IT 'consumerization' poses challenges to CIOs

perspective As socio-economic factors are driving the demand for desktop virtualization, CIOs have to make changes if they are to stay ahead of the game.
Written by Brian Higgins, Contributor

perspective One of the greatest changes revolutionizing the way organizations today do business is an increasingly mobile and diverse user base with significantly different computing requirements.

Not only are more people working from their homes and from branch offices across different countries, the global talent pool is growing like wildfire.

This first instalment of a three-part series on virtualization looks at how socio-economic factors are driving the demand for desktop virtualization.

The role of the office worker has changed drastically--shifting to the strategic from the tactical, growing in size and expanding in scope. This change brings with it the critical need for a growing population of an organization's workforce to have reliable and secure access to information anytime and anywhere.

That, in turn, requires a new approach to an old challenge for the IT organization: resolving the conflict between providing a computing infrastructure that facilitates endpoint access to enterprise information, and providing a high degree of security. This is because the infrastructure is today accessed by more users and therefore exposed to more security risks and threats.

While enterprises already have trouble managing their information, securing their intellectual property and complying with regulations, globalization has now made this difficult task even more challenging. Globally distributed and virtually disrupted applications in this dispersed environment have created a lack of visibility, which is in turn driving up costs for enterprises.

Consolidation only adds to this headache of creating successful synergies between hundreds of applications.

Finally, with the technology-savvy Echo Generation (babies of the Baby Boomer Generation) quickly infiltrating the workforce, and with their desire to control their own computing experience, the dynamics of the enterprise are destined for a great rebirth.

With these mammoth changes going on, IT executives are faced with the enormous challenge of increasing user productivity and at the same time reducing the cost of delivering business applications and desktops to the users. A number of changes in the business landscape are further fuelling the conflict, complicating the IT challenge, notably:

  • A diverse and expanding set of computing endpoint technologies are continually being introduced, now requiring the capabilities to accommodate intelligent devices, such as, PCs, laptops, tablets, PDAs, kiosks, smart phones and IP phones.
  • The Internet has taken remote access and interactivity to new levels of sophistication, and now remote access is thought of as individual access rather than site-to-site access.
  • Corporate environments are facing tighter fiscal and regulatory compliance constraints. They now require new infrastructure investments to mitigate security vulnerabilities that could be considered compliance risks. For example, augmenting authentication and authorization, centralizing security policy configuration and management, or integrating faster with future Web applications.
  • The workplace has become increasingly dependent on richer forms of computing and communication technologies. In contrast to the past when many users could perform their job without access to technology, today, even brief periods of disconnection mean unproductive workers.
  • Driven by cell phones, BlackBerry devices, WiFi hotspots and home broadband, people increasingly expect to be connected all the time. Computing no longer is a destination task, but rather something that is done continually, as needed--this means technologies that can be brought with workers to their cubicle, a meeting room, their home or a coffee shop.

User preference to drive corporate IT purchases
It is without doubt that technology is no longer just a corporate matter. Today, it is not corporate users, but consumers and their expanding use models, that are driving the demand for new technology.

Compelling new technologies and devices for consumers work their way into corporate environments. This shift to grassroots technology adoption is challenging IT organizations that are often caught by surprise and must learn to identify and support new technologies.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the end users' preferences will decide as much as half of all software, hardware and services acquisitions made by IT.

To keep up with the changing times, CIOs and IT policies need to become more flexible to embrace the "consumerization" of IT.

We are now beginning to witness a movement towards organizations encouraging employees to bring their own laptops, as well as the service contracts that go with them. Additionally, organizations are introducing guest networks to accommodate non-standard PC connectivity to those visiting their companies. This trend towards consumerization poses serious challenges that cannot be ignored.

Risks of unmanaged technology decisions are fast becoming apparent as IT organizations struggle to shut down user-introduced technologies or to accommodate them in a secure and predictable fashion.

There is therefore a need for technology that meets consumers' and CIO's objectives mid-way. Such technology rules out traditional desktop deployments that can be costly to manage, support and secure on distributed PCs, especially in the highly heterogeneous consumerized IT environment. This technology identifies the best way to quickly deliver Windows desktops securely to office workers in any location, over any network, while enhancing productivity and maintaining consistency in user experience.

Nothing suits business and consumer requirements better than virtualizing desktops: a technology that enables IT organizations to provision two images for corporate laptops and desktops. The corporate standard image is locked down from changes and the user image enables the user to modify it at will without affecting the corporate image.

As the demand for desktop virtualization picks up, CIOs will now have to make a choice between becoming flexible by accommodating user preferences and staying competitive through attracting and retaining talent, or continue to remain uptight by implementing inflexible IT policies and eventually lose the competitive edge.

Brian Higgins is Pacific channels director for Citrix Systems, and is responsible for driving the company's channel strategy and partner engagement for the region. This is the first of a three-part series on virtualization.

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