By now, we’ve all become accustomed to the tremendous business advantages gained from virtualisation in the data centre: lower power consumption, less heat to manage, better resource allocation, disaster recovery capability and easy management.
Virtualisation gets more exciting when we implement full-on cloud computing environments, where we seamlessly migrate our virtual servers from one data centre to another in order to maximise efficiency. None of this is new to the IT crowd.
At the same time, we’ve made great strides in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Now, you can deploy hundreds or thousands of virtual PCs, using your old desktop hardware as inexpensive client terminals. If you haven’t tried VDI yet, now’s the time: liberating the end-user experience from hardware brings with it a huge potential wealth of security and stability improvements.
That said, I want the next logical step in cloud technology: I want my PC to follow me wherever I go. I don’t want to reach back to my data on a file server with a borrowed web browser – I want my workstation, with all of its applications, open files, custom settings, file shares, and browser tabs. I want to be able to pull up my computer from anywhere on the planet.
For many years, the only way to achieve this goal was to travel with a laptop. All of your apps, data and so on. were stored on a hard drive. You could use your machine anywhere you liked – so long as you carried it there. We’ll no doubt continue to support this model for years.
The problem as I see it now is that it’s getting dangerous to carry a physical PC with you when you’re crossing national borders. It used to be that you were always vulnerable to theft (which is why I carried my laptop everywhere; I’d never leave it in my hotel) or a mugging. Now, we’re starting to see a new (and disturbing) trend: government agencies seizing computers at border crossing points and taking forensic images of them.
This is a deeply troubling trend. It runs afoul of many countries’ laws regarding personal privacy and due process. None the less, it is happening, and it’s becoming more common in the post-Snowden revelations era. I understand the drive that spy agencies and law enforcers have to try to collect all the data in the world just in case it becomes useful someday. I don’t agree with having my personal and business files copied by a stranger with no recourse over who gets to do what with them.
That’s why I want to move to a computer-less future. I want to build a couple of virtual desktop PCs (say, one for work, and a separate one for family business) and host them at a secure cloud provider. Give me a security token that ensures that I’m the only person on earth who can access my machines. Let me sit down at any PC in the world and securely reach back to my cloud provider to use my virtual machine via a simple VM player application. Let’s turn desktops into simple utility processors; bare-metal VM hosts with network connections. Nothing more.
If implemented correctly, all we’ll have at the point of use is input and output; no content will get written to the local host. All of our data will stay (relatively) secure, no matter where we are when we access it. Keep our data secure and allow us the freedom to work anywhere.
We have all of the technology that we need to make this happen. Why haven’t we?