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

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Bryant: Or for some of the factory workers. I think the bigger point is, it's such a heterogeneous environment, with very different needs, across the population and across the devices -- not just by employee but by application. For instance the sales force, which is incredibly mobile: We're rolling out a new CRM solution for them. One would have thought that we could do something that is SaaS or Web-based, that they're going to be connected, [But] the feedback from them is: "No, you can't assume I'm always connected." They want it on a small form factor, mobile device, but they want it local. So this is our exploration process: "Who are you? What app do you need? And when and how do you need it?" Then I have to figure out what's the right secure, virtualized solution to deploy that app to you.

Dineley: Do you see the desktop management problem as primarily managing virtual machines on client devices or primarily managing virtual machines on servers that are accessed by client devices? And in some cases those virtual machines travel to client devices and back. What's the central hub for managing all of these VMs? Is it a VDI server farm or is it some other kind of solution?

Bryant: For the majority of the cases, where almost every employee has a notebook device -- we have 90,000 notebooks -- in general for these notebook devices it's going to be local to the device. A VM loaded on the device. But you can also look at some handheld devices that don't have the capacity for that and they're going to be hosted in the cloud. You have to look at what is the device, what is the app, what is the use model...

Dineley: Are most users mobile?

Bryant: We need to assume that most users are going to pick up their work and leave and that they're not always connected. That's a kind of a baseline assumption. Back in 1997 we went from desktop computers to notebook computers to do exactly that -- to allow you to be mobile, to allow you to work from your kid's soccer field if that's what you need to get your job done. The assumption is that people always want to be able to pick up their work and leave with it and they aren't always going to be connected.

Dineley: This is a difficult problem, isn't it?

Bryant: [Laughs] I'm not trying to be cagey, it really is complex.

Knorr: We keep interrupting you and making you stray from your narrative, but basically it sounds as if you're saying your practical implementation of desktop virtualization is awaiting a robust client-side hypervisor.

Bryant: Yes.

Knorr: And that desktop virtualization in the current deployment is not really widescale at all.

Bryant: No, it's just beta.

Knorr: So client-side virtualization is the gating factor for desktop virtualization for you. Is that fair to say?

Bryant: Yes. We're in test [mode]. We're in pilot. We have 20,000 contractors at Intel at any one point in time. Today -- except for this pilot program we have in India -- we give them an Intel notebook with the Intel load on it. It's very expensive, because that contractor already has a notebook his company gave him. So we said, hey, let's do a pilot in India and say from now on, when we hire you as a contract worker, bring your company-owned notebook in and we will take a USB and load a virtual machine onto your notebook with the Intel load. It's secure, it's partitioned from your corporate load, and then when the contract is over we delete it. We now have a couple hundred contract workers in India -- we have a large Indian design center -- [who are] working on this and it's working pretty well.

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