This last week I was given a very nice surprise by a guy I work with when he presented me with a Chromebook. He had been trying to use it for a while but found that he tended to favor his iPad and it really wasnt getting the miles to make it useful.
So here we are….. Sitting here writing this article with this Chromebook in my lap I guess I am thinking, now what?… From what I have heard this seems to be peoples first opinion but I am convinced that it wont be my only opinion.
First of all the laptop (Samsung) is well built, is light and sleek and in general it feels great. One major benefit of the Chromebook is how amazingly fast it fires up from sleep but I think this may be a bit overshadowed now that the iPad is in such wide use. At first I spent a little time looking at the apps available for the OS which are easy to find when you open a new tab. I installed a few apps(though I have yet to use them) and then proceeded to browse. The web browsing experience is as you would expect from any good browser on a good computer. Everything loaded normally, I didnt notice any slowness but unfortunately Netflix still doesnt work on the OS.
At this point I started wondering what I wanted to see in the device and decided to get a little focused. How can I really see what this can do? How can I see the benefits if I dont get past the browser.
So I devised a plan. At the moment I am using the Chromebook as a browser with my Gmail account. I browsed the web, installed some apps, and updated my Facebook/Google+. Why not tie it into my Google Apps account and start seeing what the Chromebook was built for?
So over the next month or two I plan on trying to see how this could be a benefit in an enterprise deployment? Can we start re-thinking the normal network architecture for a cloud based solution?
To App or not to App?
From what I can see, one of Google’s intentions for the Chromebook is to enable tight integration with Google’s web enabled business model (Google Apps). So far the features I have read about make this sound really cool and if the features are as powerful and as easy to use as the rest of the Google Apps products one could get quite comfortable with this very easily. Which also brings up one of my problems with cloud based applications.
I have been using Google Apps for several months now and, to be honest I really like it. I no longer need to worry about maintaining my own server, spam, backups, power, etc. It just works with everything. Lets face it, after working on servers all day I don’t really want to work on mine when I get home. So why would this be an issue?
The issue comes in when I start thinking about the data. There is an incredible amount of data that is going into all sorts of third party internet applications and I wonder what is going to happen to it all. It may not be today or tomorrow but what happens years down the line, what happens as these companies are bought and sold? Not to pick on Google Apps but as it is the focus of what I am writing about, Google Apps allows us to use it for email, contacts, calendar, tasks, chat, video chat, telephone calls, documents, spreadsheets, presentations and countless other applications that can be tied into it. That is a lot of data and unfortunately I don’t see a way a company can guarantee what will happen to this data years down the line.
In my opinion Google Apps is a fantastic product but there are some inherent risks to using any cloud based application. I guess it is just a trade-off between convenience and privacy.
That being said, it looks like Google has thought of this and has also thought about how to ease transition from the server-centric model to the cloud. If you don’t want to use your Chromebook with Apps you don’t always have too. You could connect it to your company infrastructure and use it as a terminal to a Citrix server and even though the VPN seems to only have very basic VPN support (L2TP/IPSEC) you could potentially connect it to your VPN infrastructure as well.
So maybe I should be looking at three different configurations for this Chromebook.
An all Apps mode
An all internal server-centric mode
A hybrid mode using Apps to distribute policy to the Chromebook but using local server-centric resources.
But before I can do anything, I guess I better ask Google if I can connect my Chromebook to my Apps account.
UPDATE – Unfortunately it looks like I am going to be unable to test the Chromebook with Apps as the sales team didnt want to offer a trial unless I committed to purchasing 10 Chromebook’s. A pretty strange requirement and kind of like committing to purchase a car before taking a test drive. To bad, was looking forward to see how Apps integrated with it.