Brian & Gabe LIVE #21 - Part 4: Harry Labana about layering & Brian hates the Microsoft MVP Program

Listen to the whole episode with Harry Labana here!


Brian: A couple of other things.  Comments about AppSense Strata and this leads to a good conversation about user installed apps.  I go back and forth on user-installed apps, and layering, even layering itself, we had Ron on the show a few weeks ago and philosophically, and this is, I don’t think we’ve written about this yet, but I have to ask the question philosophically, why does layering exist?  Is it a management thing?  Is it a user personalization thing?  Is it a security thing?  What’s the reason for layering existing and then does that lead into this whole user installed apps thing?  

Harry: So, I’ll give you my two cents on that.  When Unidesk actually got their funding from Batuventures, Chris Midler, we met him and they were talking about composite virtualization.  I’m a big believer in obstruction at all levels so you can solve different problems.  So, I think layers are valid for some use cases.  I don’t believe that layers is the new panacea for desktop management.  I don’t think it’s going to solve everything.  I think Don Bullen and Ron, great guys, I have the utmost respect for them, and I think they will find their niche, but I don’t think that’s going to be the next revolution in PC management.  

Brian: Which their niche seems to be about application deployment which maybe is synonymous with PC management – 

Harry: Again, I don’t want to discourage them.  I always like people to push the envelope.  I think it’s hard.  With the way the world works, unfortunately, love it or hate it, you have to learn to live side by side with other infrastructures, so there will be other players or Microsoft, they own the operating system, they set the rules.  If the rules are that they want you to go to App V, and they do things in the operating system, I think it’s a tough battle unless you have a specific use case.  Again, I give Unidesk and their guys credit because they keep plugging along.  Now, specifically on user installed apps, I don’t think user installed apps is a technical solution.  Simon Townsend describes it really well as a challenge.  Really, what it is is this long tail of apps that are not necessarily packaged.  They’re unmanaged or they, specifically from an AppSense perspective, starter apps when we released it for free, it’s going to be initially focused on client use cases.

One of the things that we’ve heard is that I’ve got all of these laptops, we don’t care about VDI, and what we want to do is try and remove admin rights so we can manage the image using systems center or any other tools that we use and we just need some flexibility and freedom for users.  So, we’re like great.  Start apps could do that.  I think if you then take – that’s one of the challenges.  That’s also user stored apps, but it’s not maybe user stored apps, it’s user managed apps.  If what you’re saying is that IT is going to get out of the business of managing those apps for some use cases, so why not.  You should be allowed to do user installed apps even if you’re using a corporate bill because you know how.  Why should I enable you in a safe way?  If you want to do that in the datacenter in a VDI context, then that requires more control, more management.  And that’s a different part of the challenge.

Brian: And a lot of this is we want users to be able to have the ability perhaps to install their own things, but we also don’t want to lose the ability to manage the desktops in the way that we’re managing it.

Harry: In some cases, we actually should lose the ability to manage the desktop.  It’s part of the ignorance of IT holding onto existing job functions.  I’m quite happy to debate anybody on that because it’s the way we already do it, and this is the way we think we need to do.  Again, why not enable users, if they screw up, you just reset the user installed apps layer and you’re done.  You reinstall them.  Why offer that service level for all use cases?  Do you want to be in the business of managed apps?  If you want to be in the business of managed apps, guess what?  There’s a set of rules you have to play by.  End of story.

Brian: So, you can like opt out, it’s like opting out of your health insurance.  If I want to opt out of IT managing my apps, I can do that, but I can’t go crying back to them when I break something.

Harry: To me, multiple app players, if you talk about pure layers companies, I think that’s a – I personally think that’s a much harder problem to solve.  You can argue that we haven’t seen much of it, but ultimately Microsoft sets the rules there, and I think from a starter perspective, your view is you play side by side with App V, you work with systems center, you don’t try and pretend you’re going to solve app delivery because that’s not what it’s designed to do.  We’re a user virtualization company; it’s all about enabling new kinds of use cases, that’s all.

Brian: So, you talked about IT still wanting to protect their jobs and I’m curious, I was in Boston this last week, just for the weekend actually, I spoke at the Virt G, it’s a virtualization user group in Boston, Tim Mangan, and I forget the other folks that put that on, I apologize to all you who I met last – it was on a Saturday incidentally.  They had like 200 people there.  By the way, they gave me a gift which is to protect me because of my blog posts about Hamm leaving the MVP program and everything, so they gave me a gift to protect against Microsoft.  I have this hear if you can see if you’re watching the web feed, it’s a shield and a suit of armor to protect me from Microsoft.  Incidentally, we have these shelves in the background, I don’t think you can – I think you can see behind Jack, on our shelves in the background, I’ve got the BriForum binary clock from the first BriForum 2005.  I’ve got the puppets that we use for our April Fools show last year.  I’ve got our BriForum bobble heads, different posters and stuff.  

I’ve got the MVP trophy back there.  We’re going to add this to the shelves.  We’re going to do this – like these shelves are going to grow over the years of stuff that we get.  So, we’ll figure this out later exactly where they go.  So, thank you Tim and Virtualization Group Boston for providing the shield which is now a permanent fixture in our studio.  What was interesting about this user group meeting was that it was a general virtualization group.  It wasn’t just desktop virtualization.  There’s a lot of server folks in there.  Just IT generalists.  A lot of them hadn’t seen me speak before and I talked about a lot of the stuff we talked about with VDI and where it’s going and all that.  I went outside after my session was over and I stood at a table literally for three hours talking to all different people, chatting around.  A lot of them were IT admins, desktop admins and they were saying we don’t know what to do because they have certain realities like if we take user rights away, viruses stop.  

Or they say we want to help our users, but we don’t even know what our users – we were talking about the FUIT thing.  They said a lot of users are doing this, but if we knew that they were all using drop box, then we’d go figure out how to help them have Drop Box.  Or if we knew they were using these things, we’d do that.  So, there’s all of these things, but I feel like to talk about these IT pros who are just doing things the way they’ve always been doing, protecting their jobs, which is true.  But even if your heart is in the right place as an IT pro, what do you?

Harry: So, there is an article I think in Wired called IT folks are ignorant in a lot of cases.  My first reaction would be really, you really don’t know users are putting stuff in Drop Box and you’re in IT?  Come on; let’s be a little bit realistic, but on a more pragmatic level.  I think at the end of the day, you’re going to have more and more diversity in your client architectures, and I think the only way to deal with that is you’re going to have to centralize your management irrespective of vendor.  Whether it’s app virtualization or if it’s user virtualization, it’s image management or whatever, you’re going to have to.  Because what’s going to happen is you’re going to end up with this massive amount of capability, excuse me, complexity and I think you then have to translate that to what problems are you solving with that?  

In terms of Windows 7, I think we spoke about this, if you’re going to spend, this is your quote, and if you’re going to spend all this money to upgrade to Windows 7, what are you getting for it?  If you don’t know the answer to that question, then I think you should perhaps go back to the drawing board and say have you had the right conversations.  There’s the Colombo questions and it cannot be distributed management in the way it’s done today.  It has to move to more of a user centric model, it’s my personal belief.  It’s irrespective of AppSense.  I’m not saying that user virtualization has an AppSense, I’m just saying people centric, user centric computing in general because if you’re at that model and you treat the user as the new primary key and then you can go across multiple client architectures to provide more consistency, you then start to build the ability to provide more types of services. 

So, the more metadata that I think you understand around the user’s experience, then you can apply that to the Drop Boxes and stuff like that.  And some of it, you’ve got to engineer, some of it you’ve got to build.  If I was a SA or system’s engineer, I’d start learning some development skills.  There’s a lot of the upgrading, you can’t just be a script kitty, and Power shell by itself ain’t good enough, so if you don’t know what noJS is, if you don’t know a little bit of objective C, C++, I think the skill, the standard PC jockey is being commoditized heavily, so you’re going to have to move to a higher value function.

Brian: So, if I’m a desktop admin or desktop architect and I’ve got 100 or 1,000 users and I’ve got SSCM and I’m pushing out software and doing my antivirus updates, you say if you don’t know why we’re going to Windows 7, we have to go back to the drawing board, but I think I answer the question saying I’m on Windows XP, it’s really old, Microsoft is dropping support.  We have to have system support, so we’re doing Windows 7 and I’m kind of slogging along.  How do I breakout of that?

Harry: I think you have to be one of the champions of change.  If you really want to be of high value.  Leave that company and get a job somewhere else frankly, because there’s no easy answer.  There’s no silver bullet.  I think you’re not going to be irrelevant tomorrow, but I think over time, all this stuff is going to be moved toward more centralized compute.  Look what Google is doing, what Apple is doing, what Microsoft is doing, even Citrix and VM Ware, they’re all moving towards a centralized compute model.  The only way you can consume centralized compute models, whether it’s VDI or whether it’s data services or whatever the case may be, is you’ve got to understand what you need to get to.  So, therefore, if you don’t understand the context of what you’re allowed to, what the rules are, and what you’re trying to enable, you’re kind of missing the point.

I did a lecture actually at my old University a couple of weeks ago, and there’s a bunch of 18 and 19 year olds, half of them were hungover when they walked in.  I said, look, if there’s one lesson I can leave you with, if you’re going to sleep through the rest of this lecture is just understand the word context.  And when I say context I don’t mean context in terms of policy stuff, understand what the hell is going on in the world and figure out how you are going to play in that world.  Because if you don’t ask yourself that question, you very quickly find yourself completely out skilled.

Brian: I guess that applies to lots of industries over many centuries of work, but it’s the same here.

Harry: Take a simple example.  How long did we take to invest fire as a people?  How long did it take us to invent the wheel?  The transistor?  The light bulb?  Computing?  The Internet?  And that rate of change is getting faster.  So, to me if you’re sitting there and saying I don’t know what my opportunities are, sorry you’re asleep.  Wake up.

Brian: You are this century’s tollbooth worker.

Harry: It’s going to get faster and faster and faster.  What you’ve got to do is figure out how to create value.

Brian: And look at how many years you have left in your career, do some math, and figure out if you have to move or not.

Harry: And be excited.  There’s so much opportunity.  I can’t hire people fast enough.  I can’t find them.  When I hear don’t listen to the news, there’s no jobs, they’re all being outsourced, are you kidding me?  People are just not thinking about the opportunity.  The rate of change is the fastest it’s ever been.  So, where are the innovators?  

Brian: It’s interesting.  I was speaking with someone who was out of a job and this person was talking about getting different certifications and that kind of stuff, and then there’s still difficulty in finding jobs, but I wonder if that’s the same thing that can be applied there is thinking about opportunities in terms of certifications versus thinking about where is IT going and where is the world going and how you can intercept that.

Harry: I remember when I worked in downtown New York, downtown Manhattan, if I saw certification books being sold on Canal Street, that was time to get out of that market.  I remember once I even considered becoming an MCSE and I said well, they’re selling books on the street, so this is commoditized.  I think at the end of the day, all of that stuff is good, knowledge is good, but you’ve got to build solutions and the only way you’re going to build solutions is by understanding what problems you’re trying to solve.  

Brian: Incidentally, someone asked me how does it feel not being an MVP anymore?  Is it feeling naked?  Now I am not officially an MVP.  I had an exit interview actually.  I am officially they call it retired from the program.

Gabe: How’d that go?  So, Brian, why are leaving MVP program?  

Brian: We had, I’ve had a different MVP lead, it changes every few months, so this person I never met her before, and I think this is the first email back and forth about this.  So, she has some questions, she has a questionnaire and I sent her the blog post before, and she’s asking me these questions.  She said I can probably fill in the rest of this on my own.  But it’s interesting.  I had been wanting to leave the program for a little while, for me personally, and it’s the same thing, I got bad news for Citrix too because it happened with the CTP program where for me in my career, having access to MDA information actually inhibits what I can do because if I learn something under MDA, it doesn’t help me if I can’t write about it.  Why no.  In the old days we used to want to help Citrix and help Microsoft and make better products, but I don’t care anymore because a) there’s lots of competition.  Whether Citrix wins or VMware wins, I couldn’t give a shit.  Also, people vote with their money and that kind of thing.  

So, a bunch of tech geeks who come down for pizza and beer once a year are not driving the direction of these multibillion-dollar companies.  So, for me, which is fine, it’s a good program.  And if I had customers, if I was consulting, if I was in house certainly, it would be very important that I understood the long-term direction, the vendors that I’m putting a lot of faith into.  So, I’m not saying these are bad programs, I’m saying for me personally; it evolved to where it wasn’t as important.  So, I was wanting to leave the program anyway and then all the stuff – the OnLive thing too.  People made a big deal about how I was whining about OnLive and I quite because they wouldn’t tell me about OnLive and it was the whole thing with direction of where Microsoft is going, with the way they do video licensing.  I think the way they do licensing is really shady.  I didn’t want them having the website with my picture and my name like these are the champions that are championing our cause.

I didn’t agree with anything they’re doing in that regard.

Gabe: In that way, it’s a liability for us.  And in NDA speak as well, too because if we do learn something, we happen to bring it up and even if we came to that conclusion on our won, if we have an NDA and we break it, that’s a liability too.  There’s so many reasons that made sense for you to get out of there.

Brian: Obviously, my whole job is focused around Microsoft Windows.  That isn’t changing anytime soon.  It looks like remote effects and RDPM Windows 8 is going to be amazing, so I’m not saying I’m going to diss them all the time.  It’s just not eh program for me.  But hey, I still have my trophy on the wall back here.  I have not thrown it in a garbage truck or ground it up, I was an MVP for eight years and those were fine times.  

Gabe: We could have done one of those office space damn-it-feels-good-to-be-gangster kinds of scenes where you’re beating it like the fax machine.  

Brian: In my luck, I would get a shard of glass in my eye and I would be blind.  

Gabe: There’s things that you stack on there for each year.  

Harry: I think you’re going to put a line through the 2012. 

Brian: Yes.  Let’s put it upside down.  So, we’re about out of time.  We’re completely out of time, so let’s wrap up – 

Gabe: We have phase two as well.

Brian: First of all, Harry, thank you for coming in today and thank you for sacrificing and missing the final of the Bachelor for us.

Gabe: It’s tough, but sometimes you’ve got to do it.

Harry: It’s tough.  But no, thank you for having me on the show.  Like I said, we’ve been trying to schedule for a couple of months, so I apologize for my availability, but I’m glad we had a nice talk.


View All Videos

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.