What does BYOD Mean to Your Datacenter Strategy?

What does the consumerization of IT have to do with the datacenter? In a word—everything. BYOD policies may be putting your datacenter at risk. A VDI approach to device provisioning can address security and access problems.
Written by John Rhoton, Contributor

When the first iPhones came to market back in the summer of 2007, they changed the way people think about phones. That was the beginning of the smartphone, and today, almost six years later, smartphones are outselling non-feature phones and have become the device of choice. Smartphones have transformed the way people communicate, shop, and work. Smartphones ushered in a trend known as the consumerization of IT, in which corporate-issued client devices were shoved aside and replaced by devices that consumers preferred using, like iPhones, Android phones, and Windows phones.

What does this have to do with the datacenter? In a word—everything.

First of all, it did not take long for smartphones to become primarily data devices rather than voice communication devices. And secondly, as data devices, they have proven to be a highly disruptive force in the enterprise. Now, of course, many people have both a smartphone and a tablet, and they want to use both at work.

Many companies have responded to these rapid changes in mobile technology by adopting “bring your own device” (BYOD) management policies. This can save companies a lot of money because if their employees are buying the smartphones anyway, allowing business use of those devices saves the company from needing to buy them.

It is this “almost anything goes” approach to mobility that causes IT managers to lie awake at night. Suddenly, there is an enormous influx of poorly secured devices that may have access to proprietary or confidential information. If the user is careless with the device, it may be vulnerable to malware or hacking, which could both compromise the enterprise applications and data. It is also very difficult to enforce the secure deletion of any sensitive data should the device be stolen or the employee leave the company.

One approach to mitigate these risks is to manage the clients with a central policy engine. A client management solution, such as Windows Intune, can keep devices up-to-date and secure, providing insight into the PCs on configuration updates, malware protection status, alerts and security policies. Some companies choose to integrate this functionality in a complete configuration management console to also be able to centrally provision the end-user systems and keep them current with the latest platform updates.

A very different way to address the security and access problem is through a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Terminal services (such as Microsoft Remote Desktop Services) allow a server to host multiple, simultaneous client sessions. Virtualization can alleviate device compatibility and security issues by provisioning desktops according to enterprise policies and preventing users from tampering with the settings. A virtual desktop also minimizes the amount of data on the mobile device, considerably reducing the risk of data leakage.

A VDI approach to device provisioning depends heavily on virtualization in the datacenter. So, having good, scalable datacenter strategy that supports direct internet connectivity is key to having a good and effective business mobility strategy. However, the business mobility and datacenter story is not just about managing devices and securing data. That’s just the first step. The fact is, mobile devices create business data, and they are huge consumers of business data. Mobile devices are contributing to, and creating demand for, big data.

In my next post, I will look at how big data is changing the datacenter.

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