Reimagining Enterprise Computing

We take a long-term view of what SaaS and cloud services will mean for the future of enterprise IT infrastructure and service delivery.

Reimagining Enterprise Computing
The enterprise end-point device of the future will look vastly different from a Dell desktop

The adoption of SaaS and cloud services can reshape the role of technology within the enterprise and will allow companies to focus on delivering their core value while increasing business agility and reducing risk.

The future focus of enterprise IT will shift from traditional functions such as application support, networking and storage management to becoming a strategic partner and advisor to businesses and helping them take advantage of new opportunities that technology innovation has enabled.

In this article, we take a long-term view and examine the future of computing in the enterprise.

Traditional IT Infrastructure

Enterprises have traditionally provided employees with managed desktops or laptops that run Windows and are imaged with standard productivity and line of business applications that run locally on the device. Any changes to the base image require extensive testing, as the web of dependencies is a constant source of issues.

Some organizations use Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), which runs desktops on a central virtualization server. Users connect via a thin client and all their work stays in the data center. This simplifies management, but maintaining virtual desktops presents similar challenges to physical devices.

To interact with enterprise data and applications, users access the company network by being on-premises or connected remotely via VPN.

Enterprise data is usually stored on network servers either as files or in databases. Application logic is often hosted on a separate server that acts as an intermediary between clients and the data. IT runs the servers as physical devices or virtualized in the cloud.

Applications and operating systems running on desktops and servers must be monitored and patched on an ongoing basis. Besides presenting inherent risks, this carries a significant management overhead at the enterprise scale.

Software as a Service

As the web grew and the underlying technologies matured, it became possible to deliver rich application experiences within the browser. Web applications are fully self-contained, removing dependencies on the end-user platform and ensuring that the experience remains consistent across different devices.

Companies began to embrace cloud hosting as an alternative to running in-house data centers. This is what is commonly referred to as the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model.

This eventually led them to become more comfortable with storing data with external providers. Standardization of APIs via technologies such as REST and OAuth made it possible to connect to applications and data that are outside of the company network.

Enterprise Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions can extend to external cloud applications. A security model called Single Sign-On (SSO) allows a user to authenticate across independent external applications through the Enterprise IAM system.

All these factors combine to make Software as a Service or SaaS such a compelling option for delivering solutions. SaaS applications run on a SaaS provider’s servers. The provider manages access to the application, including security, availability, and performance.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) Platform as a Service (PaaS) Software as a Service (SaaS)
Third-party provider hosts servers making them available for customers. Removes the need to manage your own data center. Servers and applications are still managed by the customer. Third-party hosts applications on their platform, reducing the need to manage infrastructure. The customer only manages the application. Third-party provider hosts applications and makes them available to customers. No management is required on the customer side.
Amazon AWS, Azure, Google Cloud AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Heroku, Google App Engine Salesforce, Microsoft O365, DocuSign

Customers embraced the SaaS model. SaaS applications are quick to deploy and do not require operational support. Software vendors embrace SaaS as the delivery model of the future, benefiting from reoccurring subscription revenue and reduced customer support costs.

Even traditional applications such as Microsoft Office that are synonymous with the desktop can now run in the web browser on any device such as a phone.

Excel running in a browser.

Transforming Traditional IT Infrastructure

SaaS will have a transformative effect on the role of enterprise IT infrastructure.

Redefining the Enterprise Network

Traditional enterprise networks are built with a "castle" mentality, where moats and walls in the form of VPN and firewalls protect the network from introducers. However, if the perimeter of that castle is breached, the entire network becomes vulnerable.

When applications are in the cloud, users no longer need to connect to the company network and many services, such as VPN, are no longer necessary.

With far fewer devices that connect to the enterprise network and fewer services offered, the surface area exposed to attack, and resulting risks shrink dramatically.

Death of Network File Shares (and Backup Infrastructure)

Web-based file hosting services such as OneDrive, SharePoint Online, Dropbox and Google Drive provide a far superior experience to traditional network file storage. Features like revision tracking, file sharing and the ability to collaborate on the same document can improve worker productivity.

On the management side, cloud-based file hosting services have built-in backups and retention policies, diminishing the need for IT infrastructure to provide these complex services.

End-Point Devices

The platform through which knowledge workers perform tasks becomes less relevant as applications are delivered via the web browser. The concept of the desktop will fade as applications no longer reside locally, taking with it the associated support and maintenance overhead.

The browser is the future of enterprise computing.

The architecture of computer hardware is transitioning from using separate chips for various functions to combining everything on one silicon die, referred to as System on a Chip (SoC.) This repackaging reduces complexity, improves energy efficiency, and reduces costs. Examples of SoC devices are modern tablets, like iPad, and laptops such as MacBook Air.


The adoption of SaaS and cloud services enables businesses to focus on delivering their core value.

  • SaaS can increase business agility while reducing overall risk.
  • SaaS will be the dominant model for all applications.
  • The browser is the future of enterprise computing.
  • The end-point device used in the enterprise will be closer to an iPad than a Windows desktop.
  • The role of IT will shift from that of a service provider to a strategic partner and advisor to the business in using technology. Helping integrate SaaS products, automate workflows and take better advantage of data.
  • Hardware prices will continue to decline as more devices adopt SoC architecture.