Many customers I talk to are interested in supporting a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) delivery model. A thought frequently echoed by customers is that allowing users to access their applications on their terms improves mobility and leads to greater productivity. In addition, when personal devices become little more than a tool to access IT applications centrally stored in the data center or in the cloud (e.g., SaaS), we also realize the following benefits:

  • Security: Data is physically secured within the data center instead of locally stored on a client endpoint device
  • Business continuity: Users are no longer tethered to a single device to access their apps. If a user’s primary device fails, he or she can access apps by running a client (e.g., Citrix Receiver, Wyse PocketCloud, or VMware View Client) on another device (e.g., zero client, PC, or tablet).
  • Operational efficiency: New desktops and applications can be deployed in seconds, instead of over a period of weeks. Diagnosing and remediating problems can often be accomplished without an administrator having to “touch” a physical endpoint device.

With tangible benefits, it’s hard to argue against hosted virtual desktop (HVD) technology, as well as other complementary application delivery technologies such as server-based computing (SBC) (e.g., XenApp and Terminal Services), application virtualization, and SaaS. Many of our clients are placing strategic investments in these technologies today, with large scale rollouts planned for the coming years.

I have talked to several clients that want to move forward with BYOD initiatives, but are predictably cautious. Several have initiated small pilots with the goal of supporting a specific use case (e.g., iPads for c-level executives). Others are more cautious with planning and architecture and have yet to support any BYOD implementation. However, some clients are already using server-hosted virtual desktops (SHVD) to support call center employees that work from home. In some instances, those workers access their virtual desktops from personal PCs.

That leads us to a significant problem that occurred this week. A Windows 7 update broke the VMware View client. You can read about the problem in the VMware KB here. The problem can be resolved by upgrading the View client or by uninstalling the Windows 7 patches noted in the workaround here.

For user-owned Windows desktops or laptops, having Windows Update automatically apply new patches is considered a best practice. As a result, IT cannot apply traditional change management practices (e.g., patch testing and QA) to user-owned endpoints.

For organizations planning BYOD scenarios, this week’s Windows 7 patch issue should make you consider the potential for a large-scale break created on Patch Tuesday. If we fast forward a couple of years, it’s possible for an IT organization to have to deal with remediating this type of problem for thousands of users.

Since we’re giving up some aspects of change management with BYOD, these types of problems are inevitable. Having policies and processes for quickly remediating client failures on user-owned devices will be essential. For users that aren’t tech savvy, the IT organization will need to make it as easy as possible for them to receive and deploy a patch. That can also be tricky if a remote client app broken by a device update is needed for the user to access company email or another app in order to get a link to download a patch.

Contingency planning, remediation testing, and training that may also include patch distribution through personal email is an essential, but sometimes overlooked aspect of deploying BYOD solutions. Organizations that are fixing broken VMware View connectivity on user-owned Windows 7 devices are learning that lesson the hard way. Hopefully this event will serve as a reminder for BYOD planning to include a contingency plan and remediation methodology for dealing with large-scale BYOD client failures.

Sure, with BYOD, the user is supposed to “support” their own device in theory. However,if hundreds or thousands of users can’t connect to their apps, it becomes IT’s support problem, like it or not.

Am I overreacting? What do you think?

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