Apps from the sky: whose problem is it, anyway?

Posted by Calgary Scientific on May 6, 2013 2:04:00 PM

Apps on the cloud

The good news: sleek and innovative mobile devices are appearing faster than ever before. The bad news: they’re appearing faster than ever before – along with expectations that they can be used at work…now!

So IT departments try to accommodate who and what they can, but the problem isn’t the devices themselves, it’s what employees want to use on them. In order to get the functionality an employee is used to, on whatever mobile device they got last Christmas, today’s applications need to be provided in a whole new way.

So, whose problem is this, anyway? These demands land directly on IT now, and they do what they can with tools available. This is usually in some form of VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) to varying degrees of success.

In their book, The VDI Delusion, Brian Madden, Gabe Knuth & Jack Madden present a very readable history of VDI and it’s alternatives, plus offer a few predictions for the future. It was published a year ago, ancient history at today’s pace, so I have the advantage of hindsight in reviewing their predictions.

They were on the mark with many things, especially with their mantra that VDI isn’t bad itself, it’s just used in situations that it’s not appropriate for. It was really the only tool that IT had available to appease employee requests and they did their best with it.

But is this really the IT department’s responsibility? While IT will continue to listen to the requests, they will pass them, along with their burdens, onto the software vendors they deal with…and rightly so.

Some ISV’s (Independent Software Vendors), the creators of the software, are solving this problem properly. They are delivering their applications in new ways, like “Apps for that,” and in new models, like SaaS. These are proving that if an application is designed for the web and mobile environments, users’ high expectations can actually be met.

This isn’t happening fast enough for many, and some doubt it will happen for all applications. The introduction of offerings like Office 365 is a big step, but what about those other applications that cannot be used online because of performance and interactivity? What about the applications that are “too big to fail” or rewrite?

In the end, the users are not going to change their demands – and are not very understanding of your problems. But they’re right this time. They should keep the pressure on both IT departments and ISV’s because it is possible today to have all applications available online and on mobile devices.

If The VDI Delusion was to be republished today, I would suggest one small change: the expectations of the authors should match those of the “unreasonable” users, who expect the applications to be accessible and feel natural on their devices – soon.  The solution for this lies with changing the applications, not just their IT set-up. While VDI has its place, that place is shrinking as applications themselves are showing up online and on mobile devices. And these aren’t just cut down or even rewritten applications, but the full application and features that the original programmers intended. This is happening faster than the authors or anyone really expected.

For ISVs, moving online offers a competitive advantage, whether that means web, mobile, cloud…or all three. Those who lead the way will get their software tried first, offering a short, but tangible competitive advantage. But like user expectations, the expectations of IT departments will change quickly too, and soon it will be a requirement. The time has arrived for ISVs to catch up.

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