Desktops in the cloud? Not yet

On this week's episode of Cloud Cover TV, desktop computing analyst and blogger Brian Madden shares his view on desktops migrating to the cloud. Brian says that they'll staying right where they are; it's just your apps and data that will move.

And check out the Cloud Cover TV home page for the rest of the episodes.

Read the full transcript from this video below:  

Desktops in the cloud? Not yet

Jo Maitland: Hello, and welcome to Cloud Cover, our weekly show on all
the juiciest news in the Cloud computing market. My name is Jo Maitland,
in San Francisco, and this week I have a special guest with me, it is Brian
Madden, our resident expert on a desktop computing. Welcome, Brian.

Brian Madden: Thank you for the invitation.

Jo Maitland: Say Brian, to keep everybody on the same page, start us off
with a definition on what desktops in the cloud are all about. What are we
talking about?

Brian Madden: I feel like the definition of a cloud is such a, it means different
things to different people, so desktops in the cloud means different things to
different people, also. I think most people, when they think of desktops in the cloud,
they think of their desktop running in the cloud, so it is a desktop-as-a-service thing
where there is a service provider that is literally running your copy of Microsoft Windows
desktop in the cloud and you connect to it via your iPad or your home computer. You go
to a website, you log in, then you are presented with your desktop, but the desktop does
not actually live on your device, the desktop lives up in the cloud somewhere. This
technology is called VDI, or desktop-as-a-service, or something like that. That is what
a lot of people think about when they think about clouds and desktops. That is not what
I think about though, actually. To me, where the cloud and desktops come together is
more on the application side of things. What I mean by that is I think of a traditional
desktop running on a laptop or a desktop computer, they are sort of enabled by
different cloud services.

Take Google Apps, for example, in the old model, you had Microsoft Office installed
locally on your desktop. In the cloud model you do not have Office installed, it is
running from some web service from a cloud. Salesforce, of course everyone uses
it as an example. Drop Box or, I guess its called Box now; these are good
examples of applications that are in the cloud, that will affect the desktop. What is
interesting, for me, desktop in the cloud is not so much that you are taking your desktop
and moving it into the cloud, it is like you have your same laptop or desktop, as you’ve
always had, but your data is moving into the cloud and your applications are moving
into the cloud and that’s what happening today for hundreds of millions of users.

Jo Maitland: What stays on my desktop in that situation? Just the settings, a browser,
and what else is part of still part of the desktop if all my apps and my data are in the

Brian Madden: What is nice about that is that you can pick and choose. So some
applications really make sense to have locally installed on your desktop, and there
are a lot of applications that might use cloud for their back-end, but they have a
front-end that lives in a desktop; email is a good example of that. Email, fundamentally,
Microsoft Outlook does not do anything unless it is connected to some application,
email server cloud, whatever, in the back-end. What is nice about Microsoft Outlook
versus, say for example, Gmail, via the web interface, is that with Microsoft Outlook you
can use it when you do not have a connection. You can be on the airplane and read
through your messages, flag things for follow-up, type a whole bunch of responses, and,
of course, when you are actually done and when you connect again, you can just sync
up the mail and off you go. Any applications that really need a lot of computing power locally,
like video games, and I know we are started to get to some games in the cloud. Video
games work great locally, you can do video editing, photo editing, and that kind of stuff.
We are starting to see some things that work in the cloud, but these are kinds of
applications that really work better on people's desktops, then, of course, as you said
the browser because the browser is the client. YouTube is a browser application, all of
these things are applications that really work better if you have a desktop component introduced
in the cloud, also.

Jo Maitland: Let us say we had all the computing power and all the bandwidth that
you could imagine; it becomes ubiquitous in the cloud. That sounds like that is the
gating point here, or the part that is preventing us from having the full desktop
experience in the cloud. Is that the case? Once we have all the power in the cloud
and all the bandwidth you can imagine, we will not have to worry about having
anything locally?

Brian Madden: It is hard because I feel like people have been talking about all the
bandwidth you can imagine, ubiquitous connectivity; this has been something that
people have been promising for a long time. I don’t know that I really see that coming
exactly. What I mean, I guess at some point eventually, we will get there, but I think
we are probably talking a long, long time. The thing is, if you take these desktops in
the cloud, or I take my copy of Microsoft Windows and just move it into some cloud
provider, that works fine for business applications and that sort of stuff, but you are
not watching YouTube videos from a cloud-based desktop. What I mean by this is,
if you want to watch YouTube, you use a browser on your device, an iPad, an Android,
a Mac, or whatever. The browser, the YouTube client is on your laptop or your device,
and the videos are coming from the cloud. If you got rid of your local device and you
only had your applications in the cloud, so now your browser is in the cloud, so your
cloud desktop is going to YouTube, it is double-hop thing, the cloud desktop goes to
YouTube and that whole thing comes down to you, that is just something that would
probably work a whole lot better if it was on your device itself.

The way I think about this is, if you look at the applications and what you need to
do for the applications to configure them, the more complex configuration
applications are probably good applications to move into the cloud desktop.
What I mean by this is, I will go back to SalesForce, and this is something that,
I know everyone uses this as a cloud application example. SalesForce is a really
great cloud application because it lives in the cloud, your only client for Salesforce
is your browser, and the browser is great because you do not have to configure it or
reprogram it, it just works. If you have a browser, you can use Salesforce. Think of
that in the old days of using SAP and Oracle with the actual desktop software.
People were just reconfiguring all their settings; it was just a lot, of work to maintain
all these instances, so for that stuff to go into the cloud, that had all these hard
configurations, that makes a lot of sense. But like I said, for applications that are
already cloud-based, if Gmail is already in the cloud and SalesForce is already
in the cloud, we do not need to move our desktop into the cloud also, if that makes sense.

What I mean by that is, the Microsoft Windows desktop that is the actual desktop
with the start menu, the start buttons, and all that kind of stuff, that does not need to
go into the cloud if your only applications are Gmail, SalesForce, and Dropbox, then
your desktop is just basically a browser, and a camera, and a keyboard, and that kind of
stuff. That desktop does not matter; it does not need to go into the Cloud because all
your applications are on the cloud and all your data is in the cloud. I think what is
happening, to get back to your question about are we going to get to the point where
everything is in the cloud. I think from an application standpoint, we sort of will, but
this whole concept of where your desktop actually is almost becomes irrelevant as
more and more applications become cloud-based application. The whole concept of
a desktop disappears, because your Android or your iPhone is your desktop.

Jo Maitland: So what is the value add, then for these companies like Desk Tone
and IBM Smart Business Desktop Services in the cloud? I think that is a little
mind-shift, there is like a few of these little startups there.

Brian Madden: There is a couple of things. The first thing is, all of these companies
combined, I question if they even have 1 million subscribers, or 1 million end users.
A couple million, let us say, single-digit millions, best case, compared to 500 million or
700 million corporate desktop users in the world. The value they offer is not like
everyone is running out and doing this kind of stuff, it is very, very specific. The
value that these desktop-in-a-cloud providers can do today is because a lot of
today's applications are Windows-based applications. I mentioned SalesForce, I
mentioned Gmail, and I mentioned Picassa for photos, and all those things.
These are great if your applications have basically been rewritten. Gmail was written
from scratch to be a cloud-based email applications. Look at a lot of these in-house
applications that you have that do different process management, there is a lot of
applications that are desktop applications. You might be using the scheduling
application that hooks into your scheduling computers since 1995, and it is a local
Windows application, that is not being rewritten for the cloud, and until that gets thrown
away, you need that to run somewhere.

What happens is that we are going to see that more and more of our applications
are becoming cloud-based applications. Emails, scheduling, expense reporting,
travel management, paycheck management, all of these things can go to the cloud.
At some point we are going to see, we are going to use fewer and fewer actual desktop
applications and more and more cloud applications, then we are going to see, maybe I
only have two or three desktop applications that are maybe holding me back and forcing
me to still have a desktop. Maybe at that point, that is when I move those specific
applications up into the cloud, so it flips around where I am using this desktop-as-a-service
provider companies compatibility for old Windows applications.

The companies that you mentioned today, the people who are doing desktops in
the cloud today are primarily small business and medium business. Most enterprises
have been doing desktop management for 15 years, they buy a new copy of Windows
when a machine breaks, they install Window on it to give it to the user, they cross their
fingers and hope it lasts for four years without it breaking, then they do the whole thing again.

Jo Maitland: What happens to that desktop admin in the New Cloud Order? If most
of the applications are in the cloud and they are not having to patch everything and
manage all these clients, what happens?

Brian Madden: It is the same evolution we have in every industry throughout history.
Things that were mechanical and process-oriented have become automated. Right
now, it is someone’s job in a company to be the desktop admin, to patch, clean, and
fix all this kind of stuff. That job just goes away in the future. We are talking probably . . .

Jo Maitland: 10 or 20 years.

Brian Madden: Yes. Maybe it is something that, right now, you might have one desktop
admin for every 50 users. Maybe in the future you have one desktop admin for every 500
users, because there is a lot more efficiencies that they can get. Those people get jobs at
the cloud companies, they retire, or they become school teachers, it is the same thing
that people, everything throughout history, we are always having jobs go away as things
become more automated.

Jo Maitland: Shift.

Brian Madden: It is the same people - what happened to all your Compaq ASE
Certified technicians that replace servers? When you have a 20 to 1 server
consolidation with virtualization, you only need 1/20th as many of those people,
and it is no different for desktop admins.

Jo Maitland: The desktop admin role shifts more to somebody who negotiates
with service providers, and understands who provides the best service. Does
the SLA meet your company’s criteria? That kind of thing.

Brian Madden: Yes. I really see the desktop admin being more of a coordinator
between these kinds of things. One of the problems with cloud services today is
that any user can go do them on their own, like Dropbox. If you, as a random
employee of a company, decide that you do not want to use the company's network
share, you want to use Dropbox instead, for your data, you just do it, you expense it,
and you are done. Maybe you are using Dropbox, this person is using Live Mesh,
this person is using Box, and this person is using all these things and he is replicating
your data down, but is not encrypted. This person wants to use a Mac and
they figure out now the new version of Mac OS10 Lion has a mail client built in for
Exchange, so they do not use Outlook. The users are in the Wild West doing their
own things. I think the desktop admin becomes more like a services wrangler,
coordinating all this stuff and saying, ‘OK. We are going to use this cloud service for
data, this one for photos, and this one for payroll and coordinating user accounts,
provisioning, and making sure when employees leave, they shut down the access.’
It is just evolution, but I think they are going to become sort of more like coordinators
across all services, instead of actual mechanics for desktop computers.

Jo Maitland: I am presuming they will still need to understand the technical features
and functionality. If you had to pick between these different providers and not have
the wool pulled over their eyes. I am curious, would you still go into the world of
desktop management if this was the New World Order and that is your job now?
Is that still appealing?

Brian Madden: I think now it is super-appealing because no one knows what the
hell is going on because the thing is, there is so many Windows applications that are
engrained in companies. Think of it like today, we can look at mainframes. There
is still companies, by the way, using mainframes, who are using now Windows
applications to access their mainframes. Right when Windows desktops started
to come out and mainframes were going away, there was a 5 to 10 year period
where if you were a mainframe person, you could make a lot of money integrating
mainframes into Windows desktop computers, figuring out how to access them, and
all of that kind of stuff. I think that if you have some of the traditional desktop
management skills and you are dealing with Windows applications, patching, and
managing Windows operating systems, there is 10 years, easy, ahead of you to do
that. It will shift, so now it’s going to be, you are still managing these traditional
Windows desktop with some cloud services. We are going to have more and more
cloud and less and less traditional windows. At some point, the last remaining scraps
of Windows applications within companies will move into the cloud and maybe you
are going to host those yourself on a private cloud, maybe you outsource some to
mix and match.

I think that there is 10 years of desktop management, really good career ahead.
Then the desktop admins, they are going to be pulled along as the whole world sort
of shifts more to cloud then they can figure out what they want to do in 2020. I think
if you are a desktop admin right now, that is fine, it is not like your job is, your days
are numbered. You are going to start looking at, ‘How do we integrate security cloud
applications with the security of traditional applications.’ There is companies doing
things like Citrix has something called Open Cloud Access, VMware has announced
something called Project Horizon. There is a company called Centrex, who offers
functionality that integrates your Windows desktop management with your cloud
applications management. The idea is that a new employee hires-on, and when you
actually set up their Windows account to give them access to the domain and your
email system, it can also go out and create their SalesForce account for them, and
creates their Terramark Verizon hosting account for this, and it is all . . .

Jo Maitland: OK. This is the TriCipher acquisition, the Citrix, CMT, EMS Cortex.

Brian Madden: Yes. The TriCipher, exactly. VMware has acquired TriCipher, that
became the Horizon. Citrix, The EMS Cortex is more on the automation side of things,
but the idea is that we can use that to build these functionality so that at the end of the
day, you want it so that your HR person can tick one box, and says, ‘This employee is
in this group,’ and it goes in provisions, and hooks into all the cloud applications. Then
when someone leaves the company, they uncheck the box, then it goes in and shuts
down access, migrates, archives, and everything. The idea is, ‘OK. If an HR person can
do that,’ but the desktop admin is now the one doing all the wiring behind that to hook all
that stuff together and make sure all the applications are actually talking to each other,
and all the scripts are working, and everything like that. There are 10 or 20 years of that
work ahead of us, so that is another very solid career thing.

Jo Maitland: Right. You are only as good as the policies that you create behind all
this automation, and the policies still have to make sense for your business. Do these
group of users, should they have this access? It is an ongoing, it is not like once you
have done it once, it is set and then . . .

Brian Madden: Yes. You can even look to the future as, work is becoming more
personal. We are doing a lot more with subcontractors, people working from home
and coffee shops, and all these things. Companies are more fractured, and
everything like that. That is going to make all this stuff even more important.

Jo Maitland: Brian, thank you so much for filling us in.

Brian Madden: It was a pleasure talking to you.

Jo Maitland: Cheers. This has been Cloud Cover. Thank you for watching.
Tune in next week for all insider news on the Cloud computing market.

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