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Amazon seeds cloud with apps that flow to streams

Stop us if you've heard this one before ...

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re:Invent 2013 Amazon Web Services (AWS') big day it ats re:Invent cloud shindig in fabulous Las Vegas may have been headlined by its disruptive entry into the desktop virtualisation market, but the company also announced a new tributary to its cloudy river in the form of the new AppStream service.

Here's how it works. You build and app and slam it up into the AWS cloud, preferably (from AWS' point of view and maybe yours) into one of the new super-sized GPU-powered g2 instances. You also cook up a client app to run on any old device you fancy: Windows, iOS devices, Kindle and Androids are already covered. The client hooks up to the server, which streams the app to the device. In your hand or on your desk a bit of processing goes on and users delight in whatever app you've decided needs this treatment.

Hang on – doesn't that sound a bit like any hosted app? Yes and no. AppStream is designed for graphics-intensive apps that would otherwise be hard to deliver to a mobile devices. Database interactions and so on happen as if it were any other mobile app, but sending frames of the app to the mobile device instead of just having a bit of data flying around in the background is a new-ish take on things.

AWS is talking up this idea as giving developers the chance to build lightweight apps that don't consume a lot of resources on the endpoint. They will, however, consume a fair bit of data: AWS will use the YUV 420 format for frames. It's possible to vary the frame rate but hard to imagine a decent user experience can be had much below the film industry's 24-per-second.

There's a bit of stop us if you've heard this one before about AppStream, especially if you worked with terminals or some flavours of client server that saw whole screens despatched to endpoint devices.

Whatever AppStream's origins, it has its own SDK, but AWS says it will be possible to adapt existing applications to the new environment. As ever there's a trial for which one can attempt to sign up. ®

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