Perfect IT Storm. 6


I guess it is the perfect day for such topic. Most of you may not be aware that I live in Ottawa, Canada and to celebrate the upcoming winter, today we got blessed with a nice, 12″ (30 cm) snow storm. As I will have plenty of time until I get back home and clean up the driveway, I decided to put in words something I have been thinking for a long time, since this wave of craziness started with people like Brian Madden, Michael Keen and Harry Labana. Yes, I am talking about User Installed applications and I will explain why this may be the worst idea to ever be considered in IT land.

First of all I do understand that users do have needs and I am cool with that. And that sometimes they may need a tool that is not readily available for them. But to stretch that and say that user installed apps is the solution is asking for HUGE problems down the road and here is the reason: legal issues.

As you all know, there are several companies that on their EULA will explicitly mention their application must NOT run on Terminal Services. If you do it, you are violating the EULA. Now, between you and me, how many of you IT people actually read the freaking EULA for an application before deploying it on your TSs AND (note the word AND here) consulted your legal department to clarify the EULA (do not try to tell me you, an IT person, understood 100% all the legal bullshit written in an EULA and the legal implications/ramifications – that is why lawyers exist)? Answer: none I am almost certain.

So if you leave the decision on what to run on his desktop to the user, are you guys thinking they will read and understand the EULA? For God’s sake these people do not even read the user guides that come with their brand new HDTVs. Do you think all of the sudden they will start reading EULAs? For sure you can get a lawyer to help the user do that what will drive that Winzip license from $20 to $20,000 as soon as the lawyer finishes his work and gives you a report if there are any legal issues on running WinZip on a hosted VM under XenDesktop 4 running under vSphere 4 running under HP C-class blades in a datacenter in Oregon. Yes, the lawyer will consider all this.

The real issue here goes deeper than that and is really tied into how IT is seen or works in most companies. IT is seen as a team of firefighters, always fighting some fire inside the company. Logon times that are way too slow, applications that refuse to work, machines that crash, printers that do not print and so on. And that is exactly where the problem is.

If your IT team spends 80%, 90% of their time doing what I described above, there is something wrong with your IT infrastructure and/or planning/directions. Sorry to rain on your parade but that is the truth. IT should be way more than that. A group of people that understand the business needs, the user needs and comes up with the right tools to deliver these requirements. If users do have all the tools they need (note that ‘need’ does not mean ‘want’) why do they need to install anything else on their machines to do their work? They do not need it. Please do not tell me that fucking iTunes is a requirement. It is not and we both know that.

That brings us to the fact that IT and Technical Support are seen as synonymous. They are not. Another group must exist and this is the one that will find the real needs and come up with the real tools. Some could say this is the CIO/CTO and that could be the case but putting all this weight in one shoulder is not smart. A single person, you and me included, will make mistakes. Guaranteed. A CTO/CIO title does not mean “Technical/Business God/Jesus Christ”. Actually in several large companies I worked with, that was exactly the opposite. This person had really no deep understanding of the business and/or the technologies. Another recipe for a disaster. That is why I think these decisions should be handled by a group, something like ‘IT Architects’ and these guys would be of course connected to theĀ ‘Technical Support’ so they understand what is coming and prepare themselves to support the users and the expected issues. Yes, there are issues, no matter how well you plan/deliver your dream environment.

Another thing that came to my mind this week is the whole BYOPC idea that is closely tied to the whole user installed crap idea. I like it and I can see the benefits. But again, I am sure there are legal issues with that approach. Legally I would love to hear what a lawyer has to say. For example if a user brings in his own machine to the office (company property) and somehow that machine that is not owned by the corporation happens to do something like burning down the office, having a bomb inside, steal files, whatever where there is financial damage that an insurance company has to step up and pay the bill, will they actually do it or will they say in court that as that machine was not part of the corporation and the whole damage was caused by a third party (the user with his own PC), would they have legal grounds to give the corporation the finger? Or even sue the user and make him pay for all the crap in damages? Has anyone consulted their legal department/lawyer/insurance company to clarify this? Again, almost certain no one did it.

The legal issues such approach brings are huge, especially considering that you can interpret the law in several different ways. Plus, as all I wrote above, I think this hides under the rug a bigger issue that is not having an IT group that is actually working as they should: looking for ways to make the business more efficient, by clearly understanding user AND business needs. If this is all working as it should, user installed apps are not required. Sorry.

Users/companies should be able to work efficiently with a common toolset as per my post here.

If you cannot deliver that, look under your rug. I am sure you will find a load of crap there.

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6 thoughts on “Perfect IT Storm.

  • appdetective

    I agree that UIA are generally a stupid idea for the reasons you mention above and for the fact that these asshole users will still fucking call me when their shit breaks. I certainly see you and @harrylabana pushing back on the use case in the tweeter universe. Yes it’s true I do sometimes try to follow along there but can’t be bothered to actually use my @appdetective account yet.

    Anyway I do agree with the line of thinking that this is a just a TINNY use case for some. One reason is legal as you put really well above, and the other is service levels as per the tweets I saw earlier today. The two don’t gel and will cause a conflict. The Unidesk blog

    http://blog.unidesk.com/virtual-desktop-management-blog/bid/11103/User-installed-applications-and-desktop-layering-they-are-linked-and-they-are-the-future

    is naive to ignore these issues simply dismissing them as barriers that will vanish thanks to an emerging trend. I also agree with the line of thinking that self-service of managed application is a good thing and not the same as user installed app which is a fucking disaster waiting to happen unless you put a lot of process around it and set service level mgmt expectations.

    Enjoy the snow @crod

  • Andy Wood

    I agree entirely – I wrote a similar piece – http://www.virtualizationpractice.com/blog/?p=2896; and I am totally with you on the BYOC model

    Not sure how it works in the States but in the UK each electrical device in the office has to be PAT tested, each workstation worked at needs to meet certain health and safety regulations. If I ‘the company’ don’t supply that I the company am liable – but if I allow you to bring in your own device – how is responsible now?

    From a company perspective I’ve got to comply with The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974… if I’ve standardised devices I can save by considering each device once – if punters have all got different devices I’ve got to do this each and every time. Nightmare.

    You can’t lift and shift iTunes as a delivery model for consumer applications to a business environment

  • Michael

    Completely agree regarding BYOC and UIA. It is a mistake. Truly, I don’t care about empowering the user to that degree. Their computer is a tool. It is a tool that we (IT) must support. I can tell you for a fact that BYOC would not work at my company as IT would still be expected to support ANY computer that broke regardless of whatever policy we actually managed to get put in place.

    Similarly, UIA would still be supported by IT. We might not directly support iTunes, or whatever other app the user installs, the we’d have to deal with the ramification of whatever issues are caused by the installation of that app, such as trojans, performance degradation, etc.

    Both of these ideas have the possibility of working if you have a strong support policy that has the backing of your highest executives. Otherwise they are doomed to fail.

  • Steve H

    shhhh. The marketing teams at Citrix and VMWare don’t appreciate that you are poking holes in this new market they created to help keep sales growth up in the face of heavy market penetration in their core product lines. VDI, UIA and BYOPC address a segment of the overall user population that is less than 10% of total (if even that high). They are a fart in the whirlwind of IT, much like the idea of wide adoption of Linux desktops and Santa Claus.

  • Rebecca V

    BYOC is not a Citrix concept and to tie that to Citrix of VMware shows how little understanding you have of this space. Furthermore, I doubt any of you speak with c-level people which explains the idiotic language here.

    BYOC has huge following in Google, Yahoo, and IBM. IBM has been experimenting with this model for years!!!! Do they have lawyers? Yes, so many that they could kill this stupid website in less than an hour.

    BTW, application virtualization does NOT mean running apps in TS. ThinApp, InstallFree could care less about TS.

    Eventually, none of this will matter because the world is moving towards webapps.

    • crod

      Rebecca,

      I am not sure who you are addressing with your comment. Hopefully it is not me.
      Calling my personal blog ‘stupid website’ is not really polite. I do appreciate comments, agreeing or not with me, but one thing I try as much as I can is to keep the conversations at a high level. I do not mind f*** words either as long as they are not used as a personal attack. Simple as that.
      I am also trying to understand what Thinstall, etc have to do with this post.
      Finally, yes, webapps are indeed replacing the world as we know. I have been listening to this same thing for the past 15+ years (I was probably using the Internet before you even started working) and I am still to see this happening.
      It is like the end of the world that everyone predicts will happen every 10 years since my great grandpa was alive and we are all still here. And alive.
      Well at least, as far as I know I am not typing this from heaven.
      Thanks for the comment. Just try to be more logical the next time and avoid personal attacks, appreciated.

      CR