Just enough OS to perform

Yep, this seems like a strange title. I’ve actually taken it from the title of the band Stereophonic’s 3rd studio album ‘Just enough education to perform’. Give it a listen.

Back to the operating system. Did you know that there’s a concept in Operating System thinking called ‘Just Enough OS’, or JeOS? You can check this out in more detail here.

The key concept of JeOS is that in some applications or scenarios, you don’t need a full-blown traditional OS. You can get away with a very slim OS layer that just carries out the tasks required of the application.

Just enough for…?

The key question here is ‘Just enough OS for what?’. Well that depends on what the OS’s user is trying to do. Traditionally, with native, local applications, you need a lot of OS to ensure compatibility, including backwards compatibility with older application architectures.

The firm direction for applications though is for less native and more SaaS. Even more interestingly, these SaaS applications are increasingly being brokered by Digital Workspace solutions such as VMware Workspace ONE. It’s conceivable that in 5 years time, SaaS apps and Digital Workspaces will be the primary method of application delivery and consumption in most organisations.

In that case, how much OS is Just Enough? What do we actually need from the OS to enable access to the Digital Workspace?

Basics of an Operating System

Well, there are some basic capabilities. First, the OS needs to be able to interface with the available hardware. There needs to be IO Management, Drivers, Storage and Networking Management etc. Then, there needs to be integrations with various services, the User Interface (UI) and of course the ability to enable some local applications.

Once that stuff is in place, we should be good to go. Remember, that when we’re connecting to a true Digital Workspace, most of the compute and app requirements are being taken care of somewhere else. We’re just consuming the end result.

Let’s have a look at a traditional OS connecting to a Digital Workspace:

You can see here that in this case, the traditional OS (Windows) contains all of the key services we need in an OS. However, it also has a lot of ‘stuff’ that we probably wouldn’t need when connecting to a Digital Workspace. That’s because Windows has a lot of additional capabilities that were built for the era of local computing. These components aren’t useless, they just won’t matter for most users in a modern SaaS environment.

How many enterprise users will be using Xbox services? Does anyone actually use Cortana, like, ever?

What about an OS designed for SaaS?

Let’s have a look at an OS that’s been designed for the SaaS era:

See the difference? The same core capabilities are there, including interfacing with the underlying hardware and the ability to broker access to local apps should they be required. However, everything superfluous has been removed. Only what is necessary to connect to a Digital Workspace is in the OS.

There are obviously some key benefits to this, from reducing the attack surface from a security perspective to requiring fewer resources from the hardware layer to offer the same experience.

Windows is a great operating system, and the foundation for most modern organisations. As we get deeper into the SaaS era though, it’s time to reconsider how much OS you actually need at the edge.