Published/updated: November 2014
By Tony Lock
I doubt there are many Data Centre professionals who have not noticed the huge growth in the use of mobile devices in their organisations, much of it driven by senior executives or IT staff. It is not simply the growth in the number of devices being used that is causing headaches, but rather the growing range of device types and operating systems that are now seeking to connect to enterprise resources, most of which live in Data Centres or Computer Rooms.
This fact alone already makes end user computing a Data Centre issue, and research recently carried out by Freeform Dynamics , indicates it is one which is likely to bring even more work to a DC near you. As has been stated, end user computing now effects many facets of the enterprise landscape, it is no longer simply the concern of the ‘desktop’ support team. The types of devices being used to access key enterprise applications and data is no longer restricted to just those acquired and supported by to business. A couple of Windows platforms are not the only operating systems being used, with Apple’s Mac OS being already used extensively on laptops. When you add in the increasing use of various forms of ‘desktop virtualisation’ solutions, the Data Centre impact becomes even more obvious.
When smart phones and Tablets are considered, the range of platforms to be supported spirals to include several releases of iOS, at least several Android based platforms as well as Windows mobile and RT perhaps with communities of BlackBerries as well. This seemingly ever expanding range of platforms are creating security and governance headaches, all of which have considerable impact on the Data Centre (Figure 1).
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Whilst on the face of it, these do not appear to be issues for Data Centre professionals and managers, it is clear that the way many organisations are likely to seek to address these matters will involve significant DC involvement (Figure 2)
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As can be seen a majority of respondents in the study indicate that a major plank in addressing the expansion of device usage is likely to focus around the approach of ‘centralisation and management’. More than half of those taking part are placing considerable emphasise on running applications centrally and providing user access via web browser or some form of desktop virtualisation technology. Similar numbers are looking at approaches invoking the centralisation of the management and control of the devices employed by end users even if the applications run locally on the devices.
Other tactics attracting significant attention include approaches to store and secure data centrally, e.g. in the DC, to minimise the use of local storage wherever possible. Another approach being considered is the use of centrally managed ‘sandbox’ solutions to protect information even if it is held on the local device for some time.
Taken together it is obvious that the Data Centre is going to be a major factor in end user computing going forwards. This makes it essential that DC professionals and managers do not underestimate the scale of the challenge that supporting hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of end users.
Any individual may not, by themselves, be considered to be a business critical resource no matter how loudly they proclaim their importance, or how quickly they call for support should a service be down or response times slow. But taken together any group of users may well rank as a business critical resource at some time in their work cycles, which is guaranteed to mean stringent service level quality will have to be provided. Yet few organisations are confident they have good foundations in all areas in place to meet their end user computing needs going forwards (Figure 3).
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It is clear that Data Centre and Computer Rooms are changing rapidly via the adoption of server virtualisation systems and private clouds, the use software defined storage and networking solutions only now beginning to have an impact. The research highlighted in this report  is likely to add even more to the already considerable Data Centre workloads. New technologies will need to be brought into DCs to equip them to deal with the particular requirements of directly supporting end user computing.
In particular it will be necessary for DC professionals to wrap new operational processes around the end user computing solutions. This is going to be a primary requirement in the area of end user support, where specialist ‘interpersonal’ skills may need to be developed, as talking to end users with problems can require great ingenuity and diplomacy.
These challenges are all significant but may well prove to be relatively straight forward to address compared to the question of how supporting end user will be financed and budgeted for as it has progressively greater direct impacts on the Data Centre and Computer Room. Are you ready?
Further reading  The Politics and Practicalities of End User Computing
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