Personal computers (PCs) for businesses are more than a class of devices. They form a continuum. Comparing the bulky Wintel desktop computers that defined PCs in the 1980s and 1990s to modern commercial customers would be like putting a pterodactyl and a hummingbird side by side. However, just as enterprise PCs have evolved rapidly and dramatically in recent decades, so have the platforms and tools that IT uses to deploy, manage and maintain them.
In addition, the way businesses use PCs also continues to change. While some organizations primarily need to support proprietary legacy applications and locally managed data and network services, many others are embracing and benefiting from large cloud-based data applications and services, as well as flexible management and virtualization technologies. Many of these companies are also exploring and deploying new classes of native cloud applications.
But the most important point to note about the different offers is that no single option or approach meets all the requirements of the company. As a result, organizations often adopt multiple solutions, resulting in a mishmash of headaches for customers, platforms, management and security for IT. In addition, unexpected events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have forced tens of thousands of companies to rethink how they support and secure IT resources for employees.
Is there a way out of this situation that offers modern businesses, workers and IT all the benefits of new PC innovations?
One solution that organizations should be looking at is Dell’s new hybrid client, which supports a range of solutions tailored to the specific needs of the workers in charge of tasks, knowledge and power. Dell Hybrid Client reflects the company’s four decades of PC leadership and benefits from innovative infrastructure solutions and strategic partnerships with companies like Intel and key cloud and enterprise software providers.
Let’s explore Dell’s new hybrid customer solutions and why companies should consider them.
The PC continuum
Most people consider professional PCs as stand-alone desktops or Wintel laptops. This is generally true, but over the past four decades, solutions for commercial customers have undergone three major evolutionary changes.
- Client/server: When organizations began large-scale PC deployments, the vast majority took advantage of Microsoft’s solutions and tools connected to a local network. These two-tiered client/server architectures gave employees access to files, applications and storage infrastructure, and allowed IT staff access to endpoints for updates, management and security features. As the public Internet grew, employees began using browsers for their business tasks, but performance was too limited to support sophisticated processes. In addition, web-based applications generally offered fewer features and features than those deployed on-site.
- Light/network-compatible customer: in the early 1990s, network-enabled light and zero customer devices were introduced as cost-effective and easier-to-secure alternatives to fully functional “heavy” PCs. Proponents also highlighted the IT department’s ability to support stricter management and monitoring of these environments, but light customers have had limited success outside of specific use cases. Over time, lightweight customer infrastructure began to take advantage of powerful and flexible virtual office infrastructure (VDI) platforms that were more flexible and cost-effective than traditional offerings.
- Chromebooks / cloud-enabled: In 2011, Google introduced Chromebooks as a product category and concept for browser-based personal computing support. Taking advantage of Google’s Chrome OS operating system, Chromebooks can perform tasks supported by the company’s Chrome browser, most apps (including Google Suite) and data residing on Google Drive. This model assumes that the applications are written for the browser and although this is appropriate for these situations, it does not handle legacy applications well. Unsurprisingly, although Chromebooks have become popular with some consumers and niche markets, especially education, they have not been widely accepted or successful in companies and industrial applications.
Organizations have also had to deal with and adapt to unexpected events and changes in end-user behavior. For example, as employees increasingly used smartphones, laptops, tablets and other personal devices for work, companies instituted “bring your own device” programs to help alleviate security and IT management issues.
More recently, the global pandemic of Covid-19 and the need for social distancing have forced many companies to support employees working from home (FMH). This has caused significant stress at the same time as it has triggered entirely new categories of IT management challenges related to the deployment, management and security of professional customers’ devices.
What defines modern PCs?
While it is clear that the workplaces and IT infrastructure they employ will continue to evolve, what PC features are essential to the success of today’s businesses?
First, they must take into account the computer habits of modern workers who are comfortable with devices, applications and heterogeneous data sources/services. PCs must also reliably support traditional platforms and work applications, as well as open source platforms and non-Windows productivity applications and suites.
In addition, high-performance PC solutions must respond flexibly to the computing performance requirements of any business. These include supporting complex applications and running multiple connected screens and devices. Finally, modern PCs should enable businesses and workers to take full advantage of alternative solutions, including applications and services based on cloud architecture and independent of the operating system.
What do critical groups need for modern PC solutions?
- Workers: Modern PCs must support a range of processes and use cases, including those performed by skilled workers, general knowledge workers and energy workers who need more efficient configurations, high-resolution screens and powerful devices. Solutions must also provide easy and efficient access to business resources (local applications, forms and documents, web applications, SaaS solutions) and transparent data access and search functions, regardless of where the information is located or stored. Successful solutions will also deliver a similar user experience on connected business devices, reducing complexity, training requirements and costs.
- IT management, staff and administrators: for IT, effective solutions must be both intelligent and reliable. In other words, they must be easily manageable and secure. Solutions must be able to use popular public clouds, as well as cloud-based applications and management protocols. Key local security and browser features must be robust, and the best solutions will also offer options to customers who require higher-level security features, such as multi-factor authentication.
- Business owners: As with other digital business solutions, the key drivers of modern PCs’ success are how they improve business, efficiency, improve worker productivity and reduce technical processes and complexities. At the same time, PCs must be able to provide consistent access and support to information and productivity tools wherever they are, including connected devices, on-site resources, and private and public clouds. Platforms must also be able to support traditional Windows devices, as well as non-Windows solutions, VDI applications and cloud-based IT services.
Essentially, modern PC infrastructure must be powerful and secure enough to meet existing business requirements, flexible enough to support changing user/worker habits and needs, without friction in terms of supporting evolving applications and deployment methods, and providing access to new value-added features and functions.
Dell Hybrid Customer Solutions
So what is Dell doing to solve these problems? The company calls its hybrid customer offering a cloud-managed software solution “one of a kind” that allows secure and consistent access to applications and data wherever they are (local cloud, on-site, private/public). Combined with the company’s powerful and popular Wyse Management Suite Pro customer administration solution, Dell Hybrid Client transforms Dell’s Intel customer terminals into modern, flexiblely managed customer solutions.
The Dell hybrid client was originally launched in September 2020, offering Dell Optiplex 7070 and Wyse 5070 desktop devices that offered a range of configuration and performance options for desktop deployments. The OptiPlex 7070 Ultra is a high-performance, fully modular and clutter-free desktop solution available with Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. The Wyse 5070 is a versatile and scalable mid-range customer, available with Intel Celeron and Pentium Silver processors.
Dell has been actively investing in the platform ever since. A major upgrade released at the end of March 2021 features new features designed to improve user experience, security and management capabilities. For example, Dell Hybrid Client expands hardware support to include portable and all-in-one (AIO) customer solutions. The next generation of Dell’s Latitude 3000 series (starting with the Latitude 3320) will be available in April with Intel Core i5 and i7 processors.
Dell’s new generation of AIO OptiPlex Ultra modular solutions (starting with the 3090 and 7090 Ultra) is available now and will be available with the factory-based Dell hybrid customer in May. The company also plans to continue to support other solutions in its portfolio of commercial customers to provide a broader choice in terms of performance and form factors in future releases.
Although Dell Hybrid Client is distinctly different from Windows PCs, light customers and Chromebooks, it can complement and be used with these devices. How is it different, but complementary? In essence, Dell’s new platform provides flexible, automated cloud-based management tools for business customer devices, delivers a highly personalized user experience, and improves desktop economy, business agility and security features.
What does this mean for the three critical groups we discussed earlier?
- For workers, Dell Hybrid Client requires no compromise in terms of Intel system power, display and device support, and connectivity options. The platform significantly reduces the complexity of tasks by allowing a single connection to all local, virtual and cloud-based resources, eliminating the need for multiple connections. In addition, Dell Hybrid Client includes a local Zoom customer in its core image. The platform supports the installation of a local Linux client for Microsoft Teams, and Dell also facilitates the deployment of local third-party Linux applications for customers. The Dell Hybrid customer provides a common “Follow Me” user personality that works on all cloud-controlled devices, which should help improve employee productivity. Finally, the new solution supports global file search functions that span all local data, cloud and USB devices, eliminating tedious searches and improving task efficiency.
- For IT staff, Dell Hybrid Client enables the deployment and secure of Intel-based Dell PC terminals, capable of simultaneously running both legacy applications and state-of-the-art workloads and modern applications. Platform-ready integration with virtual and cloud environments is designed to significantly reduce the time required for deployment, configuration and management tasks. The solution supports Microsoft Azure Cloud and Google Cloud (including associated services, such as Office 365 and Google Suite), and future versions will extend support to other public cloud platforms. Dell Hybrid Client can seamlessly operate multiple protocols, including VMware VDI, Citrix and Microsoft RDSH, and also supports Active Directory without requiring an overhaul or new authentication process. On the security side, with the introduction of the new mobile platform, Dell introduces complete end-to-end user file encryption via zFS. By activating secure start-up, Dell Hybrid Client helps ensure system integrity, and device and user profile settings are seamlessly managed with Wyse Management Suite Pro. The platform also offers enhanced, enterprise-class features, including deactivated whitelist and browser tracking features, access to locked local files, and no root or administrator user function. The new solution also includes a rules-based security profile in which, by default, all applications have a sandbox profile designed to prevent unwanted or inappropriate interactions and that provides different layers of profiles depending on the needs of organizations. Finally, Dell’s new platform supports smart card multi-factor authentication for access to VDI and cloud applications, enhancing the security of employees who use these resources.
- For business owners, Dell Hybrid Client is designed to flexibly improve the productivity of experienced workers and users, while improving the overall user experience. With the introduction of the Latitude 3320, the Dell solution is also expanding the support of remote workers who need a mobile form factor. The Dell Hybrid Client platform simplifies key PC administration and security functions and leverages platforms and tools familiar to IT staff, including Proven Dell Intel-based products and management offerings. The new solution is also flexible and robust enough to help organizations cope with both existing business scenarios and unexpected changes and challenges in the workplace, providing businesses with an excellent return on their investments.
In essence, Dell’s hybrid customer solution is designed to enable companies in sectors such as retail, finance, manufacturing and transportation/logistics to adopt modern cloud-based IT solutions and services in a simple, secure and cost-effective manner.
Like virtually every other area of enterprise computing, the evolution of PCs and other end devices is in a constant upward motion. While some form factors and PC use cases, such as desktops, light customers and Chromebooks, never disappear, new modern technologies are emerging, offering significant new benefits and added value for business organizations. In addition, as applications and enterprise data become much more cumbersome and complex, they must also be safely accessible from virtually anywhere at any time with a variety of ever-changing devices.
In other words, the PC continuum continues. However, capturing and realizing the value of modern PCs and powerful devices is not a sure thing for workers, IT administrators or business owners. To fully deliver these benefits, new customer offerings must complement existing PCs and be easy to deploy, manage, secure and maintain for businesses. That’s exactly what Dell’s new cloud-managed software platform is aiming for.
Dell’s hybrid customer makes it easy and secure for businesses to adopt new cloud-based solutions and services. In addition, the Hybrid Client platform is designed to improve the productivity of workers, knowledge workers and experienced users (at home and in the office), as well as the efficiency of IT staff responsible for managing and maintaining commercial customer environments. Finally, Dell’s new offering is flexible and robust enough to help businesses successfully meet their existing business needs and cope with unexpected changes and events.
Overall, we believe that companies looking to improve the efficiency of their PC infrastructure and benefit from modern cloud-based IT solutions and services should study and consider Dell’s new hybrid customer solution.