Wrong predictions, hype around VDI, MDM slams IT budgets

If you go by big analyst firm predictions and vendor hype, you'd think every IT shop has virtualized desktops, implemented BYOD and uses MDM software. But that's far from reality.

BOSTON -- IT market analysis firms make grand predictions about technology adoption, leading tech vendors to invest in the next big thing and hype it to enterprises that overspend on shiny objects, which quickly lose their luster.

That's the technology cycle Pierre Marmignon, a desktop expert and founder of Norskale, a software company in France, explained in his session here at BriForum 2014 this week. He recounted a number of past predictions made by the industry that have shaped the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and mobile software markets, and led to poor decisions when it comes to IT budgets.

"I see a lot of vendors raving about VDI and [mobile device management], but what I see are physical desktops, and there is a reason," Marmignon said in his session, titled "Back to Reality: VDI, EMM, MDM and BYOD are overrated! Most desktops are physical for a reason."

For example, Gartner Inc. predicted in 2012 that, by 2017, 65% of enterprises will adopt a mobile device management (MDM) tool for their corporate liable users. But, when asked if they'd deployed MDM yet, only a few attendees out of about 50 in the session raised their hands.

One attendee said his company had deployed MDM, but only 100 users out of 2,500 total in his company had used the technology – reinforcing Marmignon's argument against investing in technologies that don't apply to a broad user base.

When you want to know what end users need, you need to ask end users...[and] you need to test analysis against real life.
Pierre MarmignonCEO, Norskale

"Every year we have new technologies, and new vendors raving about it, and selling it for ridiculous prices, but a few years later they kill the technology -- including interesting parts of it," Marmignon said.

An IT manager who works for a Boston-based publishing organization said she's dealt with executives who push IT to implement the latest hyped technology without considering how impractical it is for most employees.

And it isn't just the C-suite that's the problem. IT pros often see things through their techie lens, rather than looking at individual users' needs. The publishing company recently adopted some cloud services, including Box for Business and Office 365, and she sees firsthand how much of a change the cloud means for most end users, she said.

Don't build IT budgets on predictions and hype

It's hard to determine what comes first – the far-reaching market predictions or the vendor hype. But they certainly feed on one another.

VDI is a prime example. In its August 2007 "Forecast for PC Virtualization," Gartner predicted by 2010, all new PC deployments will be virtualized. That prediction was far off.

Gartner’s October 2008 report on strategic technologies for 2009 said despite ambitious deployment plans from many organizations, deployments of hosted virtual desktop capabilities will be adopted by fewer than 40% of target users by 2010.

User personalization was expected to bolster adoption, so virtual desktop vendors acquired that technology, Marmignon said. Citrix bought Sepago in 2008, while VMware acquired RTO Software in 2010. But VDI never hit a tipping point, and adoption is believed to only be about 3% to 5% of the total desktop market today.

Some work styles simply aren't suited for desktop virtualization, Marmignon said.

"People who need to work in a basement with no WiFi can't depend on virtualization," he said. "We have to be pragmatic."

One of his clients, a major New York-based music corporation, considered VDI. But, its most used apps are iTunes and music streaming, and iTunes synchronization was a show stopper for VDI, he said.

"You need the right tool for the right job," he said. "I have customers who invested $3 to $4 million in VDI and thin clients. Weeks later, they had users asking for Windows XP back … the right user [also] matters."

Still, high-level executives continue to push IT investment based on vendor marketing and predictions.

In May of last year, Gartner predicted that by 2017, half of employers will require employees to supply their own devices for work. This is based on a global survey of CIOs by Gartner's Executive Programs, which showed 38% of companies expect to stop providing devices to workers by 2016. That means IT must create BYOD policies and invest in mobile management software, and the vendors need to provide a way to do it, Marmignon said. Subsequently, VMware acquired Airwatch -- the biggest deal in its history.

While he used Gartner as the example, to be fair, other analysis firms make similar forecasts; sometimes they are right, sometimes not. But, the problem with predictions is they are often based on surveys of C-level executives, Marmignon said.

"CIO surveys led to the Windows 8 interface," he said. "When you want to know what end users need, you need to ask end users ... [and] you need to test analysis against real life."

Some of the latest forecasts involve wearable devices. InJune, Gartner predicted by 2017, wearables will drive 50% of total app interactions. This includes desktop-based app interactions and mobile apps, with mobile apps making up the majority of interactions. The firm suggests that IT leaders invest in infrastructure that accumulates data collected from mobile apps and apps running on wearable devices.

But before investing, IT decision makers need to remember enterprises are made up of many types of employees, and not all need the same technologies. Companies consist of executives, operational managers, knowledge workers and service workers -- with the latter often making up the largest group. They may not need -- or want -- a corporate-managed mobile device, Marmignon said.

"Users just want a way to access the apps they need to do their work," he said.

In reality, phones, tablets and other mobile devices are best suited for accessing content and for email, mainly by knowledge workers. Physical desktops are still the preferred way of creating content; they are what users are comfortable with, and what they'll continue to use, he said, despite predictions that the PC will soon become obsolete.

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