Desktop virtualisation may solve corporate data challenge but success relies on project clarity

By David Bicknell

I recently read a blog by Clarence Villanueva which made the worthy point that although many organisations now have smartphones and iPads, they still need to get corporate data on them.

Recent surveys  have suggested that 27% of companies support the iPad today, while another 31% plan to support it in the future. As Villanueva points out, as organisations begin to support connected devices such as iPads and smartphones, they will want to connect them to their enterprise data and applications. One solution for achieving that is desktop virtualisation.

According to Villanueva’s blog,  desktop virtualisation is an option because:

  • It facilitates employee access to enterprise data and applications from any platform-neutral device.
  • Certain solutions allow you to convert your existing laptops/desktops into thin clients, enabling you to lengthen the life cycles of the equipment, and
  • Patch management and updates are controlled more effectively, potentially lowering internal management costs.

The problem, as the blog points out, is that many organisations don’t know where to start on desktop virtualisation. And that hints  at some IT project problems further down the line, because solicitation of information from suppliers is messy.

As the blog says, “As companies reach out to these vendors, Forrester sees that incomplete information is shared and/or project goals are unclear, which results in confusion to the vendor and multiple rounds of questions and answers.

“One of the ways to overcome this challenge is to focus on internal collaboration and organise yourself before going out to market. The transformation of the desktop from the traditional status quo to a virtualised environment is complicated — it requires the collaboration of a variety of people. Desktop virtualisation  projects affect a multitude of business and IT areas….successful projects enlist the help of companies’ internal desktop management, networking, storage, security, and software licensing professionals for a unified solution.”

One organisation that seems to be making some headway on desktop virtualisation by knowing where it is headed is National Air Traffic Services (NATS).

The company recently gave a presentation on its move to a virtualised desktop environment as part of a business growth strategy that will see it target new international regions, new services and partners, and involve it in possible merger and acquisition activity.

NATS believes adopting desktop virtualisation will give it the ability to, according to Gavin Walker, its head of information solutions, “..scale at a fast pace….a key requirement.” 

NATS has 6000 employees, including operational. technical and general office workers who all have different user profiles in their use of IT. Many of them work across multiple sites, which is why NATS wants to have remote access to the corporate network from anywhere at any time.

It also wants to use the Cloud to enable it to scale as and when required and to adopt role-based computing with integrated identity management to help it deploy services and applications based on user profiling to improve the users’ experiences.

NATS says it has now completed the planning and discovery of the desktop virtualisation project, and by working with a virtualisation company, Point to Point,  now has a scaled down version of the desktop virtualisation system with Office 2010. The version, dubbed ‘Springboard’ has been rolled out to 100 people across the organisation, including NATS’ chief executive Richard Deakin and his executive team.

“Getting stakeholder investment can be a challenge as IT is seen to be taking money away from tbe bottom line,” says Walker. “Springboard helped us to demonstrate immediate results and provided an indication of what the system would be able to do once in place. This really is a change management programme supported by technology.”

Other Links

Computer Weekly: NATS delivers Office 2010, Visio and MS Project on virtual desktops

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