Who is winning the workspace war? Which technology will eventually beat the conventional Windows PC in the enterprise? Over a couple of years, several vendors have claimed that a decisive victory is imminent, going to perhaps VDI and DaaS, to application virtualisation, or to a range of diverse devices enabled by bring-your-own initiatives.
Yet despite the propaganda, the physical PC still dominates.
There are good reasons why there will be no clear workspace winner for some time yet, and this will affect how corporate IT teams manage users, devices, and applications for maximum efficiency.
This puts VARs in an excellent position to add value and help their customers sort out their workspace problems. Let's take a closer look at some of the recent skirmishes.
For five years some have been predicting that VDI will become the default way of delivering users' workspaces. This may yet prove to be right, but it's unlikely to happen any time soon.
Virtualised desktops, whether VDI or its cloud cousin DaaS, are currently used in a minority of businesses, and only a tiny fraction of users are likely to think all desktops should be virtualised.
With major vendors including Amazon, Citrix, Microsoft and VMware introducing DaaS offerings, we will inevitably see more widespread DaaS rollouts, although this will depend to some extent on enterprise uptake of infrastructure-as-a-service.
So rollouts will take time, and a majority of enterprises are still likely to retain a mix of physical and virtual estates, simply because of their existing investments in PCs and software. This may mean ongoing IT management problems.
Application virtualisation has been put forward as the solution to all compatibility issues, making it possible for older applications to run on newer OS platforms. While it can help in specific circumstances, it is not a panacea and is often held back by a lack of QA testing – making for poor final product.
Not everything can be virtualised: in some cases, the application may not work at all, or it may rely on links to other software or devices which can't run on the newer OS, restricting its capabilities. Even if it does work, the vendor's software licence may specifically forbid virtualisation, leaving the enterprise without support for the application.
Debate has raged about the impact of consumerisation and BYOD on businesses for more than five years. Aside from the security implications, managing and supporting the different operating systems, application portals and user profiles across a range of users' devices can be a big challenge.
BYOD doesn't solve workspace issues: it's just another method of procurement that adds to the IT workload.
The crux of the issue is that the user workspace is continuing to evolve – something to which I refer as the 'and' problem.
Older technology is rarely fully replaced. Instead, it's constantly being added to, meaning that in most enterprises, there will not be a single dominant technology or approach.
This gives IT teams the headache of having to manage hybrid environments that have a mixture of well-managed Windows physical and virtual desktops, and laptops, and Macs, and mobile devices, too.
The only common factor is the need for effective management of policies and user privileges: for each device that connects to enterprise resources, you have to manage the profiles of users, what they can and cannot access, which IT policies they are subject to, while also delivering a consistent user experience.
And this is where the real engagement and revenue opportunity is for resellers.
Simon Townsend is chief technologist at AppSense
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