Archive for the ‘Desktops’ Category

Corporate SaaS app stores ready to go? VMware Horizon App Manager

May 24, 2011

Does your company consume any SaaS apps, yet? We do. Due to the success of Softcat and the speed with which we have grown, we recently invested in a new HR system – somewhere to track holidays, expenses, training and development etc. It’s great – I now have zero need to use a pen in a work context at last (still have to use them to sign birthday cards, but that’s it!). Unfortunately, the usernames and passwords are not (yet!) aligned with our AD – so there is no single sign-on. Being the awkward ‘user’ that I am, I of course forgot my username…

So I was thinking about this in readiness for this post, and you know what? We already consume a load of SaaS apps that I hadn’t really thought about in those terms. In fact, this is one of my ‘pet hates’ for this industry. Every vendor we deal with – Microsoft, VMware, HP, EMC etc – has a portal, full of really useful information, tech specs, knowledge bases etc. Really handy – but each one requires a different login – and usually a different password policy. Needless to say, there is no identity integration for any of these, so it is a management nightmare.

Over time, I think we will see more and more of this stuff – portals masquerading as SaaS apps (hell, the VMware one is driven by Salesforce.com) and pure SaaS apps, as organisations pursue a hybrid strategy – a mixture of maintaining infrastructure and applications for core services, and bringing in services from outside where that makes more sense.

VMware have for some time been talking about ‘Project Horizon‘, which was planned to address these issues. Well, the first stage of this is now live, with the launch of VMware Horizon App Manager. HAM, as I’m sure it won’t be abbreviated to, extends your corporate identity into cloud services, enabling single-sign on to services such as salesforce.com, Webex etc.

The end goal here, I think, is a ‘corporate app store’, a self-service portal whereby users can gain access to apps hosted both on internal infrastructure and delivered from ‘the cloud’. IT will be responsible for a service catalogue from which the business can select the relevant applications for their needs. Wouldn’t this be better than running around with a CD installing stuff?

There are a few future developments planned already, listed in the press release. There are a few extra I would like to see:

Workflow for requesting applications including line-of-business sign-off.

Metering – who is using what apps? This is an element of Software Asset Management, really – making sure that the software (or Software as a Service!) you have paid for is being used.

Automated de-provisioning of accounts triggered by an HR process – this strikes me as really important in the world of ‘cloud’. If someone leaves your organisation, how do you make sure they don’t still have access to your SaaS apps?

I’m sure we’ll see a profusion of identity services in this space, and I look forward to the day of any app on any device: secured, managed and catalogued by IT…

More from the always-insightful Brian Madden here.

VMware SlideRockets into the productivity app space…

April 27, 2011

I woke up this morning to the news that VMware have acquired SlideRocket, a SaaS provider delivering an online presentation experience. I guess this is similar to Prezi, of which Robert Scoble is a big fan. Exciting times! VMware seem to be amassing a serious stack- infrastructure, app virtualisation (ThinApp), app delivery and PaaS (Springsource), database (Gemfire), messaging and collaboration (Zimbra), file-based backup (Mozy) and now productivity software.

Very interesting times afoot. Some have suggested that VMware might create or acquire an operating system (there was a fair bit of speculation about SuSE before Attachmate’s acquisition of Novell), but it seems to be that the strategy is more about designing an environment in which apps run directly on cloud infrastructure, and are delivered to any device. I think this is less about replacing the existing OS, and more about rendering it less and less relevant.

I wonder what’s next?

Useful note on Outlook in VDI

April 15, 2011

Just a short one this morning: I had to share this excellent article on setting up Outlook in VDI. Our customers are frequently looking to solve roaming profile issues, particularly involving sizeable Outlook caches, in hot-desking environments by using VDI so it is really handy to have such a well-written summary of the issues. Great post!

HP Notebook Roadmap Session

April 8, 2011

It’s a Friday, so I thought I would share some photos. We had the HP/ Intel bus in at Softcat this morning, showing off their latest range of notebooks and going through some roadmaps with our account managers. HP are to be commended on sharing this stuff – one of the pieces of feedback we get regularly from customers is that they feel vendors let them down in terms of visibility on when a line will change. If you need to know about HP roadmap – ask your Softcat account manager!

The bus itself is quite impressive; I wonder if I could borrow it for the summer festival season – can you imagine turning up at Glastonbury in something like that? It would put my 1976 VW Camper to shame…

How to win the tablet war…

February 11, 2011

Up until now, there has really been very little competition for my beloved iPad. I guess the Galaxy Tab is probably the closest… I’m pleased to see that the HP WebOS tablet looks good, although the price has yet to be revealed, it doesn’t sound like it will have 3G, and it probably won’t be out until the summer. All the same I am keen to have a play!

Nokia doesn’t seem to have got anywhere with tablets, despite the fact that the Nokia N770 (I think it was) could be considered an early attempt. Who knows, maybe the tie-up with Microsoft will accelerate this!

I’ve just been away at a conference, and it made me think about how a forward-thinking company could win, or at least have a good go. The wireless at this conference was terrible – and without it, my access to email, Twitter etc was severely limited. Meanwhile, my Kindle just worked and I have been able to download a couple of books for the flight back. Wouldn’t it be great if a tablet manufacturer managed to do the whole ‘global 3G’ thing that Amazon have done? Admittedly a tablet will drag a whole lot more bandwidth, but for regular travellers it would be a godsend.

Anyone up for the challenge?

Will more WiFi drive centralised computing?

January 26, 2011

I’m interested (and not a little pleased) to hear that there seems to be a lot going on around WiFi at the mo – with O2 planning to offer it for free, Virgin thinking about it, and Sky (probably) buying The Cloud. With 3G still not being quite up to speed (whilst I love my Three MiFi, and connectivity is almost universal, O2 still seem to struggle), I wonder if this will help accelerate demand for remote access and therefore centralised computing (VDI, terminal services et al).

My feeling would be that as people get more and more used to pervasive connectivity, they will be more and more demanding around access to work systems. I’m sure one day all our corporate apps will be delivered from the cloud, but in the meantime I reckon we will see more companies centralise their desktops as a way-point on this journey…

Let’s just hope the signal’s strong enough…

Is VDI the highest common denominator?

June 10, 2010

The purist view (no pun intended, VMware!) of the server-based computing market is that organisations should segment their users by type and work performed, and select various different desktop deployment vectors depending on the requirements of their users. An example would be using session-based desktops (Microsoft Terminal/ Remote Desktop Services, Citrix XenApp) for task workers who basically use Office, but hosted virtual desktops (VMware View, Citrix XenDesktop) for power users who need customised desktops, applications which won’t work in a shared session environment – and maybe application virtualisation for mobile users.

This is a strategy I subscribe to in the larger companies we deal with; however, I am seeing a different take amongst smaller and mid-market sized organisations. We’ve had a massive amount of success in the server virtualisation space with VMware, and our customers have really skilled up. Whilst I think they recognise that perhaps a session-based solution might represent lowest capital outlay and operational cost, they don’t want to learn another platform – and then manage that on an ongoing basis, as they just don’t have sufficient people within IT.

That makes a VMware-based desktop delivery strategy a compelling solution for tactical desktop deployments – in much the same way we started onserver virtualisation with the low utilisation, administration-type workloads rather than the mission critical ones. This is what has led me to sign us up with Panologic, who make a  Zero Client specifically for VMware vSphere, which operates with or without View. It’s a nice straightforward solution for deployment of virtual desktops into an existing VMware environment, with minimal consultative or administrative overhead. They only draw 3.5 Watts of power – and damn, they look cool!

Cool, shiny zero client!

I know people have been saying since 2007 that ‘this’ is the year of VDI – judging by the fact that our VDI workshop next week is over-subscribed times 3, we’re finally getting there!

Technology@Work Takeaways

May 5, 2010

It’s nearly a week since I got back from HP’s Technology at Work event, in Frankfurt, and I have just about caught up, so I thought it was time to summarise my experience. First out, I very much enjoyed it – the organisation was very slick, Frankfurt was friendly and the content was superb. I feel less guilty now that HP have cancelled their tablet plans (or at least delayed them pending the integration of Palm) for my use of an iPad throughout the event…

My first comment would be that getting involved in the social media scene at events like this is a good idea. It made me feel really engaged with the event to be following #HPTAW and tweeting with folks like @StorageGuy and @JezatHP (follow both of these guys for good insider info on HP Storage and Networking respectively). It’s a really useful back-channel to comment on what is going on and point people in the direction of stuff that is interesting. Needless to say I was delighted to end up as Mayor of HP Technology at Work on Foursquare

Now on with the technology industry… My primary takeaway was the emphasis from Gartner (who were out in force) on a simple statistic: that in their research, 70% of IT budget is spent on ‘keeping the lights on’, and only 30% spent on innovation – finding technology solutions to move the business forwards. That’s pretty scary, and I would welcome feedback from our customers as to whether that’s common experience. It feels about right to me. Almost every keynote referred back to this statistic, and HP are focusing their efforts on remedying the situation. A lot of the conversations were around reducing cost: power and cooling, management, etc. However, an interesting point was that CIOs with responsibility for the power bills refresh infrastructure more often, deriving ROI from this refresh – and in the process giving their organisation access to the latest technology, making the business more agile.

I’m sure we all hope we are on the way out of recession. Certainly the feedback from Gartner was that organisations are investing. In fact, the focus appears to be moving away from out-and-out cost, although budget growth will remain low or nonexistent. The focus is on balancing value with risk and innovation – the goal is to enable the business to be flexible and adapt to change. The legacy of the economic situation will leave organisations in a state of flux – M&A, emerging markets, volatility and a need to advance and retract into areas will mean that IT must be able to react to and enable this constant change. No wonder virtualisation, cloud and Web 2.0 are the top three technologies on CIOs’ watch-lists. HP are working hard on the concept of ‘converged infrastructure’ (separate post to follow) to provide a cohesive platform from which to deliver services to meet the needs of your organisation.

End-user computing was another area, and one which has interested me for some time. The story echoed my post on Next Generation Desktops, but suffice it to say that the computing environment of tomorrow will be a little different. Virtualisation of the desktop in its various forms will become commonplace, and management by separation of the various layers (hardware, OS, apps, profile etc) will be the norm. At the same time, IT departments will need to get used to delivering mobile, lightweight apps to laptops, netbooks, smartphones and (dare I say it) the iPad.

Lastly, there was a fair amount on the networking front. HP contest that the acquisition of 3COM gives them an end-to-end networking portfolio, from the core to the edge, including security, for the first time. Networking is key to the Converged Infrastructure message, so keep an eye on this (we will announce an event soon). There was a lot of talk about unified communications, in particular integration of Microsoft Exchange and OCS with Procurve and Proliant.

Whilst I don’t think I recall Cisco being mentioned by name throughout the entire event, it’s fairly evident that they have a fight on their hands here!

The iPad has landed!

April 8, 2010

I’m incredibly fortunate to be in receipt of one of the first iPads in the UK, shipped in from the States on launch day. First impressions are that it is fantastic – the mail and browsing experience is superb and the form factor is just about perfect for me, for mobile and more casual stuff.
I am intending on trying to use it as a business tool, so I’ll post about how I get on further down the line. I’m away this weekend and will be leaving the laptop at home for starters!
I’m particularly interested in using it as a mobile client for our Citrix XenApp and VMware View deployments – once the app store is live in the UK I’m really looking forward to having a go with Citrix Receiver

Great news on VDI licensing

March 19, 2010

Yesterday, Microsoft made an important announcement regarding virtual desktops. Currently, if you want to use any form of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, you need to pay an additional fee for a Virtualised Enterprise Centralised Desktop (VECD)  license. The headline news is that the replacement for VECD, Virtual Desktop Access (VDA), will be a Software Assurance Benefit as of 1st July – so effectively free of charge to customers who maintain Software Assurance on their desktop operating system licenses. If you don’t have SA, VDA will be slightly cheaper than VECD.

This is really good news for anyone operating in the desktop virtualisation space, as it removes one of the blockers to adoption of this technology. It’s fantastic news for our customers as it means that they can make a decision on which technology to use independent of the licensing costs. There are seriously compelling reasons now for ensuring that you have SA on your desktop operating systems now, with VDA included and access to MDOP for a pittance – which gives you App-V for application among other things. Looks like a very cost-effective way of gaining access to some of the most exciting recent technology developments around desktop delivery.

Interesting also to see Microsoft taking the fight to VMware PCoIP with their forthcoming RemoteFX 3D and graphics acceleration technology, which will be extended by the impressive Citrix HDX. Microsoft are certainly serious about the partnership with Citrix, and those two are equally serious in their desire to compete for the virtual desktop with VMware.

Whichever vendor you favour, the real winners here are current and potential customers of VDI technology. Not only is your choice increased, but the licensing terms will be considerably more favourable come 1st July!