By Daryl Bishop
In my last blog, I talked about the need for a common definition around what constitutes transformation within the IT organisation. In this follow-up post, I’ll discuss the VMware approach to an end-user computing (EUC) transformation.
First a recap, for an initiative to be truly transformational it must satisfy the criteria of change across the elements of people, process, and technology. Additionally, it should be aligned to business objectives and have clear benefits.
If we look at the typical EUC environment today, it’s transitioning from a rigid environment based on a desktop or laptop running a Windows operating system to one that is application and data-centric rather than device-bound. This has some profound transformational impacts for business and IT.
Today’s End-User Computing Environment
Let’s first take a closer look at the EUC environment found in most organisations today.
As shown in the diagram above, staff have historically used either a laptop or desktop as a primary device. This device, running Windows as the operating system, is locked down at the configuration layer with applications installed natively. This stack forms your traditional and very common standard operating environment (SOE) model. Coupled with the SOE, the EUC ecosystem included printers, isolated (not integrated) mobility devices, and finally an identity management authentication and authorisation component.
This model served us well, providing control, standardisation, and management of risk. However, the rise of the consumerization of technology, a modern IT-literate workforce, ubiquitous access to applications, the decreased usage of the Windows operating system, and the always-connected Internet means this model is, at best, inflexible and, at worst, irrevocably broken.
The Transformed End-User Computing Environment
So what does a transformed EUC environment look like? In the diagram below, the focus has been abstracted from the devices to the application and data access layer.
Let’s look at each layer in a bit more detail to better understand the benefits of removing the focus on devices and elevating it to the application and data access layer:
- Business layer
Business is typically not just a single entity: It consists of your internal business and external B2B organisations that collectively form your business ecosystem. While your business will provide a core service, in the future it’s likely that smaller, more nimble organisations like start-ups will utilize your core business services and APIs to provide customers with innovative products. Your applications and data will not just be consumed internally, but also by external organisations as business-to-business transactions.
- Application delivery platform
The application delivery platform is a standardised access point where your consumers will access applications, data, and desktops. The key features of this abstracted application access layer are:
- Device independence
- Centralized management via policy
- Auditable access and usage
- Accessed over secure channels
- Simplified ease of use
Where security and control was traditionally applied at the device and operating system level, it is now abstracted to the application and data access layer.
- Lightweight device management
In this context, lightweight management means the minimal IT controls necessary to manage devices, primarily for security reasons. While rigid, locked-down control has historically been the norm, in the transformed environment only lightweight controls are applied. For example, mobility devices use mobile application management (MAM) containerisation to ensure IT can remotely wipe or lock access only to the corporate container. Data, applications, virtual desktop access, and security controls are now applied at the application delivery platform layer via centralized policy controls.
Finally does this constitute a transformation? Let’s review the impact through the lens of people, process, and technology:
A modernised EUC environment is a catalyst to elevate staff from traditional, task-based to knowledge creation activities using the productivity platform that best suits their work style. By unleashing staff from the rigid model of yesterday, staff exercise increased creativity, providing a real point of competitive differentiation through innovation.
The traditional EUC environment is awash with layers of process to manage a monolithic computing stack. From processes to deploy applications and patches to service desk support, they add complexity with many moving parts to manage. Shifting the focus to the application delivery platform with lightweight management of devices introduces policy-controlled automation and simplified management controls.
Businesses today struggle with BYOD, security, and management. By abstracting the management to the access layer, BYOD becomes a moot point. IT is no longer concerned, apart from connectivity, about what device is being used. Security is applied where it should be, at the application and data layer. Finally, management is focused on controlling access to data and applications via policy, rather than managing a desktop and laptop stack.
I’ve really just scratched the surface of what constitutes an EUC transformation. The role of unified communications, changing work practices such as activity based working, the software-defined enterprise, and the changes to the IT organisational structure to support the transformed environment — can and should be significant components of a transformation program.
I’d be interested in your view from the trenches. What EUC initiatives do you have planned and how are they transforming your business?
Daryl Bishop is a business solutions architect with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in Melbourne, Australia.