Desktop computers are a massive drain on the IT resources of most organisations. “An IT department has a primary function: to deliver applications to end-users. Everything else – security, uptime, backups, support and maintenance – are important, but secondary to the primary function,” says Jonathan Young of Cloudware. “We have become lost in the complexity of the secondary options. A new model exists to reduce that complexity.”
Cloudgate is a hand-sized device that, says Young, completely replaces the desktop as we know it for a fraction of the cost. “You simply unplug your screen, mouse and keyboard from the old PC, plug it into a Cloudgate device and you have secure access to the entire corporate Windows environment – and an Android desktop.”
The core innovation that makes this possible is Cloudware, a South African-developed application delivery solution designed specifically for low-bandwith conditions. “With Cloudware, all a company’s applications and data are managed from the data centre,” says Young. “The only thing that leaves that secure environment is a set of instructions for what to display on the screen. That means you can deliver any Windows application to any device.”
In practice, that means Cloudgate users have a single Cloudware icon on their Android desktop that gives access to all their company applications, files and data. It’s completely secure – no information from the central server can be shared across to the device, “not even by copying and pasting”, says Young. “That option can be turned on if necessary, but the default is that the two environments are entirely separate.
“We chose Android for the desktop because we found that users rejected earlier versions of thin client computing as being too restrictive,” explains Young. “It turns out that giving people a desktop replacement that’s just like their old machine, except without all the fun bits, is actually counter-productive. People need to be able to use the internet and social media, for example, and sometimes to send private emails. But now none of that activity happens on corporate servers, and nobody in the business has to support it.”
In fact, says Young, Cloudgate eliminates the need for desktop-level support and maintenance entirely. “If anything happens to the device, you just reset everything to the factory defaults and erase it,” he says. “There’s no company data on it to lose. Based on the current cost of desktop support services, that’s an instant saving of R200 to R300 a month.”
Cloudgate also draws only 10W of power, says Young, “the same as an energy-saving lightbulb. If you’re replacing an average 300W desktop, that means the power savings are almost the same as the monthly cost of the device, rendering it effectively free.
“The desktop PC has dominated the office for nearly 40 years, but it’s outlived its usefulness,” says Young. “It makes no economic or management sense to put all that processing power and storage into a standalone machine that will never run at more than a fraction of its capacity. The principal physical reason to not move everything to the data centre has been slow network connections – but Cloudware solves that problem. Within a few years, the desktop PC as we know it will seem as quaint and outdated as the typewriter.”