Cloud Computing promises to move all functionality into the cloud. At the same time the consumerisation trend is driving the use of consumer electronics such as of the shelf laptops, iPhones, MacBooks and home entertainment centers as access devices. Typically these devices will be cool, flat, inexpensive and it’s doubtful they will have a physical keyboard. But more interestingly – at least from a service management perspective – is that it will no longer matter how these devices are configured and even whether they run Windows, Chrome, Linux or some kind of mobile derivative. Many organizations are planning their upcoming transition to Windows 7 as the first step towards such a new consumerised, cloud centric future. Through this approach they aim to achieve short term efficiencies while at the same time reaping some of the future benefits already.
Putting the words consumerisation and benefits in one sentence is not something that comes natural for a lot of IT departments. For a long time IT felt “microcomputers require micromanagement”. An idea that may be soon be just as dated as the word “microcomputer” itself. Let’s have a quick look at some of the things that are happening already.
More and more organizations offer webmail as a way to access their email systems. This enable employees to access their mail from their home PC, from an internet café while on vacation or from customer sites where our employees cannot plug in their laptop’s but do have access to browsers. At the same time we see that the API of this webmail is used to set up access from personal phones and PDA’s. With the introduction of intranets and sharepoints many of the received mails however link back to content on the corporate network. So more advanced organizations are already offering instant intranet access, either via the standard VPN protocols supported by modern devices or by offering an “on the fly” VPN, where the VPN client software is installed via the browser during the first connection. A related trend we see is the use of multiple devices by one person. Not many corporations hand out multiple laptops, netbooks and desktops to the same person, but several executives are taken to the idea of an ultralight tablet for short trips and a solid laptop for longer stays, and I guess many of you reading this also have both a laptop and a desktop and maybe even a netbook or MacBook for on the side? If it was not so much work to have the right data on the right machine, we would swap devices much more often, wouldn’t we?
But also on the application side we see several related developments. Traditionally enterprise applications required a specifically configured client (think client/server) and access was only offered to devices inside the corporation’s network. Most modern applications offer access from a browser. Originally the browser interface supported a subset of the functionality but more and more the full scope of the application functionality is available to browser based clients. This reduces the need for client specific configuration but more importantly it allows organizations to offer non-employees, who use non-company provided devices, access to these applications. These can be contractors, temp workers, employees subcontractors etc. And as a result companies have taken to offering access to these applications over the internet. Of course governing and enforcing who is allowed to have access and who is not, is still required. But access itself is no longer depending on physical availability of a specific configuration or specific client device. Offering access to applications irrespective of time or place is cloud computing as original defined by Ramnath K. Chellappa :“a computing paradigm where the boundaries of computing will be determined by economic rationale rather than technical limits.“
The described consumerisation and cloud computing developments basically impact our move to Windows 7 in three ways. First, we may use multiple devices – sometimes on and sometimes off the corporate network. Secondly, most application logic will execute on servers in the cloud (not on our desktop) and thirdly, ideally our data and settings travel with us like a virtual desktop, instead of being confined to one physical device. However there is also a fourth thing to be considered, and – as always in IT – that is legacy. The above approach can be implemented in a green pasture environment, but what about the apps we bought 5 or 10 years ago and we still use every day. For those we will need a “transition strategy”.
With some companies already moved over, how would you go about setting up such a strategy? One of our European colleagues created a simple seven step approach which starts with a small questionnaire to assess where you are with regard to each of these steps. The first step is to define your vision for your “next generation workspace”. This section includes questions on new possibilities such as virtual desktop infrastructures, support for roaming profiles and devices, virtual application streaming etc.
Next step is sketching out a transition strategy in a Project Plan. Part of this project plan are the following areas: Compliance: do your current contracts and licenses allow you to take the planned approach; Training: what new skills (apart from Windows 7 skills) do you need to acquire; Financial: what will be the cost impact of this transition on your services and how will you charge for these services; Hardware & Software: What do you already have and what would need to be changed, bought, upgraded. And the final items are Management & Support of the transition and of the new situation going forward. Especially the changes in the area of support are quit profound. With user-owned “off the shelf” devices and applications predominantly running in the cloud, support will include even more self service and will require more collaboration with your (cloud) service providers and seamless access to the support environments of the device providers.
Like mentioned, this may be the last desktop environment you provide. My kids already take their own personalized laptops and phones to school and fully expect to do the same when they join the workforce. The only thing they find cool about my company supplied equipment is the fact that access fees and subscription cost are covered. Now if we could only find a way to “consumerise” those too (starting at home).
PS If interested in the described step by step plan, leave me a note twitter.com@leanitmanager