Amazon AppStream - Let The Cloud Do The Heavy Lifting
Written by Alex Armstrong   
Thursday, 14 November 2013

Amazon AppStream is a new service that deploys and renders apps on AWS infrastructure and streams the output to personal computers, tablets, and mobile phones, overcoming the limitations of the devices.

Amazon launched two new cloud services at AWS re:Invent being held in Seattle.

The new Workspaces service provides a fully manged desktop computing service in the cloud that allows end-users to access the documents, applications and resources they need with the device of their choice, including laptops, iPad, Kindle Fire, or Android tablets.

This isn't a revolutionary idea. It is a logical extension of a virtual machine and already has an acronym, DaaS - Desktop as a Service. In the past this approach hasn't been popular for performance issues but this hasn't stopped Microsoft from launching its Remote Desktop app for iOS and Android which has proved to be a very popular download. It seems only logical that Amazon with its hardware resources should get involved DaaS and as a result it is something that is likely to become more popular with companies. 


AppStream is a very similar service - it lets mobile app developers transfer the resource intensive parts of their apps, in particular game graphics, to Amazon's cloud-based virtual servers. This sounds like a hosted app but the idea is to let the server process the graphics and feed the results as a series of frames to the client app.  Essentially this is a streaming approach to creating an app and the client end can be reduced to rendering the stream and user interaction. Currently clients can run on FireOS, Android, iOS and Windows. Mac OS X support will arrive next year. 

The technology is based on using H.264 encoding via UDP delivery dynamically adapting to whatever bandwidth is available. The user's "back channel" is handled by a TCP connection. Amazon calls the technology STX Protocol. 

There is, of course, a new API for it all and existing apps will need to be modified. After the free trial period is over the cost is set at $0.83 per hour

The concept is described in this promo video:


Using Amazon AppStream, your games and applications are no longer constrained by the hardware in your customer’s hands.

The benefits for the developer include instant multi-platform support. Write your app once and stream it to different device platforms by writing a small client to connect to it. Scaling becomes automatic and updating is also made easy - you just upload one new version to Amazon AppStream.

Users no longer face the delays associated with large file downloads and time-consuming installations - they can start using your app or game immediately. And of course you are no longer hampered by the constraints of users' devices so no more requirements for GPU, CPU and storage.


Amazon AppStream is currently only available as a Limited Preview and developers are being invited to sign up to join a waiting list. You'll need an AWS account to be able to use the service.

The big questions that have to be answered concern the frame rate and latency that can be achieved using current connectivity and, of course, whether it will be a cost effective way to deliver your app. 



More Information

Amazon AppStream

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