The Unified Communications Revolution Will Be Televised

Rob Enderle

Actually, that isn't literally what it did, but, effectively, this is what OnLive and Juniper Networks are announcing today. OnLive sells a high-end, cloud-based gaming service and it has always been clear that if you could do cloud gaming, you could do a cloud desktop more easily because desktop applications don't require the resolution or the very low latency that a twitch game requires. In effect, the performance required by a high-end game rivals a workstation more than a traditional PC, so if you can do one, you can certainly do another.

 

Let's talk about the benefits of what will be coming from this new service.

 

Multiple Device Support

 

We are clearly having issues moving our applications from the PC environment to the massive wave of tablets that are creeping into the enterprise, most of which either aren't compatible with PC applications or secure enough to meet policy. A cost-effective service that can provide a desktop experience from the cloud would address both issues because the OnLive platform is PC-compliant and simply requires a small footprint and dedicated client to run on the device. Granted, since PC applications aren't intended to run on cell phones, the experience of smartphones is far from ideal, but the experience on tablets, smartbooks or kiosks should be acceptable. The companies have announced both iPad and Android support initially on top of Windows and more platforms are likely to follow. More importantly, there is no actual source data retained on the device and access to the remote service could be through an RSA token-based security system to assure no unauthorized person gets access.

 

Retained State


 

This was the one feature I truly loved about the old Sun Ray platform Sun brought to market. The system retains the state in which you left it. This means you can leave your desktop computer in the middle of typing something and go to work and pick up exactly where you left off simply by logging back in. If you've ever left a file at home or walked away without saving something, this is a godsend.

 

Patching and Anti-virus

 

This is a server-based service using very high-performance servers designed specifically for desktop performance. They are unique in the market in this regard and support flexible processor and graphics system provisioning. This means the hardware is dynamically selected based on the load placed on it by the user, which means you provision the system for average use so utilization is higher and often you can share resources to minimize costs. This leads to potential cost and performance advantages that the typical thin client offering can only dream of.

 

Problems

 

The downside to this service is that it requires a reasonably high bandwidth connection and low latency to avoid being annoying and it will degrade the visual experience in order to preserve that low latency. While problematic in places like hotels where bandwidth is seldom enough for regular Web browsing, this typically isn't a major problem for most up-to-date corporate networks. This means that, initially, this will be best where classes of service can be guaranteed and on strong business and home networks. The good news here is that the success of the initial gaming service, which I've been using since before launch, has plowed this field and indicated that this service can work in many cities just fine today, with coming bandwidth and network hardware improvements assuring it will get better in the future.

 

Juniper's Roll

 

This is why Juniper is a partner and by tying this effort together with Juniper hardware, it should raise the stature of OnLive, which is a gaming property and couldn't be farther from an enterprise player, into the enterprise class much like Microsoft leveraged IBM in the early days of the PC. It becomes a showcase for Juniper Networks' QFabric high-speed data center solution and its Junos Pulse policy enforcement and device management solution connecting the dots into one of the most impressive thin client offerings ever attempted. Cisco should have done this, but it is clearly drifting into not-invented-here territory that delivered this opportunity on a silver platter to Juniper.

 

Wrapping Up

 

Since I first looked at OnLive, I believed this was huge and much bigger than the game model it initially rolled with. This isn't the end of what the service is likely to do disruptively either as it has an HD movie service coming and could also drift into solutions like telepresence relatively easily. We may be seeing the birth of the next big disruptive technology, suggesting that both Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy were right with their thin client efforts. They were just way too early and couldn't stick with them until the technology caught up. It sure looks like it is catching up now.

 

This is a brand-new service and likely best for existing Juniper customers at this early date, but I'd watch the progress of this one closely because it could change dramatically what we think is a desktop.



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