Today’s announcement of a joint initiative between Google, Verizon, Amazon, Samsung and Acer should be viewed as a breakthrough in the management of information technologies. The Chromebook offering is innovative. It combines software, hardware, communications and marketing as an integrated set. It is only the first of such announcements, with many more to follow. It represents a package that combines capabilities that are unlike anything presently available.
Chromebook is the ultimate thin client with only a Chrome browser supporting all of its functions. It derives all of its computing power from the Google global network of over a million interconnected servers, delivering a globally available Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Samsung and Acer offer Chromebooks as laptops for about $499 purchase, though tablet and other versions can be also expected at lower prices. The initial use of Amazon suggests that mail-order will be the sales channel over which web access appliances will be marketed in the future.
The Chromebook hardware appliances boot instantly. The uptime for the Chromebook should reflect Google uptime of 99.999% and should be superior to what is offered in DoD. Chromebook latency inherits existing Google network response time of less than 30 milliseconds. Websites are loaded quickly and support the latest open source web standards plus Adobe Flash.
Chromebook connects to the Internet via a built-in Wi-Fi wireless connection or by means of the Verizon 3G wireless network. 3G services include free 100 MB per month of data with a charge of only $9.99 per day billed on a pay-as-you go basis.
The Chrome Web Store (https://chrome.google.com/webstore) offers thousands of applications, most of which are free. This includes substitutes for all of the functions currently available from Microsoft, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Mail.
Unlike computers that run under the control of the Windows operating system, all services including applications, operating systems and browsers are automatically kept current without user intervention. Connection to printers or other devices is done through Google protocols.
Chromebooks operate with an operating system that has been designed to tackle security intrusions. It provides multiple layers of protection. If any one layer is bypassed, others are still in effect. Automatic updates make sure that the latest security fixes always installed. Each web page and each application runs in separate and restricted environments called “sandboxes”. If a malware infected web page is downloaded from the public Internet, it can’t corrupt other web pages or apps that are separated in the Chromebook. This solves the DoD problem how to permit isolation of social computing from all other applications.
Every time Chromebook boots it will self-check to detect if it has been tampered with. Chromebook will then repairs itself. Chromebook also manages encryption of documents stored in the SaaS cloud. If Chromebook is disrupted the system will enter into a hardware-backed recovery mode and restore the entire system to a secure version.
Chromebook is controlled completely by the Google Chrome open source Operating System. This makes the Chromebook extensible and interoperable if open source standards are followed.
In addition to applications from the Chrome Web Store, the Chromebook will also make it possible to run enterprise applications managed by Citrix and by VMware software. In this way the Chromebook can support a wide range of legacy applications already in place in DoD.
Most of DoD client computers are still using the soon to be phased out Microsoft XP operating system. Converting to a vastly cheaper Chromebook instead of upgrading to Windows 7 offers an opportunity to make a switch from client server solutions to cloud computing.
Though today’s announcement of the Chromebook is revolutionary, it should be only seen as a step in the inexorable pace towards cloud computing.