PC-as-a-Service (PCaaS) using VDI

IBM PC Computer by Mess of Pottage (cc) (from Flickr)
IBM PC Computer by Mess of Pottage (cc) (from Flickr)

Last year at VMworld, VMware was saying that 2010 was year for VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), last week NetApp said that most large NY banks they talked with were looking at implementing VDI and prior to that, HP StorageWorks announced a new VDI reference platform that could support ~1600 VDI images.  It seems that VDI is gaining some serious interest.

While VDI works well for large organizations, there doesn’t seem to be any similar solution for consumers. The typical consumer today usually runs downlevel OS’s, anti-virus, office applications, etc.  and have no time, nor inclination to update such software.  These consumers would be considerably better served with something like PCaaS, if such a thing existed.

PCaaS

Essentially PCaaS would be a VDI-like service offering, using standard VDI tools or something similar with a lightweight kernel, use of local attached resources (printers, usb sticks, scanners, etc.) but running applications that were hosted elsewhere.  PCaaS could provide all the latest O/S and applications and provide enterprise class reliability, support and backup/restore services.

Broadband

One potential problem with PCaaS is the need for reliable broadband to the home. Just like other cloud services, without broadband, none of this will work.

Possibly this could be circumvented if a PCaaS viewer browser application were available (like VMware’s Viewer). With this in place, PCaaS could be supplied over any internet enabled location supporting browser access.   Such a browser based service may not support the same rich menu of local resources as a normal PCaaS client, but it would probably suffice when needed. The other nice thing about a viewer is that smart phones, iPads and other always-on web-enabled devices supporting standard browsers could provide PCaaS services from anywhere mobile data or WI-FI were available.

PCaaS business model

As for a businesses that could bring PC-as-a-Service to life, I see many potential providers:

  • Any current PC hardware vendor/supplier may want to supply PCaaS as it may defer/reduce hardware purchases or rather move such activity from the consumer to companies.
  • Many SMB hosting providers could easily offer such a service.
  • Many local IT support services could deliver better and potentially less expensive services to their customers by offering PCaaS.
  • Any web hosting company would have the networking, server infrastructure and technical know-how to easily provide PCaaS.

This list ignores any new entrants that would see this as a significant opportunity.

Google, Microsoft and others seem to be taking small steps to do this in a piecemeal fashion, with cloud enabled office/email applications. However, in my view what the consumer really wants is a complete PC, not just some select group of office applications.

As described above, PCaaS would bring enterprise level IT desktop services to the consumer marketplace. Any substantive business in PCaaS would free up untold numbers of technically astute individuals providing un-paid, on-call support to millions, perhaps billions of technically challenged consumers.

Now if someone would just come out with Mac-as-a-Service, I could retire from supporting my family’s Apple desktops & laptops…