Desktop transformation: the end of the monolithic enterprise desktop

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In our shiny new digital world there is no place for the old monolithic desktops of the past. To be successful in their digital transformation, organisations should transform their enterprise desktops first. While server workloads are well managed and well architected, however, the same cannot be said for desktops. Instead we more frequently see situations in which the lack of strategy in desktop delivery leads to increases in both costs and security risks, while at the same time impacting the productivity of users.

At the C-level it is widely accepted that relying on legacy desktop models comes at a high cost, yet the alternative – desktop transformation – is viewed as such a vast, enormous task that the process is usually stalled before it even reaches the proof of concept stage. Instead of looking at this as a technology issue, however, it should be approached as a mindset change. By looking at desktops differently, it becomes possible to first take stock of the situation and then to capitalise on the opportunities that will arise from evolving the desktop strategy to one that is infinitely more achievable.

Why Desktop Transformation?

Desktop transformation goes beyond migrating to any single technology, platform or vendor. It is about more than just virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), remote desktop session host (RDSH), desktop as a service (DaaS), or cloud. Instead, desktop transformation embraces all of these technologies with the mindset of harmonising disparate platforms to work as a single holistic infrastructure.

Imagine a re-engineered workspace that is unencumbered by outdated legacy processes; one that means your desktops are no longer risky and rigid. The ability to enhance user experience at scale, while simultaneously reducing the burden of desktop administrators is reason enough in itself to embark upon desktop transformation. Ultimately, a new workspace that is flexible and decoupled from the limitations of vendor and platform-specific lock-in is the most desirable result in the process we know as desktop transformation.

The Problem Of Monolithic Desktops

To transform, a deep understanding of the various desktop technologies and how they have matured over time is required in order for such re-engineering to take place.  A desktop is comprised of a few very important resources. In legacy constructs, the user persona, user-authored data, applications and the policies that dictate the user experience and security are all interlocked into a monolithic silo, which is closely tied to the device, its operating system (OS) and architecture and is allocated compute resources. This legacy approach inevitably leads to the creation of hundreds of discrete silos into which there is zero visibility. As a result, when these desktops need to be upgraded or migrated to a new OS or platform. It is an expensive undertaking that typically requires the trifecta of specialised scripting, manual effort and additional expertise.

The great irony of monolithic desktops is that while overall processes and strategy usually remain stagnant for many years, there is nevertheless constant churn taking place at the operations level. Applications change, the OS changes, users and user preferences change, stricter policies are introduced and platforms are frequently patched, updated or even replaced. The upshot of this is that desktop administrators actually spend all of their time propping up an inefficient approach when they could be benefitting from a re-engineered environment; and this of course is magnified when you’re running multiple platforms, as many enterprise organisations do.

The unfortunate result is that a great number of organisations choose to stagnate rather than attempt to scale the seemingly insurmountable mountain that is a transformation process or project. The effect is that user experience is negatively affected and when this churn is factored into their desktop strategy, transformation starts looking a lot more attractive.

Handling the Migration Process

To process data and turn it into something useful for the business, workers need certain valuable desktop resources to be available. The importance of keeping workers productive with a good user experience on their desktops cannot be overstated. This leads us to an important step in planning the desktop transformation initiative - deciding how to handle the migration process. The choice to migrate from OS to OS is the ‘norm’ but many organisations neglect to consider how to migrate across platforms. If at this point an organisation chooses to go with a single platform and that platform’s built-in tools, they will inevitably find they are completely locked into the platform and can’t migrate at scale.

By prioritising the persona, apps, data and policy and starting the migration with a process that decouples the persona and user environment management from the device and OS, the savvy CIO can circumvent this problem. 

For all businesses, the best place to start on a desktop transformation project is to inventory and examine the resources and processes already in place. Here, it is important to see if there is a way to simplify and improve upon them and to utilise tools that can help streamline the process and perform the tasks of migration in a risk-free, low impact manner. Next, the core resources need to be elevated and made tangible. It is moreover crucial that the enterprise employ an approach that enables it to consistently secure its people and data; provide policies to deliver and protect that persona, app and data; offer visibility into and optimisation of the user’s experience; and to decouple the core resources from the monolithic desktop. 

Perhaps the greatest advantage of desktop transformation is the manner in which it enables organisations to better utilise new technology when it is released, and to take advantage of lower cost or more secure solutions as they become available. It is always in the enterprise’s best interest to avoid lock-in and to remain as flexible, agile and scalable as possible in order to respond to the constantly changing business demands in today’s dynamic business environment.

Once transformed, an organisation is free to use best-of-breed delivery methods and scale in the management and operation across many delivery methods simultaneously. 

Jason E. Smith, VP of Products at Liquidware 

Image Credit: Louisehoffmann83 / Pixabay