Friday, December 21, 2012

A BYOD Christmas Carol: "Bah humbug" is not an option

The ghost suddenly appeared from behind the bed curtains, rattling the old Ethernet cables dangling from its arms.
“Wh-who-who are you?” Scrooge gasped.
“I am your old IT guy, Jacob Marley.  The one who left to take a job at that hot start-up…”
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to warn you, Scrooge,” the ghost moaned emphatically.  “You must see the error of your ways.  Your hardworking employees must not be chained to their desks over Christmas or any other time.  Including that Bob Cratchit guy.  Enterprise mobility is your business.  And that means BYOD is your business!”
“Bah, humbug!” scoffed Scrooge.
“You will be visited by 3 spirits this night!  Beware…”
As the clock struck one, the Ghost of Mobility Past clunked around the corner, wrapped in Palm Pilots and dragging Blackberry chargers and belt attachments.
“Scrooge!  Look at these happy scenes from your past.  You and the IT department are in control of employees’ mobile devices.  People can pick any one they want – as long as it’s a Blackberry.”
“Those were happy times,” sighed Scrooge.
“But your employees left you, Scrooge.  You chose to ignore what they loved: Apple products.”
“But I just wanted to save a little more money…I wanted us to be secure and happy…!” rationalized Scrooge, as the ghost faded away.
As the clock struck two, the Ghost of Mobility Present swiped into view, sleek and shiny with aluminum trim, black glass touch screens from head to toe.  An eerie yet friendly white light shone from an Apple logo on the ghost’s back.
“Scrooge!  Employees are bringing iPads, iPhones, and now even iPad Minis.  They want to use these devices today, right now…with your existing enterprise applications!”
Scrooge covered his eyes.  “No, I can’t look!”
“You must look, Ebeneezer:  over the holidays, all of those employees of yours are trying to get work done remotely, out of their offices.”  The Ghost pointed here and there as they flew over home offices and vacation sites.  “They want to get things done when they have a free minute using these wondrous, beautiful new devices.”
“It’s not possible!”  Scrooge insisted, grasping his sleeping cap tightly.  “These applications aren’t built for touch interfaces!  And we don’t have a BYOD policy…”
“Oh, but it is possible, Scrooge,” countered the Ghost of Mobility Present.  “I’ve seen companies big and small starting to do this…but like those from your past, your employees –and now your competitors – are leaving you behind.
“In fact,” the 2nd Ghost continued, “I hear that Bob Cratchit fellow is actually doing quite well.  He even has a financial advisor from UBS who uses an iPad to access wealth management tools and client portfolio information.”
“Bah, humbug!” insisted Scrooge.
And this ghost, too, faded away.
As the clock struck three, the Ghost of Mobility Yet to Be arrived amid a swirl of phablets, styluses, and a rainbow of neon Microsoft Surface covers.  With every wave of an arm, cheap $25 Android tablets tumbled from the ghost’s robes.
“Speak to me, ghost!” implored Scrooge.  “I know I must learn to avoid my terrible fate!  I see more tablets, everywhere!”
The 3rd Ghost was silent, so Scrooge continued, desperate to find the answer himself:  “I…I see the true cyber-Monday – the day everyone gets back to the office after Christmas break.  That’s the day we in IT truly dread!  It’s the day everyone tries to log into the corporate network using the brand new mobile devices they found under their trees Christmas morning.  I see chaos!  Anger!  Does it have to be so, spirit?"
The ghost shook its head.
“And…and…I see a very messy application development and infrastructure budget.  With all these many, many devices, I see that trying to do native development for every individual mobile platform for every enterprise application – it will just be too costly and too time-consuming!  I was wrong, Ghost!  I see that now!  I know what I must do!”
With a flash, the Ghost of Mobility Yet to Be returned Scrooge to his bedroom.
Scrooge burst into the snow-covered city street and dashed to the Cratchit home.  He arrived out of breath, his arms overflowing with presents, including tablets of all shapes and sizes, perhaps even including a Kindle Fire.
“Cratchit, I’ve seen the light!  I’d like you to help me take on a new mobility strategy for our enterprise applications.”
“Oh, Mr. Scrooge,” said Cratchit.  “It’s about time!  You know...we need to think this through carefully.  We’ll need a way to enable mobile access without rewriting all those existing applications.  And, we’ll need a way to make sure we don't but any data on the mobile device – no matter which device people pick.  And, of course, we need to make sure this has the performance and user experience that people will love the whole year through.”
“Yes, yes…I see all that now,” said Scrooge.  "I've had a busy night, you know."
“True," said Cratchit.  "Now…Tiny Tim says there’s this start-up company named Framehawk that is worth checking out…”
“Let’s give ‘em a ring, Cratchit,” said Scrooge.  “Without it, I think it's safe to say that BYOD is frightening enough to scare the Dickens out of anyone.”

Amusing note:  when I was about to post this, I saw that Palador's Benjamin Robbins (@PaladorBenjamin on Twitter) had just gone live with a very similar idea.  Nicely done.  They obviously thought of this far enough in advance to shoot a video with multiple locations, multiple actors, and a script that extensively quotes Charles Dickens.  You can go here to see A Connectivity Carol.  Happy holidays, every one.  If you are interested in an e-Guide on BYOD we did with Computerworld, you can register here.  And, be sure to let us know if you are interested in that solution Scrooge was talking about...

[This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.]

Friday, December 14, 2012

It’s not about the desktop anymore: the new role of workspace aggregators in enterprise mobility

If there’s one thing that the proliferation of the iPadMicrosoft Surface, and other tablets has proved, it’s that the place people do their work is no longer limited to their physical desktop.
That now goes for your computing desktop, too.  The mobilization of enterprise applications means metaphors are shifting fast and furiously and IT orgs and the users they support should take note.
Here’s the hard part: how do you describe this newest shift?  What’s the new metaphor that correctly describes the new tablet-driven computing work environment?
I recently heard analyst Chris Wolf present Gartner’s description of a new category intended to explain exactly this – something he, Mark Margevicius, and other folks at Gartner are calling a “workspace aggregator.”
I think it’s a pretty good label that’s worth considering for what tablets are enabling.  Here’s why:
Tablets change your computing behavior
Instead of wanting to ship over an entire desktop environment to your device, iPads and other tablets are enabling “quick hit” computing.  You get in, do a few things, and get out.  What you need is access to your key applications and the relevant data, without an arduous start-up process.  The enterprise, of course, still requires security and data integrity.  How do you deliver this?
“We don’t believe the traditional desktop experience is the end goal,” Chris told his audience at a November Gartner briefing in San Francisco on mobility.  “You have to adapt to the ad hoc way that users are consuming applications and data.  You have to meet users in the middle.  We think workspace aggregators are the direction of the future.”
The workspace aggregator term emphasizes applications
When Chris explained this new workspace aggregator category (something he also did at both their Catalyst and Symposium events), it sounded almost like a mobile version of a portal.  The emphasis is on providing access to a mix of Windows, Web, SaaS, and mobile applications – and to make sure there’s adequate security for enterprise content.
“Up to this point, these were all managed in individual silos.  There was no way to simplify user experience,” said Chris.  “What we’re trying to do to bring all this together: Windows apps, Web apps, mobile, and social data.”
Gartner describes this new term as a way to give users a consistent client computing experience, with an eye toward security and management, regardless of your location, network, or even device.  Early interest, they say, has been around cloud and SaaS services, but the promise includes these alongside existing applications behind the firewall.
I like the workspace aggregator term that Chris and his Gartner colleagues have started using.  The phrase represents the fact that it’s not the desktop (or its virtual instantiation) that is the important thing for your employees and users.  It’s the applications.
IT has a strong value prop with workspace aggregators
This also highlights a nice benefit from workspace aggregators for the IT department as well.  They give IT central control over a diverse set of applications, data, and cloud services from anywhere inside or outside the firewall, capable of being delivered to whatever mobile device the employee is using.  In a world where IT is fighting to show its value, using a workspace aggregator allows IT to show that value without seeming draconian to the user.  In fact, IT might even get some positive vibes out of the deal.
Honestly, I have to also admit that Chris’ description of a workspace aggregator is also a pretty good description of our current Framehawk Canvas offering.  He also mentioned Citrix, VMware, ASG, and Centrix working to offer solutions in this space.
Vendors working to provide a workspace aggregator capability, said Chris, will differentiate on their approach to application delivery, data delivery, management, security, and user experience.  The areas of importance that I heard Chris emphasize were around:
  • Content and how it is delivered
  • Primary processing location – on the device or remote
  • Communication mechanism (which he said comes down to the protocol being used when considering scalability & performance)
  • Security
If you’re interested in digging a bit, you can read about what we think our own Framehawk differentiators are in relation to these points.
A new approach with value for enterprise mobility
Why is a new approach even necessary?  Because employees are using different, often personal, devices to get their jobs done (thank you, BYOD).  “Solutions should be designed with the expectation that users will do their own thing,” noted Chris. “If we keep pretending that users are under our control, we’ll keep doing the things we’re doing and we know how well that’s working.”  In other words, something has to change for enterprise mobility to really work.
In general, I like the workspace aggregator term.  I think this new concept deserves a place in the industry debate about the right approach to enterprise mobility.  This is especially true for a discussion that has so far been dominated by old paradigms (like VDI) trying to adapt to a world of new mobile devices and new usage patterns that actually have many vastly different requirements.
Hopefully, having Chris, Mark, and others at Gartner starting to talk about a new approach to enterprise mobility – and give a name to it – will open up the eyes of IT organizations to the possibilities that arise when you unchain yourself from both the physical and virtual desktop.  We’ll keep you posted on our perspective of this new approach as we watch it (and help it) evolve.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.