Virtualization has yet to do for the desktop what it did for central servers in the data center. That is, it hasn't overturned the established way of doing things, where everyone has their own piece of hardware, with much of their daily software use occurring on that hardware.
Yet, a survey conducted by the virtualization market leader, VMware, concludes that businesses would be better off if individual desktops were converted into "digital workspaces." That's not too surprising. VMware, with 500,000 virtualization customers, is among the few vendors that can field a suite of products intended to virtualize the user workspace and make it part of the greater data center.
But VMware isn't the only one interested in digital workspace conversion. Microsoft has partnered with Citrix, with its XenApp, Xen Desktop and Xen Mobile suite of virtualization tools, to integrate them as virtual workspaces working with the Azure cloud. VMware has gone out of its way to make sure its digital workspace, Workspace One, connects with Microsoft's online Office 365. Amazon Web Services has also offered virtualized workspaces as a cloud service since November 2013.
Some observers think workspaces will inevitably be virtualized as one of the few ways they can be available from different devices and different locations 24 hours a day and become more secure. A digital workspace also offers the attractive opportunity of implementing single sign-on for end users followed by access to a rich array of application resources.
But one of the biggest gains appears to be the digital workspace's ability to be accessed by smart phones, tablets, and road warriors' netbooks and laptops or other mobile devices. Digitizing the workspace produces advantages if it only affects stationary desk-side or desktop computers, producing a 100% return on investment in one year. But the biggest return comes from digitized workspaces that connect to mobile systems.
Those who undertake mobile initiatives with the digitization of the workspace, the return on investment can be much higher: the payback comes within half a year, an ROI of 200%, according to the VMware survey of 1,263 business decision makers conducted in July 2016. The resulting report, The State of the Digital Workspace, was released Jan. 11.
Want to see how important management of mobile devices is in the VMware scheme of things? Read VMware 2Q Results Show Uptick In NSX, Mobile Management Adoption.
Because a digital workspace can be reached from an Android, iPhone or Samsung smart phone, it allows employees a freer means of connection and communication of ideas, feedback and formulation of the next step in taking on the competition.
VMware can equip customers with a suite of virtual desktop infrastructure products as the basis for formulating digital workspace. Its Horizon Air system is meant to enable mobile services on the virtual desktop. It also offers Workspace ONE, its unifying workspace for multiple mobile devices.
Forty-one percent of the IT and business decision makers surveyed said digital workspaces reduced end user management costs on a year by year basis after implementation. Thirty percent said they did not, as shown in this graphic summary of the report.
But even among some of those who saw no cost savings, a portion of them saw operational gains. Fifty-three percent saw gains in the operational effectiveness of their mobile workforce and 48% saw improved revenue streams emanating from workspace digitization. Fifty-two percent claimed an improved perception of and satisfaction with IT as a result of workspace digitization, the report said.
Forty-five percent thought identity management worked better and reduced exposures with the centralized management of digital workspaces versus identity management working with physical desktops. Thirty-seven percent said identity management systems were essential to the operation of digital workspaces.
Among other things, VMware as the conductor of the survey is also a supplier of an identity management system, so it's less than surprising the results support some of its product offerings. At the same time, the survey is one of the few, early measures of the satisfaction customers are finding with digital workspaces.
The survey reflects solid levels of satisfaction on digital workspace security, identity management and mobile employee productivity. If correct, they give IT managers who have resisted the move or debated its value points on which they may either continue to debate or reconsider.
The full report is available for download at the end of this VMware blog here.Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive ... View Full Bio