Will Windows 365 and Chrome OS Flex reshape the business?

This article originally appeared in issue 27 of IT Pro 20/20, available here. To sign up to receive each new issue in your inbox, Click here

Companies have accelerated their journey to the cloud over the past two years, moving everything from applications and services to data storage. The massive shift to remote working has also seen enterprises migrate their assets to the cloud 24 times faster than before, according to Synergy Research Group, with enterprise spending on cloud infrastructure services rising 35% to $130 billion. dollars in 2020.

The tech giants have since invested heavily in their respective cloud services, with two of the biggest – Microsoft and Google – going so far as to launch a cloud-based operating system (OS). Microsoft released Windows 365 Cloud PC last year, while Google recently released its own in the form of Chrome OS Flex.

As enterprises step up their efforts to migrate to the cloud and reap the widely touted benefits, could pushable operating systems, delivered to machines over the Internet, come to replace traditional endpoints across the enterprise?

Windows 365 vs. Chrome OS Flex

Microsoft’s Windows 365 is a cloud-based service designed for the hybrid work era that automatically creates a new type of Windows virtual machine (VM) – or Cloud PC – for each user. All Windows 10 and Windows 11 devices are compatible, and the session can even be streamed to hardware running macOS, iPadOS, Linux, and Android. You will also have access to Microsoft 365 applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Microsoft also touts its network performance as superior to your physical device. Because your Windows 365 instance is hosted in a high-performance data center, you get connection speeds from that data center rather than your on-premises broadband connection.

Google’s service, while not as comprehensive, offers an equally modern approach to virtual machines. Branded Chrome OS Flex, this streamable operating system is designed for businesses that want to deploy a universal system without splashing out on new hardware. The new OS can be installed on any PC and Mac in minutes, Google says, and should feel identical to the traditional Chrome OS you’ll find on a Chromebook, as it’s built from the same code base.

Google also promises rapid deployment and easy management for IT teams, built-in corporate security checks and complaints, due to the cloud-based nature of the software, devices will start up quickly and not slow down over time.

Migrate your workstation to the cloud

Microsoft’s launch of Windows 365 and its underlying Azure Virtual Desktop platform is a clear signal that streaming Windows from Azure is a modern way to deliver IT services, says CEO Vadim Vladimirskiy IT as a Nerdio service provider.

“The global shift to the cloud, accelerated by the pandemic, supply chain issues and working from anywhere, has dramatically accelerated the adoption of cloud desktops,” he said. “The desktop is the single most important core computing workload that has lagged significantly in the transition to the cloud behind other popular workloads such as email, servers, databases, and applications. Over the next few years, OS streaming will increase dramatically as more and more endpoints are virtualized and delivered through the cloud. »

Microsoft launched Windows 365 Cloud PC last year

Jason Rees, vice president and head of technology solutions engineering, EMEA at Oracle, agrees, telling IT Professional cloud-based operating models are the future of computing. “Companies should look for targeted changes, such as how to increase efficiency or deliver services faster, and leverage cloud-based operating models to make meaningful, specific changes,” says he. “Having the ability to scale up and down as needed allows businesses to meet peaks in demand without having to pay when they experience lulls. This is a huge benefit for all types of teams and industries.

Despite the potential benefits, it’s clear that this model won’t work for everyone; on Chrome OS Flex, for example, organizations cannot install any non-web apps. Not only will Google and Microsoft’s subscription-based systems not appeal to all businesses, but many will also suffer from compatibility issues with their bespoke systems.

However, Windows 365 and Chrome OS Flex could provide major benefits to particular industries, such as healthcare, where data security is critical, according to Scott Orton, senior cloud security consultant at Adarma. “They need significant control over their office environments or can run their operations using entirely cloud technology, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based solutions that are delivered through a web browser,” said he declared. IT Professional. “In either case, this approach and degree of control makes it much more difficult for troublesome users to extract data from the corporate environment.”

According to David Dudman, COO at Jigsaw24, industries where there is a clear lack of IT infrastructure could also modernize their IT operations through the adoption of a streaming operating system. “With a simple 4/5G dongle in hand and a laptop under their arm, employees can access their business apps and tools with little to no effort through cloud-based operating systems,” says -he. “The key to streaming an operating system is that bandwidth requirements are static and predictable, so excessive data charges and connection loss when using those connections 4/5G can be easily managed.”

A cloud-based operating system could also be useful for organizations where outsourcing is common, says Dan Coleby, product director for the modern workplace at Content+Cloud. “Companies can deliver their corporate desktop environment through a cloud-based operating system, allowing the outsourced worker to use their own device,” he says. “This not only reduces the need to provide devices to outsourced teams; it also allows the business to maintain control over applications and security.

Integrate security by design

Just as it’s obvious that a cloud-based operating system won’t work for everyone, it’s also clear that the transition won’t be without challenges. This is especially true from a cybersecurity perspective. Both Microsoft and Google have touted their respective operating systems’ corporate security credentials. In practice, however, it is difficult to properly control them from an information security perspective, explains Samir Desai, director of managed security services at GTT. IT Professional.

Screenshot of Google's cloud-based operating system, Flex OS

Like Microsoft’s Cloud PC, Chrome OS Flex was developed with hybrid work in mind

“They are not always perfectly visible to the teams in charge of controlling the security of the company’s data,” he explains. “CISOs must therefore optimize their security posture to adapt to this potential additional threat surface. The answer is to consider integrating a security concept called Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) services, which is a key part of the Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) framework. CASB is a function that either sits in the path of traffic destined for the cloud or receives logging information from the firewall about access to cloud resources, and uses this information to create a clearer picture of the cloud resources used. by all users. It also enables direct IT policy enforcement regarding access to data that may be stored in and from different cloud applications. »

Organizations adopting a cloud-based operating system for their IT estates must adopt a zero-trust security approach to ensure workloads remain protected, adds Vladimirskiy. “Zero trust is the buzzword in cybersecurity these days, and for good reason. With the computing resources provided by the cloud, the concept of a network perimeter no longer exists and all workloads must be protected. Fortunately, Cloud PCs are inherently a native Zero Trust service, as Cloud PCs are deeply integrated with Microsoft’s identity service – Azure AD – which is built on Zero Trust principles.

“Migrating users from physical endpoints to cloud desktops tends to improve an organization’s security posture by enabling zero trust, reducing the attack surface, and providing administrators with an easier way to monitor and resolve any issues that may arise.”

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