When it comes to the future of computing, Intel isn't placing any bets on a specific model.
In an internal research paper and online survey of more than 700 IT managers that is now beginning to circulate, Intel found that none of the various alternative computer models that have emerged in the past few years will dominate enterprise computing in the near term.
The survey looked at five different models: Terminal services, VDI (virtual hosted desktop), PC blades, and operating system and application streaming models. While the Intel study found that all five have benefits for IT departments, including enhanced security and centralized management, the drawbacks of each mean that none will likely replace traditional desktops and laptops anytime soon.
Intel, the world's largest supplier of the x86 microprocessors for servers and PCs, does favor the OS and application streaming models compared to the alternatives, Michael Ferron-Jones, manager of the Emerging Model Program for Intel, told eWEEK.
"If you look at the similarities of all the models, the conclusion here is that the future is yet unwritten with respect to which one of these could be the breakaway winner," Ferron-Jones said. "You are either deploying [these different models] in a niche today or two years from now you have moved it into a somewhat bigger niche. What we are not seeing is the wholesale replacement of huge swathes of PCs being taken out [and replaced] by these models."
The reason Intel likes the OS or application streaming model -- where the operating system, the applications or both are stored centrally in the data center and then streamed out to a PC where the data is executed locally - is because it's a more incremental way to centralize the management of a computer fleet while creating the least amount of disruption for workers.
"Desktop virtualization is a really big switch and total paradigm shift," said Ferron-Jones. "With application streaming, from a user's perspective, it can be a totally transparent. You are still clicking on an icon for an application, but instead of its residing on the hard drive, it's being shot to from a server. The application is centrally managed and centrally secured and it executes on your machine just like it did before."
The streaming models also appeals to Intel's core business -- selling as many processors as possible. According to Technology Business Research, Intel shipped about 87 million microprocessors in the fourth quarter of 2007. Of those, it shipped about 46 million desktop processors. The OS and application streaming models mean Intel will continue to sell large volumes of both desktop and server processors in the future.