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VDI and UEM Help Level the Playing Field for Rich UI Developers
Enterprises can't dictate desktops anymore, nor is it cost-effective to try
By: Arthur Kruk
Apr. 16, 2009 06:00 PM
It's an old headache that seemed to be going away, when most everyone in the enterprise was running Internet Explorer 6 on Wintel XP. The good thing about the Microsoft desktop monopoly was that UI developers could count on a predictable "easel", or foundation on which to deploy fat clients or web apps. Back when I was at Oracle and we had one monolithic suite of web e-business applications, we could get away with testing solely on IE, at least until a growing set of customers insisted we support those rogue Mac users.
But if you're building rich UI apps and trying to leverage the goodies available for PHP, Flex, Silverlight et al, that headache has become a full-on migraine. Enterprises can't dictate desktops anymore, nor is it cost-effective to try.
Now the landscape consists of:
Sure, we know the natural tendency for IT is to publish an SLA with supported hardware, OS versions and browsers. This is a CYA tactic that tries to ignore reality. Correspondingly, VDI's growth is probably being hampered because its main value is perceived to be about keeping users from messing with desktop environments.
VDI combined with User Environment Management is not just a boon for IT administration. It provides a contained, controlled environment insulated from platform volatility. Here are just some of the newer gotchas I've accumulated from the UI development blogs, consistent with my past experience building multiplatform enterprise applications:
Of course, that's the engineer's perspective. However, it's just as likely that the end user is the first to notice the problem, which simplifies to "My app stopped working [and I can't do my job]" with help desk responding, "It's working just fine on MY machine".
One answer is to develop code that you regression test until it runs error free on every platform. That's the best and only way to go when you're building commercial public apps. Even then you need to make a business decision to withhold support for the fringes: Windows 2000, IE6, Opera, etc.
If you are supporting an intranet or otherwise captive audience, you can try to limit your certification efforts to a select set of platforms. Even so, end users will always be ahead of you in trying to use a new browser patch release, or accessing your apps on some new platform...and those new platforms will keep coming.
This is where the true, underrated value of VDI and UEM (User Environment Management) come into play. You get more than just a desktop environment that is consistent with your limited certified platform set. UEM's (such as Appsense) preserves users' freedom to personalize their environment, balanced with IT's need to restrict how they access your apps. So there are no surprises when:
If developers can worry less about how their frameworks and code will run on different platforms, they can focus on making users more productive with the richest possible user experience.
How much more justification do you need?
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