Companies supporting bring your own device programs need to deliver corporate desktops and applications to various mobile devices in a secure way, and VDI does just that.
But IT pros using VMware View as part of their bring your own device (BYOD) programs have found that while the technology provides control, it also comes with its share of headaches, according to panelists at last week's New England VMware User Group (VMUG) meeting in Foxboro, Mass.
"VDI is a cultural challenge," said Chris Brennan, IT manager at Dunkin Brands. "For us, it's a stepping stone to bring your own device."
Extending VDI for BYOD
Dunkin Brands implemented a small View environment to provide executives with desktop access on their iPads, Brennan said. Remote employees also access their View desktops from home. Now, it delivers View desktops as part of a BYOD plan.
For IT, VDI is all about control. Dunkin has a security policy that sets requirements for any devices connecting to the company's network. The company also blocks users from copying anything from their View virtual desktops onto their personal devices, Brennan said.
"BYOD is not a technology problem, it's all policy," Brennan said. The trouble comes in enforcing that policy, he added.
To do so, IT departments need to manage their users, not their devices, said Scott Davis, VMware Inc.'s chief technology officer of end-user computing.
"Managing physical devices is going to be more and more passé," Davis said.
While VMware View virtual desktops are easy to implement and deliver to mobile devices, View's built-in profile management feature needs improvement, VMUG panelists said.
VMware View 5 challenges
The much-anticipated View 5 Persona Management feature isn't good enough for VMware shops, which are turning to third parties for profile management functionality. Panelists pointed to AppSense and Liquidware Labs' Profile Unity tool as worthy alternatives.
Persona Management isn't mature enough yet, and VMware knows it, Dunkin's Brennan said. The company probably added it just to "check the box," but he speculated that VMware would get profile management up to speed by making an acquisition.
Other challenges with View include hardware incompatibility and difficulty seeing and diagnosing issues on remote virtual desktops. Some users said they had to replace DVD drives and USB terminals to get them to work on virtual desktops, and others found that real-time, media-intensive applications such as Skype wouldn't work on thin clients.
There are also human challenges. Admins have to convince the business that desktop virtualization is worth their while, and there's usually a shift in the support team. VMware View and mobile problems often become the responsibility of more experienced server admins, for example, rather than entry-level help desk employees, said Tom Scanlon, chief information officer at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
And for the end user, it's a matter of understanding the new technology, VMUG panelists said.