PCs will evaporate into ‘the cloud’

Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison, has a knack for the grand vision. At IDC’s annual conference in Paris way back in September 1995, with his arch-enemy Bill Gates in the audience, he laid into the PC. “A PC is a ridiculous device,” he railed. “The idea is so complicated and expensive.”

“What the world really wants is to plug into a wall to… get data.” At that dawn of the Internet era (Internet Explorer had been launched a month earlier) he dared not add the words “and their applications too”, but 13 years later his comments look distinctly prophetic.

Organisations – from local councils and construction companies to the largest financial institutions – are looking to take thousands or even tens of thousands of PCs off their users’ desktops and replace them with the equivalent functionality, delivered as a service from ‘the cloud’.

In some cases, that cloud may be a data centre that they run themselves or it might be operated by the likes of HP, Google, IBM or Microsoft.

Indeed, there are half a dozen ways of taking services into the cloud – blade PCs, server-based virtualised desktops, software-as-a-service, applications virtualisation and hosted applications, among others. But, as our cover story this month highlights, the end-goal is the same – to get rid of the “ridiculous device”.

What is clear from the discussion is that the PC – the machine that has dominated the end-user computing experience for over a quarter of a century – is as big a source of frustration as it has ever been, due to the cost, the administration, the security issues, the support hassles, the software licence management. And as companies are refreshing their PC estates, they are looking to move away from some of those negative aspects.

Much of that thinking has been coloured by their experiences with virtualisation of server environments. And there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the next frontier is the virtualisation of the desktop.

A reader survey to be published in next month’s Information Age shows that a third of decision-makers have desktop virtualisation on their agenda for future deployment.

Ellison predicted that the PC would be replaced by the Network Computer. That was little narrow and self-serving. But his vision of utility PC services, delivered over the Internet, about both accurate and a little premature. Just like his other harebrained idea around the same time that video would be streamed into people’s homes on demand…

Further reading

Virtualising the desktop
The delivery of desktop services from a virtual PC estate within the data centre has become a core ambition of many IT organisations

David Cliff

David Cliff is managing director of Houghton le Spring-based Gedanken, a company specialising in coaching-based support and personal development. Cliff is an experienced trainer, manager and therapist,...

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