Exploring the PC Future: Lenovo Ditches Hard Drives


One of the things that an economic collapse promises is change. We may love to anticipate it, but when it comes to changing the way we do things, we loathe it. This is one of the reasons PCs really haven't changed all that much even though viruses and botnets are running wild, and every month one or two companies have to make embarrassing announcements about lost customer information.


Look at your keyboard. Its basic design was to prevent typewriter arms from becoming tangled. This stopped being a problem when IBM came out with the Selectric electric typewriter in the early 1960s and was never a problem with computers, yet we not only still use the antiquated keyboard (granted some are amazing), we teach children to use it as well.


But, take the entire world and pull the economic security rug out from under it, and folks suddenly are motivated to change. You have three jobs and 20 people who want them. One can type 30 percent faster because he or she doesn't have a conventional keyboard, and so gets the job and probably will get promoted. Others will make the change as well.


The same thing is true with PCs. Lenovo just launched an interesting alternative to the traditional PC desktop. It is calling this new platform the "Secured Managed Client." It has a number of advantages shared by blade PCs, thin clients and traditional PCs. But if it weren't for the economic collapse, I doubt it would get much traction because it is different. But with folks fighting to preserve their jobs by saving every nickel they can, this solution may have suddenly become a player.


Secure Managed Client


Simply said, these are diskless PCs connected by a high-speed but otherwise standard Ethernet connection to a specialized storage array designed by Intel specifically for just such a task. Since the entire image for each connected PC resides on the array, software updates, patches and software maintenance can be performed with the PCs off and only the storage array powered on.


From a security standpoint, the repository is centralized and can be secured. If a PC is stolen, the PC itself is the only thing lost. In an economic downturn, site thefts are likely to go up sharply. While insurance will cover the cost of the lost hardware, the lost information can become not only a reporting nightmare, but one that can, if the loss is significant, damage the firm's profitability. Some types of information are difficult to replace, and with firms operating with reduced staff, they're limited in their ability to recreate lost information in a timely way.


Risk of hard drive failures and losses due to catastrophic events are virtually eliminated if proper backup procedures for the repository are implemented, since users can't turn these protections off or defer them.


Mobile Future


While the initial solution is desktop-only, there is a very real possibility that a netbook-like low-cost mobile product could be implemented with limited syncing and constant WiMax or WAN connectivity to limit the data on the notebook and to provide many of the same benefits that the secure managed client supplies to desktops.


This is likely the bigger step. I'm expecting it to emerge sometime in the next 24 months, but, overall, the concept of local storage is reaching the end of its useful life. It isn't hard to imagine a future where storage is provided even in the consumer space as a service, given the recent forming of EMC venture Decho, specifically designed to address this future need for those looking for a blended and more mobile solution.


Wrapping Up


This is one of the more interesting trends that likely will accelerate over the next 24 months as companies struggle to contain costs and focus increasingly on solutions that provide strong near-term monetary and security benefits. The Lenovo Secure Managed Client does just that, and we will review others as they roll to market.