Monday, May 18, 2009

30 Days Thin (Client)

Everyone is talking about Virtual Desktops these days and everyone has questions:

  • Is there really an ROI with VDI?
  • Is it really easier to manage virtual desktops?
  • Does VDI apply to mobile users?
  • What are the challenges to a successful VDI implementation?

A lot of my customers ask these exact questions.

VDI has been traditionally marketed for "desk jobs", users who have a desktop computer and do not travel with their computer. This is because traditional VDI solutions require a network connection to access the user's virtual desktop. The purpose of this is to simplify desktop management by removing a lot of administrative control from the average user, and placing that control with an organizations IT staff. This helps reduce adminstrative costs.

Mobile VDI has been talked about for a long time. Mobile VDI is the idea of being able to take VDI and extend it's use to mobile users. Give them the ability access their applications and data from anywhere in the world without the need for a laptop. Imagine being able to have secure access your applications and data from anywhere without having to carry an actual laptop. This could be from your cell phone, a friend's computer, or some form of mobile device that weighs and costs very little. The advantage is the ability to protect your personal data. Last year, countless laptops were stolen and a long with them personal data was taken. Also, a lot of laptops were dropped, and the data on them was lost forever. With mobile VDI, my personal data would be hosted in a safe location. I would just access it remotely. If the device I access it from gets damaged or stolen, no data is lost.

The challenge for users like myself is that we travel a lot do not always have a network connection readily available to them. With my job, I am at my desk a very small percentage of my day. I am usually out the door by 7:30 AM driving to almost any where in the San Francisco Bay Area or the Sacramento Metropolitan area. In between meetings I can usually be found in either a coffee shop or a customer parking lot waiting for my next meeting. Just to put some perspective around this, I put almost 40,000 miles on my car every year. A large percentage of the email I send and receive is on my Blackberry. When I do turn on my laptop, I need to be able to access the data and applications that are on it immediately, regardless if I have a network connection or not.

So, in the spirit of Morgan Spurlock's documentary "Super Size Me" and his TV series "30 Days", I've decided to take my own "30 Day" challenge. That challenge is to run without a "traditional" laptop for 30 days.

Starting June 1st, I'm going to shutdown my Lenovo T500, and power on a Wyse X90 Thin Client laptop. Having a Thin Client laptop is going to limit the amount of data and applications that I have available to me. The X90 has only 512MB of disk space in total, and less than 300MB is available for me to use. Only essential applications can be installed on it like VPN clients or cellular modem apps. I'm going to need to look for ways to be able to do my job without going back to my traditional laptop.

So what are the rules?

  1. I cannot use a traditional laptop or desktop for my day to day personal and business use. I need to figure out how to make the Thin Client work for me.
  2. Any application that I can run on the Thin Client is fair game. I'll need this for VPN access or to use my Blackberry as a modem.
  3. I can connect to any remote computer or virtual machine I need to.
  4. My data must reside at a "fixed" location. I cannot carry all of my data with me. I can however carry some of my data if I know I am not going to have network access in certain locations (customer presentations, etc...)
  5. I cannot start using the Thin Client laptop until June 1st. I can charge the battery, but no powering it on until June 1.
  6. I must blog 5 days a week. This can either be from the Thin Client itself, or from my Blackberry. (I set up mobile blogging so that I can post comments whenever I can.)
Over the next few days until June 1, I'm going to post information about my current laptop setup, the specifications of the X90, and my thoughts about the challenges I am going to face.

In the meantime, to learn more about what VDI is, you can go to:

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