Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

Summary: Sometimes you have to beat a dead horse to make it understand that it's really dead. Desktop computing has failed. Get over it.

TOPICS: Hardware

My post, "Why desktop computing has failed," certainly stirred up a lot of controversy on both sides of the argument. Part of the problem is and was that some people don't read the written word very well. But, communication is a two-way interaction. It could be that I didn't effectively deliver my message. Let's look at the issues logically and see if we can come up with an answer.

I said that desktop computing has failed because, in my opinion, it has.

Desktop computing, not the PC, has failed. Remember, that I also wrote: "The Dawn of the Post-PC Era. Not.," just two weeks prior to the "Why desktop computing has failed" post.

It would be great if the world's population were made up of individuals who wanted the best for every other person on earth but, that isn't the case. There are people who want to rob you, kill you, or become you. There are people who want to break your computer.

That's one issue.

The other is a bit more difficult to discuss. I tried to be diplomatic about it in my first post but that didn't seem to be effective. In this one, I'll just lay it on the line.

Operating systems are very complex. Computers are complex. For technical types, maybe not, but for most people computers are black boxes that they don't understand.

In a corporate environment, system administrators can lock down the desktop if the following all apply:

  • Users work at a location staffed with IT support personnel.
  • Users can work remotely via VPN or other remote access points.
  • Remote control software installed to troubleshoot the end user's equipment.
  • The user isn't responsible for any updates or patches via client "pull."
  • The user can customize their computing environment.

Often locking down a user environment means that IT support personnel will be bogged down with trouble tickets that start out like: "I can't print," "I can't browse to <insert Internet site name here>," "I can't get email," or my personal favorite, "It says that I don't have sufficient permissions to perform that operation."

Locking down the desktop has some advantages and a lot of disadvantages. Sure, it's less work on the support staff, in theory, but even those locked-down desktops are a pain to maintain. How many Gold images do you have to keep hanging around because each time you order new laptops, you have to build a new Gold image that supports the new drivers? Pain.

How many times do you deploy your Gold image only to find out that you missed something and have to recreate the image and fix all those systems that had the Gold image placed on them? Pain.

And, now, the other issue. The bigger issue. The home user. You can't lock down millions of desktops can you? Someone always has a brother-in-law who is a self-proclaimed computer expert who'll come over and tinker for a few hours. Reinstall.

Viruses, malware, disk corruption, accidental file deletion, kids, tinkering experts or a drop onto the pavement when heading out to the coffee shop all make for very bad scenarios for individuals. Reinstall or replace.

At the corporate level, some have proposed moving the desktop away from the user because of this failure. That's called VDI or virtual desktop infrastructure. VDI is also a failure. I know I sound like a broken record on this issue but keep reading, it gets better. Trust me.

VDI moves the problem to the data center. Fat local desktops are still fat when you move them to the data center folks. What makes that better? Better control, you say? Yes, you can actually control 1,000 desktops better in the data center than you can on 1,000 laptops or mixture of laptops and standard desktops. I'll give you that.

You can lock down those virtual images, patch them, update software and repair them easily from that data center.

But, you want to know what the biggest fail for VDI is? Cost. Not just the cost of the hardware to serve up all of those virtual machines but think of the storage. Storage. Hundreds or thousands of terabytes of storage. Lots of dollars tied up in storage. And, think of the amount of network bandwidth that you need for a really snappy desktop user experience. Lots more dollars. Dollars, dollars, dollars. Fail.

What if we, as system administrators, decide once and for all that users are hopeless schmucks who can't be trusted with a computer because they just aren't smart enough to use them and then fix that for them? No, unfortunately we can't make them smarter but we can make their computers foolproof.

Remember that I said that this is not the Post-PC Era. There's nothing particularly wrong with laptops, desktops, netbooks or ultrabooks. There's nothing wrong with tablets except that extended use of one might make you want to head to the roof with a rifle and a copy of your manifesto for the new world order. OK, maybe that part is just me.

What if there were a way to have the best of all worlds? A PC, a fat desktop operating system, a foolproof...I mean user proof file backup system in case of virus, file deletion, broken laptop or other mishap plus centralized image and software management that doesn't burn hundreds of terabytes of space harboring a fat OS for everyone in your company.

You'd say, "Ken, I'll send you ten percent of my savings if this is true." OK, that part is what I want you to say.

Check out the answer to failed desktop computing at In the middle of the screen, on the right side, there's a list of videos that you need to watch. It isn't VDI. It isn't virtualization at all. It is the answer to solving your desktop management nightmare. It makes desktop computing successful.

They didn't ask me but they should have named the product Oasis because it's no mirage when you see it in action. I'm not endorsing the product. Look for yourself and then use the Talkback section to tell me what you think of the product. I'll be waiting.

Topic: Hardware


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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  • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

    This is gross. Unpaid advertisement for Wanova.

    Now tell me how the desktop has failed when I need to use Photoshop. Or maybe I need to do some video processing (big files, you know). How the F- can the cloud help me?

    • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution


      It isn't cloud.
      • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

        @khess that answer is trite. Some compute is not well suited for cloud in terms of latency, data set sizes and raw compute power (as opposed to distributed compute power).
        Your Non Advocate
      • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution


        You are correct, but the "experts" and the fanatics believe you can do everything there...and they are grossly incorrect.
      • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

        To be realistic, any organization that has that much issues with latency and bandwidth probably won't last very long. And any home user with that issue should not be working remotely because I question how productive they can be. More likely those are users who can't find a sitter for their kids and is "working" from home. I know those users.

        I don't subscribe to the whole illusion "the desktop has failed". I am still able to do everything I need to via my desktop both at home and at work be it cloud, vpn, intranet sites. whatever. There are plenty of channels.
      • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

        @khess - Quote "It isn't cloud"

        This is a copy and paste from their site.

        "With Mirage, you can offer your customers a cloud-based desktop back-up and recovery, a desktop management service, or a combination of these two packages to provide a complete cloud-based desktop offering. The Mirage platform seamlessly supports on-premise services, or hosted services and is fully optimized to work over a WAN. Since you use one platform to enable all these services, you can easily start a customer on one package and then upsell the entire solution without any change to your infrastructure or delivery process."

        This sounds like cloud to me, and everybody else who reads it. And you are running an advertizement for their company. How much are they paying you, or did you invest in them?
      • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

        "To be realistic, any organization that has that much issues with latency and bandwidth probably won't last very long. "

        Untrue, many successful organizations require millions of transactions with nanosecond commit requirements. Latency is a factor of physics. When your shop floor system is pumping out millions of calculations, you do not have the time to wait for the data to commit to the cloud.
        Your Non Advocate
    • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

      @beranger Very true, if you needed proof that zdnet sells favorable articles to sponsors, you might be able to make a good case with this one.
    • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

      @beranger I agree with you.
      The communication problem is entirely the fault of the author. The author obviously needs to look up the word "fail" in the dictionary. Do we tell an old person they have "failed" when they are ready for retirement? Do we tell a person who is changing jobs that they have "failed." Beating a dead horse until eternity isn't going to change the meaning of the word "fail." <br><br>Also, trying to say desktops failed because some people are just too stupid to use them displays an amazing level of ignorance. By that definition, every piece of technology at a higher level than a toaster has "failed." The space shuttle failed. Jet aircraft failed. MRI machines failed. The word "failed" failed. Why? According to your definition, because there are a bunch of people too stupid to use them correctly. <br> <br>The desktop has served us perfectly well in VAST numbers for decades. It will continue to serve us for many tasks which are simply too large to move onto portable devices or the magical "cloud" which ignorant bloggers seem to love so much. One of the biggest issues with "cloud" everything is that bandwidth is NOT an unlimited resource. It is expensive and time consuming to transfer large files to and from the magical "cloud." <br><br>Then there is the issue of screen real estate and CPU power. Editing and rendering high-def video, for example, takes levels of CPU power which won't appear in tablets for at least a decade. In fact, desktops still struggle rendering high-def video. When tablets finally have the power of current desktops, new high-def standards will appear which will STILL require a desktop to render. There are things which will simply never be done on a 10" tablet, no matter how powerful. Connecting the tablet to a desktop monitor, still won't get it done.<br><br>Desktop computing will always be needed. Get over it and go look "fail" up in the dictionary.
      • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

        BTW, in case you are missing the point, which seems likely, your headline/stated premise have nothing to do with what you actually said in your article. The failure is in desktop management methods, NOT desktop computing. That's what everyone who commented has been trying to pound into you. We are addressing your stated premise, "desktop computing has failed." It has not. What you say in your article does not support this premise. You are addressing a totally different premise in the text, that there is a better way to manage desktops. Normally, your premise should be addressed in your article, not something completely different. This makes it appear you are trolling for hits by using a shock headline which is completely untrue to get people to read something which has nothing to do with the headline.
      • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

        @BillDem You want to talk real "fail"?

        The biggest problem everyone has missed so far? What if your entire business is based in the cloud, and the data center everything you have depends on, goes offline for some reason? Could be the data center itself, their service provider, your service provider, doesn't really matter. "Sorry customers, we will be shut down until our cloud based system comes back online. When will that be you ask? Who knows?"

        Otherwise, I totally agree with you.
        A. Noid
      • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

        @A. Noid
        Thats not really all that different than saying what if your phone system fails for a mail ordering operation or desktop support team, or your ISP fails and you lose your internet connection, or waaaay back when I worked on mainframes and they went down and the entire department could only do documentations on their desktops. That argument has gone on for decades on every level of technology. I think reality is that there is always enough of a contingency to deal with it as it happens. And the key is to have some kind of adequate fall back while you bring your primary systems online. Its nothing new.
      • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

        Thank you! Your posting is perfectly true!
      • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution


        As I said, it has failed in my opinion. Your opinion is that it hasn't. And everyone, including you, is still focusing on the hardware. I'm saying the OS. Not the hardware has failed.
        This is not desktop management either. (I'm answering both your posts at once here). Who manages the millions of home user's computers? It's not a management issue.
  • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

    it's like ZDNet is trolling - ignore it! LOL
  • The failure is in consultants like you pushing your services without facts

    Here we are seeing another "The cloud is the solution, and I can help you" advertisement from ZD. The cloud has a place, but until there is proof of reasons to trust cloud providers with a firms data and their business the "public cloud" will be more hype than fact.

    Right now I know of multiple firms that moved to the public cloud who are talking to lawyers about court cases spanning everything from lack of reliability to outright theft of trade secrets by the cloud provider.
    • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution


      Not cloud. Not sure where you're seeing that.
      • Desktop computing is very successful, and continues to drive commerce


        It's in the middle of the page, about halfway down "internal cloud".

        It's still bandwidth dependent, even if it's not hosted. It might work very well in big cities that are well-supplied with data circuits. It's not the savior for anyone outside big cities, where DSL and T1 are still the only available circuit options.
      • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution


        Of course it's a cloud! The desktop images are stored in the cloud and - in case of failure - reloaded from the cloud to the desktop. What kind of consultant are you that you did not recognize that fact! Sounds like you are being paid by Wanova. How about a full disclosure!
      • RE: Yes, desktop computing has failed but there's a solution

        @khess Right at the top of Wanova's home page it says "Turnkey Desktop Cloud Solution", and one of the rotating images is captioned "Single Image Management from the Cloud". Associating with "cloud" has both pros and cons.
        Rohan Jayasekera