The virtualization firm just released a Chrome browser-based desktop computing platform--no local operating system or CPU required. Pano System for Cloud ultimately is an extension of the company's core virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology. But rather than deliver the traditional desktop virtually, it delivers cloud applications--such as Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365--via the Chrome browser and either one of Pano Logic's zero clients or another endpoint, such as a repurposed thin client or traditional desktop.
"[It's a] simple, secure, and flexible deployment for organizations that have moved all of their applications to the cloud," said Brett Waldman, senior analyst at IDC, in an email interview.
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Cloud-minded small and midsize businesses (SMB) will likely perk up at the pricing. A $999 perpetual server license translates to a per-user cost of about $5 for a 200-person firm. That doesn't take into account hardware or application costs, but Pano's pitch here is based largely on reducing or altogether eliminating those lines in the budget: No OS licenses, relatively inexpensive endpoints, no need for on-premises storage infrastructure, and so on. A fact sheet produced by Pano touts a 76% reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO) compared with a traditional desktop computing deployment.
You'll want to run your own numbers--buyer beware the vendor TCO comparison--but analysts agree it's a relative bargain provided the cloud shoe fits. "You aren’t missing anything on pricing," said Karin Kelley, infrastructure management analyst at The 451 Group, in an email interview. "[SMBs] could benefit from cheaper devices if the use case makes sense."
Given that the price is right for budget-conscious SMBs, the return on investment case appears fairly straightforward. Pano System for Cloud also offers some of the upside of virtualization without the potential complexities. "It’s less expensive and complex [than VDI], and SaaS and Web applications are being used more and more," Kelley said.
So what's the catch?
IDC's Waldman highlighted a big one--a lack of mobility support out of the gate--but noted that could come in a subsequent release. Given the all-in-cloud nature of the platform, Kelley pointed to "the same risks associated with relying on the Web and connectivity. HTML5 is not all there, yet, and isn’t slated to be officially recommended until 2014."
Both analysts noted that the platform makes real sense only for organizations or user groups that run most--or better yet all--of their applications online. That's a fundamental difference between Pano System for Cloud and a "traditional" desktop virtualization environment. "VDI is about delivering legacy desktop applications and the Pano System for Cloud is about delivering cloud applications in a secure manner," Waldman said. In other words: SMBs that rely heavily of legacy apps should tread cautiously in spite of the attractive pricing.
"It's about finding the right users in an organization for this deployment," Waldman said. "Chances are the majority of users will still need to access some sort of legacy desktop application. However, there is a growing number of users in organizations that only need access to a Web browser."
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