What does every entrepreneur have in common? A need for increasingly better tools to accomplish work faster and without compromise, from the devices they already have. We hear the same questions continually: “How do I streamline collaboration?” “How can I improve project management?” “How do I maintain internal controls?” “How can I enable my employees to communicate and work more efficiently?”
Increasingly, the answers include one of today’s fastest growing sectors, according to my friend and frequent collaborator Tom Lowery: Cloud Virtualization. (Forbes staffer Bruce Rogers has written about this emerging sector in his profile of startup Veeam Software here.)
But how do entrepreneurs move software from the cloud to today’s hardware and operating systems? Or how do they ensure today’s software will run on tomorrow’s hardware, and ensure it will be accessible to users from any device? And most importantly, as I have noted in prior articles about cloud storage and cybersecurity, how do they maintain control over their company’s data to keep it secure?
Desktop Cloud Computing
The amount of data being written to disk is doubling every year. But in the bright new world of desktop cloud computing, data can reside anywhere. The cloud presents a range of storage alternatives to make storage and management of company data simpler. (Cloud software is big business as well, as Forbes Contributor Louis Columbus has noted, with IDC predicting 2014 expenditures of more than $100B this year).
For example, despite being one of the oldest and most robust providers of traditional storage and NAS (Network Attached Storage) solutions, Overland Storage’s executives anticipate that thanks to cloud and virtualization, there are new alternatives on the way. (The company announced a definitive merger agreement with virtualization provider Sphere3D earlier today, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and also alluded to in Overland’s 3Q earnings report.)
“The future of cloud is in taking the concept of virtualization beyond the backing up of data or the incorporation of additional systems,” says Peter Bookman, founder of virtualization company V3, recently acquired by Sphere3D. (Disclosure: Peter Bookman is a friend and was a client in 2010 and 2011; however we have no current business relationship.) “In our product lines we bring virtual desktops, virtual applications, and data together in a single solution to let companies of any size use virtual resources to manage their physical desktops, rich applications, and business information.”
Virtualization Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) allows executives, employees and collaborators to access data from a range of devices in a way that allows growing companies to support their employees ability to work from any computer, anytime and anywhere. VDI supports strong internal controls on applications and information, to allow for protection of confidential data on an as-needed basis across on-premises and off-premises environments. It is also a good solution for organizations employing “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) programs that allow employees to use their own hardware to accomplish company work.
Despite the benefits of cloud and virtualization, there are some caveats, too. Peter Tassiopoulos, CEO and Co-Founder of Sphere3D (which recently acquired virtualization company V3, in addition to today’s merger announcement) points to the sector’s continuing flaws:
- Loss of control by IT;
- Architectures that are overly complex, particularly for developers;
- Lack of ability to provide awareness of who has admin access to your data or information (This is huge, as watchers of recent breeches such as the Target debacle can attest);
- In current solutions, data is often disparate from the applications and desktops that need access;
- Enterprise grade storage using the cloud in inappropriate and less than ideal ways (such as improper licensing) through the use of cloud overlaid solutions;
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, lack of access to operating systems and devices that are not equipped for interaction with mobile or touch-screen devices.
“In the age of iPhones and Androids, this is the kind of access people want,” Tassiopoulos says. According to Tassiopoulos, Sphere3D’s vision of desktop cloud computing alleviates these remaining concerns.
What Does the Future of Cloud Virtualization Hold?
As I’ve reinforced before, free and in the cloud isn’t necessarily a good thing for entrepreneurial companies unless the solution is also secure. Furthermore, we can expect to see increasingly simple solutions emerge for network-attached storage that can offer enterprise level functionality to companies of every size.
Scalability will become increasingly important. Entrepreneurs are looking for solutions that are plug and play and are typically hoping to find as many answers as possible from one-stop shops as their companies grow.
Says Simon Bramfitt, an industry analyst and author who specializes in enterprise desktop, mobile and application virtualization (and founder of Conn.-based analyst firm Entelechy Associates): “The concept of Desktop Cloud Computing is highly intriguing, and may create significant new opportunities for software vendors (and for the emerging organizations they support) to deliver existing Windows applications to homogenous user populations in a cost effective and seamless way.”
According to Bramfitt, while expenditures on cloud computing continue to grow dramatically, cloud resources could replace as much as 14.5% of on-premise technology spending by 2020, which is a welcome development for growth organizations and for entrepreneurs.
For more information on recent innovations from virtualization technology providers, readers can review CRN’s 2014 Virtualization 50 here.