Desktop as a Service

Is the keyboard dead?

Interesting discussion on http://www.quora.com on whether or not the keyboard is dead and just debated on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour… Check out http://www.quora.com/Is-the-keyboard-dead?q=is+the+keyboard+dead

Chromebook Charging Cart

Wow! I’ve just stumbled across news that a Chromebook Charging Cart exists and if you live in the States is free together with a Cloud printer for purchases of 30 Chromebooks!  What’s the deal for us in Blighty?

Chromebook Charging Cart

Chromebook Charging Cart

Google Chrome OS

Google’s Chrome Cloud focussed OS and Chromebooks combined with a Google Apps for Business or Education deployment, have the potential to revolutionise the business and education IT world by significantly reducing support and maintenance costs, improving availability – ergo productivity, bettering Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and sustainability and delivering greener IT.

Here’s a great video that illustrates why a move to the Cloud makes sense…

Is the keyboard dead..?

There’s a great deal of discussion about the relevance of traditional devices with a physical keyboard attached – netbooks, laptops, desktops, etc. – with the advent and increasingly adopted tablet. I use all of these types of devices (on iOS now) but am still not convinced that I would naturally want to bin the keyboard for certain tasks like large word processing..?

The quiet Google Apps and Chromebooks revolution

Over the past few weeks I have been assessing how best we can deploy and manage a set of Google Chromebooks to be piloted across a group of schools.  We already have an enterprise deployment of Google Apps for Education with approximately 130,000 users grouped into around 450 Organisational Units.  The entire user and organisational management is efficiently streamlined using the Systems Interoperability Framework (SIF); new users, transient users and leavers are all near-time captured through SIF making account management a breeze!

How does this work?  (1) The school Management Information System (MIS) is updated – pupils and staff intake, leavers, or changes – and modifications are transported securely via SIF and the (2) Zone Integration Server (ZIS) to the Identity Management (IdM) server.  Here users identities are matched or created.  (3) Then the identities are passed via SIF to the ZIS and then (4) on to Google Apps.

SIF Identity Management

Now here’s the cloud clever bit… Before deployment to your users, each Google Chromebook is registered with your organisation’s Google Apps domain using the management console.  Here you can define a multitude of policy options including which applications, or extensions, a user should, or should not, have access to.  Policies can be defined for different organisational units – pupils and staff, sales and marketing, etc. – and updated at any time.  Any user who signs-in in to any registered Chromebook will automatically receive the profile relevant to them.  Organisational Unit policy changes are automatically applied the next time a user signs-in, or after a set time period.

Chromebook Management

This is a fantastic example of how simple, powerful, efficient and cost effective cloud computing really can be.  No expensive domain servers to maintain and house.  No network intensive traditional roaming profiles.  Easy management from any place in the world with an Internet connection.  Flexible and mobile workforce and learners.

Cloud Computing for Slimmers

The emergence of slimline Operating Systems (OS) such as Jolicloud and Google’s Chrome OS, which focus upon delivering applications, file storage and security from the web, changes things.

Jolicloud

They herald the promise of much faster access to what we want and do the most – the web.

Think about it. No really, really think about it. When you boot your PC, laptop, tablet, or mobile device, what and where is it that you want to go fastest and first? Email? Information search? Apps that keep you productive or in the social mix? The probability is that all this stuff is now located on the web – in ‘The Cloud’. Even the files that you store, or media that you might want to share, are sitting out there in the ether…

So… Why on earth would you want to hang about waiting for your device to boot, figure out if it is up to date, virus scan gigs and gigs of inefficiently used, or unused, hard disc drive (HDD) space, nag you for reboots and oh, check if it is still up to date, etc., and so on?

What if your Operating System (OS) went on a diet? What if it was designed to get you onto the Internet and to all of the stuff that you want to do way faster? Maybe you could even stop worrying about losing your stuff, or protecting it from nasty intruders? How about you don’t need to think about changing your device, or upgrading your hardware, every couple of years?

These are just some of the things to start considering when looking at what the slimline and web focussed OS’ have to offer. Whether you are replacing your home setup, or if you are making decisions about a full-on enterprise alternative to traditional desktop solutions, you probably should consider the Cloud desktop.

Here are just a few reasons why…

1) An OS that is slimline, or small footprint, demands less of your device resources and thus – assuming the hardware keeps working – is faster for longer;

2) Less apps installed locally means fewer updates, reduced client management and backup and recovery headaches are pushed into the Cloud;

3) Why not combine a move to the Cloud with a reduction in Hard Disc Drive (HDD) space and device moving parts by phasing in Solid State Drives (SSD) – extended device life too?

4) Consider a support model that favours connectivity and capacity over the device and hardware – if most stuff is in the Cloud then issuing a replacement device is far cheaper – standard builds and courier swaps, as well as pushing identity management and authentication beyond the Local Area Network (LAN);

5) Do we need locally housed and managed servers anymore?

6) A slimmer OS is more likely to accommodate a lower powered device and hence, greener IT – oh and did I mention that you might be able to do away with local servers, related air conditioning and useful space?;

7) Web apps are increasingly device agnostic;

8) Flexible and mobile working combined with workforce reform can only thrive in this environment;

9) So… Sustainability, portability, cheaper and greener!

I’m leading a project to introduce and pilot a small number of Cloud focussed OS devices into schools and these are a few of the questions that I hope to answer. And that’s alongside assessing the real benefits that any of these sorts of ICT devices might bring to an education, or business, environment. So do follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my RSS feed, or keep coming back to see how these questions are answered in the real world.

I’ve focussed upon evidencing the delivery of cheaper desktop solutions here. But this is just one piece in the whole Cloud jigsaw. In my opinion, key to an overall successful Cloud strategy is data and / or information interoperability. You want all of these disparate Cloud apps to link together for the user’s sake! If you are reading this with interest and a watching brief, then whatever your current strategy is, start with open standards data interoperability! If you are in the education market then don’t miss SIF!

The Evolution of the Web

Whilst trawling for information on Chrome OS and its supporting devices to understand how these might be deployed and managed across a large estate, I stumbled upon this great interactive infographic, built in HTML5, which details the evolution of major web technologies and browsers.

The Evolution of the Web

 

http://evolutionofweb.appspot.com/

UK Government seeks a common infrastructure built on open standards

The UK Government’s Cabinet Office has announced a strategy to deliver real financial savings and efficiency gains through the agile implementation of an ICT infrastructure that will enable the reuse and sharing of our ICT assets.

In a move that is believed to reduce the high level of risk associated with large scale ICT projects, the infrastrtucture will build upon the successes of smaller projects that have transformed services through the use of common and open standards.  By encouraging and in some cases mandating the use of open standards, joining-up all of these pockets of smaller projects to form a supportive, comfortable and long lasting king size infrastructure mattress will be simpler.

Some key points to note:

The Government will push ahead with its agenda for data centre, network, software and asset consolidation and the shift towards cloud computing.

The standardised cloud platform will also allow developers, especially SMEs, to generate innovative solutions.

A common infrastructure based on open standards will allow for greater flexibility of policies and services delivered at lower cost and within a shorter timeframe.

The use of common standards can make ICT solutions fully interoperable to allow for reuse, sharing and scalability across organisational boundaries into local delivery chains.

The adoption of compulsory open standards will help government to avoid lengthy vendor lock-in, allowing the transfer of services or suppliers without excessive transition costs, loss of data or significant functionality.

Modern, knowledge-based service delivery underpinned by effective information architecture and open standards will support government to build more transparent, trusted and efficient information exchange processes.

Read more at http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/content/government-ict-strategy

Netbooks are still on top…

Districts in the States are looking more and more at the cost savings of purchasing Netbooks, but are still buying full-featured laptops and Desktops. Here are the results of a recent survey in order of popularity.

Netbooks – 43%
Laptops – 31%
Desktops -14%
Tablet PCs – 11%

There are significant potential savings to be had by combining the value of Netbooks with the Software as a Service (SaaS) subscription model. My pretty extensive research so far concludes that most traditional education and productivity focussed client / server installed applications have web-based alternatives – usually as engaging and more akin to what the kids – and teachers – are used to outside of the classroom. Netbooks – its all in the name – are perfectly designed for this type of use. Mix this with the massive time savings currently incurred by having to keep client installed apps running – patches, new versions, etc., etc., and the savings go further whilst classroom confidence can only increase!

Suddenly the traditional look of a school’s network with file and directory servers, backup solutions and so on is questionable.

The savings go further too… The resources typically required to run web apps are far less than what’s needed to run that latest version of your preferred office suite, or graphics package. The Netbook (or any other device) now has a longer useful lifespan.

“But I’ll still need to refresh my kit to support the latest version of Windows!”

Probably. Or you could switch to an Operating System with the clouds in its sights. Jolicloud and Google’s Chrome OS maybe?

If your interested, I’ve written a bit more on this at http://www.f2mke.co.uk/2010/09/21/how-much-ict-infrastructure-does-a-school-really-need-to-manage/

I’ve focussed upon savings – well I guess that’s de rigueur? But the above approach lends itself neatly to the nirvana that was the 80s marketing strategy for Braun’s Independent – “anytime, anyplace, anywhere.”. Or, the less favourable “Martini Learning” cliché?

Touchy, feely tablets are definitely up and coming… Since making the extremely nervous and shoulder perched gadget angel encouraged, over sensible angel, switch from my trusty, nothing can beat this, Blackberry Bold to the shiny iPhone 4… I am completely sold! Ever since I have found myself occasionally staring longingly at the long row of silvery numbers that adorn my credit card dreaming of that iPad that could so easily be excused to be mine 🙂 But that’s just it… Even with Android on the scene and getting better and better, tablets are currently just too expensive. My nearly 3 year old Samsung NC10 Netbook just keeps on powering up, lasting on battery all day and keeping my ICT life relatively pain free…

If you’re still interested, I’ve rambled a little on the practicalities of Smart Phones at http://www.f2mke.co.uk/2010/09/01/smart-phones-a-serious-contender-for-everyday-productivity-learning/ and general Cloud stuff at http://www.f2mke.co.uk/category/education/cloud/

This article was first published as a reply at http://www.ictineducation.org/home-page/2011/2/7/what-are-school-districts-buying.html

Sprinting forward to the Kyocera Echo

The Smart Phone market just got smarter! We all know it and we all want it. That innovative and ground-breaking truly portable device giving us the freedom to leave home with light pockets, hand and man bags, yet remain connected, productive, powered-up and cool – of course. Sprint and Kyocera have pushed through the next boundary to introduce that welcome blur between the Smart Phone and Tablet with the Sprint Kyocera Echo. Two touch-screens literally merge when the device is opened to deliver a 4.7″ tablet. The liquid metal hinge alone has six patents pending.

Sprint Kyocera Echo OpenWhat we know so far….

It’s well connected with Bluetooth and WiFi. It should be capable with a 1GHz Snapdragon QSD 8650 processor. It does other Smart Phone stuff like take pictures and video with a 5 megapixel camera and flash. And it is another device taking advantage of the Android OS. Launch is rumoured to be in Spring for the US at an anticipated $199.

Sprint Kyocera Echo Closed

Sprint_Kyocera_Echo_Closed

There’s more on Smart Phones at http://www.f2mke.co.uk/2010/09/01/smart-phones-a-serious-contender-for-everyday-productivity-learning/

Let’s see what happens…