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Virtualization Gets Personal

The other morning as my household sprang to life, I could hear the first of my teenage daughters run down the stairs, undoubtedly hurrying to stake a claim on a shared family laptop. Sure enough, the familiar start-up ding sounded not but a few seconds later -- and then, a roar, "WHO CHANGED THE BACKGROUND?!"  
I chuckled to myself, tucked away in my home office, working on my own machine that everybody here knows is totally hands-off. When I launch my PC, I know I'll find my familiar screen saver, color scheme, icons and customizations. (Unfortunately, my cell phone is another matter entirely. My kids love to torture me by changing my settings on that device.)
Of course, my daughter's morning laptop scare was more teenage drama than trauma. But a changed start-up experience for a corporate worker has entirely different implications. This isn't just about pretty pictures but about application, directory and OS customizations, templates, keyboard mapping and so on -- in other words, all those tweaks we make to get our system operating just the way we want.
For productivity reasons alone, user personality is hugely important.
Natalie Lambert, principal analyst of desktop operations and architecture at Forrester Research, explains why user personality is so important. "Virtual desktop infrastructure and desktop virtualization are complex and costly to implement for a variety of reasons. Being able to standardize the desktop as much as possible and bring personality to it so that not every single user has to have a dedicated VM is going to save money in these implementations significantly," she said in a recent interview.
"Is personality a big deal in and of itself?  No. But what it can do to make that desktop personalized and customized is what will bring the value," she adds.
One company, Tranxition, a longtime desktop player, previewed its new user virtualization  product this week. Called AdaptivePersona, the product's goal is to provide a consistent personalized experience across different desktop instances and software versions, says Amy Hodler, director of product management for Tranxition.
AdaptivePersona takes advantage of two Tranxition technologies. The first is a patented "personality hypervisor" that intercepts and virtualizes desktop personality activity by meshing changes with the personality data store as they happen. The second is SmartShadow, for storing and translating abstracted user customizations between different OS and application versions, Hodler describes.
Being able to separate a user personality from the desktop machine can mean a whole lot in management savings, Hodler says. Based on analyst estimates that a company with 3,000 desktops spends $1.2 million to $1.9 million yearly on desktop management labor, Tranxition expects enterprises that deploy AdaptivePersona will be able to reduce annual IT labor costs by 40 percent, Hodler says. Of course that needs proving, but that's not a bad statistic.
Products such as AdaptivePersona will help bring the "personality that everybody's expecting to life," says Lambert, noting that Tranxition will be just one of many companies showcasing user experience products at next week's VMworld 2009 conference. "This is going to be the year of user experience," she says.
Ultimately, however, enterprise IT executives will likely seek out their server virtualization vendors -- namely Citrix Systems, Microsoft and VMware -- for user virtualization, Lambert adds. Citrix already offers some user personality, but will need to improve that over the long haul, and Microsoft and VMware both need good stories to tell here, she says.
In the meantime, I'll be keeping my eye on Tranxition and the newbies we see arise next week. 
How important is user personality to you? Drop me a note at [email protected].

Posted by Beth Schultz on 08/27/2009 at 12:49 PM


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