Cloud-Desktop: The browser becomes the operating system

The variety of software-as-a-service applications and other cloud services is growing steadily. Next to a difficult overview this leads to a higher complexity. One trend are cloud marketplaces that categorize a catalog of different services and thus giving an overall portfolio. What these marketplaces currently still missing is the integration of existing services and applications. This means that working on a common database is not possible, which is known from many on-premise infrastructures, and results in data and application silos.

State of play

The problem of cloud data silos is not just in cloud marketplaces. There are also advertisements for ways of integrating e.g. a CRM SaaS solution applied with an Office suite. In practice, the implementation is achieved modest. Somehow, the systems are indeed connected. In the end one works on different systems, with separate data and must also register separately for both.

Today, the cloud lacks with the integration of disparate services to work on a common data base.

Integration is imperative

Speaking about integration we mean interfaces and data. Some time ago I had suggested that cloud computing for business can give a chance to clean up their historically grown silos. Using the cloud, for companies with isolated solutions it is now easier to replace a single system from that island solution against a cloud service to successively obtain a fully integrated (total) system of multiple cloud services. The practice at this point is not yet so far, but there are initial efforts to change this. And this is essential in order to exploit the variety of different cloud services. A crucial point is the access of the respective cloud services on a common database. This means that every application saves their data continuously in a quasi central store and also call it from there again.

The integration layer inevitably need not a central and persistent data base. One another possibility is to load the data in real time from the integrated systems. These are then processed and displayed on a single interface. Thus, for example, an arbitrary cloud storage is involved, on which the data (pictures, videos, etc.) is stored. However, this means that all cloud services that want to be part of this ecosystem need to open their APIs to the outside in order to save the data and load it back.

The browser becomes the operating system

Irrespective of how the integration is achieved in detail. The browser becomes the “one face to the customer“, the central interface, when the user accesses the Internet. I recently described Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS). But they are only an intermediate step to the actual final state. Indeed DaaS provide full-fledged working environments including classic applications in the cloud. However, the DaaS normally runs in the browser. That means, one first starts his computer, then the browser to start another operating system again. Would an enterprise thus rely on software-as-a-service solutions and DaaS, it again incurs the data and application silos.

The aim is therefore to develop a sort of “uber-cloud”, which is accessed via single sign-on to all services in the cloud into a single interface, who want to be the part of the whole. This is not a new concept and has already been applied. But only on a very proprietary basis with services from a single company. By integrating external services, this approach has failed so far.

These “uber-cloud” can be either a public cloud service or stand by as a private solution. The private solution would have the advantage that IT departments use them as a service broker or as a service portal including application firewall for the employees and get a little control over business applications.

That scenario would mean that an employee logs in at the “uber-cloud” and sees the for him relevant business applications. Based on the application at the “uber-cloud” he is directly signed in to other applications.

The “uber-cloud” should be built like a plugin system, with that each company can put a personal productivity cloud together for their purposes. With the plug-in system different apps/ services can be integrated if the API allows it. Either the data is presented in a single interface. So the data is loaded at runtime and restored after changes or the respective services are organized into “tabs”. It is only important that the data are in a kind of centralized access. Thus, for example, everyone could use any cloud storage as this will only be docked. Where the data is determined the company decide itself.

The browser becomes the operating system. However, it still needs the proper and independent platforms to be implemented.

By Rene Buest

Rene Buest is Gartner Analyst covering Infrastructure Services & Digital Operations. Prior to that he was Director of Technology Research at Arago, Senior Analyst and Cloud Practice Lead at Crisp Research, Principal Analyst at New Age Disruption and member of the worldwide Gigaom Research Analyst Network. Rene is considered as top cloud computing analyst in Germany and one of the worldwide top analysts in this area. In addition, he is one of the world’s top cloud computing influencers and belongs to the top 100 cloud computing experts on Twitter and Google+. Since the mid-90s he is focused on the strategic use of information technology in businesses and the IT impact on our society as well as disruptive technologies.

Rene Buest is the author of numerous professional technology articles. He regularly writes for well-known IT publications like Computerwoche, CIO Magazin, LANline as well as and is cited in German and international media – including New York Times, Forbes Magazin, Handelsblatt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Computerwoche, CIO, Manager Magazin and Harvard Business Manager. Furthermore Rene Buest is speaker and participant of experts rounds. He is founder of and writes about cloud computing, IT infrastructure, technologies, management and strategies. He holds a diploma in computer engineering from the Hochschule Bremen (Dipl.-Informatiker (FH)) as well as a M.Sc. in IT-Management and Information Systems from the FHDW Paderborn.

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