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Nilofar Ansher



01/12/2012

Cloud Desktop Accessibility

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A look at how assistive technologies work in the cloud and virtual desktops

Introduction

The idea of a virtual desktop that you can access from any computer is becoming a practical reality and strategic tool in the modern smarter enterprise. The PC era, which replaced the mainframe era, is now being replaced by the cloud era where pools of resources, such as storage, CPU, memory or even virtual machines running virtual desktops, are available on demand and can be elastically provisioned from a broad set of heterogeneous devices over the network. In this new era, each user could potentially have a "personal cloud" configured in such a way as to meet his or her unique needs and requirements. As cloud technology evolves to seamlessly configure, integrate and deploy applications, IT of the future will be able to focus higher up in the software stack to deliver business value. This article explores what we know thus far with how assistive technologies work in this environment. 

Cloud computing. Image courtesy dummies.com

Why focus on cloud desktops?

Desktop virtualization delivers on-demand desktops to users for anytime, anywhere, any device access. This provides employees with full access to their complete business desktop from multiple devices, such as their home PC, a smart phone or an iPad®. Easy access to a virtualized desktop can help people to be more productive, because all they need to work is an Internet connection from any device, anywhere. People can use low powered PCs or mobile devices to access desktops with complex software configurations running on high-powered server hardware that might otherwise not be available to them. As an example, IBM® Rational® created desktop images that included an integration of several different server applications that demonstrated the power of their full collaboration lifecycle management suite of products. Sales people, instructors and their students, customers and others were able to access the fully configured suite of products and gain hands-on experience with their own personal servers. Due to server costs, it would be impossible to provide that level of interaction with servers to a large number of people.

From an IT perspective, virtual desktops help reduce the time it takes to provision new desktops, and they help to decrease desktop management and support costs. This is a great improvement over the old model, where software development teams were responsible for managing several product releases that had been delivered for multiple platforms. The number of possible combinations of platforms and software versions meant that having a dedicated set of hardware and software for every combination was too costly. Teams lost time reconfiguring hardware and software every time they had to address a problem or work with a particular release on a particular platform.

Desktop virtualization also helps reduce costs and errors by streamlining management of software assets, because software upgrades and maintenance can take place in one place instead of on many different personal machines. In a large-scale environment with 440,000+ employees—most using a PC—the improved efficiency of managing software assets through desktop virtualization can provide substantial cost savings to the business.

Read the full article on IBM's website: http://www-03.ibm.com/able/news/cloud_desktop_a11y.html