The Future of Desktop Computing: 2011 and Beyond
Virtualization, cloud computing, and mobile devices are hot topics for IT professionals in 2011, with much of the chatter focused on how these technologies will be a disruptive force for the IT status quo. But what will that disruption mean for the desktop computer, in particular?
Will the Desktop Computer Become Extinct?
“Desktop computer” has come to mean a lot of things, but the definition I want to focus on is the original one: a computer that sits on a desk and is meant to be used by the lion’s share of your business users. This definition does not include laptops, mobile devices, workstations, or thin/zero clients.
Over the last couple of years we have seen a slow decline in the sales of desktop computers and, in contrast, a rapid increase in the sales of laptops and other mobile form factor devices. Mobility, once a luxury, is now becoming the norm. Gone are the days of having to justify the purchase of an overly expensive and underpowered mobile computer. In 2011, you might actually have a hard time justifying that eco-unfriendly and inflexible desktop computer.
Why the shift? Desktop and application virtualization makes the desktop computer — with its siloed hardware resources and locally installed applications — unnecessary. Why deploy a support-heavy desktop computer when you can simply put an eco-friendly thin or zero client in its place and deliver what is needed to the end user through virtualization?
In 2011, the traditional desktop computer will begin to go the way of the green screen terminal. They might hang on for a couple of years, but only until the value can be fully depreciated both on the books and in productive use.
The Shift in Desktop Standardization
In the IT industry, standardization based on price and configuration of the hardware has generally been the norm. This helps keep support costs down while maintaining the highest possible uptime for end user. Although this has been a workable model, it reveals the main flaw in the current desktop computing environment — lack of flexibility.
I have worked with many IT organizations and have noticed this constant: When price and configuration are the drivers, you end up with users who have too much computing power and users who don’t have enough. This is largely because the standardization model does not take into consideration what the end user will be using the computer for.
This year, I expect that we will hear more terms like “end-user segmentation” and “business roles,” and the job of IT will be to provide the right tools for the jobs being done by each end-user segment or business role.
From a Static to a Dynamic Personal Systems Model
Local hardware resources and locally installed applications have been standard practice in the industry for decades. In the days when most computers were housed in the same building or on the same campus, this was a reliable model. However, the reality of our global business world is that computers are spread across states, countries, and even continents, which has stretched this static IT model to its breaking point.
In 2011, a dynamic model must be adopted, in which the end-point device no longer matters. In a dynamic model, applications (the primary end-user tools) are seen as services to be provided on an as-needed basis. Desktop and application virtualization and cloud computing have made this concept a reality.
Consider the virtualization of an entire Windows desktop, and cloud-based delivery mechanisms that allow all of these things to run on a vast array of different end points, whether online or off, and you have the future of business desktop computing. In fact, the term “business desktop computing” itself might have to change just to reflect this new reality as we move forward.
What kind of future do you see for the desktop computer, and IT in general, in your organization? Will the IT department be enablers of content, mobility, and flexibility? Or will it be seen as an anchor weighing down the business, and keeping it from moving forward?
Jason Dell is a Converged Network Solution Consultant at MCPc, and is responsible for developing and programming custom solutions for clients. His expertise includes network security and security for mobile devices in the enterprise. Connect with Jason on LinkedIn.