Inside Intel: A plan for desktop virtualization

An interview with Intel's CIO, Diane Bryant, reveals a long-term strategy to put a virtual machine on every device

Imagine being CIO for Intel. You'd serve over 90,000 employees scattered around the globe, many of them hardcore technologists happy to second-guess any decision you make.

Intel CIO Diane Bryant doesn't seem to be buckling under the pressure. In a recent interview with InfoWorld Executive Editor Doug Dineley and me, Bryant -- who joined Intel in 1985 and worked her way up through the ranks -- clearly laid out her vision for making desktop virtualization a key part of Intel's long-term plans to serve its internal users.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Learn what desktop virtualization really means in InfoWorld's special report. | Download InfoWorld's "VDI Deep Dive" PDF report today. | Plus, do Google Apps and desktop virtualization foretell the rebirth of the desktop PC? ]

Desktop virtualization, as you may know, is one of InfoWorld's favorite topics. In our interview, Bryant immediately dove into the practical challenges and benefits of what she terms "client virtualization" -- where a VM (virtual machine) runs on every one of her users' devices, from notebooks to iPhones, providing a secure, portable business computing environment. At Intel this ambition is already in the pilot phase, which puts Bryant at the forefront of one of the most compelling trends in IT.

Doug Dineley: What caused you to consider virtualization on the client side?

Diane Bryant: The big change I've seen in even just the two years since I've been CIO is the plethora of devices. Intel calls it the "compute continuum." It used to be you would come to Intel and get a desktop, and in '97 you got a notebook, and then smartphones. Now there are all kinds of devices that people are looking to bring into the environment: netbooks and tablets and all kinds of things.

Eric Knorr: Do you have a breakdown of BlackBerry vs. iPhone?

Bryant: If you're an Intel employee and you have a business need (which is about 10 percent of the population), you get a smartphone device which in general is a BlackBerry, because it's an enterprise-secured device. Here's what we did as part of this whole trend I'm talking about. The employee demand was so great, they were saying "I have a smartphone; just let me use it." So what we did in January is we opened it up and we said: "If you have a smartphone, and you're willing to sign a waiver that you're going to have Intel-confidential information on your personal device, we will push contact, calendar, and email onto your smartphone."

Knorr: Can I ask you what the waiver says?

Bryant: I'm not a lawyer, so I'll paraphrase. In general it says: "If you lose your iPhone you have to immediately call Intel and we will wipe the phone, which means we will wipe the Intel information and we will wipe your information."

Knorr: That capability has to be enabled before somebody can use it?

Knorr: Yes. We put a password on the device and we have remote wipe capability. This is where client virtualization comes in...

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