Clear up the confusion about end-user computing

Today's end-user computing industry is the culmination of a decade of changes in mobility, desktops, virtualization and more. Dive in to what really qualifies as EUC.

In many parts of enterprise IT -- including the mobility, desktop and VDI industries -- people use the term end-user computing to describe their domains, but understanding the true definition of EUC can be difficult.

It helps to have a canonical definition to reference. At the most basic level, EUC is anything used to deliver and secure the devices, apps, access and data that people use to do their job.

EUC in the desktop era

For many years, nobody used the term EUC. Instead, most companies thought in terms of desktops.

From the IT perspective, employee-facing technology was anchored around a Windows PC or laptop, running Windows applications. Users' identities were stored in Microsoft Active Directory, and data meant file servers on the network. Desktop engineers managed everything with endpoint management tools, like Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager, Symantec Altiris, IBM BigFix and plain old Group Policy.

The rise of the internet meant increasing usage of web browsers and browser-based applications, but still, browsers were firmly a part of the desktop.

Thanks to platforms like Citrix and Microsoft Terminal Server, remote applications and desktops entered the scene. But, again, these technologies were still based around the familiar Windows world. It was the same way for virtualized applications and streaming applications, too. Mobility during this time often meant BlackBerry devices, possibly managed by the email team or someone on the phone team.

Cloud and mobility transform EUC

In the last decade, enterprise IT was transformed by mobility and the cloud. IT departments adopted enterprise mobility management platforms to deal with modern smartphones and tablets. And, for SaaS applications, identity and access management as a service enabled federation and single sign-on.

In the last decade, enterprise IT was transformed by mobility and the cloud.

Other areas of users' jobs changed as well. Enterprise file sync and share replaced network drives, security became more important and VDI matured.

The result of all of these changes -- especially mobility and the cloud -- was that users' day-to-day tasks no longer centered around desktops and Windows applications. Instead, users could perform their jobs on mobile devices, personal devices or just about anything with a web browser. Corporate apps came in the form of SaaS apps, on-premises apps, mobile apps, web apps and more.

The arrival of modern EUC

Today, focusing exclusively on end-user computing from a desktop angle would miss many aspects of how users do their jobs. Instead, we talk about end-user computing, which generally encompasses -- but is not limited to -- desktop management, mobility management, identity management, desktop virtualization, and many associated security and productivity tools.

Some vendors might have a slightly different definition of EUC, perhaps if they have fewer end-user-facing products. While end-user computing technologies cover application delivery and security, the actual apps themselves, as well as the development of those apps, are generally the purview of other domains.

Vendors such as VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and others are working to unify their portfolios of EUC products to make it easier to deliver, manage and secure resources for end users, no matter what types of devices and apps they are using. This is often referred to as a digital workspace. These vendors also seek to create user-facing portal applications that can aggregate all different types of apps.

In many customer organizations, the roles that make up EUC -- such as security, desktop management, mobility and identity -- are often in different organizational silos. Some roles in different silos are working to unify the EUC experience, however.

End-user computing is associated with a few primary technologies, but the end result is most important. In today's heterogeneous world, EUC is whatever technology it takes to enable users to get their jobs done.

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