As You Prepare for VMworld 2014, Educate Yourself On Digital Workspace Technologies

Bill Gates said "People everywhere love Windows.” Whether or not you agree, the fact that Microsoft Windows remains the de facto standard for business productivity after nearly 3 decades, suggests that many still do. But as the sales figures of Microsoft’s competitors suggest, people everywhere love lots of other things too. And one of the reasons they love them so much is that they like to get things done, and sometimes that means getting away from the office to a quiet place, or using a technology that isn’t constrained by corporate policies and controls, so they can be freer to experiment, grow their skills and develop their ideas uninhibited.
 
Technology managers I speak with are aware of this, but they’re justifiably paranoid about security, costs, and complexity. So the result of these conflicting forces coming together is inspiring rapid innovation in a mosaic of technologies that Forrester collectively calls digital workspace delivery systems. It involves many vendors, including Microsoft, Citrix, VMware, Dell, nComputing, Amazon Web Services, Fujitsu, AppSense, Moka5, and more. The goal of our work is to help companies develop their capabilities for delivering satisfying Microsoft Windows desktop and application experiences to a wide range of users, devices, and locations.
 
During Steve Ballmer’s tenure, VMware and Microsoft remained fierce competitors, and last year VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger confirmed for the analyst community attending VMworld that VMware and Microsoft are competitors. Yet, their destinies are closely intertwined because their customers need them to cooperate or their investments in datacenter and desktop virtualization would be at risk. It’s as if the two companies are playing a bizarre round of pattycakes with live ammunition in their pockets, while Citrix and Microsoft dance together at the prom. Perhaps the evolving enterprise Windows desktop can help them all find more common ground.
 
The era of the modern digital workspace is here, and Citrix made several new announcements this week (here, here and here), ahead of VMware’s annual VMworld event in San Francisco next week, where we’re expecting more announcements as their portfolio continues to take shape. Until Sanjay Poonen took the helm of the End User Computing business, VMware was a one-trick pony in enterprise-class digital workspaces with all of their eggs in the Horizon View basket (server-hosted virtual desktops), while Workstation and Fusion (local virtual desktops) were aimed at consumers, and they distracted themselves for too long with smartphone hypervisors. I guess when you have a hammer (or a hypervisor), everything looks like a nail. But things are looking up.
 
Speaking of hammers, server-hosted virtual desktops (VDI) are just one hammer in the digital workspace technology toolbox, but many I&O pros who inquire with me about it (understandably) confuse it with other types of digital workspace technologies like desktops-as-a-service (e.g. VMware Horizon DaaS), local virtual desktops (e.g. Moka5) and session-based desktops (e.g. Citrix XenApp). While they all offer workers Windows-based desktop environments, they’re very different technologies with different implications for how they’re managed, their cost, and their fit for a given set of needs. It doesn’t help that they all claim to have the same virtues for improving security, enabling BYOD and mobility, and simplifying manageability.
 
If you’re planning to attend VMworld or follow the announcements and are especially interested VMware’s end user computing strategy, now is a good time to educate yourself about the various forms of digital workspace delivery technologies on the market, which ones are being adopted more in 2014 and why, which vendors offer them, and which ones match the needs of your workforce the best. Forrester has two reports specifically intended to help:
 
 
Watch this space and my twitter feed (@david_kjohnson) for insights following VMware’s announcements next week. We expect VMware to continue to grow the end user computing business through acquisition and clever integrated "marketecture", while re-molding some of their existing products to be more enterprise-ready. Overall, VMware is finally on the right path for end user computing, but buyers should ask hard questions about integration, and the efficacy of some of the newer capabilities in the Horizon product portfolio for their needs.

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