VMware and the problem of anticipating the future

Since VMware acquired AirWatch back in February, we've known that there's a long integration road ahead. While AirWatch will continue to operate as a subsidiary, VMware has ambitious (yet logical and exciting) plans to integrate AirWatch's enterprise mobility products into their end user computing offerings.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The first day of VMworld was all about the new modes of infrastructure, which is the company’s bread-and-butter and legacy. However, it’s clear looking around at the number of smartphones and tablets used by attendees that new modes of supporting end-user computing is perhaps more important.

Many IT pros want to take strides in enabling consumerization because, after all, they like using an iPad too. Of course, the problem with consumerization is that the approaches by large technology vendors seem to be missing the mark or are years away from being viably implemented solutions.

Take Horizon Application Manager -- the focus of tomorrow’s keynote. It’s been on the market for two years and is billed as VMware’s, and maybe even IT’s, future application delivery platform. It works as a single-sign on services broker to deliver end-user applications and data to any endpoint device, while at the same time allowing IT to wrap policy and security around those apps and data.

Sounds great, right? It is the best of both worlds for users and IT. Citrix is trying something similar with CloudGateway2 and Jack would argue VMware’s rival is currently ahead in terms of their technology and approach to the problem.

Here’s the rub. At an afternoon breakout session on Horizon, it’s pretty clear that, as is, Horizon is not ready for primetime. There are plenty of little nits to pick with Horizon such as the lack of email integration (many suspect that could change with tomorrow’s keynote announcement and a mobile version of Zimbra), it’s reliance of SAML for SaaS and other application authentication, and a noted bug in Horizon 1.5 with handling different speeds, hardware and loads in the datacenter.

The biggest problem with Horizon, however, is that it feels architected to solve a problem that might not even come to pass -- like mobile virtualization. In many ways, it is designed on the belief that in the future there will still be on-premises infrastructure. Perhaps that will be true for a majority of large enterprises or heavily regulated industries that need tight security precautions. But something tells me those places won’t need to adopt something like Horizon anyway because those IT departments aren’t going to have any incentive to alter their overall approach from how they currently do things. Security is always a good excuse to prevent progress. 

SMBs and large companies without the adherence to regulations are finding the benefit of going entirely cloud and using something like Okta or Ping Identity to broker those cloud SaaS apps from Google and other vendors. But, once IT takes that approach users can access those apps and data from any browser -- whether that’s on an office computer, a home computer, a tablet -- or even through native apps on their smartphone.

The question becomes: where does Horizon Application Manager fit into that reality? That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m struggling to answer that question and curious what everyone thinks.

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