CeBIT 2012: IBM Announces Cloud-Based Desktop Streaming

With a USB stick and a cloud service, IBM is offering a secure enterprise desktop

IBM has unveiled  Secure Desktop Enterprise, a service and hardware package that will allow businesses to stream entire desktops with minimal fuss.

Developed by scientists in Zurich, and announced at the CeBIT fair in Hanover, the service uses IBM’s Zone Trusted Information Channel (ZTIC) USB device which is currently in use by Swiss banks and consumers to secure transactions.

Secure streaming

The service will provide desktop access both online and offline through the device, and functions on any 64-bit Windows or Linux computer. IBM claims that the service can be up-and-running in as little as two minutes and requires no pre-installed software.

“The Secure Enterprise Desktop streams a user’s entire PC desktop from a cloud that is both secure and easy to use,” said Paolo Scotton, a computer security scientist at IBM Zurich. “With this service, organisations can work smarter by more efficiently managing end-to-end-security on the IT-client side while employees can conveniently and safely access their office desktop on any computer for seamless computing.”

In theory, IBM’s new enterprise tool should help solve some of the problems inherent in the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy which is gaining prevalence in both the public and private sector. Concerns about the spread of malware between private and company devices are addressed by the ZTIC’s use of a direct, secure channel to a back-end server. This allows complete access to a corporate desktop’s functions while bypassing any malware that may be present on a host device.

Once plugged into a compatible computer, software elements from a desktop are streamed from the cloud using a hypervisor. The hypervisor, in addition to mirroring files and programs from the cloud, automatically backs up any changes made on the host computer.

IBM points out that the ZTIC does not contain any information itself and only acts as a gate between the cloud and computer, meaning that any theft or accidental loss of the USB device will not compromise company data.

Testing is currently in progress in a pilot group, and IBM expects to make the service available later this year. Michael Baentsch, an IBM research staff member, told TechWeekeurope that the pricing structure for the Secure Desktop Enterprise has yet to be determined due to this ongoing “real world” testing. Though he suggested that it would most likely to be offered as a complete service package, he posited that the company could look at selling the hardware or solution images separately.

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