Digital workspaces have emerged as a critical platform for enabling digital transformation. They support a wide range of end users with a secure, attractive and comprehensive digital “desk.” The technology has come a long way from the early virtual desktop infrastructure deployments, back in 2006. The focus has moved far beyond the initial emphasis on proprietary application delivery to providing a seamless user experience that works across applications and platforms. This change has moved digital workspaces to the forefront as a key technology for enabling digital business.
Yet, with all the advances that have been made so far, there are still critical features and technologies to come. These will be necessary to bring digital workspaces to the next level, providing critical functionality focused on both the end user’s needs and the administrative and management functions of the IT team. The fact that leading digital workspace vendors such as Citrix are focusing on strategic benefits on both axes is a testament to a modern approach to delivering best-in-class digital workspaces. This article will focus on three new capabilities or features that will make digital workspaces even more compelling and less complex to deploy and manage.
AI and intelligent analytics to enhance digital workspaces. One of the most important mega-trends in business is the increased and widespread use of intelligent analytics to improve operations, customer experiences and myriad other applications. Analytics will impact many different aspects of digital workspaces, providing substantial benefits. The key to effective analytics is combining multiple data sources to develop the most actionable intelligence. Integrating data from user monitoring, content delivery networks, public and private clouds, and IP networks delivers a broad foundation to apply analytics in a number of ways.
The most obvious and perhaps most important use of analytics will be to quickly identify and mitigate suspicious usage patterns or activity that might indicate a threat or breach. Most threats involve some sort of unusual activity, and using analytics to spot that in near real time and immediately alert system admins is a huge step forward. Another important use of analytics will be to optimize network utilization and routing to enhance application performance for the user. The ability to proactively identify bottlenecks and use alternate routing will ensure application performance levels. Finally, analytics will ensure reliability and uptime. Utilizing data from the long list of sources noted above will provide advanced visibility into problems that can cause downtime. Of course, with this broad array of tools, many organizations will create their own highly valuable insights about their digital workspaces using intelligent analytics.
Streamlined user experience to enhance productivity and satisfaction. One of the legacy impediments to making the digital workspace a truly engaging experience for end users is the problem of a disjointed and, in some cases, confusing user interface. Fixing this problem is a high priority. Without a seamless and compelling user interface, productivity suffers and there is unnecessary complexity that impacts both adoption and usage. Another critical improvement is the delivery of the same UI to all digital workspace users. Some offerings don’t support this, leading to all sorts of problems.
Taking the UI up a notch requires changes. The starting point is to support both a web-based interface and the workspace app. This is important because some users are reluctant to download more apps on their mobile devices. A second element that is key to enhancing the user experience is to have the same UI for all OS options. In the past, inconsistencies for different operating systems led to frustration and additional support and management costs. Another critical feature that enhances the user experience is delivering “universal search.” Allowing a user to search across repositories including the cloud with a single tool is a huge benefit and true time-saver. Improving authentication is also an area that delivers a better user experience. Moving authentication to the platform from the device improves consistency for the user. For IT professionals, upgrading the UI to streamline the user experience may not be an obvious area in need of improvement, but for thousands of end users, it’s cause for celebration.
Real Integration of SaaS, Windows, web apps and more. For a digital workspace to fully meet the requirements of a primary user environment, integration of other apps and services within the digital workspace is necessary. It is not uncommon for an employee to have access to six or more web applications or SaaS services, so bringing them under the umbrella of the digital workspace is a must-have. And one of the most important points of integration is with key services such as Active Directory. As organizations move to single sign-on (SSO), the digital workspace must be aligned with it.
For the digital workspace to truly fulfill the role that IT teams envision for it, seamless and tight integration is mandatory. This involves far more than just delivering an icon that leads to the service or app; it means true integration with SSO. To prevent disclosure of confidential information, integrated security across all SaaS and web services is fast becoming a mandatory requirement, along with consistent policy enforcement across all the environments. The ability to ensure consistent policy use and enforcement, using the digital workspace platform, provides a substantial improvement in an organization’s cyberdefense posture. This may also help organizations meet legal and compliance requirements.
We are at a truly exciting phase in the lifecycle of the digital workspace. Top-notch platforms, such as Citrix Workspace, are going beyond the basics and delivering next-generation features. 2019 will see the release and deployment of many key features, such as the three listed above, dramatically increasing the value of the digital workspace platform. This will position digital workspaces to support the innovative new applications that are allowing organizations to win in today’s highly competitive markets.