Ever get the sense that the IT world is changing too quickly. Well hang on because this ice berg is going to flip. Virtualization and cloud computing are the latest buzz words in the IT world. Virtualization allows companies to consolidate equipment while maintaining service – essentially a cost saving exercise. Cloud computing, a reference to clouds drawn on IT diagrams, is a concept where the servers are not local to a company but are out-there somewhere on the net. Applied to desktops, virtualization and cloud computing may change the nature of computing and cause large shifts in the IT marketplace.
Cloud-computing based desktop virtualization is a disruptive technology. In the last thirty years, computing power has been distributed from a mainframe to the desktop. Desktop virtualization will recreate that mainframe experience but with much more flexibility. With cloud computing, computing power will become a commodity and the desktop computer, the one you use on a daily basis, will become more of a terminal. At the extreme, the desktop computer may be replaced by a simple internet device that has no software.
The benefits to organizations basically come down to a tremendous savings in the total cost of ownership. Most companies are not IT savvy and don’t want to be: IT is not their core competency. They want to buy IT capabilities the same way they buy power or other utilities. Virtualization and cloud computing will provide this opportunity. Complex corporate IT infrastructure will become a thing of the past with many companies able to use networks about as sophisticated as the one in your home. Companies will not have to own, manage, upgrade, expand or deal with IT infrastructure.
Imagine your Internet service provider giving you and your co-workers each a simple computing device along with your corporate or home internet connection. You use this device to connect with a powerful server somewhere in the cloud. All your applications and data are there, protected in a data center with lots of bandwidth available to you. Sound far out? Well then, read about HP or Verizon’s plans with Desktone. And Desktone is not alone: the number of new entrants in this market is growing quickly. Also read Reuven Cohen’s blog “The Desktop Cloud“.
The implications are huge:
- Organizational change: The biggest reason most “office workers” go to the office is because that is where the IT infrastructure is. Desktop virtualization will change this. If you have access to your desktop from any internet connection and are well supported by collaborative tools, why do you need to go to the office every day? To attend meetings? What else? Could you have Meeting Monday’s and stay home the rest of the time?
- Restructuring in the IT sector: What will happen to all the IT staff at all the companies that no longer have any IT?
- No more software to buy: Everything will become a subscription service with a pay-as-you-go approach. You will not have to buy, install, register or configure any software. Software licenses will have to change accordingly. As a commodity, this model will not support license fees. Open source software will have a tremendous advantage here.
- Microsoft can only lose: As the leader, commodity pricing will reduce their revenue. They will be competing with to Sun, Google, Amazon, IBM and others that can provide the VDI service without any Microsoft software. Google is well on the way with its Google Apps and now Chrome. In addition, the Microsoft operating system and desktop designs do not lend themselves to the cloud computing / virtualized desktop space and require special management solutions. Again, I see an opportunity for open source solutions here such as Ulteo.
- Internet service providers will win: They are in the best position to provide the service. The last quarter mile problem of getting high-bandwidth to the desktop will be reduced. Rural areas may be well served by high-speed dialup connections.
- Data centers will win: All the cloud computing servers will have to be hosted somewhere.
- Multi-media may suffer: Streaming applications that use lots of bandwidth may not work very well when going from source to server to client.
- Value added services will win: Sales of software will be replaced by subscriptions to service providers and contracts to value-added integrators. IBM has already embraced this model with tremendous support for open source software projects but they make their money from contracting services.
- More freedom: The controls over what you can access on the internet will be determined by where the server is located, not by where you are connected to the internet. People in China or Turkey will be able to benefit from servers in more liberal countries that have full access to the internet. (Then again, countries with restrictive Internet policies may ban these services as well.)
- More danger: the possibilities for malicious use are higher. Like off-shore banking used to evade taxes, cloud computing can be used to hide all sorts of nefarious wrong doing.
- The end of Moore’s law for the desktop: The main computer sold will become a simple device with a browser, screen, mouse, keyboard and an internet connection. Or it will be your phone.
Let me know what you think.