Tuesday, November 10, 2009

VMWare and SaaS really can make office PCs a cheap commodity

Any business that is vaguely serious about their IT infrastructure and its security is probably worried about the cost and hassle involved with keeping their PC software up to date and operating effectively. Then comes the need to replace a bunch of PCs or handle a damaged laptop, and the day to day management of updates becomes an even bigger hassle for the IT team.

There are a huge number of day-to-day and one-off expenses associated with maintaining a PC infrastructure that are associated with the software on the PC, rather than the hardware itself. When the PC and associated software should help people get their jobs done, rather than waste their time, its easy to see why many companies are looking for alternatives to the Dell + Windows + expensive service contract approach to desktop management.

Fortunately there has been a recent explosion of alternatives. In the last week we have seen Ubuntu, the easy to install and use Linux desktop, release version 9.10. That release competed in the same launch timeframe as the 200 dollar upgrade to Windows 7 Professional, which does little to change the status quo. We are seeing an aggressive push by Google to get the ultimately easy to maintain office productivity suite (all you have to maintain is the browser on the desktop, not even fileservers or email), with a 50 dollar per year pricepoint. Zoho provide a a more feature rich alternative to Microsoft Office online than Google, and Microsoft Office is competing with itself in the online, zero management hassles space.

Now VMWare has announced its newest version of virtualization for the desktop, allowing you to handle user PC desktops as a managed service, running centrally much like Citrix used to offer, but done differently. Something goes wrong with a user's PC? Get a new lump of hardware and they are up and running just as before. Add twenty new employees this month? Just hit 'go' to provision their desktop environment on the server and make sure they have a lump of hardware to run it (I know of a large insurance company that was doing this for the last two years for their home-based workers, to great success).

Oh Mr Dell, the hardware is so much less important now - as long as it works. Maybe you'll go back to your roots of building cheap, reliable hardware through an innovative supply chain and assembly model, rather than trying to compete with Apple (or even Sony or HP), who can market the expensive, desirable personal PC products so much better. My six year old Dell laptop is so much more robust and reliable than the two year old equivalent my wife bought, but if my wife's PC were a disposable price and easy to switch out to another box with no delay or hassle I might just do it.

Maybe we all need virtualized desktops. We appear to have accepted that PC hardware is consumable, a commodity that will get used then added to a festering pile of toxic waste on a foreign shore, as much as we hide from the horrible reality. So for business's sake, let's make hardware cheap, with no frills (and therefore a big percentage less waste to pretend we might recycle). Alternatively, leave a pile of solid, built to last desktop PCs under desks in offices, for use on a first-come, first-served basis, and hand out cheap Netbooks for the traveling workers who want convenience and mobile access to their applications anywhere. What makes these models work in practice? Separating the software from the users' hardware, with all the software that people run managed centrally, with VMWare hosted desktops in our your own server rooms, Ubuntu servers in the cloud, office apps at Google, CRM at Salesforce, oh and don't forget business processes managed run by Consected.

A post from the Improving It blog

To implement workflow and process automation in your business today, visit www.consected.com

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