With more than 50 per cent of total workloads now virtualised and a new virtual machine born every six seconds, VMware CEO, Paul Maritz, told attendees at VMworld 2011 that the post-PC era is on the way, and with it will come profound changes for IT management.
Maritz said the change is being driven by the collision of traditional enterprise IT with the growing IT consumerization trend, where users increasingly want the flexibility to work how they want on the device of their choice. It will bring changes in devices, with smart phones and tablets joining traditional PCs as endpoints where business is done. And it will mean major changes for application development and backend systems, as traditional relational databases can't handle the scale of application development and delivery necessary to serve users that will demand real-time analytics.
With cloud computing at its core, Maritz sees three major challenges for IT coming from these trends.
"The first is how do we make it fundamentally more efficient to be able to run that subset of the client server-era apps we can't leave behind and need to keep going for some time, but need to do more efficiently to focus our effort on new and renewed apps," said Maritz.
The second is to serve the demand for real-time information to drive business decisions.
"This can't be done by putting more lipstick on our existing applications," said Maritz.
And third, users expect to be able to choose the device they'll consume these applications on.
"IT can't control the device, that will be driven by the consumer world," said Maritz. "IT needs to deliver applications and service independent of the device."
It's what VMware is calling the "post-PC" era, and it's driving many of the product releases and announcements the vendor made at VMworld. VMware CTO Steve Herrod said a key focus is simplifying management for IT; they need to manage people, he said, not devices.
It's a vision that's finding resonance with McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. The university completed a major VMware deployment 18 months ago and Michael Curwin, manager of information & technology services for the faculty of engineering, said they've committed to no longer deploying traditional desktop computers on campus.
"Right now it's a transitional phase in terms of desktops still being available. But now you can deliver the virtual desktop to a traditional machine, and you also have the option of delivering it to an iPad, or any kind of mobile device that the user chooses as their delivery source," said Curwin. "I do believe strongly that you're going to see the end of desktops very shortly, and we're making a commitment to no longer deploy desktop machines. They just don't make sense financially for us."
Among the new offerings helping drive this vision forward is VMware View 5, the vendor's desktop virtualization and management tool, with promised improvements to bandwidth, support for 3D graphics, unified communications integration and virtual desktop personalization with persona management.
VMware Horizon has also been updated to extend its identity, policy and entitlement engine to virtualized Windows applications and connected mobile workspaces, with a tool for application management and delivery and another to deploy a user's personal virtualized applications to an Android-based device.
Grant Aitken, VMware's area vice-president for Canada, said enterprises should be developing a strategy for what the cloud means for them, and what steps they must take to get there.
"Also, if it's fully internal, external or some combination of the two," said Aitken. "And re-building the necessary elements in their business plan to support that vision. That includes virtualizing as much of their existing app set as they can, as rapidly as they can."
While VMware is working to make the endpoint less of a concern for IT by making it easier to serve a virtualized experience to any device, and the traditional PC may soon be in the minority of Internet-connected devices, the endpoint is far from irrelevant for IT said Michelle Warren, principal analyst with MW Research & Consulting in Toronto.
"The end devices are even more relevant today. The iPad changed the market but tablets have been around for years, and we've had pen-based computing even longer. The change has been in the way we use them," said Warren. "If the end device didn't matter, we'd all have the same thing using it in the same way. And IT will still be expected to support our hardware, no matter what."
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