The Pundit’s humble list of 2014 cloud truths for Enterprise IT


Cloud is a massive topic and thousands  of industry analysts far smarter than I are making predictions…so I thought I would avoid predictions and point out some rather obvious truths and factoids. My target audience are my friends and colleagues in enterprise IT. 

 

1. Let’s be clear, almost every firm in the world is already a user of cloud in some fashion. Whether old fashioned ASP, SaaS deployments for CRM or HR, some initial  experiments with IaaS. You’re already confronting Cloud. 

2. You will spend significant energy evaluating Cloud (I include SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS in my definition) over the next 18 months, probably evaluating options by workload/technology discipline. i.e. 

a.  Dev/Test 

b. End user computing/collaboration 

c. Business Intelligence/big data 

d. Windows Production workloads 

e. Storage alternatives 

f. Linux opportunities 

3. You will start confronting automation, orchestration and the plain reality that we will all use multiple tools while we search for the holy grail of an automation/orchestration/provisioning “uber tool” that can manage multiple tools and cloud infrastructures (much as we spent a lot of the 80′s and 90′s searching for a manager of manager for system monitoring/management tools) 

4. You will consider directory federation with one of the Cloud providers (O365/Azure a strong probability) in order to get single sign on access to hundreds of SaaS services without having to build individual links to each service from an “on premise” tool. 

5. You will start thinking about the staff/organizational implications and realize that Cloud impacts much more than server engineers/administrators. Most modern IT shops are in what Gartner calls “the industrial IT era” and intake processes. governance processes, the componentization of work demanding droves of project managers, etc have resulted in the growth of a lot of non technology focused IT roles. Cloud, with predefined provisioning processes and massive automation, will challenge the requirement for many of those roles….while at the same time technology roles will morph to operate federated identity, security, management, and data services that link multiple Cloud providers, internal systems, traditional Asp/outsourcers, etc. 

Well anyway, I believe all of the above (smiley) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A shout out- local Leadership and team development resources


So I confess, the blog entry I have been working on is about the organizational implications of Cloud/SaaS on Technology Infrastructure staff (not all dire, by the way) but it is a big and exhausting topic, so I decided to take a break and just acknowledge some people and capabilities that I believe can help any leader improve themselves and their leadership team. So call this post the procrastinating pundit. (smiley)

I confess I start with a perspective that says most organizations I am familiar with, at least large ones, do a very poor job of helping leaders build great teams in spite of formal curriculum, internal training teams,and lots of genuflecting at the altar of the “talent management”  process.  I don’t know why these approaches are not working but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is because they are based on one time training approaches that lack follow up, and fail to establish themselves into the daily routines of the leader and their team. So if you, as a leader, have some latitude in the resources you engage to help with team building, consider these great firms/people I mention below.

1. BlueMark Consulting and Wade Jack.  Wade is a very experienced and incredibly talented management consultant with a background and client list I am not worthy to relate (smiley). What I can tell you he has a unique ability to work with teams and identify the work that they do,  help build real, meaningful mission, value  and mandate statements, key objectives and measurements/KPI’s, and do it it in a way that takes these artifacts that many consider clichés and shelfware and make them very meaningful to both leadership teams and their broader organization. I have used the artifacts that Wade and Bluemark help us produce as the key communication vehicle in Town Halls, Departmental Intranet sites, in profiles of my organizational acountabilities, etc. I really believe most leaders ignore the importance of a clear, consistent communication vehicle to their extended teams, and though this is just one of Wade’s many talents, it is one I value immensely.

2. Which is a logical lead in to Franklin/Covey and the wonderful training vehicle called “The Four Disciplines of Execution”, based on the book by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling.  It is a marvelous book that defines a simple, energetic methodology for leading teams through transformative change and major projects, and has become a great course from Franklin/Covey, with useful tools to help organizations deploy the methodology successfully. For some reason, in many large organizations HR and Learning & Development professionals discount the value Franklin/Covey , in spite of the fact there is probably more leadership wisdom in Covey books and Franklin/Covey workshops than most of the leadership courses that dominate large company training portfolios. I still believe that Covey’s The 8th Habit can teach new  and or junior leaders more  about the roles of Leadership, authenticity, and finding your voice than most training programs, MBA’s, etc. But I digress, again. I think the 4 Disciplines of Execution, with a focus on Wildly Important Goals, Leading Measures, Accountability, and Score Carding is strategic program management for the masses..and we need the masses engaged to be successful. There are great Strategy Execution programs taught at Queens, Schulich, etc and these will help the core leaders of a major program, but the 4 Disciplines can penetrate deep into your team, with a “light” but effective set of tools and measures.  Check it out!. Now it would be a stretch to call Franklin/Covey a local resource, but there are local reps and I have to tell you something about the whole Covey world view feels Canadian to me. (smiley). There is an optimism and focus on trust and values that I think is part of our makeup as well.

3.  The next local resource I want to mention is Roger Kenrick. Roger is a formidable, multi-talented individual. He is a practitioner of the Birkman Method, a psychological assessment instrument that is used both by organizations and individuals, an Executive Coach, a thought leader on organizational challenges, and in a small way, as I am not worthy (smiley), a colleague and friend. Roger, through the use of the Birkman  method, Emotional Intelligence, and his own unique ability to challenge anyone to become a better leader, team member, and individual can help you build a much higher performing team, while reinforcing diversity and respect for individual variation. No group think here!  Now unlike the 4 Disciplines, engaging Roger and the Birkman Method is a more significant investment, and appropriate for more senior leaders only. I confess I am a Roger fan (fan boy, smiley?) but I have seen him have major, significant impact in multiple organizations and settings, and have become convinced that approaches like his need to be part of the standard tool kit for leaders. You may prefer different instruments for understanding your team’s makeup and diversity (Myers-Briggs, Herman BDI, etc) but I think more organizations and leaders need to invest in this type of coaching/analysis (not sure I can call it training). It is about building teams that can lead their staff through troubling times, as we all know the modern work place is becoming more stressful, and often dysfunctional, as the world is driven by massive, exponential change and competition.

Wow, so my procrastinating post took on a life of its own. Hopefully what comes across is my passion for the idea that leaders need to find ways, more than ever, to invest in building better teams…and that to the extent the corporate culture you are in allows, look beyond the basic training courses offering in the corporate catalog. There are many great resources out there….and I just chose to highlight three I am familiar with. If I have misrepresented anything, it is my fault, and I hope the people I mentioned do not take offense.

back to techno geek for the next post!

 

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The power of Note taking applications versus Enterprise data controls


Confess this is just a short “mini-rant”.

I was experimenting with two great Internet/SaaS note taking applications, EverNote and OneNote, and started to reflect on the power of these applications to enhance personal productivity.

I then thought about the fact that as many enterprises move into the Mobility space the data protection/security paradigm they choose is known as Mobile Application Management (MAM) or a “container”, where enterprise applications like email, calendars, tasks, etc are segregated from the native applications on the mobile device.

Two of the leaders in this space, Citrix XenMobile, and Good Technology with their Dynamics ecosystem, provide Note taking applications within the container, so that the data can be controlled by the enterprise. Now the fact is these are not bad applications, but they are not in the class of EverNote or OneNote, and it feels odd in some ways that employees might be constrained in how they save notes and other information in 2014

One can understand the enterprise need to protect customer data, or key financial results and/or intellectual property, but one would tend to think most note taking would be about individual tasks, meeting minutes, project discussions, and probably a lot of personal reminders and research. Does the enterprise truly need to manage that data?

I am not smart enough to know the answer. I do understand the great weight of regulatory and legal compliance imposed on enterprises in certain industries, and the need to ensure certain data is never made public or compromised, but I think there are lots of areas where there is an open question about the sensitivity of the data, and whether it should be deemed employe data or enterprise data.

It s not just about notes. I have been part of long term battles over calendar and contacts data – and whether employees should be able to replicate that to their personal Internet services.

As I said, I am not smart enough to know the answer. I just find myself bemused by the fact that many people might be prevented from utilizing the benefits of great productivity applications we use in our personal or “prosumer” lives, but cannot do at work. It is just part of the long debate about productivity and technology choice at work.

 

 

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Azure RemoteApp feels like both more and less than I expected


There was a lot of speculation and hype prior to Microsoft releasing Azure RemoteApp.  The secret code name was “Project Mohoro” and I confess I was thinking about full RDSH/Terminal Services in the cloud right away. Visions of DaaS , but for the massive install base of RDSH/Citrix XenApp versus VDI deployments, solving first the Disaster Recovery “twofer” issue I often write about and then delivering true cost effective Windows Desktop/Application virtualization.

The initial reality as announced is a little bit different, but still full of potential.

1. The first use case for Remote App is to deliver a subset of Microsoft Windows applications from the Microsoft cloud, focused primarily on the Office suite and Internet Explorer initially, to users accessing the cloud from a wide array of devices ranging from standard Windows devices to Smartphones, tablets, and Mac’s. There are a variety of pretty compelling use cases for this and I will talk a little about them farther along in this post.

2. There is a second use case called “hybrid deployment” which allows firms to upload their own applications to the MS Cloud in order to deliver them to end users. Certainly this will allow some firms to potentially abandon their on premise RDSH server deployments but does not feel like a roboust enterprise DaaS vehicle yet.

There is good news in that long time Microsoft partner Citrix, who has been adding features and roboust  management to RDSH for years. has announced that Citrix Workspace Services, a cloud based instantiation of their desktop virtualization and mobility suite, will use and expand upon Azure RemoteApp services in much the same way that XenApp/XenDesktop have expanded upon on premise Microsoft Server capabilities for years.  I think there is real hope for enterprise grade, cost effective DaaS based on RDSH in our future.

In the interim though there is much potential value in the initial RemoteApp deployment.

3. Although the obvious first use case is to simply provide a Windows version of Office for those end users that spend much of their time using mobile access from a tablet or other non traditional device, it could do much more.

a. for certain populations in a firm,  depending on how Office is used and integrated with other business applications, why deploy Office on premise at all? Let end users access Office via Azure RemoteApp, and save the costs of deploying and managing Office. Potentially reduce storage costs as well as RemoteApp comes with 50 gig of personal storage per user.

b. If however you are contemplating broader user of Office 365 for core productivity applications like email and Sharepoint, Lync, etc RemoteApp becomes a great way to have a Windows client application hosted close to the applications and data, reducing latency as well as management costs.  The combined O365/Azure RemoteApp deployment may well be the productivity infrastructure of the future for many firms.

c. It also becomes an easier way for enterprises to embrace Microsoft’s “Click to Run” approach to managing Office version currency. Microsoft is trying to solve the massive issues associated with firms keeping Office current by moving away from massive release schedules to a paradigm of “continual small update downloads” . This is going to be much easier for MS to do on a client they are hosting than trying to convince IT teams to allow continual application updates on desktops the iT teams manage.

You can think of many different scenarios. This could be a great way to deliver Office for BYOD, for firms that want to go totally to non Windows access devices, and for firms that are primarily using browser based or mobile applications but still have a few Windows applications they need to access.

One interesting idea is the reality that many mobile versions of Office or Office emulators do not promise full document fidelity as yet. If you need to be absolutely sure you have seen all the redlines and comments in a critical document I am not sure I would make the call based on viewing it from a tablet…I would value the ability to open that full Office version on Azure.

Here is another scenario true in many banking institutions. Office is installed in the branch, but often more lightly used and without the load of painful plugins and integrations that happen in the corporate areas. And documents are often installed on a branch server with very light to non existent data management, backup, etc. Talk about opportunity!  A low risk way to embrace cloud Office while simplifying management of branch desktops and servers.

To me the bottom line is clear. RemoteApp will stimulate more use of application delivery/virtualization in support of Mobility, device independence, and ultimately desktop management TCO. Infrastructure pros responsible for desktops, Citrix, RDSH, etc will learn to operate in new hybrid environments….and over time firms that choose to cloudify their entire product suite with Microsoft (versus Google) will come to depend on RemoteApp, often front ended by Citrix WorkSpace Servics

 

 

 

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It feels like desktop virtualization is reaching the tipping point. Is Enterprise IT ready?


It is interesting times for those of us who have long believed in desktop virtualization. It is starting to feel like the marketplace and  technology practice are reaching an acceptance point for desktop virtualization in its many forms. What does seem clear is that the drivers of this increasing acceptance are not just the TCO drivers of a few years ago, although interest remains in opportunities to reduce cost and improve agility.. The primary reasons for interest in desktop virtualization seem to be:

  • The explosion of mobility and BYOD as critical themes/initiatives for many enterprises
  • the diversity of access devices accompanying mobility and BYOD, where tablets, smartphones, and Chromebooks all still need access to a certain amount of Windows capability. Chromebooks in particular are driving a lot of buzz as devices that can be both open Web/SaaS access devices and, via desktop virtualization, provide access to traditional enterprise applications.
  • The continued focus on information security and data leakage is certainly increasing the attractiveness of keeping data and  applications inside the “friendly” confines of the data centre.
  • The rash of announcements from industry leaders like VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and others around enhancements in desktop virtualization, new DaaS and cloud capabilities, etc.
  • but our old friend TCO/simplification remains in the mix as well.

I wonder though if this new found interest in desktop virtualization will run aground on the still present reality that it is hard to deploy desktop virtualization in most enterprises. Certainly a lot of peers and colleagues I talk to acknowledge that the cadence of acceptance and deployment is much slower than often posited in strategy documents or business cases. I think that beyond the normal difficulty of “big change” there are some specific issues that IT Infrastructure pros need to be aware of and deal with.

 

  1. There is a reality that building out desktop virtualization infrastructure is not easy. and there are not enough skilled resources in most firms. Frankly there are only a few service providers or vendors with sufficient, requisite skilled people
  2. For most larger, conservative firms the “twofer”  problem exists. Once you have a centralized, virtual desktop infrastructure in your data centre, everyone confronts the fear that if you lose the data centre, no one”s desktop will work. So in spite of the fact that loss of a data centre is a fairly remote probability, most firms talk themselves into creating twice the required virtualization infrastructure, spread across two data centres, and eroding a lot of the operation cost and complexity advantages that made them interested in desktop virtualization in the first place.
  3. Then there is the operational convergence issue. Desktop virtualization creates a need for availability and performance that the legacy PC “fat client” environment masked for most end user infrastructure support. Now we need to be able to understand a complex chain of infrastructure elements between a relatively “dumb” access point through networks, servers, storage, Active Directory, etc. This is a real challenge for your average, functionally aligned Infrastructure organization where staff grew up focused on “demarcation” and proving it was not the infrastructure element they were accountable for at fault. Industry leaders have long talked about the need to build new multi-discipline teams to support virtualization, whether desktop, server, or network….but very little of that seems to have happened in the real world.

Left unaddressed, I believe the issues above could cause a lot of desktop virtualization project failures and derail a technology that is quite important in reducing technology cost, complexity, and vulnerability for the next five years. It is always dangerous to claim that there are sure fire solutions, but I do believe there are some obvious emerging practices and design patterns that will help

  1. (skills/build issues) The obvious first approach would be training and recruitment, but I tend to agree with Brian Madden. Building out virtual desktop infrastructure is a skill that improves with practice, and it is going to be very difficult to develop/maintain the needed capability inside the enterprise. Services firms are the obvious answer, and I believe DaaS (desktop as a service) is the right approach. DaaS does NOT have to be in the Cloud (more on that later). A lot of firms are willing to deliver DaaS on premise with proven infrastructures and design patterns that can improve your  probabilities of a successful deployment.  If not DaaS, which implies ongoing operational services from a partner, certainly consider help building out your infrstructure.
  2. (twofer problem) I think this is where DaaS in the cloud can be of immediate help.  Now the immediate reaction of most people is that virtual desktops need to be located close to the application servers, and that until enterprise eliminate most legacy Windows applications in favour of Web based, SaaS, etc this is a non started.  Let’s agree on that for your primary  virtual desktop.  But a DR capability via DaaS can provide protection at potentially a much lower cost, and for a use case it is probably unlikely you will ever use.  I believe many firms will view DaaS for DR as a means of enabling the migration to virtual desktops by removing cost inhibitors, and that performance issues in the unlikely invocation of DR would be acceptable for a period of time.  Note that I am not even talking about the possibility that techniques such as network acceleration might be able to make the latency impact acceptable between the DaaS provider and data centre
  3. (operational convergence) This is a complex one.  DaaS does not solve this one. A virtual desktop supplier can solve many of the interaction issues between virtual desktops, the storage layer, and applications..but inevitably there will be elements of the end to end infrastructure outside their control. I’m growing partial to the idea that “big data for infrastructure”  style logging/correlation solutions like “Splunk” might become a core requirement in the virtualized. cloud infrastructure of the future. At minimum some of the specialized appliances like ExtraHop, Riverbed, etc might need to be considered as a minimum capability to troubleshoot that virtualized end to end infrastructure. They all tend to ally with teh big players like Citrix, VMware, etc. In the end not sure I have the answer yet…just starting to think deeply about this topic, but I do believe enterprises deploying virtual desktops will need more than the standard agent based monitoring tools.

Of course all of this impacts the drivers for virtualizing desktops. Firms have been struggling to eke out TCO gains from such deployments, and if you need to make additional investments that further impairs the ROI model….which is why I think we will need to seek balancing savings such as DaaS DR, and to focus on mobility, BYOD, agility, and security for the real drivers of desktop virtualization.

 

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Why a new digital bank branch might be a great thing for IT Infrastructure


There cannot be a more popular topic in both the technology pres and the Banking industry press than the future of the retail branch, the rise of the omni channel, etc.  I assure you I am no where near smart enough to even have a viable opinion in that dialogue.

I confess though I’m fond of those visions of the future branch that have that “Minority Report feel”, where the branch is primarily a lot of screens that customers can interact with, built into windows, walls, and counters..some self service kiosks and devices, and a limited number of staff who now perform less of the “service” of banking transactions but rather help customers use the various screens and kiosks to do their own banking.

Contacts of mine that do understand this space tell me that that particular vision has a profound impact on the applications used in the branch. Rather than having bank staff use the traditional “service applications”, often large scale legacy platforms that have been in the bank for decades, both customers and staff will more and more use the customer facing web and mobile applications inside the branch that customers are already using from home or in mobile situations.

Clearly this will require that these customer facing applications have much more functionality than they have today, where the average banking web app or mobile app has a very small subset of the capability built into the large number of “service applications” branch staff are using today. And it will require customers to finally accept a much more digital experience, where data is online and you’re not printing passbooks,  receipts, and maybe even withdrawing less cash versus charging an “electronic wallet”.

As a simple infrastructure professional, all of this sounds like a good thing. Your average bank branch today is a complex topology of servers, desktops, all kinds of specialized USB and com port attached printers and peripherals, cheque scanners, cash counters and distributors, etc all held together with legacy applications and network protocols/techniques.  Very very expensive to support and maintain, and hardware  refresh or Windows upgrade projects become massive, multi-year endeavours.  Just providing ongoing support for all the hardware, much of which is relatively low cost/reliability, drives massive contracts with field services firms.

I think the idea of sweeping most of the complexity away in favour of tablets, intelligent screens  and kiosks likely running vanilla vendor OS, with Web or mobile apps distributed in the same way that customers receive them is a great vision that would generate tens of $$millions of Opex savings in the long run, and as the customer base starts to accept the new digital world, deliver much more value.

But I already said I have no right to an opinion in this space (smiley(

 

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My Obsession With Two factor authentication, and a really cool new product


I have one, it’s true. Which does not mean that I claim any great security knowledge.

It started long ago in the PC remote access wars of the late 1990′s. Remember? IP-SEC VPN and Certificates versus SSL Gateway style solutions like Citrix and a token fob. I hated then (and still do) the complexity of VPN, and loved the portability of a token and the simple ability to switch devices for remote access.

I flirted briefly with the idea of token and two factor as a way of avoiding the rush towards making everyone’s network login credential (Active Directory) more complex, since complexity drives more password resets. An elegant idea, but only valuable if you can deploy a password wallet so that the end user does not even know their active directory password, and that model never took off in Canada. There are some large US firms who made it work

And in more recent years I have been a firm believer that the combination of desktop virtualization and centralization, getting data off devices and into the data centre, if coupled with two factor authentication, solves the vast majority of access security and data leakage scenarios that most enterprises struggle with.  It is a simple and well understood solution, yet most firms perceive it as too intrusive for their employees.

Recently I have switched most of my key Internet Services (LinkedIn, Twitter, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc) to two factor authentication where they send me a code via SMS whenever I log in. Work’s great, and while not a panacea, adds just a bit more access control in a world that feels all too vulnerable.

Also recently became aware of a product called Nymi from a Toronto company called Bionym.  It is truly cool (ok I admit it I am a geek). It is a wearable, a wrist band I guess, that uses your heart wave/ECG (way too scientific for me,smiley). Apparently our ECG patterns are all unique. When you add that unique pattern to the fact that the device is on your wrist, and you have to pair/register Nymi with your smartphone or PC you are trying to access. Essentially you get 3 factor authentication without yet adding a password.  Wow! just by getting close to your device!

Now that by itself does not solve access to the web properties like Yahoo, unless Nymi and they agree on some sort of interface, but hopefully that happens. Either way, a very interesting take on authentication, and from Toronto based folk

The Nymi Band

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Microsoft is starting to deliver the means for less expensive Software Currency


Both Microsoft and Enterprises share a desire to reduce the cost of software currency and upgrades. Enterprises, to avoid the $1000 per seat average cost of upgrading from XP to Windows 7 next time around , and the constant battle of trying to find the funding to keep Server OS, Exchange,  Sharepoint, etc current…..and MIcrosoft because they need to firms to consume new versions and features in order for the Microsoft value proposition to remain relevant and competitive.

And there is no doubt both needs are coalescing as Microsoft moves to a much more rapid release cycle.

Software currency challenges  and the tyranny of he Microsoft product life cycle are nothing new, but Redmond is starting to offer a few things  to help out IT shops.

1. Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) is introducing the concept of browser management and compatibility, providing IE8 compatibility mode within IE11, controlled by Active Directory policy objects or specific configuration switches in the Web server. This allows enterprises to deploy the latest version of Internet Explorer (currently IE11) without massive expenditures in regression testing or web application remediation. This is a real boon to currency. A big part of the XP to Win7 costs related to the fact many firms upgraded from IE6 to IE8 at the same time. No one wants to go through that again!

2. Microsoft is also working hard to simplify the upgrade of MS Office

a. a big part of their focus on Office 365 subscription mode is the “click to run” MS Office. Essentially they are offering a version of Office that is upgraded almost continually, with no more effort than the end user starting Office in the morning. Now that is going to be more currency than most enterprises can stand for a while yet, as all the enterprise testing disciplines will not fall away immediately, but as this starts to take hold there is some hope that the days of the big Office upgrades are over. Essentially MS is separating Office upgrades from Windows OS upgrades, and trying to make it as simple as possible.

b. The Office Online Store, and the concept of modern applications, is a critical focus for Microsoft. They are trying to reverse 20 years of bad practice where software vendors and in house programmers did complex application and data integration at the desktop, using local API’s and the  horror of Office plug-ins. Maybe the functionality worked ok, but the net impact was to saddle the desktop and MS Office with massive legacy challenges with plug ins that would not work with the next version of Office, macros that needed to be revised with each upgrade, etc. The new model is what you see in the Office Online store…a web plugin that is essentially only a web service, pointing to a program/process that runs in a specified location that is neither  the desktop or a back end Sharepoint or Exchange server…essentially an application server somewhere. This concept is critical to freeing the desktop from upgrade complexity, and needs to be embraced by every IT pro, Microsoft product, Microsoft Independent Software vendor. Everyone!

3. Off course the “big plank” in MIcrosoft’s campaign to reduce the challenges with currency are the Office 365 cloud/SaaS services. By eliminating the enterprises”s need to manage infrastructure for Exchange, Sharepoint, LYNC, storage (OneDrive), Project Server, etc Microsoft ensures that more end users are consuming current versions of their core Collaboration products. This is a dual edged sword for many enterprises….it takes no great brilliance to see that the O365 pricing is significantly better than what most enterprises can achieve themselves with Servers, storage, and internal staff but

a.  Most infrastructures include a lot of sunk costs that are difficult to shed quickly, making shorter term business cases more difficult to justify, even as MS clearly demonstrates superior cost and price:performance

b. Again, bad application design can reduce the enterprise’s ability to consume the degree of currency, cadence, and agility that Microsoft plans to deliver, setting up potential conflict between various stakeholders needing to move at different speeds.

4. But overall, I really think Microsoft is starting to provide the right levers for a simpler, faster, more current collaboration environment if enterprises can change our mind sets and actions….

 

 

 

 

 

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Ah, I wish Mobile Strategy was as simple as EAM and a container


I was getting pretty comfortable with the idea that Mobility practice was coalescing around a Workspace/container that could deliver a strong set of collaboration applications and a business application ecosystem on any employee owned device.

Think Good and their Good Dynamics ecosystem, Citrix with Receiver, Xen Mobile, and WorX, etc and emerging players like Dell.

And there is no doubt they can deliver a very secure email and collaboration application experience, all without the enterprise managing or messing with the employees device via MDM. Admittedly the cost is the use of an “imposed UI” versus the native UI on the device, but overall I have been feeling pretty clever and even liked by my end users.

But a set of dialogues this week that I have had the opportunity to be part of have me feeling profoundly less comfortable

1. Talking to Good last week about their roadmap, they revealed that some of their more mature, larger customers were now coding not only internal applications to the  Good API’s that allow access to the  secure container, but also B2B applications as well.  Wow! What are the implications of getting developers to code to the Good API’s? Can you say lockin? But how else do you leverage the secure container?

2. Then I had a talk with the Microsoft CIO. Beyond the kind of corporate applications you might want to protect in a container, Microsoft is seeing huge value and massive groundswells of innovation from staff building mobile apps to solve employee problems like finding colleagues, mapping campuses,  helping people track shuttle buses via GPS,  pointing a camera at a building to identify it and find a meeting room etc etc. Small things maybe, but building energy around mobile. Well to do that enterprises need an application wrapping/store deployment that perhaps bypasses the container. Oh, and by the way this employee engagement with Mobile is not a new idea. The team at Apple was advocating this three years ago….I just forgot as we fought to get an acceptable container deployment established.

3. Then of course the Microsoft announcements of Office 365 clients for almost every platform bring new capabilities and challenges. They automatically stream updated versions of the client at connection, removing a lot of application management worries…and in small ways bring policies and capabilities that feel like a light weight container…How might this integrate into a mobility strategy?

Yikes. Pretty clear that there will be no “once and done” when it comes to mobility strategy, whether MDM, EAM, EMM or whatever flavour/acronym you have embraced.

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The Pundit’s Prescription for Well Equipped Knowledge Workers


So nothing particularly new here but every few months I feel compelled to restate my belief  system around end users, devices they use to access enterprise data and applications, and I guess ultimately what we would call desktop strategy. Remember that I start we the premise that all applications and data should be in the data centre, and thus ultimately there are only two broad delivery approaches

1. Is a “terminal approach” where the access device simply has an access client to a virtual desktop or application presentation layer (or perhaps browser/HTML5 access via a policy layer that prevents local data)

2, Or there is a container on the remote device that stores data locally but in a way that is controlled via synchronization with the data centre, and that cannot escape the local container. Think Good Technology, a local Hypervisor for virtual desktops, etc.

So my tools of choice these days would remain

  • “zero OS” thin client everywhere in the firm (ie at every desk) ensuring employees and contractors always have access to their virtual desktop
  • embedded OS thin clients for special needs like high intensity multi-media until the virtualization layers and zero OS thin clients catch up
  • THIN PC. a restricted WIN7 OS with Citrix Receiver to exploit remaining useful life on PC form factors
  • BYOD laptops on enterprise guest Wi-Fi networks
  • Chromebooks to deliver mobile thin clients for both corridor walkers and true mobile workers when they won’t go BYOD
  • and of course all Smartphones and tablets should be BYOD
Use Case Preferred Approach Alternative 1 Alternative 2 Comments
In office Thin Client Laptop Form factor (see below) Thin PC  Thin client suppliers not helping enough
Smartphone BYOD any OS with EAM container Corporate Liable Blackberry Corporate Liable Windows Phone  Blackberry bleeding users wih onset of BYOD
Mobile laptop Form Factor BYOD laptop and Citrix Corporate Chromebook and Citrix BYOD tablet with keyboard and Citrix  Chromebook going to have big impact
Tablet BYOD with EAM container Corporate Liable with MDM and EAM Corporate Liable with MDM and Active Sync  Big shakeout coming in EAM vendors (Good, Citrix, Dell, etc)

LOL, nothing you have not heard from me before but I believe more and more firms are starting to think in the same way

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