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Computers Rants

The Rental Economy

In which I write about SaaS/IaaS, or renting your computing.

It’s coming! Microsoft has finally started transitioning people into a purely rental system. Coming soon, you’ll be able to subscribe to Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) and run a full-scale Windows machine in the cloud. This has been a rather overt goal since Windows 8, with it’s insistence on having your Microsoft.com account tied to your local login account.

The technical component of this seems neat. You can run this Windows box in Azure and connect to it using just about any tech you’d like. Phone, Linux, Mac, whatever. That means you can get your desktop anywhere you have Internet. This is not unlike Google’s upcoming Stadia, which takes the same idea to gaming. Seems like data centers are the new hotness. Study up, kids.

That all being said. I hate it.

I mean, I’m not opposed to “Cloud Computing”. There are real benefits to being able to access vast arrays of computing or storage resources for cheap. I, myself, have used these kinds of resources for my own needs. It’s great to be able to spin up a machine or two to get something done quickly. Many companies rely on this very resource as part of their core business. I even utilize it for backups, caching and image processing.

Cloud Computing allows for the normalization of the idea that you no longer own your system, and therefore your data. You can now rent your operating system, storage, emai/groupware, office programs, invoicing, website, user directory, etc. Soon, I wouldn’t bee surprised if Microsoft started pushing into Google’s Chromebook territory by offering lightweight systems that just connect to their Azure Virtual Desktop. This is especially dangerous, because they already have a majority of mind share in the consumer desktop market.

These sorts of services are dangerous. You can be cut off at any time, for any number of reasons. Stuff as benign as “bank failed to authorize payment” all the way up to the very serious, Executive Order preventing you from accessing services. Once you’re out that’s it. You don’t have any recourse. All your data is gone. You don’t own any part of the chain, after all. You’re just renting.

This has been a long time coming. Microsoft tested the waters with Office 365, to great success. People balked, at first, at renting Office, but now if you’re not using Office 365 or one of it’s competitors, you’re basically wasting money on licensing, and IT operations time. Now we’re getting virtual desktops. VMWare tried this with some limited success in Horizon, but I think Microsoft is going to sell this well enough that we see companies start to move to it to save money and hassle. Time will tell, though.

By Nathan

Hello! My name is Nathan and I'm a technologist living and working in the south east. I love breaking crap and fixing it. I tend to break more than I fix. When I'm not breaking and fixing stuff, I'm playing games with my son or going to Disney with my family. I strongly support open source software, hardware and greater transparency in government.