Dan's Take

VMware's Workspace ONE: An Analysis

It does some impressive things, but does it create more problems than it solves?

VMware announced Workspace ONE, "a new platform for delivering secure digital workspaces for flexible workstyles and bring your own device (BYOD)." VMware wants to offer a simple but secure "digital workspace" that can be delivered by VMware's tools and address both end user and enterprise IT mobility needs. It hopes to do this by "aggregating all devices, applications and services while securely managing them through unified common access and identity."

VDI Benefits
As I've pointed out in other places, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) offers a number of advantages for enterprises supporting desktop workloads, including better security, centralized administration and the ability to support a large array of different types of access devices.

With the correct client software, VDI workloads can be accessed from PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones; in an Internet of Things (IoT) future, it could be screens in automobiles or as a way to deliver ads to video screens on fuel pumps to torment hapless motorists trying to refill their fuel tanks. The key point here is the delivery of desktop workloads. If the enterprise's goal is to deliver the same applications they've been using on desktop PCs and laptops to a host (pun intended) of other devices, VDI is a great solution.

Do You Want a Desktop Vibe on Your iPhone?
It appears that VMware has encapsulated the experience, making the task simpler and more secure, while at the same time making this type of hybrid computing environment stable and manageable. The question that comes to my mind is "why?" Is the notion of encapsulating and delivering a desktop-style experience to non-desktop devices really the best way to go?

On one hand, it certainly would be easier for enterprise IT developers to understand. They would simply go on developing applications in the way they have done it for years.

Dan's Take: Putting a Finger on the Problem
Increasingly, however, individuals are accessing applications and data from smartphones and tablets; and, eventually, computers built into fuel pumps. Will delivering a desktop-style application to these environments create a warm feeling in the heart of the user? Or, instead, frustration? These devices typically have smaller screens with finger navigation rather than a mouse. This is much less precise than using a mouse. It's the same issue with onscreen keyboards, which are more often mistake amplifiers than data input devices. Complex enterprise applications are likely to become extremely painful to use with this type of UI, which is why Citrix has had its problems in the marketplace.

VMware's technology (as does that offered by Citrix, which did it first) certainly addresses the level of perceived complexity that has long slowed the pace of VDI adoption. What it doesn't address is the issue that desktop-style applications may not be the right choice, depending on the target device.

The Market Will Be the Judge
Citrix, Microsoft, Dell, VMware and many others have taken on this challenge, and have offered impressive technological improvements to address the perceived complexity and performance issues. Citrix has gone further in its attempts to create a workable experience for those using smartphones, tablets and other devices, but it hasn't yet offered a receiver for fuel pumps (maybe the next version).

It's not at all clear that VMware's recent announcement will excite the entire market. Current users of VMware's Horizon, however, are likely to be very happy with Workspace ONE.

UPDATE: VMware asked for a clarification of the description of Workspace ONE. Here's how the company describes the product:

VMware Workspace ONE is a solution that integrates our MDM and MAM technology from VMware AirWatch, app publishing capabilities from VMware Horizon and identity management from VMware Identity Manager to deliver a digital workspace to end-users. This digital workspace delivers all applications (mobile, desktop, SaaS and Web) to end-users with a mobile experience -- not a desktop experience -- so they can actually be productive on their mobile device.

If you're wondering how we do that with desktop apps, we have a feature called Unity Touch in VMware Horizon that provides gesture-based control for Windows apps on iOS and Android tablets and smartphones, in addition to the solution's application publishing capability. This is just one example of how we deliver on the guiding principle of "consumer simple, enterprise secure" used in developing VMware Workspace ONE. With true single sign–on, a user will be able to login once on their mobile device through the VMware Workspace ONE app and not have to sign-on again to access any app in their digital workspace whether its Concur, Salesforce, Workday, etc.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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