Windows 10 Performance on AWS

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a range of Windows 10 virtual desktops, called WorkSpaces. Let’s see how they perform.

The summary is that:

  1. A Standard Windows 10 WorkSpace performs similarly to a top of the range Dell laptop
  2. A Graphics Windows 10 WorkSpace performs similarly to a high performance Dell workstation.

That’s useful to know. If you want to give people access to a good all-round machine, then the Standard WorkSpace will do it. And if you want to give them access to a high performance machine occasionally, then a Graphics WorkSpace will do it. Meanwhile they can carry around a tablet like the Surface Pro for everyday convenience, and still have access to the whole range of Office 365 applications.

The costings are a bit of a surprise, but that will have to follow in another post.

First, the definition of the WorkSpaces. AWS offers four levels of performance for Windows 10:

Value 1 vCPU, 2 GiB Memory, 10 GB User Storage
Standard 2 vCPU, 4 GiB Memory, 50 GB User Storage
Performance 2 vCPU, 7.5 GiB Memory, 100 GB User Storage
Graphics 8 vCPU, 15 GiB Memory, 1 GPU, 4 GiB Video Memory, 100 GB User Storage

The Windows 10 WorkSpaces run a copy of Windows Server 2016, using one Datacenter Edition license for all copies running on the same host. So it is not quite accurate to call it a Windows 10 desktop. AWS describe it as: " a Windows 10 desktop experience, powered by Windows Server 2016." It makes no practical difference to the functionality, or the benchmarking.

An AWS WorkSpace is a virtual machine with a rudimentary system for brokering the machines to different users, and a remote access client. This, again, makes no difference to functionality or performance, but it explains why we have these categories (Value, Standard etc.) rather than the usual mix of ECS virtual machines.

The software I use for benchmarking is PassMark PerformanceTest. I have been using it for some time. It is a good product, and I have my own benchmarks from different types of machines to compare with. The methodology is very simple: start the machine; install the software; run the benchmark. Ideally you might do several runs, but I have not found that to be necessary.

Let’s get to the results. First the benchmarks for the different WorkSpaces.

Computer Value Standard Performance Graphics
CPU Mark 1774.9 3527.4 2450.8 7879.3
2D Graphics Mark 297.9 513.2 344.3 460.8
Memory Mark 742.3 1494.8 1647.9 1869.7
Disk Mark 801.2 805.8 880.9 1252.2
3D Graphics Mark N/A N/A N/A 3988.4
PassMark Rating 751.5 1223.2 1010.6 2652.2

The Performance WorkSpace is a surprise. This is configured with the same 2 vCPU as the Standard, and with more memory. But the results are lower than for the Standard. I checked this twice, and I ran the test again on the following day to confirm. The figures here are the best obtained. A possible reason is that this is configured with only one physical core, with hyperthreading enabled, whereas the Standard is two physical cores, with hyperthreading disabled. Whatever the reason, it is obviously not worth paying more for the Performance WorkSpace, unless you need the additional memory. It could really be called a "Memory" WorkSpace.

Here is the comparison with other machines. First the Standard WorkSpace compared with a Dell Latitude E7240, a good quality laptop.

Computer Standard E7240
CPU Mark 3527.4 3495.3
2D Graphics Mark 513.2 563.6
Memory Mark 1494.8 1166.1
Disk Mark 805.8 2186.2
3D Graphics Mark N/A 457.4
PassMark Rating 1223.2 1719.6

The Standard WorkSpace is comparable to a top of the range laptop like the E7240 (although that model is a bit old now). The CPU benchmark is comparable, although the SSD on the physical laptop is much faster than the virtualised SSD on the WorkSpace. The WorkSpace CPU is two cores on an Intel Xeon E5-2676, while the laptop CPU was 4 cores on an Intel Core i5-4210U.

Here is the Graphics WorkSpace compared with a Dell Precision M6700 mobile workstation (again, a bit old now):

Computer Graphics M6700
CPU Mark 7879.3 9520.0
2D Graphics Mark 460.8 754.0
Memory Mark 1869.7 2232.1
Disk Mark 1252.2 589.5
3D Graphics Mark 3988.4 956.0
PassMark Rating 2652.2 2075.0

We can see that:

  • CPU is comparable – 8 cores on an Intel Xeon E5-2670 against 8 cores on an Intel Core i7-3940XM
  • Disk is better than the Standard, not as good as the Dell laptop SSD, but better than the Dell workstation SATA
  • The graphics are outstanding

My overall impression is that I would be happy with the Standard WorkSpace as a substitute of a laptop, and very happy with the Graphics WorkSpace as a substitute for a workstation.

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