Nearly a month ago, we discussed Intel's concept
of "micro servers" and detailed their position as cloud-providing products. It should come as scant surprise that OEMs have picked up on Intel's vision. Today, Lenovo is first out of the gate with what it calls "Cloud Ready Clients." The company claims these servers "are optimized to interact with the cloud and give end users the best possible experience when accessing applications and services."
The label of "Cloud Ready Client" is mostly a marketing initiative, applying as it does to all ThinkPad laptops and ThinkCentre desktop PCs powered by 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ or Core™ vPro™ Processors and unique Intel-developed Application Programming Interfaces that expose key hardware attributes of the client to cloud applications.
This is somewhat confusing. Intel refers to Sandy Bridge as "2nd Generation Intel Core," despite the fact that SB isn't the second Core architecture (Core 2), the second Nehalem product (Lynnfield), the second high-end iteration of Nehalem, (Gulftown), or the second 32nm processor Intel introduced (Clarkdale/Arrandale). Making matters worse, Intel has baked vPro technology into both Sandy Bridge and Clarkdale/Arrandale systems built on the appropriate (Q57, QM57, QS57) chipsets. In theory, these non-SB systems should support the advanced vPro features Lenovo discusses.
Lenovo is also announcing what it calls "Secure Cloud Access" and describes this as "a delivery method that improves the way cloud-based applications interact with end user devices like Lenovo Cloud Ready Clients, smartphones and tablets. SCA gives users access to their Web or local and published Microsoft Windows applications on nearly any device through a browser-based interface that mimics the look and feel of their normal Windows desktop. SCA delivers applications based on the device and adjusts security and performance settings to that device. SCA is the first commercial application to deliver an enhanced experienced [sic] through a Lenovo Cloud Ready Client.
We're trying to reach Llan...err, Lenovo technical support
Lenovo's SCA technology is what implies real steak underneath the cloud-y sizzle. The company claims that it enables business organizations to deploy private/hybrid clouds across physical or virtualized servers. The desktop is web-based and requires a Java-based browser. The company specifically notes that Firefox, IE, Chrome, and Safari are all supported. The SCA client supports both SSL and VPNs, can integrate with Active Directory, eDirectory, or LDAP, and can accomodate further, business-specific levels of authentication.
SCA is designed to prevent the spread of viruses by granting users "access to their organizations’ applications and print and file resources without permitting any access to the organizations’ Intranet. Biometric scanners will also be available to organizations that want to use non-standard methods of authentication.
Lenovo's Secure Cloud Access sounds pretty impressive, even if the service only modestly delivers on its claimed feature set. The one question is whether or not cloud computing is going to explode the way Intel thinks it is. Tablets, for all their potential applications, have thus far been treated as media consumption devices. Cloud computing, as such, has its roots in everything from Facebook to software-as-a-service to the concept of renting server processing time as a service. Lenovo has clearly put a lot of time into its cloud computing architecture—hopefully it'll bear some interesting fruit.