Amazon WorkSpaces – Using Chromebook in Kiosk-Mode to Access Your WorkSpace
As I continue to focus on Amazon Web Services from a certification and general knowledge perspective, I find myself being more and more intrigued with Amazon WorkSpaces. If you’re not familiar with WorkSpaces, it is AWS’ fully managed, desktop service (DaaS) which runs in the AWS cloud. It allows you to quickly, and simply, launch virtual desktops that can be accessed anywhere with Internet access.
Although I’ve spent some time in the EUC space deploying and managing Horizon View (in conjunction with my other duties as a Sr. Systems Admin), I’ve not had an opportunity to play around with many end user devices such as thin clients, Chromebooks, etc. However, I’ve always been intrigued by the potential cost savings and the operational benefits of said devices in the enterprise. Moreso, the security that this solution offers by maintaining company data in the data center (private or public cloud) and not on the mobile device is tremendously valuable to businesses as well.
Like most EUC platforms, Amazon offers their WorkSpace client for a multitude of operating systems, including Windows, Chrome OS, Android, iOS, and more. This allows greater flexibility for customers, giving them a choice to use their preferred device while offering easier consumption of the service itself. And as I continue to gain more expertise around Amazon WorkSpaces, it would naturally lead me to test and experiment with client devices.
Enter Chromebook, a device that, until now, I’ve never owned or experimented with before. If you’ve never played with one, it’s an extremely slim and easy to use operating system designed primarily for web applications. It allows users the ability to download Chrome extensions to increase functionality and connect to online services, such as you guessed it, Amazon WorkSpaces. Chrome OS includes a native feature called Kiosk Mode that allows users (or admins) to lock a device down to run a single application. Not only does this secure the device but it can also drive the device’s purpose by auto-launching directly into the desired application upon booting, a perfect solution for any EUC platform, especially cloud-based DaaS.
As mentioned above, the simplest way to use Chromebook to access your desktop is to use Kiosk Mode along with setting the Amazon WorkSpaces client to Auto-Launch for quick and easy access. The steps outlined below will enable you to quickly configure the Chromebook for this scenario. Keep in mind that my Chromebook is not managed by Chrome Management Console, a paid service that allows organizations to manage their Chrome devices from a single console.
i. Download and install the Amazon WorkSpaces client – you can find it at clients.amazonworkspaces.com
ii. In a new Chrome tab, type chrome://extensions and press enter
iii. Scroll down and grab the application ID of the Amazon WorkSpaces client (see screenshot below)
iv. Check the box next to Developer Mode
v. Click the Manage Kiosk Applications button
vi. Enter the application ID in the box and click Add
vii. Click Auto-Launch next to Amazon WorkSpaces to have Chromebook boot directly to the application
At this point, you should be able to launch the Amazon WorkSpaces client and add your registration code. Now, you should be able to reboot the Chromebook and have it boot directly to the Amazon WorkSpaces client and log into your desktop.
NOTE: If options are not available during the configuration, such as “Set to Auto-Launch”, you may need to wipe your device (to wipe any accounts already created) and enable Kiosk-Mode at first boot. Check this article for instructions to wipe your Chromebook. After the device is wiped and the initial wizard starts, connect to the network but don’t log in. When prompted for credentials, press CTRL-ALT-K to enable Kiosk-Mode.