June 17, 2009, 11:53 AM — There is no doubt that we are living in a period of time that will go down in history as one of the toughest economic climates of the past one hundred years. It seems that around every corner companies are looking to cut costs just to survive. However, one area that has surprisingly not been as affected by cuts as one might have expected is investment in new technology. This is because many organizations are realizing that a troubled economy demands that they move outside their comfort zones and look to new and sometimes unconventional technology alternatives in order to save money in both the short and long term. This is a particularly wise survival strategy right now since many new emerging technologies, such as endpoint virtualization, are centered on the notion of doing more with less.
Doing more with less is certainly not a new trend in technological innovation, but endpoint virtualization is taking the idea and embedding it even further into the enterprise. Endpoint virtualization can be a rather broad category of technologies, but it is actually quite simple when it is reduced down to its fundamental principles. Consider that virtualization in general is simply the separation of one system from another, one software application from another, one bit of information from another. A virtualized system is one which thinks it has hardware underneath, but what is actually running underneath it is just more software. On the endpoint, this means separating the user experience, that which is most important, from the underlying device. Examples of this are application virtualization and streaming and desktop virtualization.
The primary focus of endpoint virtualization is on enhancing the end user experience and on increasing end user productivity—regardless of equipment, connectivity or location—and since end users are the key to creating true business value, this enhanced productivity equals real cost savings. In addition, endpoint virtualization provides IT departments with the ability to reduce maintenance costs through simplification, automation and optimization. Incremental endpoint virtualization implementation can add and create significant savings very quickly, both in real IT costs and gains in recovering lost user productivity.
What follows are examples of areas in which endpoint virtualization can help companies reduce costs.
User downtime due to application conflicts
By using endpoint virtualization to virtualize applications, those applications are isolated both from other programs and from the underlying operating system. Thus, endpoint virtualization eliminates the need for pre-deployment testing, and the processes associated with application deployment, version changes and updates are significantly accelerated. All of this equates to improved application maintenance, reduced supporting costs and also increased user productivity due to less downtime waiting for IT to update applications and solve conflicts.
User downtime due to application recovery
Occasionally, an application crashes despite being isolated from the rest of the system due to an outside cause. For example, a Web browser that encounters an issue while being used to do research online. With endpoint virtualization, that Web browser can be virtualized so that the problem that application encounters will not affect the rest of the system. Additionally, the program can simply be reset and returned to the normal operating state without having to be reloaded. This can even be done by the user, allowing instant, self-rectification—avoiding a help desk call and allowing them to continue working nearly as if nothing had happened.
Tracking license compliance and re-harvesting unused licenses can be a significant drain on IT resources, and allowing unused licenses to sit idle can be even more costly. Endpoint virtualization, in addition to providing all the benefits of virtualization, can also give IT the ability to centrally manage and dynamically track licenses and ensure license compliance. It also provides the capability to automate re-harvesting in order to optimize license costs making best use of end user license agreement (EULA) terms. Components of endpoint virtualization systems like application streaming can be quickly and easily implemented to recover the lost asset value around even a single costly application, sometimes delivering an immediate return on the cost of the system.
Most of today’s employees have a preference when it comes to which operating system they use and on what platform it sits. As such, many users have one device they use for personal computing and another they use for work. The result is that users are often required to use a platform for work that they are less familiar with and therefore less productive on. Endpoint virtualization allows users to safely and securely use whichever platform they feel they are most productive on, while at the same time not creating major headaches for the IT department.
Without endpoint virtualization this simply would not be nearly as feasible of a method for increasing user productivity. Deploying workspaces to such a vast and varied fleet of devices without endpoint virtualization would simply take too much time and resources to install an image on each device and then test all those applications and tools to make sure they are functioning properly and not conflicting with anything already loaded on each machine.
In some industries, such as healthcare, retail and manufacturing, employees are anything but stationary. Their work demands that they move from one location to another, all the while needing access to not only a consistent portfolio of applications, but ideally their own complete workspace—their desktop, their applications and their files and drives. Endpoint virtualization can satisfy this need by delivering a consistent, reliable and secure user experience regardless of the underlying platform or the location of that platform. The resulting benefit is faster service times when dealing with customers or patients, and in turn, reduced costs as less time and effort is required on the part of the user to effectively serve each individual patron.
In the end, the greatest value any form of virtualization offers is separating the information that matters, the information that is truly valuable, from the underlying commodity systems. It is in allowing the IT staff to focus on protecting completely, managing easily and controlling automatically the information that is separated from those systems rather than having to worry about all of the complexity of the IT environment—thus reducing costs. Endpoint virtualization does all this for the end user experience. In addition, many endpoint virtualization solutions can be purchased and implemented incrementally, eliminating the need for a forklift overhaul of the entire IT infrastructure—allowing organizations to evolve their IT management gradually, avoiding unnecessary upfront investments and capitalizing on savings at each step.
Brian Lynah, Senior Director, Endpoint Virtualization, Symantec