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Personal Computing’s Reincarnation

  • January 2014
  • 12 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 2003750

Summary

Table of Contents

In this SPIE, Stratecast outlines advancements in alternative personal computing models—namely, USB portable workspace (USB-PW), client-hosted desktop virtualization (C-HDV), and server-hosted desktop virtualization (S-HDV)—in the context of a ranking matrix. This matrix consists of four dimensions: end-user device flexibility, session performance, security, and economy.

Introduction

The personal computer (PC) is not dead, but it is in need of an overhaul. Once the bastion of personal productivity in business, this fairly uniform computing model (i.e., the same utilitarian desktop profile provisioned to each end user’s physical PC) is generationally obsolete. End-user emphasis on personalization is a prominent driving factor in this need for a PC overhaul. Examples of this include:
Connected and Collaborative – The advent of multiple wired and wireless broadband options transformed the PC from being an isolated environment with narrow means of collaboration (e.g., store-and-forward email) to being part of multiple communal systems and cloud services. As such, the PC experience for end users is no longer defined exclusively by the applications run locally, but also by access to remotely hosted applications. Additionally, software proliferation is on steroids. Stimulated by specialized departmental needs, open source collaboration, publication of application programming interfaces (APIs), and the establishment of app stores, an era of end users personalizing their desktops has been ushered in—frequently with an eye toward enhancing their information gathering, productivity, and collaboration capabilities beyond those authorized by their employers.
Multi-device, Multi-platform – The PC is no longer the only tool in end users’ productivity toolboxes. Smartphones and tablets—company-supplied and user-owned— compete for end-user face time. Not only are there more devices in use—diversity in make and model is the norm. Furthermore, with the galloping trend of bring your own device (BYOD), this diversity is compounding.

While seemingly a positive idea—personalization to release end users’ inner creative potential—the operational dark side bubbles up too. From an IT perspective, desktop management and helpdesk duties are creeping upward; yet, efficiency and effectiveness are in a catch-up mode. Security and compliance professionals are equally behind in confidently and comprehensively answering “where is our sensitive data now?” Consequently, a retooling of the PC model is overdue; not only to support the agility and personalization requirements that end users and businesses covet, but also to lessen the burden and expense of lifecycle desktop management, and to fortify security.

In this SPIE, Stratecast outlines advancements in alternative personal computing models—namely, USB portable workspace (USB-PW), client-hosted desktop virtualization (C-HDV), and server-hosted desktop virtualization (S-HDV)—in the context of a ranking matrix. This matrix consists of four dimensions: end-user device flexibility, session performance, security, and economy.
Positively, the advancements are noteworthy and offer organizations bona fide alternatives to traditional physical PCs. Each alternative, however, is bound by circumstances that hinder mass adoption. Stratecast’s recommendations to increase the appeal for these alternative computing models are also included in this report.

Portable Desktop and its Location

Before describing the three alternative personal computing models, a brief background on the concept of a portable desktop, and the bearing that location has on performance, is presented first.

Common among alternative personal computing models is the concept of a portable desktop. The portable desktop contains the entire software stack of a traditional physical PC (i.e., operating system, company-selected applications such as Microsoft Office suite, user-selected applications, and user files and configurations). This software-only desktop is portable in the sense that it is not bound to one hardware device. Rather, the portable desktop can be hosted on other compatible hardware devices. The role of the host hardware is to power the portable desktop (electricity and computing resources) and function as the interface to peripherals and communication networks.

With the desktop portable, improving desktop management and reducing instances and length of end-user productivity disruptions are possible. For example, if the host device is lost or stolen, the portable desktop (provided a back-up exists) is replicated on a replacement host device in less time than provisioning a replacement physical PC. Similarly, if the operating system or application software become corrupted, a “golden image” of the corrupted software facilitates rapid recovery.

While there are important portability differences across the alternative personal computing models (e.g., range of compatible host devices), which will be discussed later, the portable desktop’s location is equally important. By location, Stratecast is referring to two locational dimensions: within the host device, and proximity to the end user. The first, within the host device, refers to whether the portable desktop operates directly on top of the host device’s hardware (native; no hypervisor) or on top of a hypervisor. Additionally, there are two types of hypervisors: Type I hypervisor (also referred to as bare metal), which runs directly on the host device’s hardware, and Type II hypervisor, which runs on top of the host device’s operating system.

The “within the host device” implications are:
Performance Degradation – Two performance implications associated with hypervisor-based models are: the virtualization tax2 and contention caused by multiple active desktops vying for the host device’s hardware resources. In practice, the magnitude and variation in performance degradation are partially controllable through technology and architecture (e.g., optimizing hypervisor operation, and the interplay with the host device’s hardware), and by good desktop management practices in sizing and configuring the host device’s hardware infrastructure based on realistic workload requirements; and then actively monitoring and managing this shared infrastructure.
Security Risk – The host device’s operating system and hypervisor operating below the portable desktop represent seams of security risk. As software, the operating system and the hypervisor are vulnerable to hacker exploits. Additionally, each is potentially outside the direct and continuous control of the issuing agent of the portable desktop (i.e., the IT organization); for example, in a BYOD (user-owned device) circumstance or in a subscribed service instance, such as desktop as a service (third-party environment). Also, similar to other forms of software, the likelihood and severity of a security incident or incidents is unpredictable and changeable over time. Nevertheless, security risk exists and should be evaluated relative to the sensitivity and criticality of the work performed through the portable desktop.

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