One of the biggest issues facing IT today is user demand for greater mobility and increased personal choice in the devices they use. More and more employees are growing less willing to live with IT mandated devices. Choice is the new paradigm. On top of this, for many, their personal and business lives are coming together. Thus, our computing devices are increasingly being used for a blend of personal and business activities.
The massive proliferation of smart mobile devices has made this challenge – known as the consumerization of IT – more complicated. But it didn’t start there. It actually started a while ago with laptops and remote workers. Regardless, the issues are still the same: security and management. What smart mobile devices have added to the equation are many more platforms and operating systems to deal with, instead of just a single OS.
In a world where mobile devices are incredibly sophisticated, the risks surrounding these devices and the information they access due to loss and theft and/or mobile malware are rapidly increasing. The smart device technology being brought into corporate infrastructures is now outpacing many organizations’ ability to secure and manage these new mobile devices and the information they access. Relatively few organizations are prepared for today’s device security and management problems and those that lie ahead.
One potential solution, or at least an in-part solution, that has been proposed is desktop virtualization adapted to mobile devices, like smartphones. The adoption of virtualization by corporate IT data centers has eliminated the dependence on specific physical servers, and desktop virtualization threatens to do the same for laptops and desktops. A natural progression of this is to extend this technology to the tidal wave of mobile devices entering the enterprise. It seems like a match made in heaven, especially since computer power will generally be greater in the datacenter than on the mobile device. However, it’s important to remember that just as with traditional computing platforms, desktop virtualization is likely not the best computing model for all mobile device users within an organization. User experience may outweigh performance needs. So, one size doesn’t always fit all.
IT likes desktop virtualization because it’s all about centralizing and standardizing to simplify the management of computing systems – something that is greatly needed when it comes to the vast array of mobile devices available. However, this is often in direct opposition to end-user convenience and productivity, the very thing smart mobile devices are intended to create. So, infrastructure decisions involving desktop virtualization and mobile devices must made intelligently, carefully weighing the cost and convenience to IT with end-users’ need to be productive anywhere or have dedicated and responsive handheld computing power.
Sometimes it’s useful to step back and remember that the objective of IT is still productivity; securely connecting users with their data so they can work effectively. The devices and platforms are just vehicles for this productivity, each with its own performance, handling, safety, cost, etc. Just as the world hasn’t standardized on one type of car, I don’t expect we will ever settle for one type of computing infrastructure, either.
More and more this notion that there is no one computing model strategy that will replace all others in our lifetime, no matter how exciting it may seem or how much hype it may get, is taking root within enterprises. I always encourage customers to evaluate new technology and approaches based on real value to IT and the user communities it will serve. The fact of the matter is that Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) has a place in today’s enterprises – and likely even more so in the future – but perhaps a smaller one than anticipated. This holds just as true when looking at smartphones and tablets as access points as it does for PCs and laptops – sometimes the local device is the right computing platform. VDI is expensive, consumes storage voraciously, complicates management and distributed devices are still required for access. Other technologies that have been around longer, like application streaming may also satisfy the manageability needs in many situations for less money, while also offering greater flexibility and disconnected use.
I look forward to mobile hypervisors, and better yet hypervisor functionality embedded in the hardware itself for even greater performance. But there are also great ways that we are now able to separate, tag and categorize data to target each document with the right level of security and control without mobile hypervisors at all. It’s great that there are so many choices to fit our diverse needs, may it always be so!