Oil and Water

by Brian Katz on June 4, 2012 · 3 comments

I’m sitting here tonight typing this blog post on my iPad (editor’s note – post written late Thursday night/Friday morning). I try to write all my posts on the iPad because I find that I focus better and I am a better writer when I am foc…squirrel! Who let my good friend Hoff (@beaker) into this post (perils of late night writing)? You’d be surprised how well OCD and ADD mix. I digress. I asked on twitter tonight what I should write about and got some really great ideas, although some of them need to be fleshed out more, I got a really great comment from Dan Garcia (@danjgarcia) “do you see mobile and a vdi\sbc ‘stack’ exclusive of each other?” which became the basis for this post.

Let’s start off with the fact that VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) and SBC (Server Based Computing) as well as application streaming are very good technologies and have their places in the enterprise application delivery stack. They work quite well when we are talking PCs (no we aren’t going to differentiate between Desktops and laptops) but they are currently being marketed/sold as the technologies to enable BYOD for mobile. There are a couple of requirements for using these sorts of technologies in the mobile world (phones and tablets) with the largest dependency being on the network, If you don’t have a decent network connection or don’t have a connection at all, these technologies will fail. They are better referred to as online technologies.

There are two reasons that these technologies are so popular and get talked about all the time especially with BYOD. The first one is simple, if you use these technologies, you keep the corporate data off the device (through policy) thereby easing the fear if the device is lost or the employee leaves the company. Essentially you are separating the corporate data (on your VDI/SBC desktop) from your personal data (on your device). The second reason these technologies are so popular is they make it very easy for enterprises to leave legacy applications alone and not have to recode them for new platforms like iOS or Android. There happen to be some great add-on tools that you can use with these solutions so that you can touch enable the application interface but even then, it’s still a legacy application and it isn’t perfect.

So, why, as Dan put it, do I tend to color my talks with the nuance that these technologies and mobile are mutually exclusive of each other? I’m being kind there, I don’t color, I tend to scream it from the rooftops. VDI/SBC technologies are really just another name for crapplications. Most people claim they’re stuck with legacy applications and this is the best way to preserve them without going through the hassle and cost of redoing them, and in some cases they can’t be redone. OK – we’ve heard the excuse, but really? Essentially you are taking an application that is designed for a desktop/Laptop PC, that’s usually 4~8 years old, and repackaging it so someone can get it from a modern day mobile endpoint. What doesn’t scream crapplication from that scenario?

My stance is and always has been that it’s fine to use VDI/SBC technologies as a bridge for these legacy crapplications until you have a way to create a new app that can serve the same purpose. The problem with crapplications, especially SBC based ones, is that the interface is difficult to upgrade and make truly usable. This will drive employees who have to use it away from the horrible UI/UX and they will start looking for ways to get around IT. They know there are better apps that will save them time and make it easier for them to do their jobs and if you don’t have a plan in place to minimize how long they will have to use these apps they will go looking for the better ones. This means that they will be moving data into apps that work for them but that may not be as secure or reliable as what you want them to use.

How do you move away from these technologies? It’s okay that you start out using these crapplications with your users. Just like anything else these technologies allow you to build a bridge for your users. They get to use something they know but at the same time you need to make sure that you communicate with them that you are working on building an app which is easier/better/will make them more efficient/productive.

In order to move away from these legacy crapplications, first you need to figure out what you are using the legacy application for. You are essentially building your requirements from scratch but you know what you are trying to achieve. You follow the steps I laid out in my Know the Why post but being you have an existing application many of the questions are easier to answer. You then set about building the replacement(s). Depending on how layered the original application was, you may need to build more than 1 app to give the same functionality. After you build your apps, you take some of your users who had been using the bridged app and get them to start using your new ones. You make sure that they meet the needs of the business and then you transition people from the legacy crapplications to the new apps.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Glenda Canfield June 4, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Good post, should be pointed out that the majority of tabletsphones supported by enterprise have MS, CE & Apple clients for multi media experience (codecsdrives, etc.) this is part of what qualifies a device for support. Android, Linux type clients just not comprable for end user experience. Also worth noting around “legacy apps”, I have seen the following happen A LOT. Customer migrates to a new virtualizion environment (Net New, built from scratch to Best Practice). On legacy apps they have NO SME on that are “rarely or never used”, turn them off & see how many users complain. If its a small number & a non criticle system get an off the shelf app to replace it that is 64 bitmulti user environment compatible. Just my 2 cents.


Swarna June 6, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Excellent posts (I include “Know the Why” too). And I will start with “Why”. You are right on! There are many tools that we can use. Unless we know the WHY and then the HOW, there is a little chance of success. Your Oil+Water post – LOVE the title. And the point that users will find something else if they don’t like this – is spot on! Don’t embrace Application Streaming tech to enable BYOD to save $$. Understand the WHY. The objective must be to empower users – give them more flexibility, help them be more productive. Help them help you increase your $$$.

I look forward to more reading 🙂 Thanks Brian!


Dan Garcia June 12, 2012 at 9:15 pm

I appreciate the perspective, and this and a few of your subsequent posts help change my approach to a few activities. What will be interesting to see will be what solutions VDISBC vendors provide for mobility. The question will be whether their capabilities truly add value or if customers choose alternatives for deliverycontrol. I see a future situation where if you use CitrixVMware as your VDI platform and don’t choose their MAM and data management capabilities you loose out on interoperability. The newest form of vendor lock-in..


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