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Workspot: Client/Server Revitalized As Workspace As A Service

History is repeating itself with a twist. Workspot, a cloud provider that delivers a workspace as a service, unveiled an application that makes it possible to run applications on disparate platforms, much like a thin-client environment, but without the mainframe operating system or the limitations on computing capability of the client.

Users of Android or iOS mobile devices, or Windows 7- and 8-based PCs, can connect to their corporate networks over a virtual private network and run server-based applications exactly as they would if the applications were local. The difference is that applications and data reside in the traditional data center or on other corporate servers rather than on the users’ systems. Further, users of Apple devices can run Windows-based applications as though they are local. A Mac version of the client software is due out later this year.

The idea is that companies can reduce the cost of buying multiple software licenses of the same application for a single user who uses multiple devices, said Rana Kanaan, vice president of products at Cupertino, CA-based Workspot. Instead, she said, licensing is done per user, not device or platform.

This Apple iPad screenshot displays the user's available Windows-based applications on the server. Using the iPad’s virtual keyboard, the user can access any file for which they have permissions configured on the server.This Apple iPad screenshot displays the user’s available Windows-based applications on the server. Using the iPad’s virtual keyboard, the user can access any file for which they have permissions configured on the server.Workspace differs from other cloud-based applications in that there is no confidential or user-identifiable data stored in the cloud. Instead, all identity and access management is handled over the VPN; the cloud becomes the proverbial “single pane of glass” for management activities only, she said.

Because the applications and data reside on the corporate servers, the company has the ability to push out new applications to users easily and quickly, she noted. Applications are policy- and privilege-based so that users who are authorized to run a given application will see the app on their screen, be it on a phone, tablet or computer. Unauthorized users will not see the application’s icons at all and thus cannot attempt to access the program inappropriately.

A benefit of having all the data stored locally instead of on the cloud is that the company maintains full security over all of the servers, she said. The data that resides on the cloud includes publicly-available URLs and general information about the company with the service; it does not include any credentials or access to internal servers. The only IP addresses stored in the cloud are those that point to internal addresses, she said. These IP addresses would have a standard 10.0.x.x or 192.168.x.x address, for example.

Kanaan stated that one current client was buying $2,500 hardened PCs for its remote workforce when the users kept confidential data on their remote systems. The company, she added, was able to replace the expensive laptops with $400 iPads when it switched to the server-based, thin-client model.

Kanaan admited that the model is similar to the client/server and thin client models that were popular in the 1990s and earlier. Reducing the value of the data on the client reduces the company’s risk, she said, even if the computing model seems a bit traditional or old-fashioned.

The company boasted that the Workspace as a Service can be fully configured for a mobile workforce in approximately one hour. Kanaan credited this to the cloud-based management console. The cloud management console provides an array of security services, including audit trails by user, application, device and geography. Currently, Workspot hosts the application on Amazon AWS, which adds its own layers of security and stability, she said. Users who want to download analytics from the service can do so via a built-in Spulnk integration.

Pricing ranges from $10 to $15 per user per month. Because analytics are stored in the cloud, there is no extra charge for disk space used for the management console or the number of applications a company can run. The service is available at Workspot.