To achieve the best of both worlds -- hardware choice and security -- Vertefeuille is considering two approaches: a virtualized desktop and a token-based desktop.
With the virtualized desktop, students would connect to the school's server via a secure tunnel. During that session they could access all their applications and data. However, once the session concluded, they would be disconnected from those applications and information. "All the processing and data storage would be done on the server," said Vertefeuille, who is testing VMware's ACE Enterprise Edition to learn more about this approach.
He's also test-driving MojoPac from RingCube Technologies, which allows all the computing for the virtual desktop to be done at the PC level and thus takes a load off the data center. "It makes the concept of virtualized desktops more palatable from a corporate perspective because you don't have all the overhead on the servers," he said.
The MojoPac software allows organizations to provide a standard set of applications to users via a portable storage drive such as an iPod or USB thumb drive. "Your desktop image and applications are stored on a personal device that is accessible when you create a secure tunnel with the server. When you finish, the session information and data are cleaned up on that machine," he said.
Although both approaches are hardware-independent, Vertefeuille said organizations must create a standard image for applications as well as baseline requirements for PCs. "You don't want 192 different makes and models of laptops and operating systems running in different languages on your network," he said.
Gartner's Pescatore applauded IT executives who are pioneering hardware choice programs. He said the continued blurring of employees' work and personal lives will make it impossible for IT to control what PCs they're using. Instead, he said, "IT should worry about two things: making users more productive and securing data."
Gittlen is a freelance writer based in greater Boston and the author of Computerworld's "Networking Know-How" column. She can be reached at email@example.com.