VMware’s multipronged approach to user empowerment Earlier this week, I wrote an article here outlining some of the details behind VMware’s announcement of its intent to acquire Wanova, one of the company’s partners and rivals in the desktop virtualization game. There, I spoke about desktop virtualization and some of the challenges that come along with that technology, so I won’t repeat them here.
VMware's Davis discusses Wanova acquisition
The Chief Technology Officer of VMware's End User Computing Group, Scott Davis, joins SiliconANGLE's John Furrier and Wikibon's Dave Vellante to discuss the role of virtualization and the many facets that make up a complete solution.
Watch the full video here
With distinct products targeting the desktop, the application, and the file, VMware is hitting the key areas of interest to CIOs in ways that maintain a good balance between user empowerment and IT control. For example, as we continue to see further consumerization of IT, users are, with or without IT consent, turning to solutions such as personal mobile devices and services like DropBox. While such services may, in fact, enable users to be more productive, they can also open the organization to significant risk. This consumerization trend is creating new friction between IT groups that are tasked with protecting an organization’s information assets and end-users who are tasked with simply getting their jobs done. Organizations must find new ways to create balance between these completing needs.
During his chat with SiliconANGLE's John Furrier and Wikibon's Dave Vellante, Scott Davis, chief technology officer of VMware's End User Computing Group, spent time discussing VMware’s three-pronged approach to supporting the end user. The three approaches that he spoke of include the well-known VMware View product, a desktop-focused product providing an ever-increasing set of capabilities to virtualization-hungry enterprises, VMware’s Horizon Application Manager & Horizon Mobile, a product targeted at securely delivering applications to end-users in a device-agnostic way and, finally, Project Octopus, a product that many are calling “DropBox for the Enterprise". The image below gives you a high-level look at these three product strategies.
Desktop: VMware View
You’re probably already familiar with the services provided by VMware View. With every release, View gets better and supports an ever-growing number of user and organizational needs. For example, since introducing the product, VMware has added features that improve the multimedia experience (PCoIP), reduce disk space usage (Linked Clones), reduce the impact of boot and login storms (View Storage Accelerator), and provide users with a consistent experience across a myriad of devices (View Persona Management). Such improvements make VDI implementations more feasible as they can help organizations reduce the initial acquisition cost and help to ensure that end-users have an experience that is acceptable and meets their needs.
Desktops and desktop management are just one part of the enterprise equation, though. When it comes right down to it, desktops exist for the sole purpose of running applications. After all, if Windows wasn’t necessary to run an app, Windows wouldn’t even be in the mix, right? It’s the platform on which enterprise applications run.
VMware believes that we’ll look at Windows someday as nothing more than a runtime environment. With Horizon, VMware aims to bring applications directly to the end-user, without regard for the device in question. There are actually two Horizon products.
Horizon Application Manager
With Horizon Application Manager, the IT department can move to an “apps as a service” model that enables the delivery of applications from a single portal and boasts features that include identity federation and centralized policies related to the consumption of these applications. The Horizon Application Manager product will be available as an on-premises virtual appliance. Horizon also attempts to help organizations move into the “post-PC era” by closing the divide between Windows-based apps and those delivered through the cloud. With Horizon, an app is an app; the user doesn’t necessarily need to know or care if the application is a Windows app or an SaaS app. With Horizon, users get easy access to apps that they need to do their work, while IT still maintains control over access to those applications.
Horizon Mobile is really virtualization for mobile devices and can solve the BYOD problem in an elegant way. Currently, Horizon Mobile works with Android devices and allows an employee to use a single device for both personal and work purposes. For all intents, Horizon splits one device up into two virtual phones – one for personal use and one for work. IT gets to have full control the work side of the house. This virtualization technique gives CIOs the facilities they need to manage business apps on the phone with the right security and the right isolation.
Personally, I believe that Windows probably has more life left in it than VMware likes to admit. The operating system does far more than just provide access to applications. It also provides access to resources such as printers and the Internet and, while its conceivable that VMware could eventually provide such access, Windows’ ubiquity works strongly in Microsoft’s favor here. That said, Horizon is a step in the right direction with regard to broad and integrated application access. It remains to be seen, however, if the company can be successful in pulling together all of the right elements in a way that will be palatable to CIOs.
This is why I see View as an important part of VMware’s strategy. Windows isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
It’s the mobile side here that piques my interest. I love the idea of basically running two phones on one piece of hardware. This is what virtualization is all about! In this world, there is a win/win as users get to do what they want with the device they want while IT can still implement controls and safeguards that protect company assets.
But there is one huge downside to Horizon Mobile.
So far, it looks like Horizon Mobile will be limited to Android devices. Given Apple’s penchant for strict control over its walled garden, this is not that surprising. In answer to this, VMware has also demonstrated Project AppBlast, which delivers applications to devices using nothing but HTML5. This kind of deployment and execution technology could completely bypass vendor-implemented restrictions on the way that applications are provisioned on mobile devices.
Again, as is the case with so much new technology, it remains to be seen how successful this effort will prove to be.
File: Project Octopus
Although applications are the lifeblood of an organization, access to individual files is also critically important in most businesses. As I mentioned before, VMware is addressing file-level access through Project Octopus, a.k.a.“DropBox for the Enterprise.”
First and foremost, Project Octopus is a file sharing and collaboration solution. Like DropBox, with Octopus the intent is that users will be able to access their files from any location and from any device. This is good.
However, where Octopus goes beyond DropBox is in its enterprise credibility. Whereas DropBox has often been used surreptitiously and can add security challenges in the enterprise, Octopus is built from the group up to be able to be managed by IT in ways that govern how users can use the service so that it can be deployed in ways that are simply not possible with components from the consumer cloud.
VMware recently announced that, before Octopus hits general availability, its functionality will be rolled into Horizon, discussed earlier in this article. I kept it as a separate section here to demonstrate the three areas in which VMware is operating when it comes to end-user access to computing resources.
Action Item: Given the increasing rate of change and the increasing risk that can come from wholesale changes, CIOs should be skeptical when they hear claims that the “post PC era is upon us” and make careful choices with regard to future technologies, particularly those that have the potential to negatively disrupt the end-user. Although it appears as if VMware is hitting all the right spots, the company is doing so in direct competition with Microsoft, a well-established player that will not be easily forced out of or minimized in the enterprise.
But VMware does have a compelling story to tell. Because many of VMware’s new products wrap themselves around Windows and treat Windows services as just another container, both homogenous and heterogeneous environments alike can benefit as can organizations that are making significant forays into disparate cloud-based services. VMware has an incredibly strong brand and knows that it needs to expand beyond the traditional virtualization space in order to remain a tier 1 player well into the future.
Although CIOs need to tread carefully, VMware’s products deserve a careful review. The world of the cloud and BYOD is here and with it come new challenges that need new solutions.
CIOs who prefer to look outside of VMware should seek solutions that can address the breadth and depth of challenges that are hitting enterprise IT. Consider solutions that deliver applications in a safe and secure way; application-centricity is the new black! Consider also the reasons behind user’s embracing some potentially dangerous consumer-focused services, such as DropBox, and attempt to determine business risk associated with these activities and implement secure answers to the business problems that are being solved through this rogue activity.