How desktop virtualization will save your company from Generation Y

How desktop virtualization will save your company from Generation Y

Summary: * Ryan Naraine is on vacation. Guest Editorial by Rich MogullRecently I was watching an interesting 60 Minutes episode on the new generation of "Millennials" entering the workforce.

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* Ryan Naraine is on vacation. 

Guest Editorial by Rich Mogull

How desktop virtualization will save your company from Generation YRecently I was watching an interesting 60 Minutes episode on the new generation of "Millennials" entering the workforce. I always thought they were called Generation Y, but I guess that term is a little too old to make good television. According to CBS, if you raise a generation that's constantly told how special they are, wins trophies just for showing up, and has their parents calling college professors when Timmy gets a bad grade, they tend to develop some works habits that might be at-odds with what even us only-slightly-older types are used to.

I don't want to get into a debate about the relative merits of random blocks defined when people are born, but one aspect of the piece that's very clear to any of us working in technology is that we are only at the earliest edge of a growing workforce that was raised in the information age. If we posit that the Internet began hitting the mainstream around 1994/1995, that means we have some of the first workers who were fluent in Web browsing, IM, e-mail, cell phones, and TiVo before graduating high school. In less than 10 years, we'll see the first employees that never lived a day without the World Wide Web, and used a computer mouse years before writing their first word.

This is a generation that is not only extremely technology literate (even if they can't program a simple "Hello World"), but one with attitudes towards their personal technology that will challenge how organizations traditionally approach workers and their tools.

Mankind has always had a relationship with our tools that's far deeper than treating them as mere instruments to accomplish a task. Every since Grok carved his initials into the first club, we've been customizing our tools to suit our personal tastes and work habits. It's inconceivable to think that knowledge workers are any different, yet for two decades we've stuffed our best and brightest onto corporate-standard desktops and laptops and made them sign paperwork placing their job in jeopardy if they download an unapproved application they need to get a job done.

And for good reason; more often than not those users are downloading file sharing software (and sharing their entire corporate hard drive), or the latest weather (or porn) widget full of malware. Even our technically literate users are prone to customizing their tools in incredibly stupid ways. Yet eventually we'll hit the day where potentially employees will look upon locked-down IT shops as little more than undesirable digital sweatshops. What? You wont let me Twitter from work? Can I have that application back?

Thus we need to reconcile a workforce that's used to completely controlling and customizing their technology with the needs of an organization that must limit security risks. One of the most powerful tools at our disposal to resolve this conflict is desktop virtualization.

[ SEE: Google buys anti-malware browser virtualization startup ]

Most of the hype around virtualization today is in the data center, but desktop virtualization will revolutionize how we manage employee technology. Companies can create standard, locked down, virtual images for secure access to enterprise resources. They can issue these to employees who run them off their own PC or Mac. Assuming we consider our hypervisors secure enough, the employees can download all the pictures of alcoholic celebrities they want and any malicious software shouldn't cross over into the "safe" corporate environment. We'll use tools like NAC and DLP to limit the risk on those (hopefully) rare occasions where something does manage the cross the wall. If you're good about backing up user data, when they employee does manage to blow up their image you just have to send them a new one on DVD to load up and then restore their files over a secure network.

I know of at least a few organizations experimenting with this today in an official capacity, and plenty that don't realize their employees are using tools like Parallels Transporter and VMWare P2V to convert their corporate PCs into virtual images they run on their Mac or Linux computer.

Down the road, it won't surprise me to see more application virtualization to better mix our work and personal environments while minimizing risk. Google bought GreenBorder Technologies to address just this issue and allow Google applications running in the browser to be better secured against any malicious software running at the time.

I realize plenty of you are cringing at the thought of letting employees pick their own computers and run whatever they want, but through proper use of desktop virtualization we can minimize risk while still attracting the best and brightest. Don't believe me? Just bookmark this page and come back in five or 10 years.

I told you so.

* Rich Mogull as an independent security consultant and the founder of Securosis. He was previously an analyst at Gartner for seven years.

Topics: Storage, CXO, Hardware, Virtualization

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17 comments
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  • Fariy Tales

    If an employee doesn't want to earn his/her paycheck by WORKING when on the company clock they know where the door is and there are 10 people waiting in line for his/her job.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Missing the 10 people though

      This new generation is coming of age right when the last to babyboomers has retired. You won't have 10 people waiting to fill that position. It's already getting difficult today. You have all the fast food places short handed because they can't get workers even by paying double the going rate and offering benefits and such that they never offered before.

      As well you have to consider you have all the Gen X and Y people in the workforce now who will move into fill the vacant management position that used to be held by babyboomers. These two generation have entirely different view points on work than what the babyboomers had.

      So things will change.
      voska
      • Run an ad...

        And see how many responces you get. Trust me, replacing a crap employee is not hard.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • Responses mean little

          If all the response you get can't fill the job requirements. That's pretty much what happens here. Sure we get 80 response but not one is qualified for even an interview let alone offering the job to.
          voska
          • You need a better ad.

            Or someone that knows how to write them. ;-)
            No_Ax_to_Grind
          • It's not the ad

            It's the labor market right now. Shortage of workers everywhere. Basically it's a employees market. Maybe it's different in the US but here there just isn't the workers and about all you can do is poach from other employers.
            voska
        • Also only seem to be getting worse

          What will it be like in 10 years. Going to be tough then for sure.
          voska
    • no fairy tale

      i bookmarked this page 10 years AGO. i already have 10 of my employees who work ("virtually") from home. don't care what they do (watch porn, chat, blah, blah) as long as the work gets done. if it doesn't, THEN they head for the door.

      Rich should have gone deeper in this article--which industries are more appropriately virtualized would have been a good start. widgets (robots) will replace even your mcdonald's burger flipper in the future. anything dealing with the information industry can be virtualized, setting out a floral arrangement for a wedding--work it out on your computer, then ask the millennials to set it up during the hour they take from world of warcraft, or whatever.
      jiagebusen
  • Not all IT is the same

    The story is good, but doesn't differentiate IT use. There's 3 kinds:
    - ERP and basic, generic business processing;
    - Sector/branch/company-specific IT (e.g. banking systems, process-industry IT);
    - Networking systems ('Web2.0'-stuff).

    Those unexperienced with anything like [i]work[/i], think that the 3rd kind that they have gotten used to during their whole life of [i]doing[/i] nothing in particular, is typical of what work is about -- but it isn't. If they prefer to not do any serious work, fire them. If you give them (only) 3rd kind 'productivity' tools, they won't achieve anything near production like what pays their salaries... (If you're in the creative sectors, your 3rd kind sw is actually 2nd kind.)
    Joerie
  • RE: How desktop virtualization will save your company from Generation Y

    Curious how you see this generation as being technology literate. Having the ability to push a mouse button or use a controller to play X-Box hardly constitutes literacy. The media continues to set this bar way too low. What, it makes us feel good in North America to consider ourselves tecnologically literate? The fact is roughly 40% of North Americans are reading functionally illiterate.
    billmullins19461
    • 40%- Someone needs to flip burgers

      Some one needs to flip burgers, clean tables and wait on the other 60%. Not everyone will get a good job. If they don't want to put the work they won't get the good pay. Simple as that really.

      Only problem I see is what if we need 70% literate workers willing to work.
      voska
  • Hey, only one generation left?

    If this is generation Y then all that is left is Z. Does the human race come to an end after that?
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • "Gen Z" would be the millenials... those prior to the 90s would be Y...

      and now, they're not just going on letters, they're going back to actually naming the generations...

      of course, the number of people who buck the definition of their generation is also growing compared to the full size of it...

      and not all of Gen Y is in the workforce yet. much of it has a few years of university/college to go.
      shryko
  • It Works I did it! - (back on topic)

    For some girls in a network I look after, I installed Virtual PC so they could do "other stuff" in their lunch break using the Virtual OS, (With the go ahead of their boss & licensed intalls of course). They are connected to WSUS and managed for viruses. This has proven less costly for me. I just copy back a .vhd file set when it breaks (10 Mins) - rather than before - where I had to rebuild a compromised PC 1 Day. Before condemning this dangerous network - understand that the boss is "Y" enough to understand that co-Y'ers _will_ find a way! So by managing this risk I give him full marks.
    Kind of the reverse of the topic of this story. Virtual for junk - base OS for real work.
    mov ah,06
    rgbalpha
  • They're used to it

    These kids have grown up attending schools that locked down their computers, so the concept is nothing new to them. They may not like it, but they do understand that there are going to be things they can do with their home computers that they can't do with other computers.
    ParrotHeadFL
  • RE: How desktop virtualization will save your company from Generation Y

    Ah yes, the promise of thin clients -- a single point of control -- and a single point of failure, I might add.

    This concept has been around since the early days of Sun Microsystems. IBM stole the idea from Sun and was hawking remote booting of diskless PCs as early as the mid-1980's. Virtualization is just the new watchword but the problem hasn't changed in almost three decades now. BANDWIDTH, BANDWIDTH, BANDWIDTH!

    That aside though, users AND employees need flexibility. Humans want control over their environment and humans value (beyond all else) individuality. Give them secure paths into the tools you want them to use but they will insist on using the tools they want to use to access your tools.

    If you want them to work hard for you, tying them to your desktop eight hours a day will not do the trick. The employer of the Twenty-first Century will allow their employees to telecommute. These employees will use their own devices to establish secure connections to employer resources and they will be available to their employers far more than eight hours per day -- and they will be much happier about it than if they were tied to that damned desk looking at the same boring desktop eight hours per day, day-in and day-out.
    M Wagner
    • Thin clients ... ?

      In what way was the story about thin clients? It was about virtualization, which is strictly about managing THICK clients.
      spamagnet