What's more economical than a web-based desktop?

Summary:Web-based desktops. A concept so dirty that it has to be associated with The Cloud. It's even dirtier to think that you can save a lot of money by embracing that concept.

The myGoya Online PC

The myGoya Online PC

Nothing. And, that would be the end of the story except that I really feel the need to convince you that there's nothing more economical than a web-based desktop. Since a lot of you are trying to save money these days (and who isn't?), you might want to take notice and not toss the idea before you have a chance to investigate it logically instead of reacting to it emotionally. Web-based desktops aren't a particularly new concept but their realistic adoption as a desktop alternative is relatively new. Web-based desktops have arrived and it's time to take a look at the economics of the decision to move to them.

If you haven't done so, you should go back in time a few days and read Glide OS: An evolutionary leap into web-based desktops.

Note: If you're a CIO or CTO, before you read the rest of this article, pull up your annual desktop computer support spreadsheet and take a good look at the numbers. Pay particular attention to a few of the column header labels: Operating systems, FTEs, Software, Hardware.

VDI = Cloud-based Desktops in Transition

If you're about to embark on a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) project of any size (300+ desktops), or already have embarked, you should know that your overall price tag is going to be very high--much higher than traditional desktops from every aspect and angle of that spreadsheet that you're looking at. Let me clarify that statement. You're going to spend a lot more money on VDI than you would than if you stayed with traditional desktop computing.

Why will you spend more money?

You'll still incur every cost associated with desktop computing plus the cost of the virtual desktop infrastructure to host the virtual desktops.

You can handle the VDI transition in a less expensive way by engaging a VDI provider and using their service. There are a few of them out there now ready to serve you. For a few dollars per month, you can sign up for a virtual desktop. And, it will be your highly regarded full-blown, fat desktop operating system--probably Windows, if I were to guess. But, even if you use Linux, you're still looking at a fat desktop environment with all of the same shortcomings as your current one. It might be virtual but that's the only difference.

You'll still need to manage any software that the provider doesn't give you. Who manages the patching? Does their patch schedule meet your SLAs to your customers? What about anti-virus software? And, what is the turn-around time for fixes on those leased desktops from the provider?

Sure, those things can be resolved but what you have to realize is that managing desktops, virtual or physical, and everything that goes with them is difficult and expensive.

Cloud = Freedom

It's silly but a lot of reasonable and competent IT people truly fear The Cloud. Maybe because it's outside their comfort zone but more probably because they feel a lack of control. Not control in the sense of choosing which data to save to The Cloud or saving that data to more than one location but control as in touchable control. IT people often feel the need to touch a system--to be able to break it themselves--to be able to work at the console--and to have that all-important physical access.

That kind of control is expensive.

I can remember a time when every IT nerd wanted to manage his very own web service, email service, DNS and even Internet News services. And, by manage, I mean that they wanted their very own local, physical server hardware onto which they installed their very own operating system and then manage the services that they installed.

Of course, it only took a few hacks and blacklistings to halt that desire. Most found that it is more economical to use service providers for email and web. And, to let them worry about DNS and the hundreds of gigabytes of porn associated with Internet News services.

Besides fear and control, what else makes the cloud so distasteful? Maybe those people don't understand what Cloud means.

The Cloud is defined as a bunch of computers, running hypervisors and virtual machines, that has three basic characteristics: Elasticity, On-demand Services and Fully-managed Services.

Maybe somewhere in that definition there's a goblin lurking that's just waiting either to destroy, to devour or to steal your most valued data. How can Cloud anything be negative? I see the problem now. It's not with the elastic nature or the on-demand capability. It's that fully-managed thing isn't it? There's that nasty control issue popping up again.

Well, control and trust.

Because not only must you have complete local access and control but you also don't trust anyone else's competence but your own.

I'd trust your competence, as a Cloud Hater, a lot more if:

  1. All of your computers were fully assembled, which means the cases have to be on them.
  2. All of your computers worked flawlessly.
  3. You'd never had a virus or malware infection of any kind.
  4. You really understood The Cloud.

For years, we IT people have been deprived of sleep, disparaged by our co-workers as weirdos and disliked by management because of our iron grip on the organizations that we support. The Cloud, my friends, is freedom. Freedom to innovate. Freedom to control that which need to be controlled. Freedom to sleep during the night. And, freedom to release your fears of the sinister Cloud.

Desktop systems can live in The Cloud without issue. And, don't bring up connectivity as your argument, I've heard it before and it still doesn't phase me. You know why? When your Internet connection is down, you don't do any work anyway. You walk around asking everyone if "They can get on the Internet." And, then you go for a smoke, a Coke or a walk. You feel duty bound to prove to the management that you absolutely cannot work without Internet access.

So, you don't work now when your access is gone, and you won't work if you have a cloud-based desktop--what's the difference?

Connectivity isn't that poor. If it is, you have bigger problems, like needing to fix that.

Desktops in The Cloud? Why not? It makes more sense financially than any other option.

Cloud = $avings

Yes, The Cloud offers cost savings over traditional desktop computing or VDI. And, web-based desktops that are cloud-hosted make the most sense of all. If you don't believe web-based desktops make financial sense, keep reading.

Web-based desktops are web applications. There's no operating system supporting the desktop. It is a series of web pages, controls and applications that create the illusion of a desktop operating system.

There's no VDI involved. There's no expensive infrastructure to purchase nor is there any to lease. There's no virtual machine density to discuss. And, there's no need for anything but a browser on the user's end. That means that each user could have a simple tablet or diskless workstation that connects them to their online computer.

You won't catch any viruses with a web-based desktop. No performance hit while your antivirus software scans a file. You'll never hear anyone say, "Wait while my system boots up." You won't have to deal with illegal or pirated software because there's nowhere to install it and it wouldn't work if you could. You can still print to local printers, in the rare case that you would need to.

Users will never be stranded because their computer is broken because anything with a web browser will get them to where they need to be.

If you need applications that the provider doesn't give you, use your Citrix or 2X application servers to provide them.

Everyone looks for economies of scale, when scale means bigger and more. You should be looking at economies of scale that mean less as in less money flowing out of your hands. Web-based desktops will do that for you.

So, have a look back at that spreadsheet again and you tell me how much you can save by moving to web-based desktops. And, then write me a check for one-tenth the amount you save. If enough companies do that, I can retire early.

Topics: Hardware, Browser

About

Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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