Virtualizing the User

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Veni, VDI, Vici: Campaign to Conquer Cross-Platform Personalization

As a culture, our minds have changed about how IT should be used. No longer do we think of it only as a necessary evil or a handy tool to make a few tasks simpler in the workplace. Information technology is an essential part of doing business.

Along with this mindset and reliance on technology come high expectations. We expect always-on access and all of our personal settings to be available on every device we use whenever we use it. We don't care who does it, what technology lies underneath or how it is made possible. We only care about where (everywhere), when (now) and why (because we want it).

Users are one of the biggest challenges to tackle in desktop virtualization adoption within the enterprise, as I've mentioned before.  Therefore, it makes sense that companies would try to achieve cross-platform personalization across operating systems, devices and any other related bits and pieces.

Cross-Microsoft Platform Personalization
First, let's look at the personalization movement already underway with the Microsoft platform.

Some virtualization companies have been working to migrate users from Windows Server 2003/Windows XP to Windows Server 2008 (R2)/Windows 7. Technically, the platform for each is similar, but they have different underlying user profile types. Technology solutions have centered on helping enterprises transition from a Windows Server 2003/Windows XP version 1 user profile to the version 2 profile of Windows Server 2008 (R2)/Windows 7. Because this has been accomplished and it is all on a Microsoft platform, it means we also can move between the version 1 profile on the desktop to the version 2 profile on the server and vice versa.

For example, a user could access his files at his desk in New York; tomorrow, he could be on an airplane accessing a Terminal Services session. As far as he's concerned, his experience will be exactly the same. Those two things--the laptop experience and server-based computing experience--would not have been the same without user virtualization technology.

Windows 7 Migration
At the same time, companies have been migrating their traditional desktop OS from Windows XP to Windows 7. Along the way, many of them have decided to make the management of Windows smarter and simpler at the same time, and they are embracing application virtualization as a more cost-effective approach to delivering the application set to their user population.

My earlier post about Windows 7 covered the emergence of an organic grouping in which customers are combining their physical and virtual desktops running Windows 7 with an application virtualization solution. This means they are crossing boundaries between server administrators and desktop administrators, so naturally it is pulling together the platforms and creating a need for cross-platform personalization.

Proliferation of Platforms
Soon, operating only on the Windows platform will not be enough. Today, it's cross-Microsoft platforms. Tomorrow, as soon as 2012, it needs to be Android, iOS, Blackberry technology, or some form of Linux even.

Typically it has been the mobile applications and devices driving the consumerization of IT. Consider your average IT help desk. Now those brave souls are getting questions about how to get their Slate, Streak, Xoom or iPad to work with the office network and applications, as opposed to questions about how to get their MacBook to work.

The Users of Tomorrow
The aforementioned high expectations for IT functionality are only going to increase as younger generations enter the workforce. My four-year-old and 18-month-old children will illustrate this point perfectly. They both know how to use a tablet as well as I can to access educational games, videos and so forth. Do you think they have any tolerance if the iPad battery dies, I hand them my iPhone as a substitute, and they can't get the same videos, games and content?

Not a chance.

They scream, get cross and throw the iPhone at me. They don't understand why the same items are not just there. Those are the Users of Tomorrow. They have an expectation of total synchronicity, and their tolerance level is as close to zero as you are ever going to get.

Even though I am of the pre-Internet generation that remembers the dark days when computers were not common household appliances, I find my own tolerance is getting significantly lower each day. It's fair to say there is not a day that goes by when I don't use a mobile phone, tablet device and a PC, so it's intolerable that my contacts, calendar, bookmarks and e-mail signature do not automatically appear on all of my devices and I have to manually transfer or re-enter all of that information.

That data is a key aspect of what I call the "DNA of the user," a topic to be explored in more depth in a future post.

Posted by Simon Rust on 02/08/2011 at 12:49 PM


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