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Blogs > Quocirca

Who says employees want to pay for their own hardware?
Simon Perry By: Simon Perry, Principal Associate Analyst - Sustainability, Quocirca (Moved)
Published: 10th March 2009
Copyright Quocirca © 2009
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Quocirca recently spent some days in Cannes, courtesy of VMware. The virtualisation infrastructure vendor hosted VMworld Europe 2009 in the town and talked up a "perfect storm" regarding cloud computing delivered on a VMware stack.

The vendor's keynote presentations provided several Twitterstorm inducing moments, not least of which was the Steve Jobesque demonstration in the final minutes of the last keynote of a hypervisor on a Nokia N800 mobile computing device. The demonstration involved Google's Android OS running in one partition, and Windows CE in another. In the presented scenario one operating system represented the "personal computing environment" and the other "the professional workspace". It would be a shame not to point out that in the demo the fun took place in Windows while the serious work was done in Google's Android OS.

The other interesting demonstration involved the idea of cloud resident desktop-like workspaces, perhaps accessed through a netbook or a standard laptop. VMware demonstrated a 3D graphics intensive CAD/CAM application operating in such an architecture. The problem of course with cloud hosted desktops is that at some point the user needs to unplug and go play at being a "road warrior". In VMware's world the computing workspace would be moved from being cloud resident to being locally hosted instead on your laptop, with the view to synching it all back up again when you later rejoin the cloud. So you can run for your meeting, but your workspace isn't left behind when you go.

VMware positions both of these scenarios as supporting the concept of "employee-owned hardware" running multiple workspace "personalities". It all looks good on PowerPoint (arguably the world's most effective thin virtualisation platform upon which any operating system may be easily and seamlessly placed onto any marketecture diagram) as users swap happily from their stuffy corporate systems to their cool personal spaces all on a device of their choice. Virtualisation allowing IT departments to deal with the complexities and vagaries of the diverse hardware range that is employee-owned hardware.

Only who asked the users whether they wanted to pay for the hardware they need to perform their jobs to begin with? It all sounds a bit like the illusion of "choice" that is all too often foisted on consumers; "Welcome to ACME Ltd. We're pleased to offer you the choice of using your own laptop and phone, and we'll just slip a little virtual workspace onto it for you to use when you're in the office". But who pays for the wear and tear and loss for the personal hardware? Does a user get to claim the repair bill back if they spilled a cup of coffee over the keyboard when typing an email in the work-oriented virtual machine? Do they get compensated if the lawyers impound their personal machine for a month to conduct an electronic records search? Will they get to supervise when the IT department scrubs any work data off the drive when they leave the company?

Employee-owned hardware sounds great if you're the person who has to pay for the inventory of desktop machines and employee mobile phones. It is less clear whether it is something that works at scale in the real world, nor whether it is something that employees will really want to have once they understand the implications of the corporate information governance rules and financial models.

Just because it can be done doesn't necessarily mean that people want it to be done.

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