Google ChromeBook + VDI/DaaS = Awesome! (Even for the enterprise!)

I've been meaning to write about this for awhile, but with yesterday's announcement that Google & VMware are high-fiving each other over Horizon DaaS (Desktone) and ChromeBooks, I figured might as well jump in now. The idea they're pushing (and that I love) is that you replace your Windows laptops (or desktops) with Google ChromeBooks (or ChromeBoxes).

I've been meaning to write about this for awhile, but with yesterday's announcement that Google & VMware are high-fiving each other over Horizon DaaS (Desktone) and ChromeBooks, I figured might as well jump in now.

The idea they're pushing (and that I love) is that you replace your Windows laptops (or desktops) with Google ChromeBooks (or ChromeBoxes). The ChromeBook is essentially like a thin client in that you don't have to do to much to manage it, worry about viruses, etc. All the "apps" on it are Chrome Apps and Extensions, many of which work offline. Then for Windows apps, you connect to a remote desktop (RDSH, VDI, DaaS, etc.) via an HTML5 client or a Chrome Extension.

The ChromeBook 

We've written about ChromeBooks a bit in the past on BrianMadden.com. Gabe reviewed a couple of them a few months ago, with his main complaint being that the $279 one feels too cheap to be used by grown ups at work, and the $1300 one is, well, it's a $1300 laptop that only runs Chrome. But now we're getting some more options in the $400-$600 range that might feel more like normal hardware that enterprises could use.

Google also has a cloud-based "management console" for ChromeBooks which adds the expected enterprise management options, including:

  • Asset tracking
  • Pre-installing Chrome apps
  • Blacklisting & whitelisting of Chrome apps, extensions, and URLs.
  • Group configuration options (so you have different policies for different users and groups)
  • Centralized network configuration (proxies, WiFi, etc.)
  • Enabling, disabling, or pre-configuring all the other Chrome options, like bookmarks, wallpaper, account sync, etc.
I'm not clear on whether you have to buy that management console as a separate thing or whether it's included. Some places show it as costing $150, while in other places they say if you buy your ChromeBooks from an authorized reseller, then it's included. (As opposed to, what, the black market?)

Now add Windows via VDI or DaaS

I'm unclear on what exactly yesterday's announcement was. (Google version | VMware version) They're just saying that you can use a ChromeBook to access on-premises remote Windows desktops now via Blast, and then in the future you'll be able to also access VDI and RDSH sessions from the public cloud via the Horizon DaaS (Desktone) service. VMware Horizon View has had HTML5/Blast support for awhile (which also already works with Chrome and ChromeOS), so who the hell knows what this "deal" is? Probably just a marketing announcement since PEX is this week to bait gullible bloggers into giving them free coverage.

Of course accessing remote Windows sessions from a ChromeBook is certainly not new. Citrix has their Receiver for HTML5. There are Chrome extensions from Ericom's HTML5 client and Google's own Chrome Remote Desktop. dinCloud also has their WebHVD Chrome extension which connects directly into Windows desktops running on their DaaS platform (which, it seems to me, is them doing today what VMware announced they'll offer "soon?")

Is this for the enterprise?

So that's the idea. I know so far a lot of people have said that Chromebooks are more geared for education and that they're not ready for the enterprise, but I'd like to revisit this, because to me, ChromeBooks + VDI/DaaS seems pretty great.

Yeah, I get that they're not for everyone. Obviously this solution means you're remoting your Windows apps, so you have those restrictions. But now that we have a lot of options to build high-performance, low-cost VDI on-premises, or cheap ready-to-run DaaS, we're seeing more and more enterprises where that's possible for a number of users.

As for the device itself, the ChromeBook will handle all the corporate web apps. They're as easy to manage as thin clients. Most of them have 3G and 4G built in. Heck, BrianMadden.com user SillyRabbit sent me a message pointing out that the ChromeBook is more secure than most other equivalent devices out there.

I'm not saying this is the solution for every user. But for some? It's got to make sense, even in the enterprise.

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