OK, so the latest announcement from Wyse Technology may not, at first, appear to be too relevant to the Banks Statement theme, but bear with me a while.
The announcement in question is of some new hardware and software technology that will produce a thin-client-on-a-chip, which can then be incorporated in just about anything. This will no doubt lead to all the usual jokes about PCs in fridges, cookers and the home jakouzi – actually, the latter could make a certain sense. Yes, such consumer markets are an obvious target that Wyse has already identified, but let us skip past them for now.
What interests me more is whether such technology could also play an important part in the development of enterprise infrastructures. It is easy to assume that the `infrastructure’ ends at the limits of the hard-wiring within the enterprise. A remote location – branch offices and the like – may be on the other side of the world, but it is still effectively part of the private, `hard-wired’ infrastructure of the base network.
Yet there are many people who, these days, no longer work close to the private network. Road warriors, for example, are obliged to connect via the public network, and in consequence often seem to travel armed to the teeth with gizmos and gadgetry to circumnavigate any problem. Home workers usually have to give up a slice of their home territory to accommodate a full-blown PC and a similar armoury of gizmos and gadgetry.
Not least amongst the risks of all this is the one of long term skeletal damage from lugging all the damned stuff around. One solution, the handheld PDA route, has possibilities, but is still less than secure for critical business use. What is more, there are so many different types, with different requirements, that providing interfaces to the corporate system for all options is still too much of a pain for most IT departments to contemplate.
So is there mileage in corporate infrastructure planners looking at the Wyse technology – or at least its long-term development potential – as a means of fully integrating the client as a component of the infrastructure? It could be a small, separate box or card that plugs in a TV or terminal in a hotel room; Wyse is already talking about mobile phones as a carrier; so the format possibilities are endless. The objective, however, would be the same: to give the business end user, wherever they are working, a secure, small, convenient but above all fully integrated client that is part of the network, not just a tool remotely accessing it.
It would obviously be bad for all those users that believe they need to have full, off-line capabilities such as access to data. But I do wonder how many actually require that? And even if they do, a couple of Gig of integrated flash memory and an implementation of SoftGrid’s virtual client software – which produces working subsets of approved applications that remain in residence in memory - would probably cover the needs of all but the heroic few.
Everything could be encrypted as a matter of course, with the maximum of security tricks and tools integrated into the client and datacentre. Apart from anything else this would mean that, even if the client was lost or stolen, vital data would not be lost – it would always be back at the ranch, on the corporate network.
Will it end up this way? Who knows, but in an enterprise world where fast changes demand maximum flexibility, and where those specific issues are now being addressed at the datacentre end of the network, the need for totally flexible, fully manageable, yet totally integrated clients is a part of the mix that is not necessarily being properly addressed yet.