NVIDIA's VGX: Traction Control for Hosted Virtual Desktops

Driving in the snow is an experience normally reserved for those of us denizens of the northern climes who haven't yet figured out how to make a paycheck mixing Mai Tais in the Caymans. Behind the wheel in the snow, everything happens a little slower. Turn the wheel above 30 on the speedo and it could be a second or two before the car responds, and you'll overshoot the turn and take out the neighbor's shrubs.

Hosted Virtual Desktops are a bit like driving in the snow. Every link in the chain between the data on a hard drive in the datacenter and the pixels on the user's screen introduces a delay that the user perceives as lag, and the laws of physics apply. Too much lag or too much snow and it's hard to get anywhere, as citizens of Anchorage, Alaska after this years' record snowfalls, or anyone trying to use a hosted virtual desktop half a world away from the server will testify.

NVIDIA Brings Gaming Know-How to HVD
Last week I spent a day with NVIDIA's soft-spoken, enthusiastic CEO, Jensen Huang who put the whole latency issue for VDI into a practical perspective (thanks Jensen). These days, he says, home game consoles run about 100-150 milliseconds from the time a player hits the fire button to the time they see their plasma cannon blast away an opponent on the screen. For comparison, the blink of an eye is 200-400 milliseconds, and the best gamers can react to things they see on screen as fast as 50 milliseconds.

Latency in HVD is a Killer

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Employees Are Shelling Out Big Bucks To Ditch IT

The term "individual contributor" covers a lot of ground -- from brain surgeon to the shipping and receiving clerk at your local Wal-Mart. I'm not sure which of these two is a better fit for a virtual desktop, or which one has a Mac at home, but I do know that the individual contributors who spent their own money on technology last year to do their jobs, shelled out $1,252.60 on hardware alone, and another $556.90 on software. That's a heap o' cash.

When we asked them why they spent the money, 42% said it was something they use in their personal lives that they wanted to use for work. Another 27% said their own equipment is better than what their companies provide (presumably CT scanners, portable defibrillators and Sony PSPs can be ruled out). How do their companies feel about them using their own devices and software? 48% said their firms would either not approve, or make them stop using it.

Of course we know the usual reasons why: Security and company policy, and the "benefits" of centralized IT and shared services, among others. I don't know about you, but I always found "shared services" to be a bit of a sham. You know how it works: the VP with the biggest, high-profile project gets all of the services, and the rest of the plebes get to "share" the table scraps. Want a copy of Microsoft Project or a new laptop for that customer service rep who starts next week? Sorry…Steve's program is using all of the Project licenses, and all we have left in the closet is Pentium II desktops…but they have ergonomic keyboards!

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Dell Gets Thin: Words to the Wyse

On the night of his 18th birthday, Gregg Allman drew a bull's-eye on his shoe, then shot himself in the foot to avoid the draft. If next week, Forrester's IT department declared that I should be expecting a box with a thin client PC at my desk, and I would be expected to use it instead of my MacBook Air for work, I'd be drawing a bull's-eye but not on my shoe. It would be on the box.

I suspect most road warriors and office workers alike would feel the same way. Ever try to go to a meeting in a conference room with a thin client? It's bolted to your desk. As long as all of the information you ever need for meetings is crammed between your eustachian tubes, you're good to go. If however you're like the rest of us, there are benefits to taking your computer (and applications and data) with you, like showing more than one other person what you've been working on.

That's where client virtualization (as opposed to simply VDI) comes in, and it's in this context that Dell's acquisition of Wyse makes some sense. Wyse makes thin and zero clients, as most of us hopefully know, and surely not by pure coincidence…so does HP. But thin clients as a standalone tool for most of us, is a non-starter. But as part of a mosaic of virtualization technologies that taken together offer me my work environment no matter where I am, have potential.

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Are Macs Vulnerable? Wrong Question.

The misinformation and rhetoric surrounding the recent discovery of the Flashback trojan for Macs is vehement, and says more about the historically stable state of Mac security, and the irrational way many think about it than it reveals about its weaknesses. Even long-time industry observers, who should know better, are jumping into the fray to say: See! I told you so! The Mac is vulnerable! Well…duh…that's not exactly news, folks.

Of course the Mac is vulnerable. EVERY internet connected device is vulnerable. What matters is probability, frequency and potential impact. So the correct question then, is whether or not your prevention, detection and recovery mechanisms are effective. For example, I'm not convinced that traditional anti-virus approaches are right for the Mac. The track record of these tools in the Windows world is abysmal in my view. They're among the most intrusive technologies  to the user - hogging system resources and making even basic tasks impossible as they inspect every file, every day, often several times a day. And…they're reactive. Think: death by a thousand papercuts over a period of years, only to be interrupted by a rare strain of encephalitis, followed by a partial lobotomy and organ transplant to get the patient breathing again, and you're in the ballpark. Application whitelisting will hopefully come to be seen as a better approach.

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End Users: Should We Put Them In Padded Cells?

If you're an I&O professional, what comes to mind when you say "end user"? If you're like most of us, your mind has a conjured-up impression of a cosmically clueless person who actually gave you a hard time once, and the picture is now your mind's own avatar for everyone you support. It's not usually a positive image, is it? I used to picture a middle-aged, BMW-driving executive with his hair parted on one side wearing an LL Bean sweater, probably an Ivy-league grad, who couldn't be bothered to actually take responsibility for his own personal computing destiny…he always had servants to take care of trivialities…and hence he was ruining my day with his incompetence. Let's call him Ascot Rothschild III.

An image like that is a powerful thing, and the painful memory of this individual's willful, arrogant ignorance then pervades our future thinking about what we're up against when we set IT policy like BYOC. Ascot becomes the poster child - in our minds anyway - for every garden-variety corporate doofus that we'll have to deal with if we give people any more rope than we already do. They also give us plenty of reasons to take more rope away. In my case, I used to sit on a helpdesk for Remedy customers, and my team had a collection of "special" customers we wondered how they managed to get dressed and find their car keys in the morning. As I later designed Remedy and Peregrine applications, I did so with these "edge cases" in mind.

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Windows 8: Think You Can Skip It? Think Again.

My colleague Benjamin Gray and I have been looking closely at Windows 8 for the past several months to make sure we have a clear understanding of what it means for I&O organizations, leaders, and professionals. We have been briefed in depth by Microsoft executives, program managers, and engineers. We have downloaded, installed, and used the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, and we have had hundreds of conversations with I&O professionals in the past year on Windows 7 (and now Windows 8) adoption — from those looking for guidance, as well as those with strong opinions already formed. As you might expect, we have formed some opinions of our own.

For those who haven't talked with Ben Gray, he is a fantastic authority on Windows adoption trends with complete mastery of the data. He has closely watched Windows Vista, Windows 7, and now Windows 8 go through the cycles of preparation, migration, adoption, and operation. Ben was the first at Forrester to point out that Windows 8 is an "off-cycle release," coming too soon on the heels of Windows 7 for companies to be ready to adopt it. He and I authored a document on Windows adoption trends for 2012, which will be published shortly and provides additional data and context. Ben has also dissected the Forrsights Workforce Employee survey data in dozens of ways, and he delivers a fantastic presentation for Forrester customers on what he's learned.

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BMC Acquires Numara Software In A Mid-Market Makeover: What It Means For Customers

BMC has a golden opportunity to take a different track with Numara than it has for past mid-market acquisitions (see Magic Solutions), and it must do so if it hopes to build on this one and drive new revenue for the long haul. Numara enjoys a massive installed base of customers with its Track-It and Footprints product lines in the small and mid-market. They have been hard at work rounding out their portfolio to include Client Management (software management, systems management, and OS management), and other areas. Numara has been on a journey to re-invent itself and has been succeeding. Further, we believe that the culture of the Numara organization and BMC's will align well, as long as Numara is given the autonomy and investment they need to grow their portfolio and momentum in the field.

BMC Will Need Time To Work
Numara customers should expect relatively little change in daily operations for the first few months, as BMC aligns the organizations. If history is a reliable guide, BMC will typically give a larger acquisition such as this the opportunity to remain mostly intact, and inject key people and processes to help align the acquired organization with the BMC culture and ways of doing business. If this holds true for Numara, customers should see it as a positive step.

Get Clear Direction From BMC In Areas Of Overlap

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New Year's Resolution for I&O Professionals: Lead Consumerization From The Front

Step into my office, fellow I&O professional, and join me on a brief but rich journey of imagination. Imagine you're a business jet sales sales rep. Now imagine that this morning you went to the garage where you keep your company car and for the second time in a month, the key fob won't open the doors and you have no other way in. You have a big airplane deal on the table with the head of an investment bank in the city in 1 hour, and it's a 50 minute drive. Just then…as if to mock your dilemma…a voice from the car says "I'm sorry Dave, you do not have access to this car. Would you like to request access from the car's owner?" "IT'S MY CAR", you shout! You think of your boss and what she's going to say: "You should have allowed more time, Dave. Remember, YOU are responsible for your quota. Everyone has the same challenges. It's up to YOU to think ahead."

After an hour, the door unlocks and the car's voice apologizes. "I'm very sorry for the inconvenience, Dave. The motor pool coordinator forgot to add your name to the list of sales reps with company cars after the sales re-org last week. It has been fixed now." $%&#! you yell. You missed the client meeting and the deal, and you will also now miss your quota. To make sure it NEVER happens again, you start making other transportation arrangements. In fact, you think the new Land Rover Evoque fits your style and perhaps you don't need the company car after all. You're being paid on results, and excuses -- no matter how legitimate -- don't count.

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Meet Jamie - A HERO With The Power To Force Change

7:30 AM, on Monday, December 5th, 2011, flight 1052. As I took my seat in Southwest Airlines' "Business Class," otherwise known as the exit row, I gave a nod to my new seat mate and noticed his MacBook on the tray table. He was reading something on his iPad and set it down for a second to send a text message from his iPhone. Now there's a Kool-Aid connoisseur, I thought. "Going to Salt Lake or beyond?" I asked. "Salt Lake. Gotta visit some customers, and after that I have to go to Boise to train our western region sales team."

And so the conversation began. I learned that his name is Jamie, he is in sales, travels every week, loves his job and his company, and is the top sales performer. $3M in quota last year and his secret sauce is knowing his customers' businesses better than they do, and delivering value with every interaction. He said, "Last week I had a meeting with a new prospect for the first time, and they couldn't believe I showed up without slides, and we spent the meeting talking about their situation instead of throwing up all over them about what we do."  Jamie is a HERO. His world revolves around delivering customer value, and he has neither the time nor the patience for anything that gets in the way.

Naturally, I asked him some questions about his MacBook Air and the applications he uses. His answers, while fascinating, echo what I hear from many others like him:

Q: How do you like your MacBook Air?
A: I love it.
Q: Does your company issue those or is that one yours?
A: Hell no! It's mine! They gave me a huge Dell.
Q: Where is it?
A: It's in the closet at home, still in the bag.
Q: Does your company support the Mac?

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HP Folio Ultrabook: A Happy Meal For The Road Warrior

Enterprise laptops are on the shopping list for many I&O professionals I speak with every week, with some asking if Netbooks are the antidote to the MacBook Air for their people. Well, on the menu of enterprise laptops, I think of Netbooks as an appetizer -- inexpensive, but after an hour my stomach is growling again. Garden-variety ultraportables on the other hand are like a turkey sandwich -- everything I need to keep me going, but they make me sleepy halfway through the afternoon.

Ultrabooks are a new class of notebook promoted by Intel and are supposed to be a little more like caviar and champagne -- light and powerful, but served on business-class china with real silverware and espresso. At least that's what I took away after being briefed by Intel on the topic. I had the chance to sample HP's new Ultrabook fare in San Francisco a few weeks ago while they were still in the test kitchen, and it seems they took a little different approach. Not bad, just different.

It struck me that rather than beluga and Dom Perignon , HP has created more of a Happy Meal -- a tasty cheeseburger and small fries with a Diet Coke, in a lightweight, easy to carry package for a bargain price. It has everything the road warrior needs to get things done, and like a Happy Meal, they can carry it on the plane and set it on the tray table…even if the clown in front of them reclines. Folio offers the Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB RAM, a 13.3" LED display and a 128GB SSD storage, a 9-hour battery and USB 3.0 + Ethernet ports as highlights, all for $900. It's a true bargain. I think I will call it the McUltrabook.

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