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How EMM tools can complement VDI

Many organizations that support mobile users are adopting EMM tools. EMM can also help manage smartphones and tablets that access virtual desktops.

Mobility introduces challenges that VDI was never designed to address -- both for IT and end users.

So how can VDI be adequate for use in organizations that use mobile devices? Many organizations are finding that enterprise mobility management (EMM) is the perfect complement to VDI.

From an end user perspective, the challenges of accessing a virtual desktop on a mobile device are largely related to the user interface. An Excel spreadsheet, for example, might be easy to read on a PC with a full-size monitor, but it could be nearly impossible to read on a smartphone. The lack of a physical keyboard and mouse also get in the way of a mobile user's productivity in VDI environments.

Mobility presents an entirely different set of challenges for IT. When a user establishes a VDI session from a personal device, can that device be trusted? Is the device running any malicious software? Is the device even capable of meeting the VDI system's basic requirements for clients? VDI is best suited for use with managed devices such as PCs that join to Active Directory, or other devices that are under IT's control. Users' personal devices may introduce security risks or compatibility problems.

EMM and VDI go hand in hand

IT can block undesirable devices from accessing VDI.

This is where EMM comes into play. EMM software can work as a VDI alternative for mobile device users -- helping to manage and deliver the apps users need to their smartphones and tablets. Or, it can complement the VDI system by making it easier for IT to manage mobile devices that access virtual desktops.

Although mobile devices cannot usually join to Active Directory, almost all modern mobile devices support the use of Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. Using the Exchange database, IT can use EMM to register users' devices and apply ActiveSync security policies to ensure that the virtual desktops users access on the device are protected.

EMM also looks at the type of device that a user registers, so IT can block undesirable devices from accessing VDI, such as jailbroken devices, those devices that do not fully support the organization's security requirements, or thosedevices that have known compatibility issues with the organization's VDI system.

In some cases, EMM can be something of a VDI alternative for mobile users. Organizations can use EMM to push mobile versions of line-of-business applications to mobile devices rather than requiring users to work from the desktop version. For instance, a mobile user would probably have a much easier time using the mobile version of Excel than trying to use the desktop version through a VDI session.

It seems likely that there will be a convergence between VDI software and EMM. Mobility management tools are a must-have for any organization that allows users to work from mobile devices.

Next Steps

How VDI mobile access is evolving

Don't worry about the VDI user experience on mobile

What's driving EMM market growth?

This was last published in September 2016

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