentioned features. In this sense, it can reduce costs if switching from another, legacy VDI technology. However, VDI is still expensive. AppsAnywhere, through its provisioning tools, context detection, and reporting engine, Analytics can deliver insight into how software is delivered and needs to be delivered, as well as setting automated provisioning logic to ensure students are accessing their software in the most appropriate and cost-effective way possible.


Hosted using Amazon Web Services (AWS), universities using WorkSpaces can be confident that their data is safe and secure. AWS is a tried and tested hosting platform with a long history of providing cloud storage for a range of organizations, from commercial to higher ed. As with many VDI solutions, the only real risk to data security comes from the end of users, and so VPNs are highly advisable as an added layer of security. 

AppsAnywhere has the ability to be hosted on-premise or in a university's chosen cloud platform, including AWS. Both of these options offer the highest possible level of security required by universities.

Continuity of education

In disruptive periods, VDI solutions offer a method of deploying software to non-managed machines off-campus. One of the key benefits of Amazon WorkSpaces is its 'pay as you go' model, with the ability to be 'switched on' without a lengthy implementation process and installation of physical infrastructure. This allows universities to react to disruptions to service, such as the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, quickly and effectively, ensuring continuity to education. However, similar to other hosted VDI solutions, WorkSpaces cannot circumvent license agreements that only allow software titles to be run on-campus. This is where AppsAnywhere is better positioned to react to these circumstances, with the ability to call upon any of the leading delivery technologies to ensure that 100% of student's academic software can be delivered to them while remote studying or otherwise off-campus and to ensure continuity of education.

Conclusion and recommendation

WorkSpaces is a strong VDI solution for higher education when compared with legacy technologies, such as Citrix or VMware. One of its biggest strengths is its pay-by-usage model. However, it seems to have a prominent focus on commercial and enterprise usage and offers ServerOS, meaning it may struggle to deliver 100% of Windows apps; particularly higher education software titles. While WorkSpaces is a worthy consideration, we would recommend considering Windows Virtual Desktop as an alternative VDI solution; it has the potential to be a more effective delivery tool and also a cheaper one.

AppsAnywhere helps IT identify contexts and provision using the most appropriate technology. It integrates with all leading delivery technologies and features the best higher education application virtualization technology on the market. We strongly advise using application virtualization as a workhorse and go-to technology in order to deliver software with the best user experience for students and the best cost-per-user of higher ed IT. Imaging should be reserved for essential applications on managed machines and specialist labs. VDI should be used only where absolutely necessary to keep costs at a minimum and traditional access methods should be users everywhere possible; for example, for FOSS apps, always provide a download link.

Some useful & related reading..

The ultimate guide to VDI

The ultimate guide to VDI

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The ultimate guide to application virtualization

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