View? No thanks, I’ll just use Appblast

The title of this article was one of the statements I heard last week. I also heard another interesting statements: “why use View? I will wait for Horizon”.

Back in February 2012, I published an article about VMware’s End User Computing vision and journey. In my opinion, that vision/journey hasn’t changed and still applies with the recent announcements at VMworld 2012. However, I have the feeling that the vision/journey need to be explained once again and maybe even more often, so people understand the vision and where EUC products fit in that vision/journey.

In a nutshell, VMware’s EUC vision starts with the future platform: The Horizon Suite- The Platform for the Mobile Workforce … applications, data and users in the post-PC era. Be aware that this Suite, or platform, contains multiple products/techniques, which are integrated with each other: View, ThinApp, Horizon Data, Horizon Mobile, Appblast and Horizon App Manager.

I have the idea that some people think they will be able to pick 1 product/technique and standardize on that: “All people will use Appblast for everything. There won’t be any need for VDI anymore”, as an example. That’s not true or even possible in today’s world. There isn’t 1 ultimate vehicle/technique to bring apps and data to any device in a secure and efficient way. A user’s workspace will deliver that user applications and data to any of his/her devices. Different products/techniques will be used to do so, to give that user the best experience to do his/her work on the device of that moment.

VMware calls it the Post-PC era but don’t think the PC, aka Windows is going away soon. Again, Windows won’t be as dominant as before anymore in the enterprise. The desktop (physical and/or virtual) won’t be the only place where users do their work. More devices, different platforms, less OS-dependent apps, but Windows will be there for a long time. That’s the reason for step #1: Optimize. That’s also the reason VMware keeps improving VMware View and introduce cool features like AppShift. Again, although Windows will not be as dominant, it still will be part of an enterprise user’s workspace environment

Now the journey: how do you get to that Post-PC era platform? VMware defined a 3-step journey:

  1. Optimize what you have,
  2. Embrace your/the Cloud,
  3. Escape to your/the Cloud

In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense to skip a step. You cannot “Embrace your/the Cloud until you have “Optimize what you have”. In other words, it doesn’t make sense to get Horizon (Suite and/or App Manager) before you use ThinApp and View. Technically, you could though. You could use Horizon App Manager for SaaS apps, you could use Horizon Data with the Horizon Suite with physical desktops. But, why wouldn’t you “Optimize what you have” first, virtualize applications, virtualize desktops, separate data and apps from physical desktops. Remove silos. Get savings out of that and become more efficient, more agile at the same moment. Then, invest those savings in more Cloud based apps: Saas or web service apps. Use a services broker like Horizon App manager. Distribute ThinApps via Horizon as well. Create a workspace where all techniques come together. Move to the your EUC cloud step-by-step.

Get the overview; VMware End User Computing vision

VMware View and ThinApp have been around for a while now. It is about virtualizing desktops and current Windows applications. All pretty straight forward and easy to understand and give it a place in your environment.

Suddenly, all new products were announced; Horizon App Manager, Appblast, Sliderocket, Octopus, Mozy, Zimbra and Socialcast. I can hear you think; where do these products fit in my organization, in my strategy for the coming years?

I can imagine everything around End User Computing is going very fast. I have noticed people hear about the different, new products but don’t have the clear overview picture; what’s the goal, steps to get there? What’s VMware’s End User Computing vision? It’s been out there for a little while but maybe it can’t hurt to discuss it again.

The vision starts with the end goal, the platform for the Post-PC Era. This platform is built on 3 pillars;

  • Simplify
  • Manage
  • Connect

“Simplify” is all about freeing up end user assets in backend silos and transform them to managed services,

After you have simplified the backend, you can define a new central hub where IT can set policies on who gets what, when, on which device and with which security policies, the “manage” pillar,

The “connect pillar is about the user connecting with the device of choice and getting the right applications and data

To get to this Post-PC Era platform, there is a 3-step journey ahead;

  • Improve what you have,
  • Embrace the Cloud,
  • Escape to the Cloud.

During the “Improve what you have” phase, you try to virtualize as much as possible. Use VMware View to turn desktop in a managed service. This gives you central management/security and universal access. Also, virtualize as many Windows applications with VMware ThinApp. Decouple the PC-layers Hardware, OS, applications and User with virtualization.

The second step is “Embrace the Cloud”; embrace Horizon App Manager. With App Manager you can create a central application store for all your applications; mobile, SaaS, Windows, virtualized applications.  It also is a central place to set policies; security, management and provisioning policies. When you have to replace certain applications, replace them with SaaS apps. These new SaaS apps can easily be placed in Horizon App Manager.

“Escape to the Cloud” means you are moving more and more services into the Cloud. Cloud in this case, can be private and/or public. Decommission applications when needed and choose a new service from the Cloud. Also, think about Project Octopus and Appblast, Zimbra, Socialcast and Sliderocket.

So, there is a journey, there are steps to take to get to the Post-PC Era platform.  Sometimes the lines between steps are thin. Sliderocket, for example, can be of interest in step 2 for some customers and in step 3 for others. The journey is a guideline. If you like to see Vittorio Viarengo explain the vision, take a look here.

User Virtualization in the Post PC-era?

Today I ran into an article which had an interesting quote;

 Persona Management isn’t mature enough yet, and VMware knows it, Dunkin’s Brennan said. The company probably added it just to “check the box”, but he speculated that VMware would get profile management up to speed by making an acquisition

We can have a discussion about the the first part in another article but especially the acquisition part caught my attention.

So, will VMware acquire another company to speed up its profile management? I think that is an interesting question. A different question but related to the first 1 could be; how important will User Virtualization be in, let’s say, 5 years? Yet another question; will you still need User Virtualization in 5 years?

First, let’s take 1 step back for a minute; Once upon a time, there were Windows PC’s and in Windows NT the profiling scheme was introduced. Then there were roaming profiles, mandatory profiles, default user profiles and Group Policies; all mechanisms to control the user, control and save their settings like printers/wallpaper, their permissions to shares and folders, what they are or aren’t allowed to do like accessing Control Panel. Also, store profiles centrally and users will have the same look and feel from any Windows PC. Separate the user from the Operating System.

Third party vendors like RTO, Appsense, RES and LiquidWare got into this space as well to fill gaps and add new features, moving on where standard Microsoft profiles and GPO’s stopped.

But, all the tools have 1 thing in common; Windows. That’s not a bad thing but it isn’t the only platform anymore to run applications. IOS/Android phones/tablets and Macs are out there in the enterprise, even privately owned ones. The world is changing and I believe it is the Post PC-era already.

Management will change. It has to change. Applications and data will be delivered to different devices in different ways; you access ThinApp apps via VMware View from your private Android Tab 1 moment. Next, you access a SaaS app on your corporate iPhone.

Instead of managing most things on a Windows level/device level, you have to take that management up a couple of levels. To me, that’s the user level. It will become more important who is allowed to access which application/data from what device and place. The underlying Operating System and device will become less important. Horizon App Manager will be that Universal Broker where you set those user based rules.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe Windows will be around for a long time as a platform to execute specific applications. But will that platform be considered to be big enough for VMware to invest in a Windows profile management tool? Again, interesting questions.

Cloud based data solutions- Are they forgetting about VDI? Part 2

A little while ago I wrote an article about Cloud Data Solutions like Dropbox, Box.net, Mozy Stash and Project Octopus and that these products can’t be installed in a Floating Pool VDI environment today. The Dropbox client gets installed in a user’s profile so you can’t install it in your master/parents/golden image VM and deploy it to your users. Other products save their config information (server, account name/email address and password) in HKLM in stead of something which is roaming like User\AppData\Roaming. That means all users would have to fill in their credentials every time they logon to a new VM. That’s not the way you want it to be, right?

But, is this the only issue when you look at Cloud Data solutions and roaming desktop users? Let’s brainstorm some more. Let’s assume this client issue can be fixed. Fixing where it saves the credential information shouldn’t be too hard to fix, right?!

So, let’s set the baseline here; we have a VMware View environment (the issues probably apply to other solutions as well), Floating pools, refresh after first use, roaming profile/Persona Management and Folder Redirection, and a Cloud data agent which is working just fine in a floating environment.

What happens when a user logs on for the first time? First thing that needs to be done is to configure the agent. Fill in a username, password and the URL of the Data server/provider. Dropbox, Mozy and other will place their own folder under user\data folder so you are ready to go. Add data to that folder and it will be synced to the “Cloud” (and this Cloud can be on or off premise).

Second time a users logs on, there is no need to fill in the credentials anymore. That was fixed. Yay! The folder under user\data folder is there as well. It’s being roamed by Roaming Profiles/Persona Management and so is your data. Maybe you will have to wait a bit till everything is in sync.

Data is part of your profile (in this example). Is that what we want? Not really. First of all, you will get a huge profile with all that data. When you are using Roaming Profiles you might experience slow logon and logoff times. This is much better with Persona Management though. Secondly, and more important, aren’t you saving data twice now? One time in the Cloud and 1 time in your profile. Your company probably paid an amount of money to get that “Cloud based data storage environment”, like Dropbox/Box.net/Mozy Stash. In this case they also have to invest more money in disks for their file servers because Roaming Profiles are exploding in size and they are saved on central file servers. Folder redirection to speed up logon time when you use Roaming Profiles won’t change a thing. You still need to have central storage to redirect to.

So, this way, data will become expensive. How to solve these issues? Well, the easiest way is not to use an (offline) client. You won’t have the client issues inside a floating desktop and you won’t have to save data twice. Everything you do regarding your data is via your browser. Create a document and upload it directly to the Cloud. Realistically, this can be done but it’s difficult, especially when you edit documents a lot; downloading, edit, uploading again.

Maybe the offline clients can redirect data in a smart way; the folder does show content but it all is located in the Cloud. When you double click a file, then it will be downloaded to your machine, to a temp cache folder. Same happens to other way around. When you drag and drop a file from your VM into the data folder, it will sync to the Cloud and deleted from your VM.

I’m not a developer so I’m not sure if this is possible. What I do know is that Cloud based data solutions and VDI still need some work and thinking. I’m positive though. It will be great.

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.

 

Socialcast- my experience

I bet not many people have heard about Socialcast and I also believe not many people know Socialcast has been aquired by VMware in March 2011.

What is Socialcast?

Socialcast is a leading provider of social collaboration solutions for the enterprise. Socialcast enables modern business communication by uniting people, information and enterprise applications within collaborative communities. Delivered as a hosted service, private cloud implementation, or via an on-premise solution

Okay, that’s the official statement from the press release. To me, it is a platform for employees within an organization which will increase collaboration, sharing of ideas, knowledge and even unite people. I have heard people say it is Twitter or Facebook for the enterprise. Well… yes to an extend that is true.

I don’t want to compare Twitter/Facebook to Socialcast but I just want to share my enthousiasm! I’m addicted to Socialcast! In this case, it isn’t a bad thing to be addicted. But why am I addicted?

Well, first of all I can access Socialcast (I should say our implementation of Socialcast) from any of my devices; there are mobile apps for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone and also applications for Mac and Windows. Of course you can access Socialcast with a browser!

In our case, I don’t know if we host Socialcast from a public cloud as a hosted solution or if it is an on-premise implementation (which is a virtual appliance). From a user perspective it doesn’t really matter, right?!

Socialcast is integrated with Active Directory. When I logged on the first time, my profile was filled in with my basic details; my job role, telephone number, my manager etc. I could add more personal details like my Messenger ID, website URL, hobbies etc. Cool, I was setup on the system and good to go!

I started searching for Groups and straight away I found many groups of my interest. I joined them and I started to see messages from those groups on my Home page. So I didn’t have to look for them, they were there in my Home screen. I started to follow people as well. Everything they would post would come up in my Home screen.

I also noticed I could setup my own group. How sweet is that! I am running a demo environment from VMware employees in EMEA, so why not setup a group and post messages and documents there in stead of sending emails. I invited the users of the demo environment and started posting messages about new features, updates etc there.

So, I saw a mixture of groups come to life; work related obviously but also more personal groups. I joined a photography group and can share pictures, ideas, best spots, news about cameras etc. Yes it does unite people. Who would have thought that?!

With our Socialcast, I also noticed information was easier to get, came to me quicker, was shared easier and sooner. For example, unfortunately sometimes it takes a while for someone to answer an email. Post something and the response is there! That quick! For sure people respond quicker than via email.

I believe it made a gap between different groups smaller. People would ask for feedback, or give feedback about products. I saw different groups starting to work together, share information. Seeing that kind of collaboration happening is great!

So, now after a day of work I check my Socialcast, browsing groups, following people, answering questions from others, posting questions, uploading pictures and hitting F5 a lot (yes it will refresh automatically but I’m impatient). I like this kind of networking, socializing, collaborating. I truly like Socialcast.