User expectations are rising and the range of devices they use to access IT systems is expanding rapidly. In particular, users now feel they should be able to reach all IT systems and applications, any time, anywhere, via any device. This puts great pressure on organisations to meet their demands while controlling costs and maintaining security.
IT will need new ways to manage the expanding range of user device types. Furthermore, IT and business managers will need to shift their approach to many of their IT and system decisions. Until recently, organisational desktop and laptop choices were based on business requirements and the abilities of IT support. User requirements were often only secondarily important.
User expectations are now a major consideration for IT and business decision makers. This does not mean user desires should supersede primary business requirements for security nor affect the ability to manage IT systems. A new equilibrium will be achieved, but getting there may not be simple.
Desktop virtualisation is one way to address the challenges facing IT as it finds itself supporting an expanding raft of devices with severe resource constraints. Recent years have been littered with questionable claims that an era of desktop virtualisation has finally arrived. Now, with some help from the channel, adoption could accelerate.
Several factors help make the case. Businesses now need to allow staff to use new devices, especially where new business processes can be adopted. Add users' desire for flexibility, and the business case is more straightforward.
The ability of back-end IT infrastructure to support desktop virtualisation economically has also recently improved dramatically - particularly in storage platforms, which would often become a bottleneck at times of heavy use, such as the 9am Monday morning boot storm. Virtualisation infrastructure costs are lower now, thanks to the widespread availability of SSD platforms and the maturing management capabilities of desktop virtualisation platforms.
That said, while desktop virtualisation solutions are currently high profile, the different approaches are little understood. Few organisations comprehend which type of desktop virtualisation approach might suit different work styles and business security or management requirements.
Here, resellers could help customers greatly. Working out usage requirements and performing inventory-support discovery processes is essential to any successful desktop virtualisation project.
This means taking a fresh look at organisational IT systems. To be most effective and to reduce resource use, desktop virtualisation should encourage a new way of looking at desktops, essentially to break the link between the OS, applications, user data, and user preferences.
Logically breaking up desktop components into buckets covering applications and data used; the security policies to be enacted; and the users' personalisation preferences such as favourites, style, and so on can help keep virtualised desktops manageable with the least effort as well as minimising the need for central storage - no small consideration.
This approach will have most effect on the long-term management of systems where the number of "gold" builds can be minimised, hopefully reducing the IT time needed to keep said images patched, assigned to users as their work patterns alter, and new applications supported or old applications removed.
Opportunities for channel providers to get involved range from basic implementation services and support infrastructure sales to long-term managed services that keep desktop virtualisation offerings running, perhaps even cloud hosting.
Don't expect a tidal wave of desktop virtualisation, although more organisations are getting involved. The potential use-cases for effective solutions are now broad, but organisations need help to work out what they need to do, which products and services to adopt, as well as get help running things. The door is ajar; are you ready to push it wide open?
Further reading is downloadable free for CRN readers from our website:
■ Desktop virtualisation: Aligning options with user and business requirements
■ User virtualisation: Beyond device-centric computing
■ Evolution of desktop service delivery: Aligning client computing and virtualisation technologies with business needs
Tony Lock is programme director at Freeform Dynamics
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