Before I continue let's just make one thing clear. The choice of a new operating system, like Windows 7, is not a strategy. It is simply a technology choice. A strategy typically spans over period longer than 3-5 years. This is by itself a big challenge. How can you tell what will be the best IT delivery vehicle in 5 or more years?
Why reassess your desktop strategy?
The biggest reason for reassessment, as I see it, is that a migration always is a very big change for IT and even more so for the end-users. The IT-department look at changing the way users use their desktop as it is going to be a big change for them anyway. A new way might be using more laptops, virtual desktops (VDI), maybe thin clients and published desktops?
Most of us have been through an occasional OS migration or reinstallation for that matter. This migration always result in a 'new' desktop and maybe also a new computer. What it did not result in was continuity. All my personal settings where either lost completely or moved to a backup location for me to restore myself. No favorites, no desktop icons, no printers, my background picture gone, application settings lost. The list can be made very long and the user satisfaction and productivity is low. IT is not seen as delivering services but instead always changing things - disruptive.
What are the problems associated with a migration?
Some of the problems are tied to the fact that most personal settings are tightly coupled with the physical computer I as a user log on to. The settings I make as well as the settings IT manages.
On a Windows OS there is a personal profile associated with every individual user as well as scripts to tie resources to the user: such as printers and drives. On top of that Group Policys are also used to control and configure the user desktop. All are tied to the specfic OS. Point solutions.
You can choose from a wide array of custom made tools to help you migrate from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7. Or why not your Citrix Farm from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008. What I hear from my customers is that they work, but not 100%!
So in reality this is not something you can rely a migration on. Not if you want it to be successful, risk free and performed at a low cost. Not without disrupting end-user productivity.
What if you did not have to take into account all those ways of delivering configuration to the user and retaining their settings? Life would be so much easier; both from an IT perspective and from an end-user perspective.
How do you succeed?
By separating the user and its settings from the underlaying infrastructure it does not matter how IT services are delivered to them; OS or application delivery infrastructure. Local, published, streamed, virtual...it does not matter!
The User Workspace (this is what you get when with the separation) is created by constantly evaluating the user Context (ID/role, device, location and time) and your security policys and will compose a dynamic content. The content can consist of access to applications, printers, data and the users personal settings.
So what is in it for you?
With a User Workspace you will never have a high cost and high risk migration project. We all know that after Windows 7 there will be a new OS with a new migration project. They will keep coming. Technology changes like this are unavoidable. High cost. High risk. By transforming your traditional desktop into a User Workspace you minimize the risk by taking control of the existing infrastructure and, step-by-step, perform the transformation. You can make an analysis of real settings in the existing environment such as application usage, drive connections, printer connections, location & devices etc - instead of making qualified guesses. With this information, rules are automatically created to replicate or optimize the delivery. This is called Desktop Transformation. When you have proceeded with Desktop Transformation then you can migrate.
You will have total control of your Windows clients and users. You can change the way the traditional desktop and applications are delivered to the end-user. No need for complex scripting or application packaging. These settings are also separated. You will get one place for all configuration, administration and trouble shooting, totally independant on the underlaying infrastructure.
What will the result be?
The user can log on anywhere and always have access to the right applications, right settings and right configuration. One minute they can work from a laptop running Windows XP, the next move to a stationary running Windows 7, and then move back again. IT can implement virtual desktops and the users can instantly log on to that environment be productive. Some applications being streamed to the current desktop, others published and some locally installed. IT can replace the OS with Windows 7, the users will continue to recieve a non disruptive service and they will be productive and happy. Beside all of this you can create a very secure user environment since security is user based, not device based. When the user is in a non-secure location, do not give access to sensitive data or applications. Some companies would 'kill' for that kind of security enforcement!
Difficult choices made simple!
You do not have to spend countless of hours trying to find the best desktop strategy just because you want or have to move to Windows 7. Today you might be struggling choosing between Citrix XenDesktop or VMware View. Maybe Double-Take? What about Med-V? Application Virtualization? ThinApp? InstallFree? Citrix Streaming? There is no lack of choices! What you should focus on is who or what is best at delivering that kind of technology at that time, without having to think about the fact that users have to access it and retain their settings. Minimize the risk involved in a technology change and at the same time drastically reduce the operational costs. You will get a well managed, secure desktop environment.
I know this might sound a bit too good to be true, but it isn't. This concept is nothing new, but still revolutionary. The solution is fantastic and revolving. Change the way you manage your clients forever.
You can get the best of two worlds. You get a:
- Centralized and Standardized heterogenious desktop environment
- Dynamic, Personal and Technology Agnostic
The strategy you should think about is how to transform you traditional desktop environment to User Workspaces.
Below you will find a short movie explaining some of what I covered in this article.
RES Software User Workspace Management