BYOD increases productivity. At least that’s a common justification for acquiescing to employee demands that they be allowed to use their personal devices in the workplace. But while working with familiar computing devices may make individuals more productive, the resulting lack of device and data respository standardization can mean productivity reduction on an organizational level. Fortunately, just as server virtualization has helped unify data center computing, so can desktop virtualization – when implemented as a desktop-as-a-service strategy, mitigate the BYOD computing inefficiencies.
Bring Your Own Device continues to build momentum. According to a July 2011 Forester Research, Inc. report, a BYOD policy is already in place for nearly 60% of companies. Without a counteracting plan in place, the resulting lack of standardization must equate to increased IT support costs. And issues often arise from a lack of clear delineation of responsibilities between the organization and users.
Does the employer, for example, have the right to remote wipe the device? Does IT provide support for personal, but potentially work-related applications? Who bears the cost for maintenance, connectivity and upgrades? And what obligations do employees have in terms of conforming with organizational security policies and regulatory requirements?
A more insidious byproduct of BYOD is an aggregate decline in productivity as not only the number and variety of devices proliferate, but also the number of applications and associated data respositories. While some organizational information is likely to be stored on the devices themselves, some also ends up in cloud-based services such as Google Docs, iCloud or DropBox. The ability for employees to work efficiently is consequently limited by lack of easy and secure access to the information they require.
Disjointed organizational computing is, of course, nothing new. The traditional data center is generally composed of a hodgepodge of equipment and applications purchased over the years based upon individual departmental projects and associated budgets. The resulting “technology islands” data center model is both expensive and difficult to operate. It is rather comical to remember that Gartner’s number one energy saving recommendation at its 2007 Data Center Conference, prior to the proliferation of data center virtualization, was to turn off servers that appear idle and see if anyone complains.
Virtual servers on their own engender significant savings and benefits, but the greater promise is to utilize virtualization as a platform for transforming the data center into a unified and dynamic environment with common pools of compute, storage and network. This computing model, known as private cloud or IT-as-a-Service, automatically provisions not only servers, but also the storage, network and security components based upon application requirements. Entirely new product categories have arisen to assist in this transformation including cloud frameworks (VMware vCloud Director, OpenStack), cloud orchestration tools (such as ones from CA Technologies, BNC, Cisco), and integrated computing stacks (VCE Vblocks, NetApp FlexPods, HP CloudSystem Matrix, etc.).
Virtual desktops, like their server counterparts, enable significant organizational benefits. They sit securely in the data center where they are always backed up, managed, and replicated off-site for DR/BC purposes. Users can access their desktop from any device, anywhere at any time – as long as IT gives them permission to do so. Access can immediately be discontinued, for example, for a terminated employee or contractor. The requirement for separate help desk, configuration and support staff is often reduced or even eliminated.
While desktop virtualization is a terrific solution for internally hosted Windows machines (what VMware refers to as “legacy desktops”), it doesn’t address the touch interface capabilities of most smartphones and tablets. To meet user expectations along these lines, the desktop concept increasingly must extend to the cloud with redesigned cloud based applications, SaaS applications, etc.
As with virtual servers, virtual desktops have the greatest potential for transformation when integrated as part of the overall ITaaS architecture. Thinking in terms of desktop-as-a-service helps delineate the new role of desktops as just another set of virtual machines, yet recognize the unique aspects of those VMs as well as of the necessity for incorporating the Web. New products from VMware (Horizon, AppBlast, Octopus) and others provide this capability. IT can consequently allow employee-owned devices while retaining control of environmental variables important to the organization.
Aligning IT with Business
One of the long-standing complaints about Corporate IT has been a lack of adequate customer service – often attributed to a misalignment with the business. But when looking at the hardware and systems mishmash of the traditional data center, it is easy to see why 70% of the typical IT budget goes just to keep the lights on. This hasn’t left much over for innovation or creative customer care.
Fortunately for the status quo, there hasn’t been any competition. Today the cloud offers plenty of alternatives to users frustrated by an IT organization not nimble enough to quickly meet their requirements. I read a statistic a few months ago that claimed over half of the virtual machines hosted on Amazon Web Services, the world’s largest cloud provider, are now purchased via credit card directly by business units – bypassing IT entirely.
BYOD is another threat to traditional IT. But rather than fight the inevitable, IT should embrace BYOD by incorporating a DTaaS strategy. Instead of spending their time on hardware-based tasks such as upgrades, patching and troubleshooting, the IT staff can take a step back and approach desktops strategically. They can define what the nature of the organizational desktop should be in terms of local and cloud-based applications, storage, backup, collaboration capabilities, etc. They can enable solutions that make sense not just for individual productivity, but for overall organizational efficiency, security and compliance.
BYOD: You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet. 12/29/2011. Galen Gruman. – CIO
Consumer Devices are Coming: People, Get Ready. 12/15/2011. Matthew Stibbe. – BCW
BYOD: Bring Your Own Disaster. 12/14/2011. Joe Onisick. – Network Computing
Developing a BYOD and Mobile IT Strategy. 12/13/2011. Jim Lynch. – Techsoup.org
BYOD and IT: The Tail Wagging the Dog? 12/09/11. Chris Hopen . – TechNewsWorld
Why BYOD Isn’t a Trend. 12/05/11. David Strom. ReadWrite Enterprise
After BYOD, What's Next? It's the Apps, Stupid. 10/30/2011. Eric Lai. – Forbes.com
Go Ahead, Bring Your Own Device to Work. 10/10/2011. – AT&T Web Site
Cisco Connected World Technology Report. 2011. – Cisco Web Site.