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Reversing CoIT: A Private Cloud for the Small Business & Home User

A Contributed Article from Amir Husain, President & CEO, VDIworks

Look through the pages of a tech magazine, and you can't miss the new buzz-word; The Consumerization of IT (CoIT). It refers to the fact that users are now exposed to new, cool technology at an individual level before their employer has had an opportunity to adopt the same. In a nutshell, the information worker's raised expectations of corporate IT result from his own experiences as a consumer. And IT departments have to keep up! This phenomenon was particularly pronounced with the adoption of mobile devices like the iPhone, which were initially not thought of as "enterprise capable". It turned out that whatever IT departments thought about the product, consumers loved it. They brought it to work with them. They liked the experience so much that they started clamouring for the ability to check their work email on it. And before you could say "Blackberry Enterprise Server", IT departments figured out ways in which to integrate iPhones, iPads and Android devices into the overall corporate infrastructure. How, is a story for another day, but in this article, I want to look at the flip side of the CoIT phenomenon.

Just like there are technologies that deliver benefits to the consumer and make a fashionably later entry into business environments, there are also architectural improvements that occur on the enterprise side first, which then trickle down to the consumer at home. That's the traditional model, after all. The model that brought the power of main frame computers to home PCs. Are there problems that enterprise IT technology could solve for the home and small business user today? I certainly think so. One of these would be Desktop Virtualization, or VDI. It would be a great stretch to assert that any benefits VDI or its sister technologies, such as Desktops-as-a-Service, deliver have actually touched the home user yet. The fact is that with one or two exceptions, such as the interesting OnLive gaming service, these architectures haven't been adopted at any great scale by consumers. Why? The answer is simple. Expense, complexity, and the fact that all of these architectures don't scale down to a home IT environment, or even a small business environment. Are the benefits of DaaS, VDI, Private Clouds etc. going to forever be limited to the confines of datacenters with endless rows of racks? Will there ever be an "Apple II" moment for VDI and DaaS, which brings them into our homes?

For many reading this, one obvious question is, "But aren't consumers using all the fancy enterprise technology deployed in these datacenters over the wire anyway?" True in part, but we're not quite all the way there. Let's look at my own example. I have several computers at home, including a couple for the kids, one that my wife uses, another one in my home office, one in the media room and a couple attached to other TVs in the house. We also have several laptops, tablets and smartphones in the home. My kids are typical gung-ho computer users who have grown up with an excess of technology and consequently, do not fear it. They don't worry about what installing 300 games will do to their OS, or the effects of fragmentation or the importance of security and data backups. They create wonderful digital drawings of Jurassic era T-Rex vs. Spinosaur fights, and undersea-scapes, show them to their proud parents, store them on the desktop or wherever else on their PCs and expect that they will always remain, immune from loss. They open 20 Flash tabs with games streaming in from CartoonNetwork.com, friv.com and God-knows-where-else, and expect that everything will run smoothly, with zero problems. They want to be able to run their favourite iPad games on the PC and their PC games on the iPad. They think its stupid that they can't. Their expectations may seem high, but they are what our attitude towards technology should be. Ultimately, it should all "just work". Why shouldn't all our data just always persist regardless of where and how we store it? Shouldn't performance sort of take care of itself? 

While the specific applications (i.e. games, augmented reality camera apps, the excellent Scratch programming language from MIT and numerous others) that drive my kids' user experiences are very different from what a corporate IT department deals with, the underlying expectations - and the burden they create on IT - are about the same. "Dad" might be the IT department at home, but he deals with many of the same user-facing issues corporate IT guys grapple with. Now, there are ways in which the enterprise has addressed many of these issues. To allow access to any app from any device, VDI, DaaS, Presentation Virtualization and remote access provide some answers. To handle users carelessly storing data anywhere on their system and expecting it to all be backed up and secure, persistent Virtual Machines in a hosted setup fit the bill. To manage performance scaling as a user demonstrates sporadic needs for more horsepower (i.e. the 20 Flash games running all at once!), dynamic resource scaling in a VM holds the answer. For anywhere, anytime access to data and documents created at any endpoint, over-the-cloud access to a DaaS set-up might be a solution. 

So what if we could bring all these enterprise technologies to the home without spending a fortune and without needing IBM Global Services to the do the implementation?! We'd have to use software that was simple to install, that had all the required pieces pre-integrated (e.g. remote access gateway, management, VM creation, brokering) and could run on sub-$1K PCs. Most of all, it has to be free. Not licensed on a per-core basis, not sold at $200 per seat. But free. That's a good price of entry for the average Joe. At VDIworks, that's exactly what we've been working on. We've essentially taken an entire DaaS (Desktops as a Service) technology stack, powered by a free Hypervisor (Citrix XenServer) and shrunk it down into a single web based application, DaaSManager. This app lets you create Virtual Machines easily on a single server - perhaps one VM each for the kids, the wife and yourself. It then provides you remote access via a built in gateway so that you can access these VMs from within the house and externally, from anywhere in the world. And finally, it gives you universal access via HTML5 and native clients so that whether you have a laptop, an iPad, an Android phone or your PC at the office, you can get to your Virtual Desktop (VM) regardless. 

So there you have it. A Private Cloud for the Home User. 

I can hear some background chatter though. What's that? Someone seems to be suggesting that home users should just use rented desktops in the Cloud. Hmm. At $30/month per desktop or 10c per desktop, per hour without persistent storage? Really? And with that single home-based broadband connection pulling in multi-media experiences for 4-6 users at the same time? No way! Oh, and there's another one: isn't this all too complex for a home user to handle? Well, we don't think so. And we know it's definitely a LOT less complex than dealing with all the issues that you do today, without this technology. And finally, the guy in the back: doesn't this defeat the purpose of Cloud Storage offered by Google Drive, SkyDrive and others? Well, this is not just a storage story, it's an experience story - it combines storage and compute - and it actually plays very well with Google Drive, Sky Drive and other Cloud based storage technologies. In fact, since all your "desktops" are now just a single file, i.e. a VM, why not sync them at night with your SkyDrive or Google Drive? Presto, you have Cloud based backup and remote disaster recovery for your entire desktop. Just a few years ago, large financial services companies paid dozens of millions of dollars to achieve exactly that capability. You can have it almost for free.

Can technologies like these create a reverse-CoIT trend? Why shouldn't they? If the Enterprise can teach the home user, just as the home user has taught the Enterprise, we're all better off because of it. After all, don't we move forward by learning from and melding together the best of our experiences so that we positively impact our daily lives? Isn't that what progress is all about?

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About the Author

Amir Husain is the president and CEO of VDIworks, an Austin, Texas-based developer of VDI management software. He holds over a dozen filed and awarded patents in virtualization and cloud computing. Amir was the CTO and currently sits on the board of ClearCube Technology, the world's first developer of PC Blade and Connection Brokering technology. Amir is also a board member at Pepper.pk, the maker of 3 World #1 Mobile Applications and Wheel InnovationZ, a Texas-based stealth startup focused on mobile cloud computing.

Published Monday, July 30, 2012 9:58 AM by David Marshall
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Reversing CoIT: A Private Cloud for the Small Business & Home User « VT News - (Author's Link) - July 30, 2012 10:30 AM
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