I had the opportunity to sit down with The Sixth Flag CEO Pete Kofod at the DataCenter Converged Internet Conference in San Francisco a few days ago, where I chaired the Security+Risk and the IT+Networks discussions. (Pete was a panelist in a discussion of VDI vs. DaaS (Desktop-as-a-Service) that was coincidentally moderated by ZDNet's own David Chernicoff.)
Pete and I spoke briefly before the session and he showed me -- on my Acer Chromebook 720p -- how I could log on to his DaaS solution, desktop.tsf, and have a fully functional Windows desktop. All the security of ChromeOS and none of the baggage of Windows, but with all the Windows goodness one can handle.
The funny part of this story is that while he ran Windows on my Chromebook, I had the thought that even if my Chromebook could support the Windows OS, the drive capacity is far too small for a minimal installation of Windows.I listened carefully while Mr. Kofod explained how I could print, connect to the Internet, have email, Office, sound, and all the amenities of Windows while keeping my Chrome OS security intact. This is what a virtual desktop should be: easy, portable, accessible, and secure.
But for those of you who like a bit more horsepower and a desktop footprint, the Chromebook isn't your only choice. The Sixth Flag's desktop.tsf product works just as well on the Chromebox. The Chromebox, in case you don't know, is the diminutive and inexpensive Chrome OS-based desktop-style computer to which you can connect a physical network, an external monitor, an external keyboard, an external mouse, and other peripherals. Chromeboxes, like Chromebooks, generally cost in the $150 to $250 range.
All Chrome OS devices are very secure. They have a minimal Linux operating system installed on an SSD that basically provides you with a web-centric computer. If the application you want to use is web-based, then it will likely work on a Chrome device.
So, what The Sixth Flag provides is a way to run all of your Windows applications in a very secure environment, but without all the hassles of having to manage dozens, hundreds, or thousands of desktops.
He also showed me the management portal where you can setup user and group permissions, custom desktop images, and access to applications, for example.
If you have contingent workers, kiosks, training systems, or other public access computers that you don't want modified or damaged, Pete has a solution for that too. This type of desktop is wiped clean upon shutdown/logoff. This means that each time a user connects, he or she is presented with a fresh environment in which to work.
Virtual desktop computing has been one of my favorite topics since I attended VMworld 2008. Virtual desktop computing is not just a trend, but a way of doing business that removes the pressures and costs of managing locally-stored desktop operating systems to the cloud or to virtualized infrastructure.
The Sixth Flag solution further minimizes desktop management into discrete images that you supply. This means that you only manage a single image per user type. For example, instead of handing out 500 laptops, each with its own operating system, complement of applications, drivers, and anti-malware software, you create a few images, separate them into user groups, and supply your users with a URL, a username, and a password.
Chromebooks and Chromeboxes are excellent vehicles for this type of deployment. If the Chrome OS device is lost, stolen, or damaged, you're only out $200, but your data is safe because there's no data stored locally on the Chromebook. And if you don't like cloud-based solutions, Pete informed me that there's an on-premise option as well.
About The Sixth Flag, Inc.
From the company's web site: "The Sixth Flag Inc., is a Raleigh, NC-based Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) firm for global teams and organizations in need of remote desktop management solutions. Launched in 2015, TSF provides a web based, cost-effective and secure throw away desktop for today's global, mobile teams."