Tech Unlocking the Future of Work

In this Tech Barometer podcast, Mark Bowker, a senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, shares his insights about digital workspace, including the technologies and practices that are shaping the future of work.

By Jason Lopez

By Jason Lopez December 22, 2020

During lockdowns and shelter-in-place periods caused by the COVID-19 pandemic stress tested digital technologies as much as people’s spirits. There were many feel-good moments of collaboration despite the physical distance that existed between coworkers. Zoom became the digital campfireplace for work but also for fun activities, including work-party wine tastings.

Technologies like virtual desktop infrastructure and desktop as a service we being used by many companies and organizations prior to the pandemic. Many had functioning remote worker strategies in place that helped them when offices were forced to close in late 2019 and early 2020. But that wasn’t the case for everyone, as many businesses, schools and agencies scrambled to make remote work part of their everyday operations.

“Organizations have traditionally considered questions like, ‘What if we experienced an outage and people couldn’t get to the office?’” explained Mark Bowker, a senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group and leader of the organization’s digital workspace practice. “But that group of people was measured in tens, or maybe hundreds, of employees. Now the issue has really become scale – how do you scale that to the rest of your employees?”

In the Tech Barometer podcast from May 14, 2020, Bowker shares his insights about digital workspace and the technologies and practices that are shaping the future of work.
“You take a time like this, where people are completely working from home, and maybe you didn’t have a method in place to deliver a secure experience before,” Bowker says. “Now you can take a desktop that’s hosted inside a datacenter or in the cloud and project it to that user. And you can do this at scale really within minutes or hours, as opposed to having to procure devices and install operating systems and applications. The time savings alone can be enormous.”

Tech Shaping the Future of Work Beyond 2020

TRANSCRIPT (unedited)

Jason Lopez: During this shelter in place. There've been many feel good moments of people collaborating with each other, whether it's working from home or doing personal stuff like having a zoom party or online wine tastings. One of the unexpected story gems was of the national football league draft in which general managers and coaches who normally put in insane office hours, their families hardly see them well. They drafted players from their homes and it was shared, often publicly live with their kids and family dog in the room. It went so well. Some sports pundits said, this is how it ought to be done going forward. Well, there's a strong sentiment among experts that covert 19 has unexpectedly changed. Our idea of remote computing from being a perk that is you get to stay home, not have to sit in traffic to a real and strategic way of working. So to talk more about this is Mark Belker senior analyst with the enterprise strategy group. He leads the digital workspace practice and this is what he says about it.

Mark Bowker:  It's all about the secure delivery of applications and data to users and devices on really any device. In any location.

Jason Lopez: So when you say secure delivery, are you, uh, implying that security is probably the biggest factor when it comes to this kind of computing?

Mark Bowker:  You can't get into too many it conversations today without a security being top of mind. So we certainly find it's a top priority. It's a top, I'll say at the top of the list on what I call the CIO whiteboard. Certainly a top area for spending technologies like VDI that had been around for a while and as they're being deployed or have been deployed specifically to address security concerns or what else they kind of tighten the security posture.

Jason Lopez:  Yeah. Um, well would you say it's a fair statement that if it weren't for security issues it'd be a lot easier to deliver apps and services anywhere to any device?

Mark Bowker:  Yeah, I mean that's kind of the magic and that's, that's been the way it's been for a long time though, right? I mean, I remember when I was in it, it was all about, well they used to dial up right over a modem to connect to, you know, the systems they need access to. And they did that because they could securely connect through, let's say DPN or secure connection back to the user. But I used to hand out laptops. Now we have smartphones, now we have more applications than ever with people. Certainly working for more locations than ever. Businesses are always looking for ways of, okay, I don't want to compromise that user experience. So I can't just let things go out the door unsecured, who are I really have to, I'll say tune the knobs, right? Do I turn up the security knob at risk of turning the user experience or do I turn down the security and you know, kind of for the optimal user experience, it's constant tuning that people are really looking for.

Jason Lopez:  So Mark, could you take this high level concept and kind of bring it down to a to earth here? And of course, I mean, while you're an analyst, I guess you do that for a living.

Mark Bowker:  I'll look at my crystal ball, all good.

Jason Lopez:  Um, but uh, but if you could just pull this down to earth and basically describe how this is actually done. How does the technology actually work?

Mark Bowker: Yeah. So people have done this, right? So this is proven technology that works and you know, you're asked how you do it. There's a few things to kind of keep in mind is one of the more important things folks look at is really being able to centralize as many of the applications in data as possible. So now if I have those applications centralized, meaning they do not reside on an end point device, now I can project them to an end user device. So that's essentially what VDI and Daz do. They centrally host applications and data or complete desktops and project them to the user. So once I take that centralization model and project to an end user, I really need to look at things like multifactor authentication so I can know and trust that that's Mark Belger on that device. I can have ways that I can actually trust that device and know that it is secure, that I can actually have Mark Alker operating and accessing business applications. And data is ultimately where people, uh, ultimately look to achieve, um, through, through the technologies like VDI and dads. For sure.

Jason Lopez: I see, I see. I mean I hate to peel the onion back another layer, but what are some of the advantages of these remote desktop solutions? And I'm kind of thinking about the idea of accessing data on any device. That's a key part of my question.

Mark Bowker: No, definitely. Definitely. So, so here's the magic. I mean the technology is ultimately all about taking your windows operating system, the applications that are installed in that, in your data. And it's about being able to say, let's deliver that same experience and personalization you have, but let's not let any of those pieces live locally on your device or on that laptop. One of the ways that I actually work, which is interesting, is I have a smartphone that has a keyboard and mouse hooked to it and an external monitor. And then my desktop is then projected to my phone and on my screen is a full windows that looks and operates as though it was on a local laptop. But I have a device which happens to be a phone in this case to this acting as my desktop.

Jason Lopez: Okay. So, uh, why are you doing that? And what do you think is a good example of what we're able to do with the technology?

Mark Bowker: So the reason I do is is one is to validate the technology really works. But if you take the example I just gave you, I was able to create that desktop within easily within 15 minutes that then I was able to access and start logging in with my company credentials and start working. So if you take a time like this where people have almost flipped and completely working from home, now you can imagine that if I didn't have a device to give that user, well now I can take a desktop that's hosted inside a data center in the cloud. So VDI or Baz, depending on the technology, then projected to that user. And I can have that done at scale really within minutes or hours as opposed to the traditional way of having to procure device, install the operating system, install the applications and installed the data. So just the time savings alone can be enormous. Um, being able to host desktop images off of the end point device.

Jason Lopez: Yeah. Well it brings to mind this idea, you know, before virtual desktops, if we were to have had the situation in the past where we have to be at home and sheltered in place, you know, a business might issue everyone a laptop, uh, loaded up, uh, provide a VPN, provide some instructions, maybe a call center, uh, and then just kind of hope it works.

Mark Bowker: And it wouldn't work, right? It's not, it wouldn't work. If you think about it, one, you'd need to have those laptops in house. Now you're just really saying, Hey, take this laptop. Well what if it got lost on the way? What if their kids start playing games on it and it stops working? And then the other thing you mentioned is, okay, now they get home, they have to use VPN. Definitely if you go in double, triple, quadruple, you know, 10 X, the number of users, you're going to have performance problems. In that case, it doesn't scale. It doesn't work. Have companies done that? Absolutely. They've done it because they haven't prepared for it. And most companies haven't prepared for something like this. But at least that person can do some work while remotely. Now alternatively, if somebody had a device at home, they could have a hosted desktop somewhere and be able to access that hosted desktop without any risks. As long as I can authenticate purely to that desktop. Now I as an it owner, I've got still full control and management of that desktop because it lives in a

Jason Lopez: So Mark, I wonder if you could give us an idea of the growth, the adoption of virtual desktop technologies. What's that been like? Um, where did it start and where are we now?

Mark Bowker: Yeah, so when we surveyed users about five years ago, about a third of the users had BDI, um, deployed at some level. And then Daz was really just used five years ago as a potential alternative for VDI. And then what we've noticed is Daz has really caught up, there's really right now a neck and neck race of VDI versus Daz. And I truly believe that Daz is going to replace VDI. So what's it going to be? Interesting. Here is a third of the companies that we survey a VDI and usage day. Now given everybody working from home with the coronavirus pandemic, I think the question becomes is it going to bounce all the way back or contract all the way back to that third? I don't think so. I think that it's going to contract to, you know, a number in some cases that may be double that.

Mark Bowker: So you may go from a third kind of pre pandemic to upwards of like 80% during the pandemic and you may only when office offices opened back up, you may go back down to you know, 40 50% and where people are still working from home because they're going to realize the technology works, it's secure, it does deliver a good user experience and therefore people are going to have, you know, maybe greater work flexibility maybe to be able to attract new talent. Maybe to be able to even hire people more out of region or more globally in some businesses.

Jason Lopez: Okay. Well what do you think we're going to learn from this time?

Mark Bowker: I think we're going to learn that the technology works. I think now that's going to be a given. People will understand. Yes, the technology works and it's going to work well. I think we're going to learn some hard lessons during this time. So I think we're going to see some unfortunate things happen. We'll be even already seen like an increase in phishing attack, for example, to end users. Uh, and then I think you're just going to see that people are going to establish relationships. I don't think they expect it to in an office environment. And I say that through the means of collaboration tools, right? So working from home means that given today's collaboration tools, that you're likely spending time in meetings on video and you're, it's different being being in a meeting room with four or five, six, 10, 20 people than it is being online on video from your home office that you may or may not have a separate room for or not.

Mark Bowker: And I think people are gonna learn that, you know, it's okay if I have, you know, the dog laying next to me and you know, I'm in a meeting that, uh, that's gonna become more normal. And while I think that's good in many senses because it gives people a flexibility, you know, there's also the other side of that where, when does work ever begin and end, right? That we'll need to kind of be at aggressed too. But I think the biggest thing is, Hey, the technology works. It can work in even some of the most secure environments and it really just will minimally show businesses that there's an alternative to the way people can work in their environment.

Jason Lopez: Mark Belker is a senior analyst with the enterprise strategy group. He talked to us from, as he describes it, not in the woods of Maine, but in middle America where he's working from home and his kids can safely get outside now. And then during the lockdown. This is the tech barometer podcast on Jason Lopez tech barometer comes to you from the tech news site, the forecast. You can find more

Jason Lopez is executive producer of Tech Barometer, the podcast outlet for The Forecast. He’s the founder of Connected Social Media. Previously, he was executive producer at PodTech and a reporter at NPR.

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