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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Knorr: And this is based on a client hypervisor or...?

Bryant: It's on a client virtual machine. We try not to talk about suppliers.

Dineley: Is it a bare metal hypervisor or Type 2 virtualization?

Bryant: [Laughs] That might narrow it down a bit, wouldn't it? But it's in beta, it's working, and it will save us $1,200 per notebook. The savings to Intel for the same capability to that employee are tremendous. The other [case] is mergers and acquisitions. Say we acquire a company and ideally day one when they show up you want them to be productive. They have their old company notebook with their old company build. We plug in a USB, drop down a VM, and then -- we call it "day one up-and-running" -- we have it running in an Intel environment.

We have demonstrated successes that tell us [the advantages of] client virtualization. If you have a device that you love, and for me to take on that burden of giving you the device you love... just bring your device to us and I'll drop a VM onto it. You can have the Intel load in our VM running on our OS and I can trust it because it's secured from your personal information. I no longer have to back up and save your personal family photos -- which I have to do today, because I know you put your personal photos on your Intel notebook and I have to back it up. So it's secure, I only worry about my VM, you worry about your personal stuff, you get the device you want, Intel remains productive...that's the direction.

Knorr: There's an argument to be made that you're paying twice. Shouldn't everyone just have thin clients? Otherwise, you're paying for a powerful server to host desktop virtualization on top of desktop or notebook computers.

Bryant: It all comes back to your use model. If your employee is tethered to the desk in a closed environment and they have access to X applications, then host those applications in the cloud, in your datacenter. That makes sense. But you put a box around what that employee can do and where they can do it.

Knorr: Did you look at the other solutions evolving now: Google Docs, the ability to work offline with HTML5's local storage model, that kind of thing?

Bryant: The environment is evolving very rapidly, because that model -- those office applications hosted in a cloud -- used to work only when connected. Now they have offline features and capabilities, so you've opened up a new opportunity for delivering applications to devices. We do proof of concept on cloud-based applications all the time.

The issue with that is, as a large enterprise I have a very large infrastructure -- I have 100,000 servers in production -- and so I am a cloud. I have the economies of scale, I have the virtualization, I have the agility. For me to go outside and pay for a cloud-based service...I can't make the total cost of ownership work. And most of my peers can't either. That's why most large enterprises are focused on building cloud capability -- agility and scale -- inside, with their own infrastructure.

Knorr: What about client virtualization for mobile devices? You may have more insight than we do about how this is coming along, because currently, it doesn't really exist.

Bryant: You mean smartphone, handheld-size devices? There are various startups that are building handheld-based virtual solutions and we are absolutely out looking, helping, testing. Because that will be the key. Today I can only put email and calendar [on the device] -- and I strip the attachments because that device isn't secure as an enterprise device. I've made you happier, because I'm letting you use your personal device, but I've limited what I can give you because of security. I have to protect those assets at all costs. As I'm able to put a VM on that device, and I can secure that device, then I'm able to give you greater and greater access to Intel's data and apps.

This article, "Inside Intel: A plan for desktop virtualization," originally appeared at Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter and on your mobile device at

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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