As a part of the Wikibon and SiliconAngle.tv coverage of EMC’s VSPEX launch last week, the team interviewed Cynthia Gallant, Vice President of Channel Strategy and Development at Citrix Systems about her thoughts regarding desktop virtualization, cloud services and converged infrastructure.
As I was watching her interview, I started hearing clicks as things in my head started falling into place. A number of trends in the IT world are converging on elements that are much more business and end user focused than we’ve seen in the past. While IT departments have always worked hard to ensure that the work they do benefits the business and user base, the “meta trends” that we see in the overall IT landscape are helping to push these initiatives far beyond what we may have seen just a few short years ago.
Further, much of what we’re seeing in the market today is intended to make things easier for IT. At first glance, this might just mean that IT departments can be further downsized, but I believe that smart organizations will use the opportunity to redirect their IT efforts toward more business- and end-user-focused pursuits.
VDI or end-user computing
In the SiliconAngle.tv interview, Ms. Gallant of Citrix argues that the term “desktop virtualization” should be something more end-user focused, such as “end user computing”. At first, I dismissed her argument as mere semantics, but as I began to consider additional trends and how they relate to a reshaping of the IT landscape, I can see where the argument has merit. Ms. Gallant believes that the term VDI is too technical and that the new term places more emphasis on the direct end-user benefits of a virtual desktop infrastructure environment.
Beyond the overall converged infrastructure announcements that have been made in recent weeks, there is ample evidence of a desire for increase simplification in the VDI market. Just look at Citrix’s own VDI-in-a-Box solution. It’s intended to be installed on commodity hardware and to require minimal IT resources to manage, while still providing end users with the kind of environment that they need in order to do their work.
Other vendors have also jumped on the VDI simplification bandwagon. Some organizations have held back on VDI due to the initial infrastructure investment that must be made in order to reasonably support a robust end-user computing environment. To address these concerns, companies such as Nutanix and Pivot3 have created products that allow companies to take a building-block approach with regard to VDI deployment. No more massive initial investment is necessary. As companies need to scale up their desktop environment, they simply buy another building block from their vendor. Now, organizations can achieve the end user benefits that can be had with VDI without having to worry about the major CAPEX downside.
With the right VDI solution, IT can focus on tuning an individual compute environment rather than on the mundane. With all end-user computing solutions, user profiling is very important, but it can be simplified with VDI. Whereas some users can get by with basic, cookie-cutter, template-driven deployments, others may need more complex environments. With the turn of a dial, IT can turn up or turn down a user’s environment.
With this decreased complexity and cost, these kinds of solutions are even rolling out to the SMB space.
I wrote recently about how I believe that the continued improvement of “infrastructure in a box”-like solutions are the future of IT and indicated that these kinds of environments are available today. It’s quite apparent that these converged products play into the simplification trend and that their acquisition can be leveraged to help IT departments refocus their energies on business activities.
As it relates to VDI, these converged environments can also play a big role. EMC’s new VSPEX, for example, has solutions overviews outlining how the product can be leveraged in end-user computing scenarios.
As Citrix’s Gallant puts it, through the use of some of today’s modern options, we’re able to “mask complexity” in a way that enables IT to operate more efficiently.
The move to broker
I’m not going to belabor this point, but in my IT 2020 article, I outlined the service broker role that I believe IT organizations will be playing in 2020. This is in response to the cloud trend that will bring with it simplification, or at least different levels of complexity, and more focus on solving business problems in a direct way. It’s the ultimate build vs. buy decision, and the focus will be on the acquisition and integration of a myriad of services from a broad swath of providers.
As a caveat to this argument, I don’t believe that IT organizations should necessarily just jump into cloud, either. As is the case with all services, each decision requires a careful analysis and justification. I’ve written about that very topic at TechTarget’s SearchCIO-Midmarket.com.
Bring Your Own Device, Apple and Microsoft
Personally, I believe we have Apple to thank for the red hot topic that is BYOD. Between the iPhone and the iPad, increasing numbers of employees are looking to their IT organizations for ways to use the devices that they know and love. But, it’s not only about Apple. Android and Windows Phone 7—and soon, Windows 8—devices are also in the mix. Although there are most definitely business applications supported by these devices, the overwhelming audience is certainly the consumer market.
For those who eschew the consumer-friendly BYOD trend, I don’t think that the floodgates will hold forever in your favor. From a device perspective, this is the ultimate end-user-focused initiative that an IT organization can support, and it can have good business outcomes. I see BYOD as one reason to implement a VDI environment. Just about any device on the planet can connect to a VDI environment, so it dovetails nicely.
It all fits together.
Sometimes, it’s not complexity that needs to be simplified; it’s sheer quantity. I recently wrote an article for TechRepublic entitled “Six things your IT department should stop doing today.” Although some very small IT departments may not realize benefits from all of the items that I suggest, I believe that most would. The items listed are ones that are clearly driven by inefficiency rather than the business. There are inexpensive solutions to solve each and every one of the problems I outlined.
Action Item: Given the trends we’re seeing today, the kinds of items on that list should be up for elimination while IT organizations strive to remake themselves in ways that provide direct value to the business. There are many trends intersecting around making IT simpler and more accessible to the end user. CIOs: Take heed!