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Embracing ChromeOS (and the cloud mindset required)

2019 will bring many changes.   After more than 20 years as a Chief Information Officer, I will pivot to lead innovation as part of the senior leadership team for the newly merged Beth Israel Lahey Health on March 1, 2019.
   
Here’s the Boston Business Journal article about it.

My innovation role will focus on 5 areas:

A front door/liaison to government/industry/academia for digital health collaboration at Beth Israel Lahey Health

Exploring new technologies, especially those arising from outside healthcare, to assess their role in provider/patient/payer workflow

Mentoring startups and internal faculty seeking to create new products/services especially in the areas of machine learning, mobile, telecare, internet of things and blockchain

Lecturing/writing to broadly disseminate lessons learned about innovation

Hosting of international visiting groups from around the world which want to learn about our innovation efforts.

In many ways, this next step combines the best of my youthful experiences researching and writing in the early 1980’s Silicon Valley with my 30 years of experience as an IT leader and professor.    I look forward to it.

In the early 1980’s while writing for Infoworld, I had the opportunity to personally evaluate emerging products – the IBM PC, Compaq’s portable, Wordstar, Microsoft compilers, and various dial up modem services.  Nearly 40 years after evaluating the first PCs, I’m now evaluating Chromebooks and ChromeOS as the next frontier in personal computing.   Here’s the experience thus far.

Think of ChromeOS as not just an operating system replacement for Windows or MacOS/ioS but an entirely new approach to computing.   It’s essentially a cloud viewer, consuming data and services available on the internet combined with limited offline replication of data just in case the internet is not available.    What does that mean?  Instead of using a local file system to store my documents, media, and data, I’m using Google Drive.   If my device is lost, stolen or damaged, there is nothing to hack on the device.    My Chrome applications are all web services with nothing running on the local Chromebook – Gmail, Gsuite, and Outlook Web Access (or Office 365).   

Why is this a useful concept?    A few months ago, I was in Tel Aviv and I damaged my computer.  There was no way to replace/repair it easily.   If I had been using a Chromebook, I could buy any $200-300 Chromebook and immediately have access to all my data and services.

The Pixelbook supports Android apps in addition to ChromeOS, so I can run local software with local data if I chose.   I’ve added a few such apps such as Nest (cameras, smart home controls), Gmail offline (local replication of email), and Weatherlink (to control my weather station), but I really don’t need them.   The combination of my phone for apps and a Chromebook for cloud hosted services works extremely well.

Are there downsides?   Absolutely.

Cloud/web native apps may not be as sophisticated or usable as locally installed apps.   Moving from local storage to cloud storage requires some planning and adaption.    I installed sync software on my previous computer and synced all my files into Google drive so cloud migration was one step.    I set up offline files so that every document I edit in the cloud is replicated into offline storage on my Chromebook for easy access when I’m on an airplane without wifi.     I previously managed photos and media on devices but now I manage them in the cloud.    All of this is change and requires getting used to.

For my use case – productivity applications, email, media management – a Chromebook works perfectly well.    I imagine there may be tasks/high intensity computing  use cases for which the cloud application and file system approach may not be optimal.   But for me, it works.

Truly, about the only thing I would like to see improved is that the Beth Israel Deaconess version of Outlook Web Access (2013) is not as full featured as Gmail or Office 365.    Once we upgrade or migrate, then the final piece of my cloud-based computing environment will fall into place.

I know that I may be edgy by suggesting that thin client, cloud-centric computing is the future, but from a security, cost, and maintainability perspective, it certainly seems like the right direction to me.

2019 will bring many changes. After more than 20 years as a Chief Information Officer, I will pivot to lead innovation as part of the senior leadership team for the newly merged Beth Israel Lahey Health on March 1, 2019.

Here’s the Boston Business Journal article about it.

My innovation role will focus on 5 areas:

A front door/liaison to government/industry/academia for digital health collaboration at Beth Israel Lahey Health

Exploring new technologies, especially those arising from outside healthcare, to assess their role in provider/patient/payer workflow

Mentoring startups and internal faculty seeking to create new products/services especially in the areas of machine learning, mobile, telecare, internet of things and blockchain

Lecturing/writing to broadly disseminate lessons learned about innovation

Hosting of international visiting groups from around the world which want to learn about our innovation efforts.

In many ways, this next step combines the best of my youthful experiences researching and writing in the early 1980’s Silicon Valley with my 30 years of experience as an IT leader and professor. I look forward to it.

In the early 1980’s while writing for Infoworld, I had the opportunity to personally evaluate emerging products – the IBM PC, Compaq’s portable, Wordstar, Microsoft compilers, and various dial up modem services. Nearly 40 years after evaluating the first PCs, I’m now evaluating Chromebooks and ChromeOS as the next frontier in personal computing. Here’s the experience thus far.

Think of ChromeOS as not just an operating system replacement for Windows or MacOS/ioS but an entirely new approach to computing. It’s essentially a cloud viewer, consuming data and services available on the internet combined with limited offline replication of data just in case the internet is not available. What does that mean? Instead of using a local file system to store my documents, media, and data, I’m using Google Drive. If my device is lost, stolen or damaged, there is nothing to hack on the device. My Chrome applications are all web services with nothing running on the local Chromebook – Gmail, Gsuite, and Outlook Web Access (or Office 365).

Why is this a useful concept? A few months ago, I was in Tel Aviv and I damaged my computer. There was no way to replace/repair it easily. If I had been using a Chromebook, I could buy any $200-300 Chromebook and immediately have access to all my data and services.

The Pixelbook supports Android apps in addition to ChromeOS, so I can run local software with local data if I chose. I’ve added a few such apps such as Nest (cameras, smart home controls), Gmail offline (local replication of email), and Weatherlink (to control my weather station), but I really don’t need them. The combination of my phone for apps and a Chromebook for cloud hosted services works extremely well.

Are there downsides? Absolutely.

Cloud/web native apps may not be as sophisticated or usable as locally installed apps. Moving from local storage to cloud storage requires some planning and adaption. I installed sync software on my previous computer and synced all my files into Google drive so cloud migration was one step. I set up offline files so that every document I edit in the cloud is replicated into offline storage on my Chromebook for easy access when I’m on an airplane without wifi. I previously managed photos and media on devices but now I manage them in the cloud. All of this is change and requires getting used to.

For my use case – productivity applications, email, media management – a Chromebook works perfectly well. I imagine there may be tasks/high intensity computing use cases for which the cloud application and file system approach may not be optimal. But for me, it works.

Truly, about the only thing I would like to see improved is that the Beth Israel Deaconess version of Outlook Web Access (2013) is not as full featured as Gmail or Office 365. Once we upgrade or migrate, then the final piece of my cloud-based computing environment will fall into place.

I know that I may be edgy by suggesting that thin client, cloud-centric computing is the future, but from a security, cost, and maintainability perspective, it certainly seems like the right direction to me.

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