The easy road to BYOD

Many execs still see the bring your own device (BYOD) trend as the greatest challenge facing enterprise IT. However, it also provides a healthy incentive to harness the power of virtualisation.

Volumes have been written in recent years on the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend and predictions that users will no longer have devices dedicated solely for work and others dedicated to their personal lives. Already many of us are choosing the tablets, netbooks, smartphones and other devices we work on, and will share these between personal and work pursuits.

In order to facilitate this, IT departments must integrate a plethora of new devices and user diversities. They must manage greater demands on bandwidth, security and compliance, while coping with the increased pressure on costs and IT staff; all without restricting the user.

The first step in turning this challenge around is to create a coherent, top-down BYOD management policy. IT departments must shift from an infrastructure-based management model to a data-driven plan; focusing on service provision and user access. IT should audit the access requirements across the different devices in question and then determine how to build up and extend their resources in a cohesive, strategic manner.

As is often the case, cost is a key issue to address when realising a BYOD policy. The multiplicity of devices and platforms puts a heavier demand on servers and bandwidth. Using a standardised approach will help enable IT Services to control costs while meeting demand, as will a shift to lower cost, service-based platforms like Microsoft Windows 7 and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

Security issues pose a considerable obstacle and must also be addressed early in the process. How can data be protected when it is housed in many different applications, on many different platforms and is accessed from many different locations?

There are also several desktop issues which must be resolved. In particular, users should not be disadvantaged by longer log-in times or profile corruption by using their own device.

Finally, the move to BYOD should optimise current investments. An IT department shouldn’t be required to re-build all that it has done previously. A good plan for expansion should build on what the department has already achieved. For example, the use of Windows 7, which is probably already part of IT planning, should be integrated into the expansion plan.

Virtualising the user

The most effective way of addressing these challenges is to manage the user separately; to ‘decouple’ the user space from that of the rest of computing. Although the user is virtualised rather than the physical desktop, centralising and standardisation can still be used to reduce costs and can still occur within the virtualised user layer. The user-platform makes all application sessions interchangeable and part of the service-provision fabric, whatever the device. This then allows the saving settings to the desktop, or having to log out.

The result: thousands of users can be easily managed with policy templates and automatically reconfigured by device, location or application. The user-experience remains secure, predictable and personalised.

This user virtualisation is achieved by redirecting profile and policy data from its original location, to a virtualised area. This way, it’s possible to ensure delivery of the same experience irrespective of the device, OS or apps used. Disaster recovery also becomes simple, as the user’s data and apps can be rolled back and restored instantly – offering huge cost savings. True user virtualisation encompasses complete management of the desktop, the set-up, configuration, lock-down, application access control, system resource entitlement, self- healing, license control and network controls.

With user virtualisation in place, when I change my window size for the application, colour or font size, or any other application setting, these changes are redirected or detoured to a separate, virtual area, separate from physical or underlying virtualised OS and/or Application components. All user read and writes are re-directed to this isolated virtual location with a user- level hypervisor, synchronised centrally.

Without doubt there is initial pressure on cost from BYOD, especially as the number of devices to be included multiplies rapidly. But user virtualisation enables IT to turn BYOD into an advantage, driving people-centric computing and controlling the framework of the user space with less need for intensive application servicing. Considerable savings are achieved by avoiding user migration as the user no longer resides in the application, device or operating system.

User virtualisation also enables applications to be siloed and users given a degree of freedom over the applications they install. As applications exist in a space governed by policy, the user can install and manage their own applications including those ‘naughty’ apps like Skype, Windows Messenger or Dropbox. It is not necessary for IT Services to control them, and it is also unnecessary to train the user – users can install the applications they know and enjoy.

Users also have the advantage of access to data at whatever location they choose, with whatever device they decide to use, without the data having to reside on the device itself – it remains secure in your chosen data centre structure.

Whenever a user consumes a desktop or application through a new device, the transition is effortless for the IT staff and seamless to the user. The results are faster rollouts and happier users. Employees can roam on an indefinite basis across a heterogeneous mix of desktop and application technologies and enjoy the same consistently personalised experience every time.

For IT Services today, user virtualisation provides effective cost control and complete flexibility on the management end. Users are provided with the tools they need to be as productive as possible, while security and granular policy is maintained in a perfect balance of user empowerment with IT efficiency and control.

Michael Bosnaris the Director of AppSense's Australia and New Zealand divison.