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VMblog Expert Interview: Leostream Talks Hybrid Workforce and the Technologies Needed to Support It


The hybrid workforce, whether companies like it or not, seems to be here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.  There are various hybrid models of work, but at its core, employees are working remotely and/or in the office, depending on circumstances.

VMblog recently spoke with Karen Gondoly, CEO of Leostream, to better understand the challenges and how IT can build solutions that easily adapt to the needs of a hybrid workforce.  

VMblog:  What are the IT challenges in meeting the needs of a hybrid workforce?

Karen Gondoly:  Truthfully, the challenges for managing a hybrid workforce are the same as for managing an on-premises workforce. These challenges just go to the next level. No matter where your users work from, organizations always need to ensure the security of their data and resources; IT always has to manage and monitor desktops and access; and end users continually demand the best performance out of their desktop.

From the organization's standpoint, the key security challenge is ensuring that data and resources don't leave the organization's control. The most straightforward way to ensure that is to never allow users to move data or applications to their local machines, which walk off with them when they work remotely. Organizations need to implement a hybrid workflow that allows users to access resources locally when on-premises, but then use a remote access solution to access the data when they are remote. And this needs to be done with strict authentication and access control rules, while not squashing the end-user experience by making it over-complicated for users to gain access.

For IT, the challenges of managing and monitoring are complicated by the fact that supporting a hybrid workforce typically means building a hybrid infrastructure that leverages both on-premises resources and the cloud. If the day-to-day work of IT involves managing resources that are spread across platforms, it's key to find tools that make it simple for IT to work across those platforms without moving to independent management consoles. The same is true for controlling and monitoring end-user access to hybrid resources. IT needs to be able to track who is logging in, where are they logging in from, and what they access, and have a consolidated view of that information for all the hosted resources, whether those are physical workstations under users' desks, virtual machines in the data center, or instances in the cloud.

Then, of course, there's the constant challenge of satisfying the end user. I don't know about you, but I complain when the DNS resolution on my laptop slows down. Now I'm going to work from home, remote into a desktop in the cloud, and access corporate data over a VPN? The experience of logging in and using my applications needs to look and feel just like it does on my laptop - when the DNS resolution is working well - even with the challenges of network bandwidth and display protocol performance in the middle.  That may mean looking for a VPN alternative and experimenting with different display protocols for different types of users.

VMblog:  How can we make hybrid work more productive and keep employees engaged?  What type of technologies are needed?  Do they exist?  Do we still need something created?

Gondoly:  I think the technologies necessary to support a hybrid workforce model do already exist, but they will continue to evolve. We saw that evolution in display protocols over the last couple of years, as vendors improved handling for tablets and pen pressure over USB. We saw that evolution in remote access gateways that expanded their capabilities to act as VPN alternatives.  Even the cloud, as it adds more regions and instance sizes, continues to evolve to satisfy more use cases.

Where can these technologies evolve next? Well, that's driven by the challenges we just spoke of. What features can privileged access control providers build to help assure an organization that their data is accessible only by the appropriate users? What other metrics does IT need to monitor and maintain for an environment that is hybrid on all fronts, from where resources are hosted to where users log in from? What is the next cool peripheral that end users will need to leverage on a remote desktop? And, generally, how do you evolve novel technologies like OpenStack VDI or Linux VDI so they can solve problems that are overlooked by more mainstream solutions?

And, keep in mind that some of the solutions that we think of as "mainstream" may not be as desirable if your goal is to modernize your workforce. Technologies that, for example, provide a VMware Horizon alternative, are likely more well suited as a hybrid workforce technology for modern organizations.

VMblog:  How do we keep our systems and data safe when people are working from anywhere?

Gondoly:  I alluded to this before. One key here is making sure that, even though your people may go anywhere, your systems and data don't. By that I simply mean, keep everything off of your users' local devices and under your control.

That may mean keeping data in your data center. Or, it may mean locking data and applications away in a private network in a public cloud. Or, maybe you want to do a little of both and take a hybrid approach. No matter how you decide to architect your solution, the idea is that your data and systems remain physically under your control and you deploy a robust access control platform to authenticate users and allow them in.

Then there's the second key point for keeping systems and data safe. You must architect a system that ensures zero trust, implements robust access control rules, and monitors user access to ensure compliance. There are so many hybrid cloud security challenges when supporting a modern workforce, so finding tools that simplify solving those challenges is key. For example, if you've standardized on a corporate identify provider like Okta or Azure AD, ensure that you can leverage that to authorize access for remote users connecting to corporate hosted resources.

VMblog:  What happens if companies no longer support remote work flexibility?

Gondoly:  Honestly, they better prepare to lose a certain percentage of their workforce. I've already seen it in practice. Organizations that refuse to embrace a hybrid workforce model can't retain talent and will find it difficult to hire new employees.

That latter point comes into play in two ways. Not only does the company limit its hiring pool to local resources, those local resources have to agree to being 100% on-premises. That's not the world we live in anymore. Employees have become accustom to the lifestyle that a flexible remote work policy provides.  That's not to imply that remote employees aren't getting their jobs done, but who really enjoys commuting every day?

In past years, it was the perks you provided at the office that enticed people to join your team. Now it's the perk of getting to skip going into that office, at all, that potential employees are looking for.

VMblog:  Predictions for what's next? 

Gondoly:  The snowball which is cloud adoption has start rolling down the mountain and there's no stopping it now. To support a hybrid workforce, organizations will increasingly turn to Desktops as a Service, or DaaS, which essentially means, "move my desktop workloads to the cloud".

We've already started to see players gaining traction in the DaaS space, as people look for a VMware Horizon alternative that allows them to create a hybrid digital workplace at a lower cost. And then, in verticals that require high-performance virtual workstations for power users, such as engineers, you hear rumblings about organizations looking for PCoIP alternatives for the cloud after the acquisition of Teradici by HP.

Those rumblings turned out a suite of niche technologies that are maturing into solutions specifically well-suited for hybrid clouds and hybrid workforces. By combining those technologies, you see a path where organizations and MSPs can build a more DIY DaaS solution that addresses the challenges faced by organizations, IT, and end users. That's the power of the DIY approach that the future holds. You, as the IT administrator or MSP, get to define and balance the challenges faced at these three levels, to build the best solution to take your company into tomorrow and beyond.


Published Thursday, July 14, 2022 7:30 AM by David Marshall
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