Did Brian Maddenmake a valid point about VDI and desktop virtualization that most people missed?  

Brian discussed a VDI€‰challenge, user-installed applications, which was in response to a desktop virtualization postI recently wrote about the same topic. Brian’s premise was that each user needs to be able to install their own applications and should be allocated 2 virtual desktops:

  1. First one locked down by IT
  2. Second one is open where users would have full control

When I first read this I thought, well yes that would work but talk about a nightmare situation.  Many of the comments posted were extremely funny and I encourage you to read them (especially the one that said “Steve Ballmer must be smiling”). But seriously, if you think about what Brian is saying, it does have validity, if done correctly.

Sure there are tools/solutions that can allow users to install their own applications but we should not open the flood-gates and allow users to install whatever they desire. Not only are you looking at a management nightmare, but you are also looking at security risks, legal risks, and productivity risks.  What I can see happening is an environment that is suited to what the user needs. Something like the following…

  1. Each user gets their IT-delivered desktop that includes all known corporate applications.  These applications are delivered into the desktop either through installation, streaming or hosting.  Users will inevitably try to install apps/plugins/tools into the corporate-delivered desktop.  The app will work until the user reboots (assuming shared image mode).  Once rebooted, the app is gone and the cycle starts again.  If the application is a new business requirement, there must be an IT process in place where users can request a new application. IT must have SLA’s in place that allows them to assess the validity of the request, profile the application and deliver it to the virtual desktop in a timely manner (a few days to a week). Until the application is ready for delivery by IT, the user can continue to install or request a second virtual desktop (step 2 below).
  2. Each user has the “ability” to self-service a second virtual desktop that can be used as a “playground”.  Many power users have a need to install, test, evaluate different tools to make their jobs easier. Most users only need these applications for a few days or weeks, at least until a project is complete. Other users only need the application until IT is able to properly deliver the application into their corporate-delivered desktop.   This is where a second virtual desktop, i.e. a self-service desktop, could be requested. This is something like Brian recommended, 2 desktops. But the second desktop is only used if it is needed and requested through a self-service process. Of course because IT does not know what users will do to this desktop, proper security precautions must be taken into account.  With this option, users would have the ability to:
    1. Select the OS
    2. Select the life of the desktop (days, weeks or months)
    3. In the background, workflows are initiated that creates a new desktop, assign it to the user, and allow changes to be stored within the writable, user image.  When the timeframe expires, the desktop is deleted from existence.  

This option solves many of the challenges users experience in a virtual desktop world.  How to install temporary applications. How to use a new business application until IT is able to assess and deliver it properly.  

The point is that we must understand the users and their needs.  Most users can get along perfectly well with the applications delivered from IT.  But a sizeable portion of the user group needs autonomy, freedom, experimentation… A Playground. The one size desktop does not fit all.  Some user’s might have two different desktops, others only 1.  We need to change the way we think about delivering desktops to users.  And in order to meet user expectations, we need systems (technical and process oriented) in place that can accommodate the users in a timely manner.

Daniel – Lead Architect – Worldwide Consulting Solutions