Posted by: TheTechster
Lotus 1-2-3, VDI, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
The Techster is actually old enough to remember that there was a time when there were no personal computers. IT departments – they were actually called MIS departments, for Management Information Systems – pretty much controlled everything. If you had a computer on your desk it was perhaps an IBM 3270 terminal and it was used for a specific function, controlled by IT. There was no Internet to distract you, no games, no sports scores to check, no video, no nothing. For many in the IT world, this was truly heaven. Absolute, total, unchecked control.
Then in the late 1970s and early 1980s came the personal computer and the beginning of culture wars between IT, representing the Evil Empire, and users, representing peace, love and freedom. Much to the chagrin of IT departments, PCs began springing up in offices on desktops in workgroups in branch offices, and IT began losing control. Personal computing programs, such as Lotus 1-2-3 began empowering users to take control of functions that had traditionally been under the sole domain of the IT department. It was a revolution and, for IT departments, things have never been the same.
And now, 30 years later, comes along this new way of thinking about desktop computing, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, and there’s this retro idea that IT somehow can take back control of the desktop and manage corporate desktops from the data center. Pardon us if we chuckle a bit at the notion. To IT we say: “Be careful what you wish for.” To users we say: “Don’t be too worried about giving up your PCs or your freedom or your independence.” If we learned anything from the old culture wars it’s that user freedom, user power, user independence, will eventually prevail over centralized control and, at best, there will be a compromise. Once the walls came down, they came down for good and they’re not going back up.
Which, of course, is not to say VDI won’t have success. It will. It will have success for a wide range of functions: Data entry, call center reporting, hospital administration, insurance adjusting. Pick an industry and you can pick a specific application or series of applications where VDI will provide an adequate, cost-efficient solution. But there will be limits to IT’s control, even in these environments. There are too many workers who value their freedom – which in today’s world means mobility; the ability to work on the same device from home or the road or the office; the ability to have a device, whether that’s a computer, a smartphone or an iPad, from which they can do work and also check sports scores, or shop, or watch video, or communicate with friends and family through social networks.
The reality is that for these workers, VDI will be a compromise solution, and the compromise will often be right at the area where the culture wars of the past were fought: On the user’s desktop, or, more precisely, on the user’s desktop, laptop, pad, phone or any other device. The idea that everyone will be equipped with some kind of thin work client that will hold all of their work applications and will be controlled fully by the IT department flies in the face of all the evidence that we have gathered over the past 30-plus years. IT will get some more control over certain types of applications – as they did, for example, with local-area networks – but they will have to provide users with wide swaths of freedom and control even in somewhat restricted VDI environments. Otherwise, the culture wars of the past will just be replayed with the same results.
At least that’s what we think. What do you think? Is VDI taking us on a new battleground in a culture war that has already been decided? Please feel free to comment. We’ve only got a few more days doing the VDI Trender blog, so speak soon or forever hold your peace.