CXO

Employee-owned IT, powered by virtualization

Employee-owned IT can be powered with virtualization. However, how would that fit in most mainstream IT environments? Rick Vanover explains the topic and addresses the issues.

VMworld day 2 started with a keynote by CTO Dr. Steve Herrod that was a good showcase of how partners, acquisitions, and new technologies are going to shape the future of VMware technologies. The keynotes at VMworld are an important start of the day. They set the stage for high-level direction of technologies as well as selected demonstrations of new products or features. Figure A was taken just before the keynote began. Figure A

Figure A

In the discussion were some points that may pose a fundamental change to mainstream IT. Employee-owned IT was a point in the keynote. This is where an organization allows employees to provide their own computing device, such as a laptop or PC. The organization would in turn provide an approved-for-use virtual machine. The objective would allow organizations to decouple the devices from the computing environment, as well as relieve a support burden for PCs and laptops.

The initial issues are numerous, but I believe the idea has great traction. In fact, I know of this practice being done in the telecommunications arena for some organizations with smart phones. Allowing people to purchase their own device with the plans and service that fits their needs, but requiring it to be managed by their central policy server. In the case of employee-owned IT, the support of the device is the biggest issue that comes to mind. Specifically, if the notebook has next-business day replacement, does that mean they get to go home early instead of work?

The other red flag for many readers will be about what devices are permitted on company networks. Indeed that is a valid point, and in fact it would not be appropriate for most networks as they are designed today. The network of an organization that embraces employee-owned IT would architect the network around security for access to resources such as servers, printing, applications, and other protected items.

I like the idea, but adoption may be tough for a long while for this concept. Share your comments on the concept of employee-owned IT below.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

5 comments
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527
jeremial-21966916363912016372987921703527

I am currently engaged as a PM for a desktop virtulization project in my enterprise, and we are looking at this very idea. While I believe there will be advances made in the coming months, after what I saw of VMWorld, unfortunately the technology is just not there quite yet. What we ended up having to do is install a configured linux kernel to a thumb drive, complete with the linux version of our SSL VPN client. The user boots to the thumb drive, bypassing the local hard drive (removing concerns about viruses, etc. on the host) and launches the SSL VPN. They then athenticate to the network, and have a link on the main page that allows them into their VDI session. It is a couple extra clicks to be sure, but it works. Benefits: If the employee loses/breaks the thumb drive, the worst case scenario is we've provided someone with a free linux OS. As the employee has to hit the SSL VPN and authenticate, there is no concern about files or data being lost if the laptop/PC is lost or stolen. Everything resides on the network, being backed up as needed. Drawbacks: As the thumb drive is using a linux kernel, and the network driver for the model of laptop we strongly suggest is embedded, it works MOST of the time. We would like to get to a point where, if the employee's laptop/PC is unavailable they could take the thumb drive to any library or other public PC and be able to log into the VPN, however we can't at present guarantee the network driver will work. We are looking at 2x and some other systems that might help with this, but we're just not there yet. We've needed a lot of third-party assistance, as I am simply not a Linux guy. Altering the kernel we are using to only provide the employees with what we want them to have access to (and nothing more) was some feat. Probably the largest drawback of all, and one we've all encountered - introducing major change to the work force. Our employees do not adapt to change well at all, so we are trying to meet deadlines while ensuring we give them the proper amount of time to get acclimated to the new way of doing things.

AstroCreep
AstroCreep

While I like the idea of having a clean, simple VM to be able to just "deploy" to one of my users (and being able to say "Sucks to be you!" when they call to say their notebook won't boot), what happens if an employee becomes disgruntled and decides to quit? They have their notebook with them that contains the VM - how do I get it and its contents back? First and foremost, there is the issue of "Intellectual Property", "Trade Secrets", and the like. Next there are the issues of software licensing. Sure, we could threaten to sue them if they don't "Return" the VM, but what if they delete it, or God forbid, copy it to another PC? I like the idea, but the fear of what they can do with it is enough to keep me at bay. Perhaps VDI has some sort of ability to manage/disable/remotely-wipe a VM, but my company's needs don't align with it at the moment, anyway.

kmdennis
kmdennis

For a small start up company, it could work. And the concern that if one users computer goes down, then what? Ridiculous. What would prevent them from have a few back up PCs for that very purpose? Also, you could check out the PCs? Laptops and help users configure them, prior to using them on the network. And security and maintenance would be a breeze, since the Workstation environment remains on the Server and never leaves. But you can also allow them a VM workstation which they can work on and then synchronize when they log on to the network. It could also be used in a "hybrid network", say a larger network and for instances where the employee telecommutes. That is awesome! If the employee leaves, the VM could still be used by a new worker. It would be well worth considering. I have worked at companies where I brought in my own RAM, in order to be more productive and efficient. They could not see the need to purchase 2 GB RAM for about $50. And sometimes the system you are working on, frankly, you could be more productive with your own.

jck
jck

Plus there's other benefits: - power savings - reduction in maintenance overhead - reduction in necessary space Not to mention if done right, it could allow many in IT to have more flexible schedules by working from home. I know that my time spent working from home recently was nice. If I woke up at 5am and could not go back to sleep, I could login and work until I was tired. Giving employees that little flexibility in schedule is a nice bonus. Most even have no issue with carrying a pager or cell when given that benefit if they are assured it is for emergency contact only. I kind of hope the remote work scenario becomes more of an option. I'd like to be able to take a break from work after 4 or 5 hours to do things...like dishes or cleaning or run an errand...I can't do while in the office. I think the biggest stumbling block is getting an employee to dedicate his/her equipment (i.e.-money) toward work only use.

b4real
b4real

But at this point, they are the last to really consider virtualization, especially at the desktop level.

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