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Lenovo Adds Secure Cloud Access To PCs

ThinkPad laptops and ThinkCentre desktops get a Lenovo software client that improves security when connecting to cloud applications.

Slideshow: Cloud Security Pros And Cons
Slideshow: Cloud Security Pros And Cons
(click image for larger view and for full slideshow)
Lenovo is giving business customers a secure and manageable way of accessing Web applications by adding a cloud-connecting client to its desktop and laptop computers.

The company on Tuesday announced Cloud Ready Clients, which are ThinkPad laptops and ThinkCentre desktops equipped with client software powered by webNetwork, an application delivery method developed by Lenovo partner Stoneware. The cloud-ready PCs have to be powered by Intel's second-generation Core or Core vPro processors.

Intel is involved because Lenovo uses the chipmaker's application programming interfaces that expose security, management, and power management features in the hardware. These features are used by Lenovo's client software, which it calls Secure Cloud Access.

SCA provides a browser-based interface for accessing applications deployed in a private or hybrid private/public cloud. The Lenovo software can be used on a smartphone or tablet, as well as a PC. Requirements include an Internet connection and a Java-enabled browser, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. SCA uses its own browser on the desktop, providing the same look and feel as a standard browser with a task bar, recent history, and favorites.

Lenovo developed the client to provide customers the option of performing some computing tasks on the client, Bryan Thomas, manager of alternative client computing for Lenovo, said in an interview.

"We've got a lot of devices out there that have compute capabilities on them, but the bottom line is most cloud content services do not take advantage of those compute capabilities," Thomas said. "Everything that is being done now in the cloud is being done so that the data center is controlling all of the compute and that really is an unbalanced approach. We felt that it was a much more efficient approach to share that compute power on the endpoint and on the data center."

For example, customers could tie a fingerprint reader on a PC to a cloud application for authentication, Thomas said. SCA also can be used to automatically detect the hosting device's processor performance, free memory, graphics and available bandwidth, and then fit the application delivery within those parameters.

Available security methods includes SSL or VPN access, integration with Active Directory, eDirectory or LDAP directories, and the ability to incorporate additional layers of authentication when such security measures do not already exist on the device. SCA tries to prevent virus contamination by providing access to corporate applications and print and file resources, while walling off its intranet.

The cloud-ready software allows single sign-on to applications, whether Windows, Web, internal or hosted, and services. This is meant to reduce the number of password resets by IT management. Lenovo also offers a built-in fingerprint reader with its PCs to complement or replace application-unique passwords.

SCA has a starting price of about $80 per user, and is available only in North America.

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