We're only three months into 2014, but one of the trends dominating conversations within the tech industry is around the continued evolution of enterprise mobility and the shift away from the desktop. Mobility is not a new theme; businesses have been empowering their employees by giving them a choice of devices through an accompanying mobility solution (BYOD, CYOD, COPE) for some time.
But what is new is the emphasis being placed on the role of applications – and data – and how that is shaping enterprise mobility strategies. Employees want to access data and apps on the device of their choice so they can work as they see fit, with an experience that replicates consumer apps.
The enterprise mobility conversation has moved from the endpoint device to the applications.
So there is great potential for the channel provider to act as a valued consultant that can explain how businesses can adapt successfully to this new dynamic. Organisations are increasingly looking for partners that can meet the varying needs of their workforces.
The one-size-fits-all approach of virtualised desktop infrastructure (VDI) does not work, but the broad range of technologies that sits under desktop virtualisation can better support different types of workers within a business, from highly mobile to task worker.
Organisations are able to procure the apps they need to manage endpoint devices but where the channel can add real value is in helping to manage the application and data demands of a more mobile workforce.
Significant opportunities for the channel exist in vertical sectors where the demands made on applications are more difficult to solve than usual, due to the complexity and volume of data they process. The healthcare industry is a good example of a sector using a large number of applications vital to productivity, and has a workforce that needs to be more mobile than ever.
There are significant challenges in healthcare that must be overcome, particularly around compliance with the regulations related to data.
IT can provide health professionals with the mobility they desire by centrally managing, patching and updating applications in the datacentre. Clinicians are then given real-time access to apps regardless of the device they use, with the data remaining secure in the datacentre.
Being held centrally, this application data is better protected, using tools such as encryption, secure remote access, event logging and multi-factor authentication, ensuring the organisation meets its regulatory obligations.
But to reach this stage and to virtualise specific vertical applications, a trusted partner is required that can be consulted on ways to take mobility within that organisation to the next level, putting them on a sounder footing for the long term.
Then there is the design industry. Whether it's for clothing or industrial products, designers have particular demands when it comes to applications much the same way as healthcare professionals. Many of the applications used have been developed specifically for Windows and also tend to be very processor-intensive, like the majority of modern vertical applications.
Yet the design community often prefers to use Apple devices. So by virtualising those applications, it becomes irrelevant which device is used, while still protecting the data, the intellectual property of the company.
Applications are becoming a focus for the enterprise and a real challenge for the IT department. Mobility means that IT is having to face the task of being able to host and deliver thousands of Windows apps across any device regardless of where they are needed, without leaving a trace of the user behind.
To manage the delicate balance between user demands, cost considerations and manageability, an organisation has to be flexible enough to deliver virtual apps and desktops in an appropriate way for each case.
The channel is best placed to provide this guidance to organisations.
The demand for applications and data on any device isn't going to go away, but will continue to evolve. The rate of device change means businesses now require a longer term strategy that puts applications at the heart of their strategy, allowing employees to adapt to the latest mobile device trend without putting extra strain on the IT department. Organisations must be prepared to mobilise today's applications on tomorrow's devices.
Kevin Bland is channel and alliances director for northern Europe at Citrix
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