How the new virtual desktop framework enhances end-user productivity

Creating a virtual desktop framework encompassing applications, communication and collaboration tools can boost end-user productivity and project success.

Productivity goals and the need to decouple users from specific computer systems or types of systems while they work with essential applications have driven desktop virtualization. Although these drivers are opposites -- one technical and the other productivity based -- they are converging on a common approach. Supporting worker interaction with applications will be the number one IT requirement going forward.

Results from a survey that I conducted in 2008 showed that almost twice as many enterprises were planning IT changes around productivity enhancements than cost reductions. More significantly, more than half of the respondents cited that virtual desktop technologies, like service-oriented architecture (SOA) and mashups, were the most effective paths to productivity gains. The opportunity to make a real difference in productivity is not only available, it's believed in. Yet, only a fifth of the enterprises interested in SOA and mashups have actually executed any projects to fulfill their goals.

The new paradigm of worker information support is designed to assemble the information a worker needs into a virtual framework, or "jobspace." Workers live virtually in this space, and everything they need is available there. The content in their "jobspace" is extracted from all of the applications, communications and collaboration tools, and then presented in an optimized way. Desktop virtualization plays a critical role in this process.

Enterprises looking to transform IT have to justify their steps. Creating a "jobspace" is the fastest way to provide a link between investment and benefits, particularly when more than half of all enterprises consider the idea credible. To ensure that your transformation to this model is successful, I recommend that you take these specific steps to establish a framework for composing custom "jobspaces."

  1. Inventory all key applications that are in use to determine which have the ability to present information through SOA and Web service interfaces. You'll also want to identify available interfaces. Not all applications are fully prepared for SOA composition of their user interfaces.
  2. Determine the range of devices that must be supported to provide workers access to information, but keep in mind that most workers will likely use each device. This will set limits on the flexibility that SOA/mashup solution needs to accommodate multiple types of displays, multiple operating systems and hardware platforms.
  3. Identify the most suitable overall set of composable interfaces that key applications offer; and presume that you will standardize based on this approach. Try to guide future application selections and deployments to match this approach, and you will pressure vendors to support it. You'll then need to identify any applications among your "key set" that cannot effectively use this approach.
  4. Identify a virtual desktop orchestration or mashup approach that will support your selected set of composable interfaces. The approach should also provide you with a way to include applications that don't optimally support that interface. IBM, Oracle Corp., SAP, Microsoft, Citrix Systems Inc., and many other companies have virtual desktop composition tools that differ in how they work with various in-house application interfaces.
  5. As the final step, run pilot tests to validate your choices in applications, communications and collaboration tools. These tests will also offer a way to demonstrate how the process of virtual desktop orchestration will help optimize the information access of workers. This can prove the benefits and help acquire funds needed for the project.

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Once you've defined and validated a virtual desktop "jobspace" approach, it can then be used to provide two additional important benefits: the ability to harmonize collaboration and unified communications. This further drives the evolution toward cloud computing.

Building UC and collaboration interfaces
The most universal element in a company's collaboration strategy is voice communications. Application sharing -- the ability to build and sustain a common view of key data elements during collaboration -- is second. These findings show that virtual desktops that are creating "jobspace" by composing application interfaces into a master GUI must also compose unified communications (UC) and collaboration interfaces.

Most companies have not yet committed to either application, allowing time to ensure that the chosen UC and collaboration strategy matches the SOA/mashup paradigm selected, as described above. If this is not done, the data and collaborative applications will never be fully integrated. Additionally, possible benefits gained from that integration will be lost. It is very difficult to change UC or collaborative systems once they are socialized; therefore, it is essential that this process is done correctly the first time.

Cloud computing or data center application architectures can be best optimized by ensuring that they also support the selected SOA/mashup model. By doing so, future applications will be built to support the worker productivity example that best fits the company's needs. This will also leave considerable leeway for how the IT infrastructure will be built at the technical level. Client/server, cloud computing, SaaS and hybrid models can all be supported. This facilitates the transition from the current applications the virtualized applications.

The connection between desktop virtualization and a "jobspace" is an advantage for any IT project. Optimizing how the desktop supports the worker will enhance your chance for project success.

Tom Nolle is president of CIMI Corporation, a strategic consulting firm specializing in telecommunications and data communications since 1982. He is a member of the IEEE, ACM, Telemanagement Forum, and the IPsphere Forum, and is the publisher of Netwatcher, a journal in advanced telecommunications strategy issues.

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