Not Your Father’s Client Computing Environment

There’s an old joke about Model-Ts – you could get them in any color you wanted, as long as you wanted black. That’s sort of how enterprise client computing felt 15 years ago: Here’s your monitor, there’s your CPU tower with a bunch of cables. One size fits all. As Client Product Manager at Intel Corp., I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth today. My job is to develop and execute our IT client computing strategy at Intel, including recommended refresh cycles, procurement, and platform offerings and management for Intel employees.

Just as cars now come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, client computing has evolved far beyond the traditional monitor and tower. Technology, how people use it, and the processes we implement to manage it have all undergone significant transformations. Intel IT has evolved from the “one size fits all” approach to client computing and now offers multiple technology choices so that employees can select a device that best suits their way of working and their job requirements.

The “PC fleet” at Intel is now the “client computing fleet” and encompasses many form factors. The mobile workforce movement ushered in laptops, and in recent years the consumerization of IT has sparked huge growth in the bring-your-own-device arena. Moore’s law continues to rule, enabling people to do more and more with smaller and smaller devices. At Intel, we’re seeing a continual rise in 2-in-1 and tablet usage for certain segments of the employee population.

But one of the most exciting areas of client computing at Intel is desktop computing. As described in a recent IT@Intel white paper, the familiar “desktop”-class PC continues to fill an important role, but desktop computing as a whole has morphed beyond the desk. New form factors are demonstrating their relevance to enterprise client computing. Here are a few examples of form factors we are putting to use at Intel:

  • Mini PCs. The Intel® NUC (Next Unit of Computing) is a good example of a mini PC – an energy-efficient, fully functioning small form factor PC. Some can literally fit in the palm of your hand.DC3217IYE_front-4pres.png
  • All-in-one PCs. This form factor integrates the system's internal components into the same case as the display, eliminating some connecting cables and allowing for a smaller footprint. Less clutter, touch capabilities, and desktop performance are just some of the advantages that AIOs offer.
  • Compute sticks. Continuing the Moore’s law phenomenon, compute sticks are PCs that can fit in your pocket, providing the capability to turn any HDMI* display (think TV, digital sign, whatever) into a PC, running either Windows* 8.1 with Bing* or Ubuntu* 14.04 LTS.ComputeStick.jpg

These “stationary computing devices” can be used in a variety of enterprise settings. Mini PCs can power digital signage and conference room collaboration. All-in-ones bring the power of touch to the desktop and are particularly useful in public settings such as kiosks and lobbies. Compute sticks combine the ease of mobility with the powerful computing capabilities associated with traditional desktop PCs. You can read more about these use cases in our recent white paper “The Relevance of Desktop Computing in a Mobile Enterprise.”

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Traditional desktop PCs are not remaining static either. In particular, I’m interested in the increasing wireless capabilities of desktop PCs using PCI-Express* (PCIe*). A single PCIe lane can transfer 200 MB of traffic in each direction per second – a significant improvement over standard PCI connections.

Intel IT is actively preparing for a future workplace that incorporates many form factors as well as many input methods, including touch, voice, sensor, and gesture. We are transitioning from the traditional IT model of end-device control and management to a device-independent, services-based model. We are also revisiting our client computing management practices, procurement processes, and other aspects of client management. I hope to address these topics in future blogs. In the meantime, I’d appreciate hearing from readers. How is client computing changing in your organization? How are you adapting to these changes? Please share your thoughts and insights with me – and other IT professionals – by leaving a comment below. Join our conversation on the IT Peer Network.