Navigating through the issues of desktop virtualisation and BYOD

For any business looking to stay ahead of the innovation curve, bring your own device is a trend which has been hard to ignore. Scott Cairns, CTO at T-systems, explains what companies need to address before diving in.

There has been much talk over the past few years about desktop virtualisation, and the ‘bring your own’ revolution destined to take the IT world by storm.

Despite the promise of reduced costs, and simpler management, neither have really had the market penetration expected.

Are these concepts merely solutions without a problem to address, or can they really bring benefit to the organisation?

The virtualisation conundrum and future possibilities

Historically projects have sometimes been initiated to try to ‘shoehorn’ a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) strategy into an infrastructure where it was either not needed, or not appropriate. Where the drive was to reduce costs, VDI was not the most appropriate solution, as building VDI on standard industry storage solutions led to excessive costs. This was primarily due to the high demand levels (IOPS) placed on the disk infrastructure, and left a large number of VDI projects unfinished or abandoned.

Within the past couple of years, there have been changes in the storage world that can help address the excessive costs associated with VDI. The entry into the market of specialist companies like Tintri, Atlantis, and Nutanix, has changed the way in which we look at storage provision for desktop virtualisation strategy. Cheap and fast appliance based storage, and in-memory storage, mean that it is now possible to achieve a competitive cost for a VDI solution. 

Despite this breakthrough, it is still essential that the company looks for problem areas that could be addressed by VDI, and not fall into the trap of implementing a VDI strategy across the entire company. There are various forms of virtualisation that can be applied in the end user space to bring benefits to the company, and VDI is simply one of several.

How can bring your own device help my company

Bring your own device (BYOD) can bring tangible cost related benefits, but companies need to be careful about where and how they target the application of this policy.

BYOD is about the individual employee providing the hardware on which to perform their company work. The asset is owned by the employee, and it is their responsibility to ensure the equipment is maintained and operational. In doing this, the company is eliminating not only the capital outlay for the device, but removing the the majority of operational costs associated with this device.

When considering a BYOD strategy, It is important that companies contemplate carefully where it is appropriate to implement such a project, as there are pitfalls waiting for the uninitiated. 

To introduce a BYOD policy for permanent employees presents a minefield of challenges and obstacles to navigate. There are legal implications to consider around liability insurance, intellectual property rights, termination clauses and asset ownership. There are HR considerations around leaver policies, expectations and benefits, and related financial issues around tax and maintenance of the devices.

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A good starting point, however, is targeting the contractor headcount. This demographic could be expected to provide their own equipment, and should respond positively to the approach. Contractors often own a personal device that far exceeds the equipment a company can allocate, and BYOD helps to create a clearer demarcation between company and contractor.

This can allow for rapid mobilisation of contract staff as there are no hardware lead times, or builds to be applied. The contractor is provided with a user ID and password ahead of engagement date, and simply logs on to the system when they start.

Provided you harness the most appropriate methods of controlling access, this audience will provide a good starting point. But how can a BYOD strategy be successfully implemented? 

BYOD and virtualisation technology

With technology evolving at an ever increasing pace, there are new methods of accomplishing a successful BYOD approach emerging all the time. A popular approach is to harness the power of virtualisation to enable the BYOD strategy.

Virtualisation allows the provision of centralised services to employees, whilst maintaining the security and integrity of the corporate systems. Access is granted through a browser based portal, that aggregates available services, and presents these to the users in the most appropriate method for the device being used for access.

The portal can serve intranet applications, virtualised applications, or entire virtual desktops, in order to provide the service being requested by the user, all from the security of the centralised data centre environment. Thanks to the evolution of technology such as HTML5, it is even possible to securely cache data, allowing for off-line functionality of virtualised methods.

Through targeted application of BYOD strategy, and the incorporation of modern virtualisation technology, we will see a growth in implementations of these concepts during the next few years as companies look at ways to reduce the cost of end user services, whilst ensuring integrity of systems is maintained.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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