News Analysis

CIOs must make a 10-year desktop strategy plan

Desktop computing is a drain on IT resources. Even a well-managed desktop can cost $3,413 per year. How can IT directors slash costs?

Desktop computing is evolving. It has never been a better time to look at the alternatives, but chief information officers and IT directors must plan long-term desktop computing strategies to ensure they make the right choices now, to help them lower costs in the future.

Recent developments in virtual desktop infrastructure, thin-client computing and application virtualisation have made it possible to separate desktop applications from the operating system and PC hardware. This means IT departments can concentrate on delivering applications to users, without having to worry about hardware and operating system compatibility issues.

This simplifies PC management, desktop refreshes and operating system upgrades. CIOs and IT directors must plan ahead for the changes taking place in desktop computing to take advantage of future developments.

Roadmap

Gartner research fellow Brian Gammage says companies are now looking at 10-year roadmaps to take into account the different approaches to desktop computing now available. "Organisations with thousands of users need to build a plan of how they drive their desktop strategy," he says.

Gammage believes that, in future, users will only need applications and security. The hardware and the operating system are irrelevant.

Rather than be driven by the next Windows upgrade, Gammage recommends CIOs get off the "upgrade treadmill" and plan two steps ahead of where they need to be in terms of upgrades. "How do you know the next step you take will be right, if you only plan one step at a time," he says.

Instead, users need to plan with an outlook of at least five to six years.

As a starting point to planning for the future, Gammage predicts that PCs will ship with hypervisor software, which will allow them to support virtualisation. He believes operating systems and devices will become less relevant since users will want to access corporate systems from multiple devices, running different operating systems.

Cloud and virtualisation impact

Furthermore, Gammage expects cloud computing, application virtualisation and hosted desktops to become more prevalent. The combination of these technical drivers will offer CIOs greater choice in desktop computing.

These options allow IT directors to plan a strategy for lowering desktop computing costs. Both desktop operating system software and applications can run on a client device such as a PC, a server or they can be streamed to the desktop device. This gives the IT director choices, says Gammage.

Businesses may be able to eliminate hardware costs by allowing staff to use their own PCs. This is now possible thanks to desktop virtualisation, where users are able to access their corporate desktop environment from any device. As an added benefit Gammage says desktop virtualisation can be expanded to the so-called extended enterprise, to enable business partners to access internal systems securely.

Desktop outsourcing

He says IT directors will need to assess the best way to take their PC strategy forward. Desktop outsourcing may be the no-brainer option if users simply want to maintain the status quo and pass on responsibility for desktop computing to an outsourced service provider. But it may not necessarily help IT directors build a long-term desktop computing strategy.

Few services companies are in a position to offer transformational IT contracts to support the kind of strategy Gammage foresees IT directors will require. So it is likely IT directors and CIOs will have to forge ahead themselves to develop and implement desktop computing strategies that break out of the software and hardware upgrade cycles that have burdened IT since the dawn of client/server computing in the early 1990s.


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