The New Application Paradigm — Is the PC Still The Center of the Universe?
For roughly 1500 years it was believed that the Earth was the center of the universe. Copernicus wrote a paper in 1532, which would not be published until several years following his death, which argued that the planets in fact revolved around the sun. Copernicus’ ideas were still being attacked as heresy by the fixtures of society and the scientific community when Galileo introduced new evidence from his telescope in the early 1600’s.
Galileo would be mocked and worse for his defense of Copernican theory and would spend the final years of his life under arrest. It would take decades and some work by Issac Newton before the idea that the planets revolved around the sun would slowly begin to gain acceptance. The Catholic Church would continue to prohibit publications which embraced Copernican theory until 1758.
I went into a bit more historical detail than was necessary, but one key point from above is that humans (and human systems) can be remarkably slow and adverse to change. In the 1980’s the PC became the center of the application universe, and in many ways it has been for some time. But then came along a wave of disruptive technologies – first the internet, then wireless networking, smart phones and tablet devices.
Virtualization of course is abstracting workloads from the physical server hardware (and I can’t type this without mentioning Nicholas Weaver’s excellent vMotion over XBOX Kinect demo). Today what we are seeing is the abstraction of applications from the PC. As long as the PC hosted our applications, it was the center of the universe. But now those applications are moving to smartphones, tablets, thin clients, and even web browsers (HTML5). The application is what really matters and many applications are now available on mobile platforms, empowering the user even when they are not near a PC.
IT shops which traditionally sought tight control over the platforms hosting their client applications (PCs) and would often assign policy to those devices. Now the enterprise must face a new paradigm of smartphones and tablets – many of them purchased by the employee. The enterprise now much manage USERS (think identity management) who will seek to access managed applications from unmanaged devices.
Much was announced at VMworld just a few weeks ago, and I wanted to review some of the announcements that follow in this new paradigm, some of which may I may go into greater detail in future posts.
VMware View 5
VMware View is VMware’s Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solution which runs on top of vSphere. It enables the presentation of a full and rich desktop hosted on vSphere, to a variety of thin clients, tablets and more.
According to some reports, VMWare View had about 40% of the VDI market share before View 5 was announced. One of the biggest differentiators in the past, was that VMware View’s PCoIP protocol was not as efficient as Citrix ICA for example. In the View 5 release, the PCoIP protocol has been significantly improved, allowing for much improved WAN and high speed (i.e. video) performance.
You can view the rest of this slide set which was presented at VMworld here.
Now in a tweet I had said at one point that “ICA has no protocol advantage” which was me trying to make a point in just a few characters. Now that I have more characters to work with, what I really meant to say is that the protocol was a huge differentiator in the past, and in View 5 this gap is a lot less significant. I’ve worked with ICA since Winframe 1.6 and it indeed it is a very powerful and rich protocol, but with the performance improvements now introduced in View 5, many these protocol differences just aren’t as significant as they used to be in my opinion.
VMware View 5 also has excellent integration with vSphere and has gone a long way to simplify the number of steps and time that is required for administration and provisioning, while offering new persona management capabilities. For many reasons, I see big potential for growth in the VDI space, and I think that VMWare View will continue to be a rising force within that space. Here’s a video from Chad Sakac discussing his 5 favorite new features of VMware View 5:
Also on Brian Madden’s blog, you can find a video exploring the new persona management capabilities in View 5
VMWare Horizon App Manager
If you have a tablet or smartphone chances are that you’ve got access to some sort of app store from which you can peruse and purchase apps for your device. But what if your enterprise wants to make sure you have access to both your SaaS and in-house applications – and quickly available for new hires?
VMware Horizon integrates application management and identify management to enable users to access a portal and quickly access applications which they are entitled to. Combined with VMware ThinApp technology applications are quickly made available to the end user’s workstation in a seamless manner. See the following video for an example:
VMware Horizon Mobile – Extending The Enterprise App Store
Now what if we could extend the Horizon concept above to mobile devices even further? Employees are bringing in their own mobile devices – how do we manage these devices and extend the concept of the enterprise app store to them?
VMware is doing several things here. First they use virtualization and encryption on your phone (yes – on your phone) to create a workspace that the enterprise can have some control over. Then they leverage the Horizon capabilities to make enterprise applications (SaaS or internally hosted) available on your mobile device.
Here’s a brief video demo of VMware Horizon Mobile:
Most people who have mobile devices have encountered a common problem – “How do I get the files I want from any of my devices at any time?” There’s several services that offer such functionality today, including DropBox. VMware’s Project Octopus intends to take this concept a step further by adding rich social and security elements. Here’s a preview of Project Octopus:
While Project Octopus is not available yet, you can sign up here to be notified when it is ready.
Above we’ve covered different ways of delivering applications to mobile devices, ranging from VDI to ThinApp and others. Imagine if it were possible to deliver any Windows, Mac or Linux application over a web browser. Yes, you read that right. Using the power of HTML5, VMware has created AppBlast — offering users the ability to run applications from any HTML5 complaint web browser. Imaging being able to run a Windows application on your Mac via a web browser, or vice versa! And since most tablets and smartphones suport HTML5, these platforms can be instant clients without having to install any software!
Perhaps the best way to explain AppBlast is to show a couple video demos:
Applications Are the Center of the Universe
Untethering applications from the PC platform and liberating them onto mobile platforms while facilitating policy and expedited deployment can go a long way to improving productivity in any organization. But as we noted in the first paragraph, it took decades after Copernicus and Galileo showed us the way, before it would actually be embraced. Our human nature is to resist change — and human systems can taken even longer.
We know how to purchase PC’s by the pallet and roll out a huge desktop refresh — we’ve become very comfortable in this process and so we keep doing what we know how to do. But mobile platforms are a huge disruptive technology that has the potential to introduce paradigm shifts in productivity as well as solve other IT problems.
Change is rarely easy, but those that see the potential and pursue it will be the first to unlock these benefits for their advantage. The tools to make this happen are becoming available.