BYOD's impact on the data center

Scott Lowe doesn't see the trend of users bringing their own devices to work changing any time soon. Here are some things you need to anticipate as you make adjustments in the data center.

Much has been written about the significant impact that Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives have or will have on IT departments. CIOs and the help desk need to embrace this reality. On the CIO side, some control needs to be returned to the users as they bring devices into the organization. Obviously, the CIO needs to create and enforce guidelines to such usage, but BYOD is coming whether you want it or not.

In concert with whatever guidelines are put into place, the IT help desk needs to be prepared to support devices differently than in the past. The time may have already come when the company no longer controls the entire hardware and software stack. Instead, the organization needs to adjust to new methods of delivery and may, for some users, retain control of the entire stack and for others, control just a portion.

It's not just the policy-writing CIO and the support-minded help desk that's impacted, either. All of this means big changes in the data center, too. When organizations controlled the entire stack, the data center's role was generally limited to that of a primary file repository so that people wouldn't save files on an unprotected desktop computer; instead, user documents would be stored on a file server in the data center. Further, company-controlled machines may have been considered "trusted" entities by some organizations. This trust relationship may have led to somewhat lax physical and logical separation between the desktop environment and the servers.

All that has to change. Here are some of the ways that the data center will be affected by BYOD:

  • In addition to being a user document repository, the data center may take on new responsibilities, such as provisioning VDI-based desktops.
  • Servers to support application virtualization, VDI and other "hardware stack replacement" technologies may wind and wend their way into the data center.
  • A new and changed focus on security will need to be addressed. Now, the company will actively use what can be considered "hostile" devices from a network security point of view. If there weren't clear security mechanisms in place before, BYOD will force the issue. Think of it like this: You wouldn't put your servers on the Internet without a firewall protecting them. With BYOD, you need to do the same thing for your internal servers, if you're not doing it already. Expose only the services that are necessary for users to be able to perform their duties.
  • Common remote access needs will become absolute requirements even on different platforms. Think about such options as the VMware View or Citrix Receiver clients servers here.

In many ways, BYOD can be good for the organization and good for the IT department. The organization can experiment with new technologies more easily and, if done right, the whole initiative can save IT time and allow them to refocus efforts elsewhere. BYOD will necessarily shift the support burden from having to address the whole hardware/software gap to an application-driven focus.

Like it or not, the trend for BYOD is very strong, so start planning your support and process standards now.

Has your organization been affected by an influx of different devices? Tell us how you've adjusted to the change.


Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

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