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Taming the tablet

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Company executives are bringing the latest gadgets into the office, expecting to access company sensitive data on them. But, says BRADLEY BUNCH, GM of Microsoft Solutions at Dimension Data, the IT manager is battling to manage these devices as there is no on-size-fits-all solution yet.
For most IT departments it’s an all too familiar story:nexecutives discover the latest gadgets, start using them at home and bring themnto work, expecting to access corporate applications, e-mail and data instantly.nThen there are employees who have already worked out how to access corporatendata using their tablet devices, and are carrying sensitive e-mail around withnthem, unwittingly placing the organisation at risk.

As employees at all levels drive the requirement for securenaccess to business information from mobile devices, IT departments findnthemselves in the inevitable predicament of having neither the rightncapabilities nor infrastructure to support these new devices. Managing mobilitynis a challenge as it represents largely uncharted waters and, right now, therenis no one-size-fits-all solution or approach.

On the one hand, employee-owned tablets are powerful from ancomputing perspective, and organisations recognise the value of ensuring thesendevices can access corporate networks, applications and data, to make it easynfor employees to maximise work time. Gartner Research predicts that 90% ofnorganisations will support corporate applications on devices owned by end usersnby 2014.

However, while mobile devices are ushering in an age of improvednproductivity, organisations are still somewhat ‘at sea’ when it comes tonintegrating them from a security and manageability perspective. Meanwhile,nusers expect a seamless transition between personal and business use, andnaren’t concerned about operating system issues. Rather, they want a solutionnand they want it now.

Desktop virtualisation can help
Effectively controlling and managing end-user devices,nwhether fixed or mobile and whether they are owned by your organisation or bynyour employees, involves finding a means to abstract the user experience fromnthe device, the underlying operating system, the applications involved, and thencorporate data.

For these reasons, some organisations are moving away fromnthe traditional model of the desktop in search of a fundamentally better way tonoperate their end-user environments. Many are investigating desktopnvirtualisation with the aim of storing their data centrally. This corenmanageability over data provides the key to ensuring users can log on toncorporate networks using their chosen device and access data, while meetingnmobile requirements and protecting corporate data assets.

Desktop virtualisation has the potential to enhance devicensecurity and simplifies IT management. With it, your IT team can provide anwell-provisioned desktop in the data centre and can centrally manage andndeliver corporate applications and desktops on employee-owned devices. It alsonenables users to switch between devices easily, removing the need fornindividual management – and is viable now with tablet devices.

What about the issues around compliance (licensing),narchitectures (your network), security and governance? As with all newninnovations, any changes have to be justified in terms of cost. Fornorganisations seeking to provide access to applications via tablet devices, itnmeans they need to be connected to a server-based computing (SBC) or ServernHosted Virtual Desktop (HVD) infrastructure. It may also require re-developmentnof applications to work on specific platforms, especially if offline access isnrequired.

Achieving buy-in for desktop virtualisation solutions can’tnbe based on promises of lower upfront costs. Rather, the approach should be tonfocus on the feature, functionality and business issues that are addressednthrough these solutions.

Are you covered?
How do you make provision for Microsoft and other third-partynbusiness applications that aren’t native to tablet devices, but have to bensupported somehow? Providing tablet access to corporate applications meansnworking out the impact on licensing of Microsoft products.

When it comes to alternative or user-owned devices, Microsoftnlicensing requirements are complex and still not well defined. While thendefault licence position until now has been device-based client access licencesn(CALs), it becomes more complicated when employees use their PC and tablet devicenat the same time, making user-based CALs the better option.

Desktop and application virtualisation removes the need fornsiloed hardware resources and locally installed applications. At the same time,norganisations need to understand the strain this technology can place on theirndata centre infrastructure, networks and operations – especially when thousandsnof employees use this platform.

Organisations should assess existing infrastructures beforensegmenting their user base and providing groups of users with desktops that arentailored to their requirements. If they don’t need a desktop, give them antablet – something simpler and thinner, which means less in terms ofnmanageability. Remember, some users may need both.

Tools for the job
The most secure and cost-effective way of providing access toncorporate applications via tablet devices is to give users access tonserver-based computing capabilities – either server-based applications ornhosted desktops. Successful virtualisation of user desktops allows you tonmaintain desktop images that remain separate from computing devices.

The result is better security, and improved performancenavailability that is achieved through well integrated system policies. But hownexactly do you do that? Depending on the infrastructure, there are a fewnoptions for Microsoft users – both out of the box and through third-partynVMware and Citrix technologies. The ability to offer a centralised desktopnthrough a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure suite means you can looknafter the desktop image centrally and patch it automatically. And because it’sna confined environment, you can manage the system easily and reduce risk.

Mobile management platforms allow IT managers to createnseparate profiles for employee- and company-owned devices, to separate personalnand corporate data, and to remotely configure VPN, WiFi and other criticalnsettings. The challenge for IT professionals is how to integrate new and oldntechnologies (and devices), and implement solutions that will complement what theirnorganisations have in place today.

Certainty of change
The growing number of available client architectures meansnorganisations are likely to use several platforms to meet the varied computingnneeds of their users. While we don’t expect one to prevail, each of these newntechnologies comes with its own management requirements and technologyncapabilities, putting organisations at risk of creating new technical andnorganisational silos and making them dependent on technical skills.

Organisations should bear in mind that creating separatengroups based on platforms is more likely to lead to inconsistent decisionnmaking, and may add operational complexity from a support and maintenancenperspective, as well as an overall disintegration of standards. With no singlensuite available to manage all of these platforms, organisations would do wellnto implement a consistent policy and process, while keeping their long termndesire for single management across all user platforms in mind. Getting thisnright will give users the access they need, and will ensure IT teams are gearednfor the certainty of more change.

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