So does cloud really mean the death of the desktop?
Cloud computing has been changing the way businesses achieve greater innovation and agility, but it has also been impacting the way that actual employees interact with business tools and are able to do their work.
20 years ago, employees would typically have very powerful work stations, in the sense that the local, personal computer was where all the heavy processing and apps resided.
Today, moderately powerful workstations are the launching point for a broader mix of workloads, some local, some web enabled. Upwards of 75% of workloads employees are handling are now web-based, whether we are talking about email, CRM, analytics, etc.
Some apps (I’m looking at you Quickbooks and Excel) are still local, but that’s changing, too.
The near term trend points to a range of processes and applications moving to the browser as the primary point of user interaction, establishing the browser as an operating system unto itself (HTML 5 is accelerating this trend, as is the advancements Chrome and Safari are achieving through Webkit).
However, a gap exists for achieving optimal performance for the type of work employees typically have to accomplish. There are some technical limitations in achieving the complete shift to the cloud presently, whether it’s a lack of competent orchestration and user interfaces, or hesitance for overall adoption at the organizational level. However, the future of business computing will still never be 100% cloud enabled. There will always be a need to do local work. While it’s true that we won’t be loading software off of disks, there will always be a need to run the computational process at the local level.
Businesses of the future can look to the cloud for a broad range of innovative changes that will help shape new ways to access success. Companies will be able to run the apps, much like they are now, but will locally supplied compute power to help generate higher performance. Organizations will realize that they can thin out what they are doing on the cloud server architecture if they shift some of the computational resources back to the end user. The benefit here is that the storage doesn’t similarly shift.
What value does this deliver to the org?
The shift to the cloud presents an interesting parallel to mainframe architecture, famous for its very rigid user experience. IT was able to very tightly control everything that was going on, with all of the user permissions centrally controlled, and employee access relying on the concept of the dumb terminal (which we are re-approaching with the concept of the web browser as an OS).
If you look at the history of computing, IT trend seems to adhere to an ebb and flow of mainframe to minicomputing back to mainframe to desktop. While we no longer rely on mainframe computing, cloud conceptually fulfills many of the requirements business IT departments utilized mainframes to fulfill. There will eventually be a balance point, and what we are quickly moving toward is this nice midpoint between highly optimized cloud app and powerful workstations that don’t have local storage. Every employee needs a PC, and this will always be the reality. But now, more than ever, we can see forward to a time when companies take advantage of those resources smartly, both through traditional means and the cloud.
By Jake Gardner