Google LLC today announced that Chrome OS Flexa cloud-based operating system for Mac and PC, is no longer in beta and is available to fit enterprise fleets.
As devices and networks age, they begin to slow down, especially as new apps are added, updates pile up, and hardware falls behind. This overhead makes it harder to manage large fleets of computers and devices alongside increasingly demanding software, while opening up security risks.
Chrome OS, the operating system that powers Chromebooks, relies on a regular update schedule and a proactive security model that also makes them easier to manage. This is the principle of Flex as well as its business fleet management model.
The operating system launched in early access mode in February so early adopters and testers could get their hands on it and give the team feedback on the software. The team used this data to troubleshoot OS issues and fix issues while adding even more devices it could run on before today’s launch.
Chrome OS Flex has now certified over 400 different devices and the team is working to make it available for even more.
Thomas Riedl, director of product management at Chrome OS, and Mike Wendling, group product manager for Chrome OS Flex, told SiliconANGLE in an interview that it’s been quite a journey for the operating system from the development phase. early access, as users have tried it on many different devices.
“We have learned a lot over the past two months. It was eye-opening,” Riedl said. “One thing that surprised me personally is that it meets so many of our customers’ needs. We’ve seen it deployed on kiosks at reception, we’ve seen it used by DIYers who found an Apple MacBook in their attic that was years old and brought it back to life and it felt great faster than he had ever been. And we’ve seen it used by enterprise customers for frontline staff and in hospitals.
Wendling said that version had been in the works for almost two years. The past few months, especially early access since February, have felt like preparation for a sprint. The team focused heavily on product stability and getting the underlying system ready for production.
“We’ve had a lot of great feedback and we’ve reached a level of stability that we’re very comfortable in over the last four to six weeks,” Wendling said. “I think for us it feels like we’re in the sprinters’ block. We’ve been training and it’s time to get out of the sprinter’s block and run like crazy.
Deploying and managing Flex for enterprise users is designed to be as easy as possible for administrators. It can be deployed quickly via USB keys or on machines connected to a network. From there, users can log in and will be automatically synced with their cloud profile, settings, and policies through a management interface controlled by a cloud-based management interface.
Enterprise users also won’t need to lose access to their Windows applications during failover. Cameyo, a Chrome Enterprise recommended partner, allows administrators to combine the flexibility and cloud security of Chrome OS Flex while retaining access to Windows apps.
Besides being resistant to security issues caused by viruses, malware, and ransomware, Chrome OS Flex can also be used to quickly recover from these attacks. When Nordic Choice Hotels was shut down by ransomware, its team was able to convert more than 2,000 machines across 200 hotels in less than 48 hours back into operation using printouts and USB drives.
“Rolling out ChromeOS Flex really saved us,” Bjørn Arild Wisth, deputy general manager of Nordic Choice Hotels. “When you have a stable, secure and hassle-free operating system in hotels, it really, really affects our employees, and of course the guests too.”
In light of malware and ransomware attacks, Cameyo also offers a product called Quick recovery which, when paired with Chrome OS Flex, can help a business get back on its feet quickly. It runs on Google Cloud and provides a separate, secure cloud desktop environment that users can instantly switch to in the event of an onsite disruption.
Installing Chrome OS Flex on older equipment also gives it a second chance and avoids increasing the amount of e-waste generated. Global e-waste volumes increased by 21% between 2014 and 2019, according to a report United Nations, a rate that could double in the next 16 years. The world threw away more than 53.6 million tons of electronic waste in 2019, which is equivalent to throwing away more than 800 laptops every second.
“By allowing people to use devices longer, thereby keeping them out of landfills longer, we have the greatest possible impact on sustainability,” Wendling said. “That’s really where Flex fills a business need for customers by allowing them to extend the life of devices while getting the most out of them for the rest of a device’s useful life and keeping them out of the dumps.”
Chrome OS Flex also uses less power than normal operating systems by consuming an average of 19% less power than other devices. Depending on the number of devices that have been replaced by Flex, this could represent huge savings on the electricity bill.
Wendling felt that users have found during the early access period that often times after devices are past their apparent usefulness date and slowed down, they tend to put them on the shelf and they have the feeling that they are no longer useful.
“A lot of people pick up devices and they feel like they’ve slowed down, and then they buy an upgrade and they put it on the shelf,” Wendling said. “Their perception now is that the older hardware is no longer capable at all. Now they pull it out of storage or that shelf and put Chrome OS Flex on it, they learn it’s not hardware at all. With the right operating system, it becomes capable.
For individuals, try Chrome OS Flex is easy and free. All that’s required is a USB drive to install it on a device, or just boot and run from USB to try it out before installation. For enterprise users, devices can be enrolled with Chrome Enterprise Upgrade and managed side-by-side in the Google Admin console and there’s a 30-day free trial.