By Maciej Sztukiewicz
Recently I decided to write about desktop cloud computing because I feel this area is still in the shadow of mighty “server cloud” topics shaping the modern IT industry and exciting the IT audience. Thinking about potential types of cloud desktops and underlying hypervisor technologies, I concluded that, in fact, the most interesting things happen around users themselves and their specific situations in a changing business environment. Having this in mind, I came up with the idea to present user scenarios that can significantly benefit from the application of a new desktop cloud concept. These described situations are based on my experiences from a real-life project.
The idea of desktop cloud is to deliver virtual desktops to users through a computer network by locating all application workloads on servers in the data center and transmitting only screen outputs to those users. Various devices can be used as “receivers” of virtual desktops – examples are notebooks, PCs, tablets, mobile phones, or even your modern refrigerator if it’s connected to the Internet and runs a standard web browser.
So why would we need this technology? In what concrete situations could it be applied? What are the user groups that could benefit from this approach? Those were the questions that we were facing during definition of our project. Finally we identified several scenarios – those that seem, to me, really interesting are described here.
In today’s world, more and more corporate activities are out-sourced to the other parties. Subcontractors are becoming a substantial part of the modern enterprise, providing flexibility and cost effectiveness. The typical business requirements for that user group are to be brought on board quickly, to do their job quickly, and to leave their place securely not compromising company assets.
The typical “actors” here could be vendors, temporary staff, or even students working for the company as interns or for training.
What is required from IT in such situations? We would like to give subcontractors the possibility to use their existing hardware – even if the hardware is not the most current, to eliminate the need for investment. User’s accounts should be created and removed quickly and easily, accommodating high ratio of people turnover. A good idea is to immediately provide this user group with a standardized operating system, equipped with the needed applications and access to selected company resources. Additionally, a recommendation is to have full control over these environments and securely store produced deliverables within the enterprise.
Well, that is exactly what desktop cloud can bring to the table. Thanks to standard image, the activation of new user accounts is fast and easy, allowing the newcomers to be productive quickly. Subcontractors can easily access their new IT environment using their own, even outdated, equipment because workload intensive tasks are performed on company servers that brings additional value of storing data in a secure manner within company firewalls.
With this particular user group, a real possibility is for a notebook or tablet to be stolen, broken, or lost. No worry about it. The user may borrow, rent, or buy a piece of hardware and connect it to the company network with that user’s credentials – all applications with data and deliverables will be there. Kind of relief isn’t it?
Let’s face it, these employees often don’t need and don’t have a company notebook or PC. However they would like to have access to current company information stored at the company intranet and to their personal records such as salary level, additional benefits, status of the canteen account, and others. Access to the company e-mail and selected application workflows is also recommended.
The demanding factory environment also has its specifics, such as difficult access for on-site support people and non-standard working conditions for IT equipment.
The concept of IT kiosks equipped with thin client hardware, connected to desktop cloud and spread around the factory can be helpful here. Every user can come to the kiosk stationed near the user’s current factory location and get access to needed information and applications. User virtual workplace provisioned from the cloud to the kiosk will be based on a standard image that is always up to date with all applied security patches, allowing for easy and secure access to needed functionalities.
User data that is generated during interactions of user with the kiosk can be stored separately in the data center storage. Centralized remote support delivered for virtual desktops reduces the need for costly on-site support actions.
Mergers and acquisitions employees
In today’s rapidly changing world, mergers and acquisitions are no longer interesting concepts from economy books or accounting training, but they are the basic tools fueling company growth. These business moves are rapid, often unexpected and volatile. Employees from new organizational entities are not only different in their corporate culture, behaviors, ethics, and morale, but they also differ in many “down-to-earth” aspects such as PC type, operating system, and application portfolio. The decision of consolidating the IT infrastructure zoo to one common platform is not easy, especially because it is costly and takes time – usually a long time. It might also give relief for only a short time before the next merger or acquisition, introduced as an effect of a new brilliant business decision, coming from the highest levels of the corporate stratosphere.
The desktop cloud concept can also help here. A new IT environment based on a standardized image run on servers in a corporate data center can be delivered quickly to new employees, making them productive much faster and eliminating problems with lengthy migration of their old environments to a corporate standard. Users are getting immediate access to two worlds – old existing one and new one – without the requirement of having two separate devices, because the existing device can be used to receive the new virtual desktop transmitted to the user from the data center. All this is done with tight security standards because the whole infrastructure and image are locked, standardized, and secured at the company data center. Users are also more comfortable and productive because they can start working without interruption for their current IT setup, and they can better survive long transformation periods that appear on the company horizon.
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