How the software-defined workspace is reshaping enterprise client computing

Another thing to bear in mind is that we are now seeing more and more service providers that are able to take the back-end infrastructure piece away so that enterprises can completely focus their attention on service delivery requirements.

TRP: Will desktop teams need different skills as a result?

TR: The biggest transition will be to change the mind-set of desktop administrators and organisations from a decades-old approach of just adding more desktop devices to solve the problem. The good news though is that the software-defined desktop model has matured greatly in the past few years, and has been tested in a variety of real-world environments.

Therefore, a great body of expertise in architecting such systems has evolved in the past five years, and is completely accessible to new adopters of this technology. There are plenty of specialists, information and training resources available to help teams build new skills for a new era. There are also plenty of case studies and organisational experts who are happy to share their experience.

Gaining a new mind-set to service delivery will also enable the IT team to deliver more value to their businesses. One thing that the move towards software-defined is bringing is more of a focus on service delivery versus maintenance of kit. This in turn enables IT to have the ability to spend more time on gathering the metrics and hard data on technology usage that will make future investment decisions easier to justify and make.

Having data on usage patterns, which is enabled by new desktop management solutions, is also important for business strategy decisions so again IT has the potential to play an earlier and bigger role in organisational planning. An interesting area for IT teams will be the ability to measure the cost and business value of services at a really granular level as they understand more about how their technology is really being used.

TRP: There's often a lot of hype around new technologies and new approaches. What is the reality of working in this way – can you share any examples of what companies can achieve?

TR: There are plenty of examples of the benefits that are being realised. In fact, there are a few things that serve as a good checklist for teams that are currently looking at their desktop strategies. Organisations that we work with, for example, have been able to keep accurate inventories of applications – both used and unused – operating systems and versions really easily, which saves money on licensing and storage and ensures everything is compliant.

Where desktop upgrades used to take months they can now take days or even hours as you will only need to update a few base images, recompose them and deliver to users. You can also be absolutely sure that OS patches and upgrades are applied to all – even remote – desktops, eliminating gaps that can open up endpoints to hackers.

Migrations can be automated and performed securely at least three times faster than using tools like USMT, and users can still work on desktops the entire time. User profiles can be centrally stored in secure data centres and can be replicated and mirrored, keeping them secure and available for disaster recovery scenarios. Documented DR tests have supported a recovery time of as little as four hours to bring desktops back online.

Also, if a desktop connection is lost, data is not lost, and the session is retained; users log back in and stay productive. Desktop performance can be proactively monitored across the enterprise (meaning all desktops everywhere, anytime, even remote or field operations) to prevent issues from occurring and to ensure users stay productive. With a well-managed software-defined workspace it's common to see a reduction in help desk calls by 70 to 80% or more.

TRP: What would be your advice to desktop teams looking at their next steps?

TR: Technologies in the client computing space are evolving quickly. There are so many vendors, large and small, that are collectively reshaping what is possible. In the last year we've seen Amazon enter with cloud-based desktops, Citrix and VMware continue to drive innovation and there is now a new vision from Microsoft. The ideal goal for an organisation is to create an IT environment that is as open and as flexible as possible, that can balance security requirements with the ability to change the environment quickly.

I would recommend speaking to a specialist who has an understanding of 'persona and user environment management' as this is a critical component of being able to plan and manage a blended client computing environment. It can also solve many of the headaches of managing a traditional desktop estate so there's nothing to lose by looking at these solutions today.

Specialists with this knowledge should also be able to provide advice on the different delivery options that are suited to your organisation.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.