The Revolution of Client Computing

This article originally appeared on Stephen’s personal blog. You can visit it here.

The future of client computing has a very different look and feel.  There are a couple of driving forces and they are driving hard and fast.

Always on connectivity is actually finally pervading.  Smartphones with 8MB/s data connections have been here for approximately a year. Tablets with similar connectivity are here.  And now ultabook laptops will include this capability too.  We will have access to our data wherever and whenever we want.

The force behind this persistent connectivity is ubiquitous data. We want our information, the same information, on our phone, on our tablet, on our PC. There are many examples of this becoming common in life and work today.

I frequently write the bulk of a grocery list in Evernote on my PC.  Then get home to realize a few more things are missing, so open Evernote again on my tablet and update the list.  Finally when I get around to going to the grocery store I consume the information from my phone and get things done.  I do use Evernote for other things but this is definitely my favorite as benign as it may be.

Something even more familiar is our work email.  Before leaving for a business trip I will often write a bunch of longer emails from a laptop.  While at the airport it is convenient to respond quickly from a tablet, mostly because of how quickly it turns on and off.  Then while running between meetings continue to consume the data from a phone so that when I’m stationary and comfortable again I know how I want to respond.

Then there is a similar scenario with Google docs. I may generate a more complex spreadsheet with formulas, tables, and graphics from a laptop where it is easier with a keyboard and mouse.  While presenting the data in meetings, or as you remember something quickly, it can be easier to update the doc from a tablet.  And when you are out of the office and someone else updates the doc you may want to check it out on your phone.

The point is there are more and more examples like this. The Operating Systems we use in a couple of years will likely not be anywhere close to what they are today. The Operating Systems today are clearly supporting this and moving things forward.  The good news is that we will have Operating Systems that are simpler to use and much simpler for administrators to maintain.  They may not have as many features as the desktop Operating Systems we use today but will get the job done.  Other than a web browser, how many applications are most users running today?  In fact my laptop has 8GB of RAM which only gets used when I start up Virtual Machines.  The biggest performance issue on this system is speed (or lack there of) of the disk spinning.  There are a few great examples of these new client devices.

Take the Google Chromebook. A fastboot Linux base where the entire user interface is through a web browser. Or perhaps the Motorola Atrix Android phone, that has a doc shaped like a laptop? Other than people into software development, music, video, and image editing I’m imagining most others will do fine with a device something similar to these.

One thing in common is that most of the client apps on these devices rely heavily on web applications on the server side. So in the datacenters we will continue to see more services pushed out through web applications so that client app access doesn’t require as much development because you can access everything through a web browser or a small app.  The datacenter will then require more security to focus on Web Application Security since that is the front door to the data and is how the data is being served up.

To sum it up:

  1. We will have more options in client computing devices with much simpler Operating Systems to manage.
  2. The datacenter will be serving content largely through web applications, which means we will need to focus more on Web Application Security.  Reading reports from Managed Security Services providers like Verizon, Trust Wave, and other hardware/software manufacturers this is still the biggest technological problem in security today.  The rise of these types of devices will start to magnify the problem.

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About Stephen Perciballi

Stephen Perciballi is the Director of Security Solutions for Softchoice, one of North America’s largest technology solutions and services providers.