We have a new intern in the office, Ananya, who is doing some good work. These positions are always a challenge because while you want to get some useful work out of the arrangement you also want there to be some educational value to the intern. With the rapid pace of technology and unanswered questions around where someone will end up starting their career, it seems that specific facts of only ephemeral value will not be as useful as long standing heuristics that transcend any particular hype cycle. One of those heuristics is that things repeat themselves and that studying the past can provide insight into the future.
As a child, my father introduced me to computing via a thermal printer terminal with 300 baud acoustic coupler (pictured) – the type of rig you would use to communicate with a Multics system or IBM mainframe in the 70’s so either your father could do real work or you could play Adventure. Speaking of the original Colossal Cave Adventure, it was in ways similar to Dungeons and Dragons, a game which ran into controversy with game play taking players into unexpected places (steam tunnels and the like) much like Pokemon Go is today. All neat stuff, but all of the intelligence was in the central computing system, not the end-user device, the terminal.
Which brings us to VDI and how history and technology all seem to repeat themselves. While the PC brought computing power to the end user devices, with all the freedom (and horror – how can you maintain security and control if the user can do things like install software) that implies, there have always been those who missed the security, simplicity and beauty of the mainframe/terminal model. Imagine virtual PCs residing in your data center that you accessed via relatively dumb terminals. All your data could remain in the DC and you wouldn’t have to worry so much about the end-user hardware because all it had to do was be able to show screengrabs and send keyboard and mouse clicks back upstream. Thus we have gone from the dumb terminal and mainframe to the Apple 1984 ad and the freedom of the PC area back to thin clients and zero clients and other ways of using modern laptops and desktops and in some cases even Chromebooks as dumb terminals – VDI recapitulating the mainframe.
On the topic of VDI – while eliminating the threat of data breach via lost or stolen laptop is an excellent start, it is by no means the only thing you should do with security. Among other things, you are going to have to encrypt VDI. The good news is that the right encryption solution will do a number of things for you including helping with compliance, automation and providing a secure way to decommission workloads.
For more on the HyTrust Encryption for VDI solution, please see the solution brief, Enhancing VDI with HyTrust DataControl. Maybe later we can look at some of the similarities between RACF for mainframes and HyTrust CloudControl for virtualized environments. Further down the road, Ananya may have her own intern, who she will subject to long winded narratives of how things come and go in cycles and how there were once something called VDI…