SAN FRANCISCO-IBM, spinning out a new approach to cloud computing to complement its Blue Cloud initiative, introduced at VMworld 2009 Sept. 1 something it calls a public desktop.
And what exactly is a "public desktop" cloud? It's a variation on virtual private desktops already well-positioned in the market from Citrix, Wyse, VMware, nComputing, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems-and IBM itself.
IBM has concocted the term "public desktop cloud" to describe desktop services that give users with network PCs or laptops rentable private cloud services: the ability to access applications and data through a centrally managed computing environment hosted by IBM itself.
Publicly available cloud computing serves up computing power, data storage or applications from one data center location over a grid to thousands or millions of users on a subscription basis.
Private cloud computing is a different take on the mainstream version, in that smaller, cloudlike IT systems within a firewall offer similar services, but to a closed internal network. This network may include corporate or division offices, other companies that are business partners, raw-material suppliers, resellers, production-chain entities and other organizations intimately connected with a corporate mothership.
The new IBM Smart Business Desktop on the IBM Cloud subscription service provides a logical, rather than physical, method of access to data, computing power, storage capacity and other resources, Carl Kraenzel, IBM CTO of end-user services, told eWEEK.
"For a few years now, we've been providing virtualized desktops, in partnership with Citrix, VMware and Wyse, going in to help customers set up a private-desktop cloud," Kraenzel said. "For example, in 'help desk' or contract-developer uses, rather than give contractors a full machine to figure out how to get provisioned, it's much quicker and more effective to give them a virtual desktop. It's a very clear use case.
"Over the course of doing thousands of these virtualized desktops, time and again we found ourselves being asked: 'Well, can you host this, so we don't have to manage it ourselves? So we don't have the up-front costs for servers, networking equipment?'"
What IBM is announcing now amounts to the industry's first "public desktop cloud," Kraenzel said.
"This service is for customers who want to rent the proposition of virtualized desktops, without having up-front capital costs," Kraenzel said.
IBM enables customers to choose any applications they want to use for the service, Kraenzel said. Storage provisioning and access policies all can be handled by administrators through a portal console, he said, much like a regular private cloud.
"Customers put the images up there, and IBM delivers and maintains the service," Kraenzel said. "It's a very flexible offering."
The IBM Smart Business Desktop will have three levels of service at varying rates: a "gold" level for highest support; a medium-service offering; and a lightweight version, Kraenzel said.
The IBM Smart Business Desktop on the IBM Cloud service will be available in October 2009, Kraenzel said. Pricing will be on a per-user, per-month basis, with rates to be announced when the service becomes generally available.
At this time, there is no minimum number of desktops required within an organization to use the new service, Kraenzel said.