Delivering on the Promise of Endpoint Virtualization

The industry is buzzing with talk of endpoint virtualization. This innovation is often seen as a means to reduce enterprise endpoint costs and increase the agility of new endpoint deployments.

However, as many organizations discovered as they implemented server virtualization, unless such technologies are integrated within a single infrastructure framework that spans both the physical and virtual, they can add rather than reduce complexity and cost.

Most virtualization approaches focus on specific technologies or systems, but the real key to success is to focus on the information. Endpoint virtualization should be used to de-couple the information that matters from the underlying systems and software that deliver it. By architecting around this valuable information, organizations have a much more robust enterprise solution.

With this approach, enterprises can leverage endpoint virtualization to increase productivity for end users by freeing them to use the devices and applications of their choice, while also allowing the enterprise to better manage those devices and applications.

Divide and Conquer

In today’s enterprise, supporting and managing endpoints is costly and time-consuming. Conflicts are the norm as one application steps on another and changes to one endpoint application unexpectedly impacts the performance of others.

At the same time, the so-called “consumerization of IT” is causing many enterprises to loosen control over their environments. As more and more professionals want to use their own computing devices to do their work, businesses are struggling to accommodate the resulting jumble of desktops, laptops, PDAs and the like. Virtualization solves this problem, enabling workers to enjoy their enterprise applications delivered on demand with their preferred settings, independent of the device. In fact, there is no other way to address this issue while also providing some level of enterprise control.

Of course, virtualization by itself has the potential to make an environment even more challenging. Adopting virtualization as an independent initiative, rather than as part of an overall strategy centered on information, can create a ripple effect of unwanted consequences in the environment.

For example, by adding virtual desktops to the environment in an effort to lower endpoint total cost of ownership (TCO), an organization may actually increase its total cost per endpoint because they now need expensive new storage for those virtual images and also need a different solution to manage those virtual desktops. After all, managing endpoints is critical to ensure business continuity, particularly since improper configurations and incorrect patch levels are the cause of most system vulnerabilities today, according to recent Gartner research. Proper management is also critical to maintain endpoint security—the most secure endpoint is a well managed endpoint.

Clearly, enterprises looking to reduce the complexity of their environments—whether physical, virtual, or a combination of both—must have a single set of tools that can be used to manage, control, and protect those environments.

Addressing User and IT Needs 

While architecting an environment around information rather than technologies or systems is a departure from traditional virtualization paradigms, it offers compelling advantages.

In the typical enterprise, only a small percentage of data is highly valuable. To be productive, end users must have access to this information, whether in e-mail or a PowerPoint presentation, from any device at any time. Regardless of the device, they must also have the same user experience they’re accustomed to, whether their applications are running locally, in the data center, or “in the cloud.”

What’s more, the portability of the user experience—the user’s “workspace”—is likely to continue to increase, which helps free them to become even more productive.

However, the way most IT systems operate, the information that actually matters is intermingled with applications and the operating system, particularly on the endpoint. Virtualization addresses this challenge by enabling important information to be separated from the bits and bytes of code that make up the operating system, applications and other underlying infrastructure.

For IT, separating the user experience and workspace from the delivery of that experience enables IT to focus on lowering the cost of this productive environment. To that end, controlling virtual endpoints requires IT to bring together their various virtualization and delivery technologies, such as streaming, management technologies, security, storage and data protection technologies, into one integrated framework. By deploying a strategy that takes advantage of the full range of virtualization technologies, organizations have a powerful solution whose overall value is greater than the sum of its parts.

With this infrastructure, IT can securely deliver a managed environment of portable information that provides users the freedom they need but still allows the enterprise to protect information against loss and corruption as users work from their device of choice. Furthermore, to be effective as part of the enterprise rather than simply for a particular set of use cases, endpoint virtualization must be managed in the same way and with the same set of tools as the physical environment.

As IT organizations continue to leverage virtualization to address data center challenges and users continue to demand greater portability and freedom to increase their productivity, enterprises can build an IT infrastructure that enhances the value of existing assets today while driving more productivity for business tomorrow.

About the Author:
Ken Berryman is vice president for Endpoint Virtualization at Symantec, a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help businesses and consumers secure and manage their information. Headquartered in Cupertino, Calif., Symantec has operations in more than 40 countries. For more information, go to