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Public Sector Experts Weigh In on Virtual Desktops and the New Virtual Workspace

Have you ever sat in on a TelePresence meeting? It really makes you think about how technology can make distance disappear, and bring together people across a wide geography for the purpose of collaborating and sharing ideas.  Such is the case with the National Townhall on Desktop Virtualization I participated in recently, along with VMware.

Seven industry experts from seven US cities, discussing the impact or key learnings of implementing desktop virtualization in government, healthcare and education.  I was joined by my colleague Chris Westphal of VMware, and our panelists, bringing firsthand experiences of their journey to desktop virtualization.  If you want to attend the interactive webcast of this event, please click here – I think you’ll find it incrementally valuable if you’re on the verge of a pilot, proof of concept or just researching your options.

This experience reminded me of something important regarding the transformation of the user desktop as we know it. Immersive business video is increasingly becoming a modality of enterprise collaboration that workers will depend on to be productive.  Consider the fact that ten people had meaningful discourse in this session, without any of them having to board a plane.  IP telephony is the same – we can’t imagine a day without access to our phone.  So when we talk about using virtual desktops making people more productive, and making business more agile, it makes total sense that we expect by extension of that premise, voice, video and virtual desktops to converge in a single workspace that’s accessible on any device, anywhere.  We depend on all of these modalities to be effective, not just one.

Now back to the townhall itself… I won’t spoil it for you, since I really hope you’ll actually attend it and hear first-hand, but some consistent themes came up throughout the meeting that we can all learn from:

Our education sector panelists are striving to achieve a “borderless classroom” for not only K-12, but also higher ed, as well as students pursuing continuing professional education (ex: exec MBA programs).  Being able to deliver an educational, media-rich workspace that’s accessible on any device, while un-tethering students from traditional PC lab environments is key to improving learning, while also attracting the best students at the higher ed and lucrative professional levels where students want to be able to place-shift their learning environment.

Our panelists from the Federal sector have been driving this technology for years… in the DoD, they face unique challenges in terms of coordinating resources across theaters, so providing universally accessible, secure workspaces for employees and contractors is key.  Telework mandates and specific executive orders related to cost-efficient use of technology, coupled with the current budget crisis are all driving accelerated adoption of virtual workspaces.  Additionally, many defense-related departments face increasing base closures and consolidation, that would normally have resulted in relocating employees, or extending commutes, or simply losing experienced talent altogether.  Telework options built on workspace virtualization are providing a more attractive option.

State and local agencies with mobile field service personnel are reaping the benefits of being able to walk into any office or home with the device that best suits them, and get persistent access to their files and applications.  They’re spending more time interviewing or delivering services to communities and constituents, and less time traveling to and from their physical brick-and-mortar office to update case files.

Doing more with what you got is also a consistent theme as our panelists shared their experiences of driving higher ratios of supported users, in some cases doubling the number of constituent users after having made the transition to virtual workspaces.  Eliminating the “sneakernet” in K-12 environments also seemed to be a home-run, along with reaping considerable utility savings associated with lower power thin-clients in the classroom.

Security! This is implied just by nature of moving to virtual desktops right?  In many respects yes, but in others, you may need to take a closer look.  With the proliferation of BYOD and the myriad of possible user endpoints seeking to access network resources (not just virtual desktop services), our panelists felt there was a heightened need for being able to apply centralized management of device access/policy in this consumer-led movement that circumvents traditional IT control.

Even if you’re not in Public Sector, you might find the experiences shared valuable in shaping your own journey to implement virtual workspaces.  Plan to join us on December 15th for an interactive, informative session!  After attending, please weigh-in and share your thoughts here!

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