The consumerisation of IT could poses a major challenge to many businesses – but by choosing to ‘decouple’ the user layer from the underlying desktop or device and to manage it as a virtual space of its own, says AppSense’s Keith Turnbull, IT departments can turn the challenge into an opportunity.
A huge amount has been written in the last couple of years about the Bring Your Own Device trend and a near-future in which we’ll all no longer have devices that we use solely for work, and others we use only at home. We’ll choose the tablets, netbooks, smartphones or other devices we work on, and will share these between tasks used in both personal life and the office.
In order to facilitate this, IT departments must integrate a plethora of new devices and user diversities, manage greater demands on bandwidth, security and compliance and cope with the increased pressure on costs, and on IT staff; all without restricting the user. The first step is to create a coherent, top-down BYOD management policy; IT departments must shift from an infrastructure-based management model to one that provides customers with clear services. As such, they must establish a data-driven plan to enable access for workers. IT should break down the access requirements for the different devices in question, and should determine how to build up and to extend their resources.
Cost is clearly one of the first issues to address; the multiplicity of devices and platforms puts heavier demand on servers and bandwidth. Using a standardised approach enables IT Services to control costs while meeting demand. IT Services will also have to meet the need to move to lower cost service-based platforms like Microsoft Windows 7 and VDI.
Security is another issue that must be addressed at the start. How can data be protected when it is housed in many different applications on many different platforms and being accessed from many different locations? Then there’s the proliferation of desktop issues: users shouldn’t feel disadvantaged by problems such as longer log-in times or profile corruption by using their own device.
Finally, the move to consumerisation should involve the optimisation of current investments. An IT shouldn’t be required to re-make all that it has done previously. A good plan for expansion should build on what the department has already achieved – for example, the use of Windows 7, which is probably already part of IT planning, should be integrated into the expansion plan.
Virtualise the user
The solution is to manage the user separately; to ‘decouple’ the user space from that of the rest of computing. Because the user is virtualised rather than the physical desktop, centralising and standardisation can still be used to reduce costs – these processes take place within the virtualised user layer. The user platform makes all application sessions, whether on tablets, smartphones, PCs, virtual PCs, or other devices, interchangeable, part of the service-provision fabric. This then allows the virtualised user to decouple from whatever version of Operating System is being used. The same central settings applied to all delivery methods, without the user ever actually touching or saving settings to the desktop, without users having to logoff or to log back on.
The result: thousands of users can be easily managed with policy templates, and automatically reconfigured by device, location, or application. The user experience remains secure, predictable, personalised, and secure. This user virtualisation is achieved by redirecting profile and policy data from its original location to a virtualised area. This way, it’s possible to ensure delivery of the same experience irrespective of what device, OS or apps are used. Disaster recovery also becomes simple, as the user’s data and apps can be rolled back and restored instantly – offering huge cost savings. True user virtualisation encompasses complete management of the desktop, the set-up, configuration, lockdown, application access control, system resource entitlement, self- healing, license control and network controls.
With user virtualisation in place, when I change my window size for the application, colour or font size, or any other application setting, these changes are redirected or detoured to a separate, virtual area, separate from physical or underlying virtualised OS and/or Application components. All user read and writes are re-directed to this isolated virtual location with a user- level hypervisor, synchronised centrally.
Yes, there’s initial pressure on cost from consumerisation; the number of devices to be included multiplies rapidly. But user virtualisation enables IT to turn consumerisation to its advantage, driving people-centric computing and controlling the framework of the user space with less need for intensive application servicing. Considerable savings are to be had by avoiding user migration as the user no longer resides in the application, device or operating system.
Further, user virtualisation enables applications to be siloed; as applications exist in a space governed by policy, the user can be given a certain degree of freedom to install and manage his or her own applications – those ‘naughty’ apps we all use such as Skype, Windows Messenger or Dropbox. It is not necessary for IT Services to control them, and it is also unnecessary to train the user – users can install the applications they know and enjoy.
Users also have the advantage of access to data at whatever location they choose, with whatever device they decide to use, without the data having to reside on the device itself – it remains secure in your chosen datacentre structure.
Whenever a user consumes a desktop and/or application through a new method, the transition is effortless for the IT staff and seamless to the user. The result? Faster rollouts, happier users. Employees can roam on an indefinite basis across a heterogeneous mix of desktop and application technologies and enjoy the same consistently personalised experience every time.
For IT Services today, user virtualisation provides effective cost control and complete flexibility on the management end. Users are provided with the tools they need to be a productive as possible, while security and granular policy is maintained in a perfect balance of user empowerment with IT efficiency and control.