Is it time for desktop on the cloud?

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Recently, I was in a meeting in which one of the participant’s computers crashed.  We were in an offsite meeting so it was difficult for him to get a replacement computer.  This got me thinking about desktop on the cloud.

How can desktop on the cloud help with my colleague’s situation? If all of the user data is on the cloud, there are several options to get users back up and running.

Once cheap tablets have all the processing power needed for daily tasks, companies can stockpile tablets ready to be delivered to users. The users could borrow anyone’s device and log into their personal desktop on the cloud. Critical documents could be easily accessed through other devices owned by the individual such as cell phones, tablets, thin clients and notebooks. No information loss would occur since everything is backed up and stored remotely.

Are we already using desktop on the cloud? Without an Internet connection, I find that I can do very little. I can read my email, but in order to respond I need to look up something that is either on the company intranet or on the Internet. Without this connectivity, I sit with a bunch of emails responses in draft mode.  In contrast, my daughter recently received a new cell phone which automatically backs up to the cloud and syncs with other devices — without her even knowing it she is on the cloud.

So this leads me to ask questions:

  • Which is more important – the physical device or communicating with other systems?
  • What value does the physical machine really offer?

Importance of interconnected systems

Soon I will be receiving a new computer with a Linux operating system. Many of the applications I currently use are Windows based. Some of them can be run on Linux, but most will need to be run in a virtual machine.

I plan on trying out desktop on the cloud to see how this compares to running on a local virtual machine. As part of the migration to my new desktop computer, I was offered the opportunity to purchase a backup device. After thinking about it, I realized that all of my important information was already on the cloud or backed up to other systems. Examples of this include centralized source control repositories, documents contained in Lotus Notes team rooms or on our internal connections sites, and email.

Value of a physical machine

Reading this post on developerWorks sparked my curiosity on how desktop on the cloud could help keep my desktop up to date. Since it isn’t a persistent system, each time I start the desktop all patches would already be applied.

I usually think of a remote desktop as a system that would exist after I log off and contain exactly the same content when I returned. But is that really necessary? As long as my user created data is available do I need to have the same system each time I want to use it?  Wouldn’t I expect a different experience when I logged in with a phone, tablet or pc?

I keep thinking about net appliances. A few years ago they were the hot topic. However, they never took off as advertised due to lack of connectivity. I would argue that this is occurring now because of cell phones and tablets. It is hard to force change due to the fear of change. It is much easier to entice users to incrementally use new functionality on the cloud. Examples include music streaming, backup, and syncing across devices. I think that desktop on the cloud won’t be something that users decide that they want to use, but more of an evolution. The day will come when users realize that they are using desktop on the cloud. Or are we already there?

What are your thoughts on desktop on the cloud? Is it time to embrace it?

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