Management with Cloud Client Manager
WYSE Cloud Connect requires Dell's Internet-based Cloud Client Manager, a web management tool that serves as the policy configuration and control tool. Cloud Client Manager comes in two flavors: the free "Starter" edition for up to 25 devices which has minimal policy management, and the subscription-based pay-per-device "Professional" edition with all the bells and whistles. For our testing, Dell offered use of the Professional edition.
Cloud Client Manager let us create a policy covering device passwords, a short list of blocked applications (Camera, YouTube, Android Browser, Google Play, and Facebook can be blocked), establish Wi-Fi credentials and SSIDs, define a VPN connection, configure RDP servers for the PocketCloud Connect application, and set a few other device parameters.
With the Cloud Client Agent installed (by default), policies are pulled from Cloud Client Manager and enforced on the device. Cloud Client Manager is Dell's Mobile Device Management (MDM) tool. The version we used includes support for more than just the WYSE Cloud Connect devices and the Android operating system, including IOS, ThinOS/Xenith (another thin client operating system), and Dell Mobile Workspace (a mobile device container tool that allows for separation of work and home mail, calendar, contacts and browser environments on mobile devices). Because we were only testing WYSE Cloud Connect, we only used the Android part of the on-line Cloud Client Manager.
Cloud Client Manager only takes a few moments to learn. Policies are defined for groups of devices, and managing policy settings takes only a few moments, except for the complicated Wi-Fi configuration.
We had no real problems with the functionality of Cloud Client Manager, and policies, such as Wi-Fi definition and application restrictions, showed up quickly and were enforced by the WYSE Cloud Connect device.
Cloud Client Manager can also be used to restrict the device by putting it into Kiosk mode (only one application can run) or LaunchPad mode (creating a short list of all allowed applications and blocking all others, including native Android applications such as "Settings"). Network managers deploying WYSE Cloud Connect for thin client applications will likely use one of these two modes, rather than allowing unlimited Android functionality for end users. This important feature worked very well.
Some parts of Cloud Client Manager, though, need better integration. For example, although Cloud Client Manager talks to the Google Play store for Android applications, it let us create "required" applications for the WYSE Cloud Connect that weren't supported. The same issue occurred with VPN definitions: Cloud Client Manager knows about Dell and Cisco VPN clients, but defining a Cisco VPN connection doesn't do any good if the Cisco VPN client isn't included or supported.
At the same time, while Cloud Client Manager let us define Windows Terminal Servers for the included Pocket Cloud RDP client, these settings didn't automatically propagate into the client. So we had to manually re-link the Pocket Cloud client to Cloud Client Manager, even though there's an agent on the WYSE Cloud Connect that should have done this for us.
Thin client heaven or gimmick?
Dell's WYSE Cloud Connect fits somewhere in-between. The form factor of the device is fantastic, and opens up many opportunities for network managers with specific challenges. But more important than the form factor is the Android operating system. Opening up the thin client using an industry standard operating system like Android isn't a new idea, but Dell is the first major vendor to offer this type of openness and extensibility.
While we found some flaws in this initial delivery, the potential for extending and adapting thin clients on this hardware platform makes the WYSE Cloud Connect worth considering. Network managers challenged by cloud computing projects with unusual requirements or in need of more-than-average customization should take a close look at Dell's offering.
Snyder, a Network World Test Alliance partner, is a senior partner at Opus One in Tucson, Ariz. He can be reached at [email protected].
Network managers challenged by cloud computing projects with unusual requirements or in need of more-than-average customization should take a close look at Dell's offering.