With employees now bringing a potpourri of laptops, smartphones and tablets to work with them, BYOD (bring your own device) strategies are becoming an increasingly big concern for businesses of all sizes. Dell's vWorkspace 8.0 is a server-based software product that large organizations can use for the delivery and secure management of applications across Windows PCs, Macs, iOS and Android devices, and other end user platforms. For this review, we tested a cloud-enabled, Dell-hosted configuration of vWorkspace with a Windows 7 PC and an iPhone to get a sense of the end user experience.
Desktop virtualization has been with us for some time, and its advantages are many: the potential for lower IT costs, centralized provisioning, better security and management, and new life for old PCs. Of even greater interest today, though, is accessing server-based desktop applications on the wide range of mobile devices now in use in businesses. Flexibility, then, is now critical to desktop virtualization success and an essential element in any virtualization strategy.
And that's the calling card of Dell's vWorkspace 8.0, a product obtained by Dell through its recent acquisition of Quest Software. vWorkspace enables the virtualization of both Windows and Linux-based servers on a broad range of clients. At present, the product supports Windows, Macintosh, Linux, iOS, Android, and Wyse thin clients.
For our testing, which focused on the end user experience, we used a cloud-based installation hosted on Dell's servers.
End users will need to be provided with login credentials (username and password) as well as a domain to connect to; these are configured by the IT staff installing vWorkspace. It should be noted that this is a serious IT tool aimed at users bases ranging from 500 to 5000 people, and that some IT expertise is required for successful installation, configuration, and operation. Two interesting features: remote audio is supported, and the local client can also serve as an RDP client.
Once the system is installed and running, users connect to a specified URL to download the necessary client software. This process is straightforward, but a reboot (on a PC) is required afterwards.
Once we completed that reboot, we started Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, and the downloaded client software installed automatically. We then returned to the original URL, logged in, and were presented with a number of possible destinations, all of which are configurable to meet local requirements. We selected the Win 7 Desktop, and, within moments, we had a complete virtual desktop running on our PC. We found the UI to be highly responsive and the experience essentially identical to using a local Windows installation.
We also tried vWorkspace 8.0 on an iPhone. In this case, the required app is downloaded from Apple's App Store, and installation and configuration are again simple. We used the same credentials as with Windows (above) to connect, and, while the big-screen experience of Windows may not map well in every case to an iPhone display, the product provided us with access that would otherwise be unavailable.
Virtualization along these lines is likely to play a major role in future mobility strategies, as it's much easier to use desktop virtualization to deploy applications and other network services to a broad audience using this technique than it is to write and update numerous mobile apps for a potentially broad range of handsets, tablets, and other devices.
vWorkspace, then, could offer very cost effective IT services to a broad range of mobile users with minimal expense and support costs.
It should also be noted that there are numerous options available to meet a broad range of requirements, including two-factor authentication (which we always recommend for added security) and highly customizable connectivity capabilities to meet essentially any need.
Extensive documentation is available online, but there's no online help function. IT organizations are therefore cautioned to consider user support requirements carefully and plan accordingly.
Dell's vWorkspace is a worthy competitor in the desktop virtualization space. IT managers will be pleased with the broad range of configuration and connectivity options, and users will enjoy the Windows (or Linux) experience that they are already familiar with on a broad range of devices. vWorkspace is definitely worth a look if mobile application deployments are on the IT to-do list.
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