Cloud-based thin-client Macs become a reality

Teradici and MacStadium will offer Mac-as-a-service for high-performance tasks.

Apple, MacStadum, Teradici, Mac, Mac as a Service, cloud
Metamorworks / Dmitry Larichev / Дмитрий Ларичев / Getty Images

Does your workforce actually need company equipment, or do they simply require access to cloud-based Macs and PCs? Teradici and MacStadium are betting the future is Mac As A Service.

Toward the thin-client Mac

The two companies are pooling skills to offer this kind of future, which lets users access their Mac from any device anywhere.

Perhaps the time for such models is here. The current context is one in which remote working leads to more agile and flexible workforces, while asynchronous collaboration means employers can draw on an international pool of employees. Projects become demand-driven, and the number of people a company employs may change fast.

It’s a scenario in which making computer deployment as flexible as enabling an Office 365 seat license makes sense. (It's the same environment Apple MDM developers are profiting from today, enabling zero trust device configuration.)

Yet, if you can configure hardware in the real world, you can configure it in the cloud.

“AAS (as a service) consumption models provide so many advantages to enterprises in every industry: flexible on-demand access to computing infrastructure, improved uptime, reduced operational overhead, better security, scalability and even ability to attract talent around the globe. Users no longer have to be in the same location as the hardware,” Ziad Lammam, vice president of product at Teradici, told me after his company’s announcement with MacStadium.

What’s the news?

To recap the news, using PCoIP Cloud Access Software technology developer Teradici is working with MacStadium to offer users and creators the ability to remotely access Apple hardware as if they were on a local machine. So you might use a mouse and keyboard connected to your iPad to access a fully configured Mac in the cloud.

It means enterprises and businesses can deploy secure, high-performance, remote access Macs running either macOS Catalina or macOS Big Sur. The user experience is promised to be secure, responsive, and capable of supporting graphic intensive workflows.

All existing PCoIP endpoints, including macOS clients, Windows clients, Linux clients, PCoIP Zero Clients, and PCoIP thin clients will be able to connect to a macOS host. The service will launch in mid-2021.

An interview with Teradaci

Teradaci's Lamman talked about what's going on in an interview:

Who is this for? I note a focus on creative users. I guess this means you see an opportunity in such markets as video encoding and output, data analytics, and machine learning? Is that correct?

“This is intended for Mac users who want to access their applications securely and with flexibility to use high performance Macs without having to worry about managing the hardware infrastructure. We are certainly seeing demand in the creative industry (VFX artists, animators, video editors, game developers) in addition to other graphics use case cases as well as in the developer community (app and software developers).”

Of course, Mac-as-a-service is just like software-as-a-service in security terms, but what’s the ideal bandwidth consideration you’ll require?

“The encoding protocol Teradici developed (called PCoIP) is able to efficiently and securely (we use AES-256 encryption) compress and decompress pixels under different network conditions (it dynamically adjusts to changes in bandwidth, latency and packet loss) and the amount of bandwidth needed also depends on the resolution, size and number of displays. With that being said, ideally a creative user will have at least 10Mbps of available bandwidth or greater than 50Mbps for very high frame-rate applications.”

Please explain PCoIP? Why should it matter to a user?

“PCoIP is a remote display protocol that’s popular with users that need a high-definition and highly responsive computing experience. It compresses, encrypts and transmits only display information in the form of pixels to a broad range of endpoints, so it’s very secure and no business information ever leaves the corporate data center.

“PCoIP provides a lot of flexibility for enterprises, because their applications can be located and managed in the cloud or data center. ...From the user's perspective, there is no difference between working with a local computer loaded with software and an endpoint receiving a streamed pixel representation from a centralized virtual computer.”

What will this mean for enterprises and creators using MacOS?

“Enterprises and creators that operate Mac hardware and macOS as their computing and IT platform of choice will be able to easily deploy secure, high-performance remote access technology to their workforce. This has many advantages, from providing employees with work-from-home options, to making it easier for IT departments to manage security and hardware resources.”

Up next

While mishaps such as MobileMe and .Mac rather undermine the argument, Apple’s DNA has always included the cloud. Steve Jobs was thinking on this at NeXT, and Apple’s Bud Tribble (VP Software Technology and a member of the team behind the original Apple Mac) has great expertise in what we once called Thin Client computing.

This is where we were always going.

The iPad is a part of that destiny, as we can quite clearly see now both Macs and iPads use the same chip. Will the future be better tomorrow? Will we wear our thin-client Macs like sunglasses, using virtual reality to interact with these remote machines? And how will those models benefit your enterprise?

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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