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Ken Phelan, CTO of Gotham Technology Partners, a Montvale, N.J.-based virtualization solution provider, notes that in some large organizations, employees are still coming in through the firewall and connecting to their local PC using Remote Desktop Protocol, and affixing sticky notes to their PCs asking that the machine not be shut off. It’s a primitive workaround, and one that becomes unnecessary in organizations that adopt user virtualization.
"User virtualization tools that allow you to recreate all of the things that make the user's environment the user's environment," said Phelan. "This includes all the aspects of profile in a provisioned infrastructure so you can provision those elements to iPads, home PC, and notebook PCs at Starbucks. It's a huge inflection point for what we can do with virtual desktops."
User virtualization can also improve a company's security posture. RES Software, a Plymouth Meeting, Pa.-based vendor, has a product called Workspace Manager that extracts all user settings and stores them outside of Windows user profiles. The software can detect the context of the user, presenting a certain set of corporate applications and network shares while they're working from home or in the office, and a more limited set when they're in a coffee shop or airport.
By abstracting user state, Workspace Manager gives mobile workers consistency, said Jeff Fisher, vice president of business development at RES. "For anything that considered an environmental setting, we can control and secure or expose or hide based on dozens of contextual elements," he said. "This allows us to get very granular about when settings are applied. We can load setting on a per-application basis if needed."
The future looks bright for the user virtualization market, as Windows 7 migrations are steadily ramping up and the growth of the mobile enterprise shows no sign of slowing down. It's unclear at this point whether "user virtualization" will end up coalescing as the de facto name for this type of technology, but as long as it continues to handle heavy lifting for IT departments, no one's going to be complaining about what label it carries.