Cloud based data solutions- Are they forgetting about VDI?

If you follow VMware’s End User Computing strategy/vision, you probably have read that a computer consists of building blocks; Hardware, Operating System, Applications, Data/Settings. Traditionally these layers are tied together and it is very smart to untie them by using virtualization.

Nothing new so far. it is smart to decouple layers. You will be able to manage each piece separately. Users will be more flexible; Any time, any device, anywhere users will be able to get access to apps, settings and data.

So, let’s focus on data for a sec.

We know and understand you shouldn’t lock data in a PC. It’s a bad thing to do. You need to be behind that PC to be able to access that data. So, it’s common to redirect data to a file share inside the company. Now you can access it from any PC inside your company (Folder redirection and Roaming Profiles are mostly used together so that’s my assumption; Folder Redirection and Roaming Profiles/Persona Management are in place).

The limitation with Folder Redirection is that you can’t access it from any device, access it easily from outside your company nor share it easily. The solution for that; Dropbox, Box.net, Mozy Stash and Project Octopus, to name a few. It has to be mentioned; Mozy Stash and Project Octopus are beta/alpha products, not generally available. If you would like to know more about the differences and benefits between Stash/Octopus and Dropbox, click here.

What’s the beauty of the mentioned products? Your data is located in the “Cloud”, and “Cloud” can be on or off premise. Data is residing on a platform which is accessible. All you need to have are Clients on your devices, configured to access your account and your data. Go to the Dropbox or Mozy website and you will be able to get Clients for Mac, Windows, iPad, iPhone and Android (and maybe even other platforms). Great!! You can access your data from all of your devices. Exactly what we all want!

But…what about VDI environments…and let me stick to what I know best..VMware View environments? What about it?, you might ask. Just install, for example Dropbox for Windows and a user is good to go. I noticed a tiny little issue and I wanted to see if it is just me seeing this as an issue. I’m curious about your thoughts.

I do believe the most efficient and user centric way of computing is to use Linked Clone Floating pools with a delete/refresh after first use. All users will get a clean VM, the VM won’t grow much and will revert to its original size. Via ThinApp users will get their apps and Persona Management/Roaming Profiles will give the user’s look and feel. With traditional Folder Redirection, every time you logon to a new VM, you will be able to access your data from a share. I truly like this mechanism and encourage everyone to aim for this method.

So, no Folder Redirection but let’s use Dropbox in stead. I should install Dropbox in my golden image/my parent VM. Then deploy a pool from that parent and everyone should have Dropbox. Configure it and data should be available to that user. Your configuration should be saved in a part of your profile that roams, like AppData\Roaming. Persona Management/Roaming Profiles will save this setting and it will be there on every VM, so you only configure it 1 time. To go easy on the size of your profile, the Dropbox folder will be redirected to a share (default installation is user\My Documents\Dropbox).

Well, I really thought this would make sense but no! The case with Dropbox is that is gets installed in the user’s profile. It’s a per user installation (and to me, also very much per device, so per user-per device). Install it in your golden image and your users won’t even see Dropbox being installed.

I expect other products to have similar issues (I know some do). Either the installation is in someone’s profile or the configuration is device dependent (either saves under AppData\Local or under HKLM, result; not roaming). You don’t want to configure your Data repository every time you logon to a new VM, I assume.

I can access my data from an iPad and iPhone but I can’t access it from my main work environment, a VM. Maybe I’m missing something here and is something totally different coming, solving this issue completely or making it irrelevant. If it isn’t, then I truly hope “they” won’t forget VDI solutions.

Data anywhere, any time, any device; Project Octopus and Mozy Stash

VMware’s End User Computing is all about the end user in the post-pc era. It is user centric. In this concept, the user should be able to access the right applications and data from anywhere, any time and any device. This time I would like to focus on the Data part.

In the traditional way of working data often resides on a PC. The problem here is that data is tied to a device and not to a user. The user needs to access that device (sitting inside a corporate building) to get to the data.

Many companies nowadays use shared drives and/or home drives for users. This way users can save data on central file servers. When they logon to a PC in the environment, they can get to their data. It’s a step forward but what about accessing data from outside the corporate LAN, from different devices like tablets, smart phones, Macs etc?

Many of you know Dropbox or Box.net. Basically it is data storage in the cloud. Your data is accessible from a lot of different devices. If you change a file from 1 device, you will see that change on other devices as well. There are a couple of challenges to Dropbox and Box.net (and other products like them); IT doesn’t have any control over data that’s stored with those cloud products and though, they can’t set policies. That is a big concern because we are talking about corporate data here. Corporate data in general is valuable and some data can also be very sensitive. As a company you would like to be able to control that kind of data.

That’s where Project Octopus and Mozy Stash come into play;

  •  Project Octopus; 

Announced at VMware World 2011 in Las Vegas. Project Octopus is called the “Dropbox of the enterprise”. It will come as a virtual appliance, an OVF file to be installed on premise behind the firewall. IT can set policies; quota, what can be shared outside the company, versioning, history tracking, access/security and manage data based on how old data is-set expiration dates and delete data after that. Project Octopus will work with VMware View, Zimbra, Horizon App Manager and Project Appblast. You can find screenshots here and also a great video here. If you would like to stay up to date and participate in the upcoming beta, go to vmwareoctopus.com

  • Mozy Stash;

Mozy Stash is probably not known as widely as Project Octopus but reality is, it has been in beta for a while now already! Yes, you can give it a try! Read the Mozy Stash FAQ.

Mozy is known as an online file backup company/product but Mozy is moving on. Mozy Stash will be similar as Dropbox and also be hosted off premise, in the Mozy data centers. Mozy Stash can be installed on Windows and Mac devices and also has an IOS and Android App.

A stash folder will appear after installation of the Windows/Mac software. When you add data, this data will be synced with the cloud so all connected devices will have the same up to date files and folders to access. During the beta only MozyHome accounts can be used. It’s intended to add Stash to MozyPro accounts in the future. Up till 5 computers can be tied to your Stash.

It is relevant to mention Mozy Stash will be a feature of MozyPro and MozyHome rather than a stand-alone offering. So you can backup your Mac/Windows device (all your files) but also have a magic Stash folder to share your data or have it accessible from many devices. This sharing feature currently isn’t in the beta. Also in a future release it will be posible for IT departments to set policies and permissions for Stash, to proactively manage data with group policies. Reactive monitoring like auditing, roll out software and users should also be possible.

So all together, interesting products are coming on the data side! I cancelled my Dropbox renewal and put everything on Mozy. Fair is fair, it is a beta product but it is working for me!

Thanks to Ted Haeger for providing me the information about Mozy Stash.

 

BYOD and the Nirvana phone

It’s has been a long time since I heard about the Nirvana phone for the first time. After that, it became very quiet around it. Last week I heard about it again. In this article I want to share my thoughts about BYOD and the Nirvana phone. I used some information from Brian Madden’s article from the beginning of this year.

What is the Nirvana phone? Basically the Nirvana phone is a 1; regular mobile phone with all the common capabilities, and it isn’t tied to a specific vendor and 2; a device which can handle a USB/Bluetooth keyboard/mouse and where you can connect a monitor to and change it into a thin client/PC. With the appropriate app (Citrix Receiver/VMware View Client) you can connect to a corporate desktop. Citrix’s Chris Fleck has been writing about this concept for while now. Click here to see a demo video.

When I first heard about it I wanted to have “it”. Without thinking about it I was thrilled about the concept. Combine it with Bring Your Own Device, and the concept became even better; get your favorite mobile phone, one you like and can operate and also use it to access your corporate desktop. That’s sweet!

Then I started to think about the concept and quickly I became less cheerful.

My first concern is the docking, cabling, keyboard, mouse and monitor issue; do I need to carry all that around myself? The cables, adapters, mouse and keyboard are small and could fit in my bag but a monitor? Never. I visit customers and partners a lot and I’m pretty sure of 1 thing; I’m not going to ask for a monitor before I go into a meeting. Same with hotels though. Yes there is a TV but I don’t want to use that as my monitor. I prefer to work and listen to the TV, switch channels etc. I haven’t seen a separate monitor in many hotel rooms. Besides the monitor, wouldn’t it be a lot easier to grab a laptop or even a tablet in stead of setting up everything so you can work on your phone?

So what if I don’t have a monitor, too much hassle to setup everything or you can’t connect to your vDesktop? I could just work on my mobile phone. But that is a very small screen and basically not usable (that’s the reason for that monitor!). Let’s assume you have very small fingers and it’s very easy for you to type for an hour on your 4” screen during a meeting. Remember I combined the Nirvana phone and BYOD concept. So basically, this is your personal phone and because you can’t connect to a remote desktop you want to use your phone for work. This means you will use local apps for work. Local apps you normally use for private things. Private and corporate data will mix. IT doesn’t have control over you personal device and can’t set policies. With the Nirvana concept, I’m missing something to fill this gap. I believe that when it comes to BYOD, VMware Horizon Mobile is a must have, essential, can’t live without it. Think about it; when you open a confidential corporate document, do you want it to be cached inside a corporate vPhone or just on your private phone? You can read more about Horizon Mobile here. Again, VMware Horizon Mobile comes into play with BYOD and not specifically the Nirvana concept but I combined the 2 because I think BYO will get huge!

Also, when you do have all the gear in place to hook up your phone, how would you make phone calls. Well it is possible to be connected and make calls at the same time. However, you need to put it on speaker or use a headset. Putting it on speaker isn’t an option in many cases. People around you, noise, the nature (confidential/private) of your conversation will stop you from putting it on speaker. A headset will solve the issue but again, another gadget I need to carry around and keep charged battery wise. I don’t use a headset otherwise.

Users who don’t need local horse power and don’t need offline capabilities don’t need a laptop and a mobile phone, provided by the company. That is very true. I personally would give those users a Thin Client (more robust than a mobile phone, static setup, no hassle) and access to a VMware View Desktop with a soft phone installed inside it. Unified Communications is supported inside a VMware View 5 environment with Avaya, Cisco and Mittel. So you need 1 devices; a thin client with a headset.

Undocking and docking your phone because of whatever reason shouldn’t be an issue. Time out settings inside your vDesktop can easily handle that. Also, current mobile devices can output a high quality resolution so that shouldn’t be a issue as well.

At this moment my feeling is we have passed this Nirvana phone station. Too much hassle with gear and it isn’t a solution when, for example a monitor or vDesktop isn’t available and you need to work offline; your screen is way too small. New device like tablets are common now and will take care of tasks more easily/efficiently that could/couldn’t have been done by the Nirvana phone. It must be said that VMware Horizon Mobile for tablets needs to be available before the BYOTablet concept can happen big time though. Also on a tablet you want a secure corporate space to access/read/modify data and access apps.

The small screen will be an issue with app remoting techniques as well. Right now, Connecting to a vDesktops is part of the Nirvana phone concept. The thing is that a vDesktop won’t be the only technique to access corporate resources/application. For example, VMware also announced Project Appblast during VMworld 2011. Appblast is a application remoting technique. So basically you remote apps via HTML5 to a browser. Great stuff!! But what about my Nirvana phone? Again, without a monitor the phone screen is too small. Same as with remoting a vDesktop. Displaying a vDesktop or an app is so much easier on a tablet.

Because of all previously said I believe most people will end up with 3 devices; smart phone, tablet and laptop. This could be 2 depending on how tablets will evolve. Maybe the laptop will be replaced by the tablet eventually, who knows.

 

VMware View-Remote Access; Wyse Pocket Cloud on the iPad

Around a year ago Wyse came out with it’s “Wyse PocketCloud” app for the iPhone. I bought the app straight away. I liked it very much, and still do. I could connect to my View environment and connect to my virtual desktop from anywhere. Fair enough, the iPhone is a bit small to work on your VM though.

At this moment, 30-04-2010, I’m in San Francisco and like a lot of people I couldn’t resist myself and bought the iPad.

I downloaded the Wyse PocketCloud but the one I bought a year ago is too small for the iPad. yes you can increase the size but the resolution isn’t nice. Luckily Wyse also offers the “PocketCloud” app for the iPad.

It is very cool to connect to my View environment in The Netherlands on a decent screen. No PCoIP but it’s still nice to demo this. I have heard Wyse won’t update the “PocketCloud” with PCoIP support.

Wouldn’t it be great if VMware would come out with the VMware View Client for the iPad?!