Banks and BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer, in other words, letting employees use their own computers to work from home and abroad) are two concepts that appear on the surface to be as compatible as oil and water or Obama and the iPad. Security, policy, and compliance issues make the idea seem absurd. But according to Dale Fuller, CEO of MokaFive, who stopped by this evening after having taken a red-eye flight to New York City from California last night and met with bankers all day (we've never seen a CEO seem so genuinely grateful for a cup of coffee), many large banks have already adopted a type of desktop virtualization whereby the organization sends a mostly locked-down desktop image to any device, even an iPad or smart phone. From then on, the corporate-issued operating system, virtual machine, and applications are all hosted by the employee's device, not a bank server, with support provided by the device manufacturer, not the bank.Before telling us anything about his company, Dale insists that we accept two premises: that portable devices will be pervasive and that continuous connectivity will not be (he points to the spotty 3G coverage iPhone users get in the New York area). These are easy enough to accept. He then explains that many banks want to let employees work from home or on the road but balk at the cost and support issues. It costs $2,200 a year to support a PC (not counting the cost of the device itself) and the traditional desktop virtualization solutions that serve this market cost $500 to $1,000 per user per month, he says.
Fuller, who in past careers ran Apple's PowerBook business and was CEO of Lycos, Borland Software, and McAfee Software, has developed technology called LivePC that creates a corporate desktop image, including operating system, virtual machine and corporate applications all locked down in a stack. On top of that are a data layer, a "personality" layer (for user preferences) and a user app layer that can be changed by the user. All of this is packaged by a "creator" in a bank server that can serve 10,000 users, according to Fuller, and delivered to a walled-off portion of a user's device - PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or even a USB flash drive. (The software stack is transmitted once and only updates are sent to the end point device thereafter - a clear differentiator from Citrix and vmware. This reduces the bandwidth needed to run the image, shortens the morning PC boot-up time and lets the user work offline.)
"Given the choice, a third of users choose Macs; we finally have Apple for the enterprise," notes Fuller, who clearly has maintained some friendships at Apple. The user gets to use the computer for his own purposes, to do things like internet surfing, personal communication, games, and videos that might not be allowed under the corporate policy - and still access the bank applications and data through a separate window.
In this scenario, when the user has a computer problem, he goes to Apple, Dell or whomever sold him his hardware - not the bank's IT department. The cost, Fuller says, is $150 per user per year, a fraction of the cost of other solutions noted above. And one server serves 10,000 rather than the typical 40.
The technology sounds promising. In the coming months, we will try to find a banker who has put it into practice.