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Lenovo: Even in the Cloud, the Client Still Matters

A lot of attention has been paid to the cloud end of cloud computing -- the applications and for-rent infrastructure that run in megavendors' megadatacenters. The Chinese computermaker Lenovo has taken steps to address the other side of the question: What would an ideal cloud client look like?

The default answer so far has been that the cloud client can be any device. So long as the client has a fast Internet connection, the server farm can do all the work.

Lenovo makes the case that the capabilities on the client end of the connection still matter. To that end, Lenovo this week introduced Cloud Ready Client, an $80 per user software package currently available for ThinkPad laptops and ThinkCentre desktop PCs equipped with second-generation Intel Core or Core vPro Processors.

The client and its first application, Lenovo Secure Cloud Access (SCA), allow users to access Web, local or published (read: Citrix-delivered) Windows applications through a browser-based interface that looks like a Windows desktop.

The secret sauce comes in when the Cloud Ready Client and SCA determine the security, processing power and graphics capabilities of the client device to determine whether to process parts of the applications on the server side or to let it occur on the client's resources. Recognizing secure and high-power clients allows the server to save some processor cycles. Recognizing an iPad that can't run Flash (to borrow an example from analyst Roger Kay's sharp analysis at Forbes) could prompt the server to run the Flash presentation in the datacenter and send the display to the iPad.

"For cloud computing to be truly effective, the cloud must recognize the client device and its capabilities, and the applications and resources have to be capable of exposing themselves to the cloud," said Rich Cheston, executive director and distinguished engineer at Lenovo, in a statement. "SCA levels the playing field between cloud application and device by mirroring what users are already familiar with while creating an easy management experience for the IT staff."

Ezra Gottheil, a senior analyst with Technology Business Research (TBR), said the offering will make Lenovo's PCs more attractive to businesses in the cloud era.

"Lenovo will provide server software and assistance to customer organizations, which will use Lenovo's tools to make their cloud-based applications work better on a diversity of clients without actually modifying the applications. Lenovo has started with private clouds, but will progress to public cloud-based applications once it has demonstrated the usefulness of its approach," Gottheil said in an e-mail to technology reporters.

"TBR believes Cloud Ready Client is a stepping stone for higher utilization of tablets and smartphones in the enterprise space, by allowing the server to optimize the end-user's experience," Gottheil said.

Yes, Lenovo's a PC vendor, and it's in the company's interest to make users think the devices at the edge of the cloud remain relevant. But Lenovo seems to be on to something here that will be especially important to enterprise customers. Look for other PC vendors to follow suit with their own variants of the Cloud Ready Client.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 14, 2011


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