Essential Guide

Guide to application delivery options

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Why IT needs to hand the desktop delivery reins to users

IT can't just stand in its ivory tower when deciding how to deliver desktops and applications to users; they need to take users into account.

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Guide to application delivery options

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There are plenty of ways to deliver desktops and applications to end users these days, but it shouldn't be completely up to IT. IT needs to rethink its service delivery model and let users take charge of their own environment.

I hear a lot of discussion about the use of persistent or nonpersistent desktops for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), for instance. Both options are valid for certain use cases, but there's one thing to keep in mind: We're choosing a service or multiple services to deliver to our end users, but maybe we're not delivering the right services; we should be able to let the end user choose their own services.

Often, a disconnect between users and IT exists because IT doesn't talk to their end users and doesn't have a clear insight into what they need to do their jobs.

Staying away from pre-formulated methods

When implementing virtual desktops, it's easy to fall into a pre-formulated setup where groups of users all get the same desktop -- the settings which are decided upon by IT. Vendors even offer tools that can help IT separate users into groups.

Citrix, for example, offers the FlexCast model, which provides users with a certain delivery method based on their behavior. With the five different FlexCast models available, IT admins can personalize the virtual desktop experience.

FlexCast can be used to determine the needs of a user and map desktop delivery to their work style. A mobile user that travels a lot and isn't in the main/branch offices much should be able to work standalone, so the FlexCast model would offer a local virtual machine that syncs into the centralized data center but enables the user to work without any connection to the corporate network.  For a typical task worker, FlexCast would offer a hosted shared desktop or application, as they wouldn't need that many resources. 

The problem with a predefined model is you potentially could prevent users from being as productive as you want them to be. Maybe a typical task worker in your organization would be twice as productive using another method in the FlexCast puzzle.

An example I ran into recently: I attended a workshop on Office365 for a customer, and a consultancy company asked for a delegation of end users to determine their needs. The problem was that the end users couldn't free up time (or didn't think it was important enough), so the audience was filled with the IT staff. IT offered a couple of predefined profiles, but they were arguing about what functionality certain user profiles would need to do their job.

Let me draw a comparison here: If you're building a car, you first want to decide why you're building this car. Is it a sports car or will it be used for transporting large or heavy objects? At the same time, like most car designers, you're building a car for mass production and it may only differ on small details; everybody gets a similar car.

So when you're determining what your infrastructure should look like based on requirements, those requirements should come from the end users because you're trying to supply them with a workspace that adds value. Desktop delivery shouldn't be about IT that dominates the end users from an ivory tower.

Giving control to the users

That being said, supporting all those different users is harder than it looks. You may have task workers who get lost when their core application changes color during an application update, and you probably have the younger generations that are used to the concept of app stores determining their own set of services. So how can you support this diversity? Do you need to?

More on VDI users

Common reasons VDI deployments fail

Video: What are VDI users main concerns?

How user personalization works

Yes. With the combination of app store-like services and end users determining requirements for those services, you can provide better services targeted for specific end users and thus make them more productive.  You can use user virtualization and application virtualization in combination with desktop virtualization to accomplish this. Those technologies separate the different layers to add flexibility in deployment and reduce administrative efforts.

For users that don't need a full desktop, there are user management tools that can help IT segregate what users need and don't need. Citrix and VMware both have technology to do some form of workspace aggregation and change the way IT delivers services to the end users.

For example, with Citrix XenMobile and the VMware Horizon Suite, users can determine their own work spaces depending on their needs just like the services offered from the Apple, Google and Windows app stores. If you need a certain application, you can request it from a centralized portal and add it to your workspace as you go. In that way, users are defining their own work style, breaking out of the FlexCast model (or any model), but delivering the services they need at that moment, on that device.

This was first published in October 2013

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Essential Guide

Guide to application delivery options

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