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VMblog Expert Interview: IGEL CMO Simon Townsend on the "Return to Work"


With COVID-19 restrictions now finally beginning to lift in many countries, businesses face a period of transition as some workers return to the office, while other opt to work from anywhere. Though not as dramatic as the transition that took place in March 2020, when workers across the globe were suddenly sent home, IT organizations still have much to consider as they create a digital end user experience that promotes the health and safety of workers, while at the same time continuing to safeguard their company's critical technology infrastructure, data and applications. 

We recently sat down with Simon Townsend, CMO for IGEL to learn more about what the "return to work" means for him, and what IGEL is doing to help businesses successfully transition during this time.

VMblog:  As some parts of the world return to normalcy, do you see a big "return to work" coming?  Or will we remain hybrid?  And what does hybrid mean to you?

Simon Townsend:  Certainly there will be a number of workers who opt to return to the office, as in-person collaboration with co-workers, partners and customers offers certain benefits that virtual environments can't. However, I do think that a big part of "return to work" will be based on a hybrid, or what many are calling "work-from-anywhere" scenarios. 

Many businesses, for example will give their employees the option to work in the office a few days a week, and then work from home or elsewhere on other days. The biggest problem when working from home can be a lack of interaction, creativity and collaboration. Too many Zoom calls - not enough time to get work done. The Hybrid model could really work well. Allowing in office, face-to-face creativity and meetings, with work from home time be used to actually get some real work done.

Obviously some organizations want their staff back sooner....While many think employees should be given choice, companies are going to be balancing productivity with employee happiness. Some of this will be to encourage social distancing, but employees who have worked from home for since March 2020, will also appreciate the flexibility this affords.

VMblog: What role will EUC technology providers play as people and companies adapt to work-from-anywhere environments?

Townsend:  When everything shut down in March 2020, and workers were sent home, EUC vendors played a pivotal role in making this all possible. A powerful example of this is City of Corona, an IGEL customer that leveraged IGEL OS, IGEL UD Pocket, Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) and Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops to move to the cloud during this critical time. 

Chris McMasters, CIO for City of Corona, said, "Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of our employees did not understand the ability to work from home. This has become the biggest game-changer for our organization since adopting IGEL, Citrix and Microsoft. The flexibility afforded by the cloud workspace solution has enabled us to keep operating- and in some cases has saved jobs."

As the move to "work from anywhere" accelerates, companies will continue to rely on EUC vendors in the VDI/DaaS space to support them in enabling secure, managed remote work solutions. User experience, simple onboarding, security and visibility of the edge is going to be key.

VMblog:  We hear a lot about digital workspaces these days.  Is that just another name for VDI/DaaS, and why is that?

Townsend:  There is a lot of confusion about the term "digital workspace." Many people ask, " If you already have a VDI solution, does this mean you have a digital workspace?" Not exactly.

VDI means that a desktop operating system is run in the cloud or in a data center, then delivered to an endpoint device. To the end user, the desktop session should look and feel as if it's running locally on their thin client, laptop or mobile device. VDI can also be used to allow a user to remotely connect to a physical desktop machine. For example, for workers who are working remotely on a temporary or part time basis.

A digital workspace is a comprehensive solution designed to present enterprise applications and services to users across devices, locations and work styles. It's possible to define the four parts of a Digital Workspace:

  1. An enterprise app store that delivers applications to any device;
  2. An identity and access management system;
  3. Corporate communications and notifications;
  4. Unified Endpoint management

These digital workspace components work together to help keep access smooth and secure.

IGEL Senior Pre-Sales Engineer, Ben Ward, recently wrote a great blog post on this topic, which offers more detail on the distinction between digital workspaces and DaaS/VDI.

VMblog:  Security has been a critical concern during the pandemic.  What are some of the biggest concerns for EUC professionals when it comes to security today?

Townsend:  Earlier this year, during our annual DISRUPT event, we had the opportunity to dig deeper into the issues and challenges IT faced during the onset of the global pandemic. One of the most interesting findings from the survey was the need for a better user experience and how security is driving VDI adoption. In the survey, we found that while user experience ranked the highest in terms of challenges organizations faced in moving employees to the remote work model, nearly half (47%) of EUC professionals we surveyed, ranked endpoint security a top challenge. So, what is the EUC professional's biggest concern when it comes to security? That they can't effectively manage remote software, OS upgrades and patching for their remote systems (34%). Fear of ransomware attacks (24%) and accidental data loss (22%) were also notable. This shows that, while the concerns may vary, fear of limited protection for remote workers and their devices from unwanted intrusion is high.

VMblog:  Sustainability is important in today's enterprise environments.  Why are companies today prioritizing sustainability?  What is IGEL doing to help its partners and customers achieve sustainability?

Townsend:  Enterprise IT is responsible for about 2.5% of all global greenhouse emissions. And specifically, EUC produces the CO2 emissions equivalent to driving 10 million cars, 100,000 miles a year. This is why today's companies are prioritizing sustainability and looking for ways to reduce energy consumption and e-waste. Supporting energy efficiency and lowering IT's environmental footprint is one of IGEL's core tenets, and there are four ways that IGEL helps our partners and customers accelerate their journey to sustainability: 
  1. IGEL helps enable the shift of user workloads to carbon-neutral cloud environments. Microsoft Azure for example expects to be 100% energy renewable by 2025. By making the adoption of virtual desktops easier, more manageable and more secure, IGEL helps organizations consolidate their EUC resources into shared infrastructure that's easier to power sustainably.
  2. IGEL extends existing endpoint device lifespan by an average of two additional years, and in some cases much longer. By converting aging PCs with IGEL OS, organizations can unlock more value from their existing hardware. This reduces electronic waste. In fact, for every 1,000 laptops, as much as 40% of annual embodied emissions can be reduced.
  3. IGEL hardware has a much smaller environmental footprint. If new endpoint hardware is required, the purchase of IGEL endpoints, such as the ENERGY STAR compliant IGEL UD3, enables organizations to select devices which put sustainability first. The UD3 for example uses up to 77% less electricity to produce, is built with 80% less hardware than traditional PCs and is built with 98% recyclable material, including less plastic, less paint and more sustainable product packaging.
  4. IGEL supports a more sustainable remote workplace. By making remote work simpler and more secure, IGEL helps promote working from home options like the IGEL UD Pocket, which further reduce overall emissions. With IGEL, users can securely use their own devices for work, and IT can easily manage and support those devices using the IGEL Universal Management Suite.

VMblog:  Finally, I'd like to end today's discussion by asking you, what keeps you up at night?

Townsend:  Today, IGEL is focused on providing an endpoint operating system designed for VDI, DaaS and cloud workspaces. After 20+ years as a hardware-focused business, this is a huge shift for us, but it has already proven to have a dramatic impact on the market, fueling software sales beyond expectations. What keeps me up at night? Ensuring that we continue to articulate our value proposition in terms of the dramatic CAPEX savings that come from delaying planned hardware refreshes, the reduction in OPEX expenses due to the ease management inherent in the IGEL software, as well as the benefits of being able to security manage nearly any x86-64 device including thin clients, PCs, laptops and now NComputing Arm devices.


Simon Townsend joined IGEL in October 2018 from Ivanti where he was Chief Technologist, EMEA and a member of the Office of the CTO. A frequent industry speaker, author and visionary on industry topics related to endpoint security, VDI, Citrix, Windows and DaaS, Townsend played a key role in defining and delivering corporate, field and product marketing strategies.

Published Monday, June 21, 2021 7:32 AM by David Marshall
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