Who will win the mobile war?

No, I don’t mean the battle of the determined users of mobile technology versus the IT organizations that are desperately trying to keep company data protected and secure.  I think we already know how that will turn out – users have already won.  Users already have great personal devices, the ability to work anywhere they want and access to all the applications they could ever want to satisfy their need to be both productive and amused.

But that doesn’t mean IT can’t also win, in time.  It will just take longer for them to completely understand all of the risks, to establish all of the right strategies, and to employ all of the best technologies (some that haven’t even been developed yet) to provide the right users essential access to data and guarantee appropriate levels of data protection, without negating the user victory already in place.

But who will help IT find their path to this elusive, yet inevitable victory?  That is the war I am referring to.  Multiple vendors are competing for their attention, to hock their wares and convince companies that they have the leading MDM, MAM, MCM, M?M product that will solve their data security problems and address BYOD concerns equally for all.  There are multiple battles being fought in this war.  The less interesting battles are those where one MDM solution is trying to prove that it is better than the next MDM solution (good luck with that one).  The more interesting battles today are around vision, because I don’t believe that the technologies or solutions that will ultimately win exist yet.

So we can hypothesize about what a winning solution will contain and what it will be able to do.  For example, will a winning solution necessarily have to contain some form of each type of product already available?  MDM may not be able to stand on its own for much longer, but in the end, will that technology have a place in the winning solution?  Probably.  Or will there be some great new single technology that negates all that have come before?  Or will it actually take both to come out on top – to satisfy the ever-changing and infinitely variable needs of multiple industries and use cases?

So this gets to the crux of the leading question.  We may not yet know precisely who will win the war, but perhaps we can determine the characteristics of the type of company that could pull it off.

Consider first that the pace of evolution in the mobility industry is staggering.  As a proof point, many would argue that MDM has already commoditized, well before it had a chance to mature or even come close to saturating the market.  Even with MAM, most companies are already converging on the same essential approach of app wrapping to manage and protect apps.  This pace of evolution would lead me to believe that the smaller players, focused on specific mobility technologies would have the upper hand.  Because we all know that the larger multi-market companies have a very hard time shifting and executing as quickly as the smaller, more focused players, even after the path becomes obvious.

On the other hand, think back to my previous assumption, that the winning solution will likely contain multiple technologies, and perhaps even need to leverage additional technologies that are more mature, but essential to the total solution, like encryption or authentication.  This points us back to the larger players that are better at integrating technologies than achieving organic growth.  But I believe they will only be able to achieve that success if they have the right vision to recognize that game-changing technology that will negate all others when it comes along.  They must then acquire it and quickly create an integrated solution that brings everything together, the older technologies plus the one that makes them obsolete.  Remember that one size does not fit all.  The best technology for the hardest use case will still need to live alongside other technologies that are better suited to simpler and operational use cases.

This is what victory in the mobile war will look like.  But I can’t tell you who it will be – yet.

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Optimal Enterprise Mobility Strategy?

ClickSoftware’s Mobilefever blog asks:

How Can Companies Develop An Optimal Enterprise Mobility Strategy?

What would be the single most important piece of advice you would give to companies regarding developing an optimal Enterprise mobility strategy?  (all answers found here – my answer below)


Your mobile strategy should be driven by your specific business needs and business opportunities. No other business is exactly like yours. Understanding how a mobile workforce with the right mobile tools can enhance your business should be the key driver for all decisions around mobility. With a clear understanding of the jobs that your mobile workforce will address, you can follow the data to determine what devices, apps, and infrastructure will be required to deliver the business value safely and efficiently. BYOD will continue to gain traction, so embrace it. With app wrapping and other advanced technologies, businesses can completely protect business apps and data on BYOD devices without detracting from end user productivity and flexibility. If the business will provide devices, be sure that there is a rational argument for why this is required and why BYOD is less appropriate – these scenarios will continue to exist for some time.

Consider the totality of the mobile experience to understand all of the possible ways sensitive data may be lost or compromised. Protecting mobile data, at rest and in motion, under all circumstances is an absolute requirement, and a number of technologies will be required to provide this protection, from app wrapping and strong authentication to data encryption and control over communications with third party cloud services. The business objectives and the implementation plan will dictate which technologies will be required to protect the data, but data protection is not its own strategy – it is a requirement.

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Survey Shows Costs, Benefits of Mobile Adoption

Enjoy the benefits of mobility while minimizing the drawbacks

Symantec’s 2013 State of Mobility Survey uncovered two distinct groups among businesses that have implemented mobility. One group could be called the Innovators. They are willing to take a chance as early adopters of technology, seeking opportunities to improve themselves and accepting the risks. On the other side is the group who could be considered Traditionals. This more conservative group resists change because of the risks. They are much more reactive than active, and do not like upsetting the status quo.

Business Attitudes Toward Mobile Adoption and Management
Keeping in line with this thinking, the two groups have different reasons for adopting mobility. The Innovators are motivated more by business drivers than any other factor, whereas for the Traditionals their most significant driver is end-user demand. This is evident in their attitudes toward the risks compared to the benefits. Most Innovators – two-thirds, in fact – say the risks of mobility are worth it. Three-quarters of the Traditionals, on the other hand, do not feel that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Given this difference in attitude, the Innovators have 50 percent more employees using smartphones than Traditionals. And their commitment to mobility also extends to purchasing phones for employees, at a rate of 55 percent compared to 44 percent of Traditionals. Mobile apps are also used more by Innovators, and they are far more likely – at 83 percent – to be discussing a private app store for employees, compared to slightly over half (55 percent) of the Traditionals.

In addition to simply allowing more employees to use mobile devices for business, the Innovators are taking a more active role in the management of devices. This includes implementing mobile policies and adopting information protection tools – regardless of whether the employee or the company owns the device. Technology also plays a greater role in policy enforcement among the Innovators, at nearly twice the rate of the Traditionals, who – when they do it at all – are more likely to use manual methods.

Weighing the Costs and Benefits
Those businesses taking greater advantage of mobility are seeing a larger number of mobility security incidents. Over the past year, the Innovators have seen losses as a result of these incidents, including lost productivity; direct financial costs; and loss of organizational, customer or employee data. In fact, they averaged 25 such incidents over the last year, compared to just 12 incidents averaged by the Traditionals. This is notable in light of the majority of Innovators who believe mobility is a net positive.

The key lies in the advantages of mobility, with Innovators seeing a number of impressive benefits throughout the organization. Overall they are seeing more satisfied employees and better retention rates, as well as greater productivity, efficiency and business agility. In addition, they report better company perception, customer happiness and overall competitiveness. In the end, the Innovators are experiencing higher revenue and profit growth, nearly 50 percent higher than the Traditionals.

The takeaway from the survey is the idea of enjoying the benefits of mobility while minimizing the drawbacks. In order to achieve this, Symantec makes the following recommendations:

  • First, start embracing it now. While being cautious is a sensible approach, denying the benefits of mobility puts your organization at a disadvantage.
  • Start with the apps that will immediately deliver the greatest productivity benefits to your employees.
  • Learn from what the Innovators are doing. Keep mobile apps and data secure with effective mobile management and threat protection technology, and supply secure file sharing.
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Mobile innovation is moving from hardware to software

… are organizations ready?

Mobility is arriving at a plateau. The very fact that the iPhone 5 was met with more of a mixed reaction than previous iterations is testament to the fact that it is not enough for a device to simply be a smartphone. Indeed, it is ironic that most of the criticisms stemmed from its absence of ‘innovative’ features – NFC communications, for example.

No doubt the debate will rage on about who has stolen what feature from whom. Behind the rhetoric however is a fundamental point – that advanced mobile devices have arrived, in all shapes and sizes. Until the next major innovation in form factors, the hardware conversation is largely complete. It’s not just Apple – Samsung, Microsoft and all other players are in the same boat.

Almost inevitably, attention moves away from the platform to the applications, as the opportunity to innovate and differentiate moves up the stack. We’re not seeing any loss of appetite here, nor a slow-down in new app releases. Indeed, the model is totally different: rather than leaving innovation with a small number of very large companies, the app landscape is far more diverse and dynamic.

As attention moves from hardware to software, so do the challenges of management and security. We know from Symantec’s recent Global State of Mobility Survey that 71% of organisations are now looking at custom applications for themselves. Couple this with outside forces, such as the quite natural desire for an employee to hunt out and download an app, and the end result is a whole set of new challenges – from increased help desk calls to the occasional loss of data.

It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that management and security features are also moving from the device to software. What we know of as Mobile Device Management is now largely commoditized through the standardization efforts of industry organisations such as the Open Mobile Alliance. Attention is shifting to the applications, through initiatives around (the inevitably named) Mobile Application Management, which focuses more on individual applications and the data they control.

Used right, mobile technologies make us more effective in our working lives and nobody would want to put a restriction on innovation, which is the life blood of business. But even as the curve starts to level off in terms of mobile hardware, the momentum in applications shows no signs of dissipating. This is not a problem in itself, as long as IT decision makers recognize it and put enabling strategies and indeed, tools for management and security in place early on. Otherwise, they could be faced with all of the cost and none of the benefit, to the advantage of nobody.

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Enabling Mobile Productivity Without Sacrificing Protection

Businesses today are dealing with incredible advances in mobile device technology, massive adoption of smart devices and an unstoppable BYOD trend. In response, most enterprises have multiple mobility initiatives spread across their organization – some focused on mobile email, some focused on mobile apps, and others focused on mobile content. Within these initiatives, there are diverse ownership models and varying levels of enterprise management possible. In some use cases (corporate owned devices), complete management of devices is needed, but in other cases (personally owned devices), enterprises may only want control of specific corporate apps and data – not the whole device.

To achieve these widely varying enterprise business objectives, an ideal enterprise mobility solution should address diverse use cases and ownership models. To help enterprises take full advantage of mobility without sacrificing protection, Symantec announced today the availability of the Symantec Mobile Management Suite – a single solution that consists of three products covering mobile device management, application management, and threat protection:

  • Symantec Mobile Management is the mobile device management product that provides visibility and control over iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices. Two versions of Symantec Mobile Management are included – a version that can be deployed either as a standalone or integrated with Symantec Endpoint Management (ITMS) deployments, and a second version to be deployed into Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager environments.

Symantec Mobile Management can be employed in use cases where complete device management is required or desired. Typical use cases include mobile email deployment, BlackBerry migration, mobile policy management, and mobile configuration management. Key features of Symantec Mobile Management include enterprise user activation, configuration and policy management, app and content distribution, compliance enforcement, selective wipe, secure email and asset management.

  • Symantec App Center, formerly Nukona App Center, is the mobile application management product that provides comprehensive distribution and protection for mobile apps and content on iOS and Android devices. Corporate apps are containerized using a unique technology that doesn’t require source code changes, and enables clear separation of corporate and personal data on the device.

Symantec App Center can be employed in use cases where complete device management cannot be employed or is not needed, and where control over just specific corporate apps and data is desired. Typical use cases include mobile application deployments, and mobile content driven deployments in both corporate and personally owned BYOD environments. Key features of Symantec App Center include enterprise app distribution, app and content protection policies, enterprise content distribution and selective wipe.

  • Symantec Mobile Security is a threat protection product that provides award-winning antivirus technology, advanced firewall, and anti-spam functionality for Android and Windows Mobile platforms. With centralized policy-driven management and reporting, Symantec Mobile Security helps ensure there are compliance policies in un-trusted ecosystems.

Symantec Mobile Security can be employed in use cases where end users download apps of their choice from any app store in the Android ecosystem by protecting from malicious apps. Typical use cases include securing sizeable Android deployments in global user bases, field users and contractors, as well as securing legacy Windows Mobile and CE operational devices. Key features of Symantec Mobile Security include antimalware, Web protection (safe browsing), anti-theft, enterprise policy management, application blacklisting, visibility and compliance.

Symantec Mobile Management Suite simplifies the licensing process with a per-user subscription model, making mobile costs more predictable. With the common device-based licensing, and users carrying multiple devices in the form of smartphones and tablets, enterprises are forced to pay multiple times for the same user. With Symantec’s new model, IT teams no longer need to count the devices and instead use a simpler user count. Additionally, Symantec Mobile Management Suite uses subscription based pricing, so organizations can better address their capital and operational expenditures.

With scalable device management, innovative application management and trusted threat protection technology, Symantec Mobile Management Suite provides all the capabilities needed for enterprises to enable, secure and manage mobile devices, applications, and data. Organizations that rely on Symantec Mobile Management Suite for the management and protection of their mobile devices will enjoy specific benefits that include:

  • One Solution for Enterprise-Wide Mobile Deployments: BYOD, COPE, COIT – whichever deployment models an organization chooses to support, Symantec Mobile Management Suite provides a modular and scalable solution for all mobile initiatives and use cases.
  • Complete Protection for Enterprise Mobility: With trusted protection at the device, app and data layers, Symantec Mobile Management Suite ensures that corporate data is isolated and protected from data loss, malware, and unauthorized access.
  • Lower Total Cost of Ownership: With users carrying multiple devices, Symantec Mobile Management Suite makes it cost-efficient with a per-user model (instead of per-device). In addition, integration with enterprise management products and automation tools enable operational efficiencies.

Symantec Mobile Management Suite is specifically designed to address a diverse set of enterprise mobility needs. Whether organizations want to enable mobile email or take advantage of mobile applications and content, or all of the above, Symantec Mobile Management Suite provides the most complete solution to support diverse use cases in personally owned, corporate owned and hybrid deployments.

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Symantec builds an ecosystem of mobile apps

Businesses today are relying more on mobility than ever before. With more people working in multiple locations, at various times, and on a number of different devices, companies are trying to determine the best way to enable mobile productivity without sacrificing protection. These businesses are finding that to fully leverage mobility, they must make mobile applications available to users. However, deploying new applications requires significant resources to ensure proper integration, management and security.

To help enterprises overcome this challenge, Symantec today announced the Symantec App Center Ready Program. The program allows mobile application developers to embed Symantec’s security and management features, such as encryption, authentication, data loss prevention policies, app distribution and revocation, into their apps without changing their source code. IT organizations with Symantec App Center can now confidently deploy these apps across both iOS and Android platforms with the same level of management, protection and trust as in-house apps using the same technology.

Mobile application developers in the program can accelerate adoption by addressing concerns around information security. Participating developers will speed up time to market by eliminating additional coding and gain visibility for their apps through Symantec’s App Center Ready catalogue, which lists all trusted apps certified by Symantec. Developers can extend their market reach instantly and differentiate with the global recognition and trust Symantec brings.

Once app developers join the App Center Ready Program and download the library, they can make their applications secure with three simple steps:

  • Incorporate the App Center Ready library into their build process and sign the executable with their certificate.
  • Submit their signed applications to Symantec for validation as well as catalogue listing.
  • Publish to the appropriate App Store (Apple, Google, etc.).

Symantec App Center Ready libraries readily add enterprise grade security and management features to apps. This expedites the application development process and eliminates the need to integrate any vendor specific code into applications. App developers can keep focused on what they do best with their apps, and leverage Symantec for the additional enterprise security and management needs. By incorporating Symantec App Center Ready libraries, developers can add features such as:

  • Authentication with LDAP, SAML systems
  • Encryption of data at rest with FIPS 140-2 algorithms
  • Copy-paste restrictions on any data in the application
  • Restrictions on forwarding any contents of the application to other storage sites/apps
  • Remote OTA management including push, revoke and wipe

With Symantec’s App Center Ready badge on developers’ apps, they can answer all enterprise concerns about security and management. Developers can convey the additional enterprise benefits and command a premium price for this version of the app. Symantec App Center Ready libraries can be applied on any application (web, HTML5 or native) using the development and build environment of choice. Third party development tools, such as PhoneGap and Appcelerator, are also supported. Platforms supported in the program include Apple iOS 4.0, 5.0 and 6.0 as well as Google Android 2.2 and above.

In the business world we live in today, relying on mobility means relying more on apps. To successfully do so, businesses need a better way to deploy apps without having to deal with the upfront work of ensuring the deployment will integrate into the system and will be managed and secured effectively. With the App Center Ready Program, Symantec is enabling companies to buy apps off-the-shelf, resulting in huge time and cost savings.

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Mobility survey results

The following was reprinted in Network World.

The enterprise mobility revolution by the numbers (and the security implications)

By Brian Duckering, Senior Manager, Endpoint Management and Mobility, Symantec, special to Network World 02:50 PM ET05 July, 2012

Ready or not, the mobile revolution is upon us. Some 59% of respondents to a recent Symantec survey said their companies are now making line-of-business applications accessible to mobile devices. Even more impressive, almost three-fourths — 71% — of businesses are looking into implementing a corporate “app store.”

Those were just two of the critical data points from a Symantec survey of 6,275 organizations of all sizes in 43 countries. And while mobility is helping organizations keep pace in today’s 24/7 business world, the advances come with advanced security risks that need to be addressed.

BACKGROUND: Enterprise smartphone and tablet incursion to grow in 2012

First, the survey findings.

The survey confirmed the key drivers behind the revolution. Specifically, it asked about the most important business benefits companies hope to achieve from mobility. The top answers were a desire for increased efficiency, increased workplace effectiveness and reduced time required to accomplish tasks. Taken together, these represent major business agility gains.

However, any IT manager knows that such expectations of implementing a new technology are rarely ever matched by the results. Impressively though, the survey showed that when it comes to mobility, these expectations have largely been met. For example, nearly three-quarters of businesses surveyed expected to increase efficiency through mobile computing, and a full 73% actually realized that gain.

As further evidence that the mobile revolution is in full swing, respondents said 31% of the IT staff at their organizations are involved in some way with managing mobile computing. This significant investment in resources is also an indication of the challenges IT departments are encountering as they try to balance mobility with other critical focus areas. In fact, nearly half of the organizations who responded to the survey — 48% — said they see mobile computing as “somewhat to extremely challenging.”

Furthermore, when the survey asked where mobility ranks in terms of IT risk as compared to other current technology trends, it was cited as one of the top three risk areas by 41% of respondents — more than any other trend or initiative, including public cloud computing, virtualization and Web 2.0. IT departments’ top mobile-related concerns include device loss, data leakage, unauthorized access to corporate resources and malware infection.

These top concerns are validated by another recent study, dubbed the Symantec Smartphone Honey Stick Project, in which 50 smartphones were intentionally “lost” after having been prepared with a slew of simulated personal- and corporate-related data and applications. The devices were then monitored to see what happened. Shockingly, 83% of the devices showed attempts to access corporate-related applications or data. This included attempts on roughly 50% of the devices to access a corporate email client, a remote admin app and files titled “HR Salaries” and “HR Cases.”

It is not surprising, then, to see why 1 in 4 survey respondents said the risks of mobile computing are “somewhat to extremely high.” In response to these perceived risks, the survey also showed that most organizations are at least discussing a range of security measures, from anti-malware software to the ability to remotely lock and wipe devices. However, when it comes to implementing these measures, less than half have taken the necessary steps.

GARTNER: How to get a handle on mobile device management

It is one thing for perceived risks to be on IT’s radar; it is another for those risks to actually be taking a toll on businesses as measured in financial loss. The fact of the matter is — as highlighted by the survey — small and large businesses are indeed seeing damages mount due to mobility-related security issues.

Specifically, within the last 12 months the average cost of losses due to mobile-related risks was a surprising $247,000 by organizations overall. Large enterprises and small businesses are largely experiencing the same kinds of loss, but to a very different degree — small businesses averaged $126,000 of loss, while enterprises averaged $429,000. [Also see: “By the numbers: The impact of data breaches“]

These losses are measured by direct financial expenses, loss of data and damage to brands or loss of customer trust. However, when all is said and done most organizations feel the mobile revolution is well worth the risks and associated costs that come with it. In fact, a full 71% of the survey respondents said they feel they at least break even on the risks verses rewards of mobility.

On that note, there are several best practices that can help organizations of all sizes realize the rewards of the mobile revolution while simultaneously minimizing the risks.

First, companies should seriously and methodically explore how they can take advantage of mobility, and then develop a phased approach to build an ecosystem that supports their plan. To get the most from mobile advances, they should plan for line-of-business mobile applications that have mainstream use. Employees are using mobile devices for business one way or another; companies should make it on their terms.

Next, companies should think strategically. They should build a realistic assessment of the ultimate scale of their mobile business plan and its impact on their infrastructure. They must think beyond email and explore all of the mobile opportunities that can be introduced, and they must also thoroughly understand the risks and threats that need to be mitigated. As they plan, they should focus on a cross-functional approach to securing sensitive data no matter where it might end up.

Finally, organizations must learn to manage mobility with efficiency. IT departments must accept that mobile devices are legitimate corporate endpoints that require the same attention given to traditional computing platforms.

Many of the processes, policies, education and technologies leveraged for desktops and laptops are also applicable to mobile platforms, so management of mobile devices should be integrated into the overall IT management framework and administered in the same way — ideally, using compatible solutions and unified policies. This creates operational efficiencies and lowers the total cost of ownership.

In summary, the 2012 State of Mobility Survey showed that companies are embracing the mobile revolution with an eye toward improving corporate agility. However, for all the benefits of the revolution, companies are also feeling its impact in terms of both resource consumption and risks. Despite this, most organizations believe the benefits outweigh the risks.

The reality of this balance, however, is dependent on companies thinking strategically, enforcing appropriate policies and managing and securing devices and data efficiently and comprehensively.

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Interviewed by Maribel Lopez

Maribel caught up with me at a recent industry event and had a few questions for me that she caught on video.

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Enabling the Next Gen Desktop with Endpoint Virtualization

Here is another presentation from BriForum this year.

Abstract:  Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is the most sought after client computing technology of the past decade, due to the enormous potential benefits for IT. However many are finding that these advantages can come with increased costs and greater infrastructure complexity. Much of this comes from the dynamic nature of VDI, and its ability to be deployed, multiplied and recycled very easily and rapidly, and having to coexist with other computing models, like laptops, desktops and terminal servers. Endpoint Virtualization is rapidly becoming a standard component of successful VDI implementations. This session will discuss the specific technologies and methods that best complement the VDI platform and complete the promise of VDI.

Dual camera session video here

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Virtual desktops are a niche tech

John Dix, Network World Editor in Chief, set up one of his debates with industry experts.  This time the question was:

Desktop virtualization: niche solution, or new desktop standard?

Desktop virtualization promises to simplify management, increase efficiency and improve security, but it doesn’t come cheap and requires a big rethink. Will the latter forever relegate desktop virtualization to a few corners of the enterprise, or will the allure of the former convince corporations it is time to start from scratch?

And on the two sides of this debate:

John Fanelli, Vice President of Enterprise Desktops and Apps at Citrix claims:

Desktop virtualization benefits drive standardization (his full opinion here)

Brian Duckering (me) claims:

Virtual desktops are a niche technology (full opinion below)

Virtual desktop technology appeals to IT because it promises to address IT problems. But most of those promises come up short and, worse, until the tech provides a positive advance for users, they will reject it. Taken together there are simply too many reasons for most people to avoid virtual desktops for it to be anything but niche for now.

What is sometimes forgotten is that IT is really all about enabling the end user. For any organization, value is created when a user is able to access computing resources and be productive. Unfortunately, desktop virtualization often forces compromise, with the strongest arguments for virtualizing the desktop coming from the IT community.

IT likes desktop virtualization because it’s all about centralizing and standardizing to simplify the management of these systems, which is often in opposition to end-user demand for greater mobility and flexibility. So, infrastructure decisions involving desktop virtualization must be done intelligently, carefully weighing the cost and convenience to IT with end-users’ need to be productive anywhere or have dedicated and responsive computing power.

We must recognize that today end users hold a lot more influence over computing than at any time in the past, insisting on flexible work locations, personally owned devices, disconnected use, etc. And in the majority of these cases, there are legitimate business drivers supporting the decisions. It is largely up to IT to figure out how to allow these new models, without compromising security or manageability.

There are certainly environments where virtual desktops are the best solution, even if the user experience is not improved, like when data must be confined to the data center, or in highly regulated industries or even offshore engineering. User productivity and mobility may be compromised, but other factors weigh more heavily. This is a niche where IT requirements actually trump user preference.

One niche where users may actually embrace virtual desktops comes from the increasing popularity of tablets. From a tablet, you can access a virtual desktop while on the move, and run all of your business applications that won’t run on the tablet OS, without having to carry a full PC. This case is becoming more popular as RDP for mobile devices continues to improve and become more prevalent. And in fact this use case may eventually move virtual desktops out of the niche category – but not until a host of other obstacles are overcome. These obstacles include:

* With virtual desktops storage costs increase dramatically as several gigabytes are transferred from cheap distributed storage to expensive data center storage for every converted desktop

* License management is challenging in any environment, but virtual desktops make it even harder. Traditional management systems weren’t designed for this dynamic environment, and often more licenses are required to ensure compliance.

* Infrastructure costs can be enormous, with storage being only one factor. Add thin client devices, VDI licensing, various servers, plus additional OS licenses in the form of VECD or VDA. This is rarely a break-even financial decision, with CAPEX often outweighing any predicted OPEX savings. Financial arguments will rarely point to this as a solution.

* Maintenance costs are one of the biggest promises of virtual desktops. But reducing operating costs is really only possible at near 100% saturation. At 15% – 25% (the high end of most practical implementations), the existing landscape does not change much and these new costs become additive. Plus, everyone accessing a virtual desktop must do so from a physical one, potentially doubling the number of endpoints to be managed.

How long virtual desktops remain niche will depend on how long it takes to solve these problems and how long it will take to convince users they will be better off. In the meantime, there are other good alternatives, depending on the objective.

If it is just a matter of centralizing computing, the terminal server approach works well for most, and is far less expensive. For better management of distributed systems, streaming is a mature and proven technology that centralizes management, automates user customization, improves delivery and removal of apps, and reduces helpdesk calls, among other things.

There is no one best solution for everybody today, and IT managers should be encouraged to pick the best model for each user group. Heterogeneity will be with us for a long time.

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