Lenovo announces a desktop alternative for secure managed PCs

* Lenovo's Secure Managed Client

Every organization is looking for ways to reduce the cost of end user computing and to make it more secure. According to Gartner, better management of the desktop environment can yield thousands of dollars of savings over the lifetime of a single PC, while also bolstering data security. Lenovo just announced a new desktop alternative solution it calls the Secure Managed Client (SMC). Lenovo believes this storage-based solution can save customers up to 40% of the cost of a network of regular PCs. Read on to see how it's done.

In mid-November, Lenovo announced a desktop alternative platform called the Secure Managed Client (SMC). This storage-based solution puts a diskless client with full PC fidelity on the desktop, and the applications and data on an iSCSI storage array. A software stack developed jointly by Lenovo and LANDesk manages the delivery of applications and data to the desktops on demand. The solution is simple yet sophisticated at the same time.

There are four key ingredients to Lenovo’s SMC solution. Here’s a look at how they fit together and where Lenovo says a company using SMC will save money.

On the desktop, users will have a diskless ThinkCentre desktop PC with embedded Intel vPro technology. Because the device is a full blown PC, it runs Microsoft Windows natively and supports all standard Windows applications—they just aren’t installed on the desktop device. This makes desktop setup very easy because there’s no configuration or customization for specific users’ needs. What’s more, an end user can use any device on the network and have all his applications and preferences downloaded on demand based on his login profile.

Since the desktop device has no hard disk, the OS, applications and data have been moved to a central Lenovo storage array. This is a standard Lenovo iSCSI device that can support up to a hundred concurrent users that are centrally managed from the SMC management console. The storage array can be located close to the switch where the users are in order to use network bandwidth more efficiently.

The secret sauce of the SMC solution is the software interface between the desktop PC and the storage array. The Lenovo SMC Management Software is used to centrally manage all SMC users, images and the storage array. During the desktop device boot up sequence, this software goes and gets the appropriate OS and application software and pushes it to the desktop based on the end user’s profile. Desktop management software ensures that the devices are well managed to reduce the cost of support. The license for the SMC Management Software is per client and is available as a subscription or standard purchase.

The fourth component of the overall solution is a range of Lenovo professional services to help you assess, design, implement, support and manage the SMC configuration. Lenovo offers the following optional services:

* Test Drive – a proof of concept trial.

* Assessment – consultation to help with migration and implementation planning.

* Infrastructure Planning & Design – a detailed integration plan to deploy SMC.

* Pilot Deployment – deployment for the initial user group.

* Managed Deployment – full rollout of the solution throughout an organization.

* Training – IT staff training on how to manage and rollout SMC.

* Consulting – help from Lenovo engineers on project planning, deployment and management support.

* Tuning – periodic tuning to optimize system performance.

The Lenovo SMC desktop alternative is not a radical approach to virtualizing desktop applications. There’s no complicated process of creating application packages to stream to the desktops. Instead, anything that would ordinarily be located on the desktop hard drive is simply relocated to a shared storage device. It’s this simplicity that allows an organization to save money on deployment costs, systems management, technical support, and power.

The Intel vPro technology embedded into the Lenovo ThinkCentre PCs is an important piece of the management solution (see my previous article about vPro technology). This technology helps with managing the hardware platform in a variety of ways, including power management, hardware health and inventory, and endpoint access control.

One of the unique features bundled into Lenovo’s SMC solution is the client service intelligence from Serden. (Read my previous article about Serden’s technology.) Called the SMC Analytics Manager, Serden InterAct allows SMC administrators to get summary reports about the health of the overall configuration. For example, the administrator can view reports to check the health status and disk availability of the storage array; determine the boot sequence and time of various desktop applications; or monitor desktop and web application behaviors. These reports help diagnose any performance issues or configuration problems that might arise, making it easier to support SMC.

One of the companies that has been piloting an SMC solution is a Canadian financial institution. (For security purposes, the company has asked not be named.) The Manager of Virtual Technology for this company arranged for a 30 day trial of SMC to “kick the tires” and test its value. “SMC has good technology and makes sense for certain situations,” says the manager. He can see applications of the solution for groups of users with similar image needs; for instance, financial traders or a call center. He notes that SMC requires a low latency network to operate most efficiently.

Indeed, Lenovo is positioning SMC for environments with 50 to 100 users of traditional desktops, such as a call center, a hospital, or a school. By replacing the traditional desktops with the highly managed ThinkCentre PCs and centralizing the storage and management of applications and data, organizations can create a more secure computing environment that is easy to deploy and manage.

You can read Lenovo’s frequently asked questions about SMC to get more information.

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