How Chrome OS and Clouds Can Alter Your Company’s View of Computing


Chrome OS is Google’s attempt to create a fast, simple, and secure netbook. The popularity of Chrome OS netbooks depends on a large number of applications becoming Web-based and on the emergence of cloud computing as a way to reduce the cost of maintaining and managing data centers. We believe that Chrome OS will impact your data center strategy and change the way you view desktop computing.

Today, many workers carry expensive, heavy, Windows notebooks loaded with the applications they use and their data. A few carry netbooks to complement their bigger notebooks because netbooks are small, convenient to carry, and provide very fast access to the Web. And almost all of us that work carries a smartphone such as the iPhone or Motorola Droid that provides us with email, thousands of Web-based applications, and very fast access to the Web. The popularity of smartphones for accessing the Web and running Web-based applications are proof that the way we view desktops is changing rapidly from the 1980’s view of desktops fostered by Microsoft.

Given some applications that workers need are not yet Web-based, many of us still need our notebooks. But if you look at the types of activities that you do each day, you will discover that many of them involve accessing the Web. Many people write and edit documents, search for information on the web, create/update web sites using various tools, write programs using various scripting languages, create demos, create presentations and spreadsheets, read/create lots of email, manage their calendar, or use applications such as Photoshop, etc.

Many of the activities that you do each day involve accessing the Web. You don’t need a notebook for that. Because most people are using Windows notebooks (95 percent of the over one billions PCs are running Windows), you are probably using Microsoft Office, which is not Web-based (yet!) to write documents and create presentations. However, there are other productivity tools that are Web-based. The problem is that the formats they use are not always compatible with Microsoft Office formatting. Fortunately, many application developers and ISVs understand that Web-based applications are the future and as a result are creating Web-based versions of their applications. Cloud providers and some ISVs such as IBM are making their applications available on clouds, allowing you to pay usage fees versus spending large sums of money on licensing contracts.

IT managers are always looking to reduce data center costs and increase business agility. They have had some early successes with server virtualization, but server virtualization is mostly a manual process requiring much system administration. It lacks the automation capabilities that will become visible with clouds. IT managers must now begin thinking about using clouds (internal and/or public) and turning applications into Web-based applications. CFO/CIOs also want to lower the cost of computing in their companies. They would like nothing more than to reduce the costs of purchasing expensive notebooks, replacing hard drives and batteries, and purchasing software for almost all employees and hiring employees to help workers keep their notebook software up-to-date.

How will Chrome OS (netbooks) impact your data center strategy? First, a bit about Chrome OS. There have been many discussions around Chrome OS replacing Windows even though Google has made it clear that Chrome OS is not intended to replace Windows. But with the announcement of Chrome OS, Google is saying that desktop environments like Windows are obsolete. Google is also saying that many people don’t need Microsoft Office and many of the other Windows applications.

Google is trying to shift you toward a vision of cloud computing in which applications are not stored on your hard drive, but rather in clouds accessed through a Web browser. Millions and millions of users are already using clouds today even if they don’t realize it. In the future, you will be accessing the Web and running Web applications from various types of devices using browsers versus carrying around notebooks with big hard drives loaded with applications.

Chrome OS is not intended to be a sophisticated operating system. It is just the Chrome browser optimized to run on a slimed down Linux kernel. Chrome OS applications are Web-based, meaning there will be no native applications stored on a hard drive, and all of the data is in the cloud. You will not be installing or maintaining any software. Chrome OS will not be downloadable to existing PCs. It will come pre-installed on new, netbook-like devices similar to small computers with a screen, touchpad, and a full size keyboard. They won’t have hard drives; instead, they will have solid-state drives.

The goals for Chrome OS are security, simplicity, and speed. Chrome OS eliminates much of the conventional startup process. There is no searching for drives and other devices and the starting up of background applications and services like we find on Mac and Windows personal computers. It automatically updates itself with available updates/patches delivered automatically over the Web. User data is stored encrypted and all data is synched to the cloud. Chrome OS follows Google’s successful debut of Android, which is also hosted on a Linux kernel. Android is being used in millions of smart phones such as the Motorola Droid.

How will you use Chrome OS netbooks? You will write papers, create spreadsheets, listen to music, etc. using Web-based applications. Chrome OS supports Google’s services, but third party Web-based applications are also expected to be developed in the same manner as tens of thousand Linux applications have been developed. In addition, many applications that are not currently Web-based will, over time, become Web-based. One question that some users are asking about Chrome OS is ‚ÄúWhat do I do when the cloud is down?‚Äù Answer: ‚ÄúWhat do you do when your Windows notebook is down and your applications and data are stored on it?‚Äù

How will the advent of Chrome OS along with clouds alter your company’s view of computing? The introduction of cloud computing into your data center in the form of public clouds and/or internal clouds facilitates the use of Chrome OS netbooks, both internally and externally. As many of the applications that you use are made available via clouds, the need for expensive notebooks with applications stored on hard drives will drop. To get the maximum benefit from Chrome OS netbooks in a cloud-based data center, ISVs and custom applications need to be made Web-available.

The security, simplicity, speed, and low cost of Chrome OS netbooks can drive your company to expedite the use of cloud computing in the data center. The cost savings from the use of Chrome OS netbooks versus expensive desktops and notebooks, and the cost savings from the use of clouds are large. Chrome OS is faster, safer, and cheaper than Windows. Chrome OS netbooks don’t require monthly maintenance to keep them running, and they will also eliminate most of the people costs associated with helping users keep their notebook operating systems and applications updated/upgraded. Because applications are browser based and not stored on your notebook, you do not have to worry about upgrading to the next release of software. We envision the time when your work computer and your home computer are the same: Chrome OS netbooks.

As an IT manager, you should pay little attention to Microsoft’s comments around Chrome OS. Microsoft’s Ballmer is baffled by what is going on at Google indicating that he does not know why anyone needs two client operating systems. How many does Microsoft have? The reason Microsoft is taking shots at Chrome OS is that Chrome OS will make it very difficult for Microsoft to raise the prices on its Windows 7-based netbooks. This is something Microsoft decided to do after its low end Windows PCs and notebooks market was cannibalized by cheap netbooks powered by a low cost version of Windows XP.

You should also not worry about Chrome OS failing to make it to market. Google has Intel, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba, Acer, Adobe, and others already onboard to build Chrome OS netbooks. These companies are among the leaders in building netbooks. You just need to worry about having clouds and Web-based applications ready in your data center.

Over the long-term cloud computing and Chrome OS netbooks will be able to help IT managers and CXOs reduce costs. But this will require a change in how data centers are viewed along with the replacement of many of the expensive notebooks loaded with Windows operating systems now used in the workplace. IT managers and application development staff must now begin thinking about using internal clouds (and public clouds for some applications) and turning applications into Web-based applications to facilitate the use of low-cost Chrome OS netbooks and Chrome OS-like netbooks.