The new Dell Wyse Cloud Connect gives workers one more way to access their data from anywhere via the cloud.
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Cloud Connect is the final result of Project Ophelia, which was first introduced in January 2013 using technology acquired from thin client provider Wyse. The thumb-drive-sized device gives users access to their full desktop, applications and data by connecting to any monitor -- smartphone, tablet, PC, or even TV.
While there are a number of uses and IT controls built in, the enterprise value appears limited, industry experts said.
“I think the device is going to get used an awful lot to play Netflix on hotel TVs,” said Todd Knapp, CEO of Envision Technology Advisors based in Pawtucket, R.I., who has first-hand experience using Cloud Connect.
If anything, the device would augment an employee’s working strategy, rather than replace it, said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, an IT advisory firm based in Westminster, Mass. For instance, workers might use Cloud Connect just to access corporate email through a browser in a pinch.
Unlike the similar Google Chromecast device, Cloud Connect isn’t meant for mass market, agreed Jack Gold, principal analyst for J. Gold Associates, a technology industry analyst firm in Northborough, Mass.
“I see this as more of a convenience factor, and also a demonstration [by vendors] of what’s possible,” Gold said.
Another potential roadblock to enterprise adoption is the fact that Dell Wyse Cloud Connect is Android-based, while many organizations are still Windows-centric.
“There is no platform other than Windows that runs Windows apps the way people are used to,” Knapp said.
Although workers can connect to a Windows virtual desktop through their company’s VDI software, Cloud Connect relies on Google apps, which doesn’t make it easy to access Windows applications.
“Not supporting Windows will be a big drawback,” Kerravala said. “Access to Windows apps would be prohibitively difficult. Most users wouldn’t do it.”
Manageability could draw enterprises to Cloud Connect
The education market and public terminals such as libraries are more realistic enterprise uses for the device, Kerravala said. Digital signage is another big one, as well as travelling sales teams that need to do presentations on the go. Cloud Connect has an HDMI/MHL port, so it could be attached to any screen in a conference room to bring up a PowerPoint from a virtual desktop, for instance.
Paul Kramer, an information systems manager for Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing based in Lincoln, Neb., uses Dell Wyse Xenith zero clients for Citrix XenDesktop and said he could see a potential use for Cloud Connect in his organization. In the company’s manufacturing environment, employees report production information by writing on easels, but IT is looking at ways to generate a display that would replace that method.
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“We could put a 42-inch TV out there and just have it always displaying the same webpage,” Kramer said.
The biggest pro of Cloud Connect is that the device is fully manageable by IT, Knapp said. Administrators can manage the devices en masse through Dell’s Cloud Client Manager. It’s policy-driven, so they can manage specific users or groups of users – and even disable Google Play.
“IT’s got control over it, which is really what you need,” Gold said. “At the end of the day, it’s about security.”
To put IT at ease, Cloud Connect includes multifactor authentication and 120-bit encryption. Plus, if users are simply accessing a virtual desktop through XenDesktop, for example, you’re not giving the device actual network access. It would be using the Web gateway that IT set up, and that’s certainly comforting for IT, Kramer said.
One downside, however, is that Cloud Connect does not yet support Teradici’s PCoIP protocol. Users can access VMware Inc.’s View desktop from the device, but it will connect them via Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol rather than PCoIP, which is native to View. For VMware VDI environments such as Knapp’s, that means degraded performance for some virtual desktop tasks. (Along with View, Cloud Connect also integrates with Citrix XenDesktop and Microsoft VDI.)
Along with Wi-Fi support, Cloud Connect has Bluetooth so users can connect a keyboard, microphone, speakers and/or mouse. A micro-USB port allows them to attach any peripheral that won’t work through Bluetooth, such as a traditional wireless mouse. Plus, administrators have the ability to put additional storage on device through a micro-slot in the side. Dell’s PocketCloud software for remote access to desktops and apps comes preinstalled.
Dell Wyse Cloud Connect is available immediately, and the device costs $129. But is that something IT administrators are willing to pay?
“I would say it is,” Kramer said. “As long as the processing power of the device is enough that it provides a good experience and it doesn’t overheat in ‘X’ amount of time or something like that.”