Especially during uncertain times, users and organizations need technologies that will be there for them. With more remote workers than ever before, companies need to go above and beyond to provide powerful experiences as well as secure sessions. Plus, with more users working remotely, there are more targets, and more chances for data leaks, and a lot of potential lost productivity.
In this episode of The Disruptive Enterprise Podcast host Marcus Holloway, president and CEO of MTM Technologies, discusses the evolution of remote working tools and the introduction of AnyWhereApp 2.0 with his guest Karl Connolly, Chief Technologist for Enterprise Accounts at Ingram Micro, U.S.
Remote Workspace Evolution with AnyWhereApp 2.0
Marcus Holloway, President & CEO, MTM Technologies and Karl Connolly, Chief Technologist for Enterprise Accounts at Ingram Micro USA
Marcus Holloway: As we record this podcast in mid-April, we’re all experiencing an unusual and perhaps even uncomfortable time. Let me begin by first saying I hope you, and your family, all your colleagues are safe and healthy. I must say it’s odd not being able to see people you work with every day or to even go into an office for amounts of several weeks now. It’s not being able to see people you work with every day or not even to go to the office. For some people, this is an everyday occurrence used to telecommuting. But for some of us, this is very different working from home and probably new to some of you.
Marcus Holloway: Some of you have may already run into challenges managing multiple remote workspace – your home and your employees’ homes. Plus, having to manage wherever your apps and data reside. Maybe, you even found yourself troubleshooting home connectivity and desktop issues. And you may find yourself thinking, “Wow, there must be a better way.” That’s going to be the focus of today’s show – a better way to deploy and manage remote workspaces.
Marcus Holloway: I’m very happy to welcome my guest today, Karl Connolly, Chief Technologist for Enterprise Accounts at Ingram Micro USA. Karl and Ingram are longtime MTM Partners, helping us to develop and deliver solutions that our clients use to connect to the digital economy. And today, that includes work from home, as well as more traditional on-premise solutions. Karl, welcome to the podcast. Hope you and your family are doing well. We’ve been meeting with your team often for the last two weeks over video conferences. So, I hope everything is still good on your side.
Karl Connolly: Thank you very much for having me. Yes. Thankfully, everything is still good on my side, Marcus. Thank you very much for having me. I actually have been at Ingram now for two years, and I’ve always been a sort of work-from-home type individual, when I’m not traveling for work that is. And therefore, the translation for me has been relatively painless. It’s just my wife and me. So, my wife is a photographer. She works from the home too. Now, granted she’s not able to go and take pictures of our clients, but she’s catching up on all the post processing, which is a welcome relief almost for her.
Karl Connolly: And I will say from a company perspective, Ingram has done a fantastic job at supporting all their employees to work from home, except for those in the logistics facilities. And it’s in an odd way it brought us together, Marcus. We’re all now communicating a little bit more than usual on chat. We’re doing video calls, where before, people would be too shy to go on video. Now, they’re more inclined to go on video. And on Fridays, we get together for a virtual happy hour. So, if there’s a silver lining to this, we’re learning things about our colleagues that we never knew before and having a bit of fun at the same time. So, it hasn’t been all too bad.
Marcus Holloway: Yeah, you’re like me, I’ve been telecommuting and working from home for a long time. And it would be odd for me to spend the full week in a single office. And we’re all learning a lot about the potential video conferencing and telecommuting. And on your advice, I’m upgrading my camera, so my video will come in even better. Karl, as I mentioned, we’ve been working with your team for the last couple weeks, specifically on a way for IT managers and administrators to quickly deploy remote spaces for their employees. We, at MTM, are calling this AnyWhereApp 2.0. Karl, you’ve been very helpful in helping us design this. What do you think about AnyWhereApp 2.0 just in general?
Karl Connolly: Yeah. So, from my perspective, and I think in the eyes of our partners, Marcus, this has been an absolute godsend. So, if we rewind the clock back to about three weeks ago, what we saw practically overnight was a massive depletion of client devices from our inventory – and when I say client devices, I mean laptops and tablets – which put a lot of our partners in a real predicament because almost overnight, they were mandated to support hundreds, if not thousands of remote workers. And now, without any client devices to do that, they really had to kind of turn to an alternative, which, arguably, is a virtual desktop.
Karl Connolly: The challenge, Marcus, as you’re probably aware of, many of our partners who had sort of perused virtual desktops in the past but never really committed to them have a serious skill set gap. They have a lot of uncertainty, there’s a lack of general direction, and security, which is a completely valid concern, is front and foremost in their minds. So, being able to rely and leverage a partner’s expertise, such as MTM, which obviously has had years of experience in the virtual desktop space is very comforting and reassuring, and it’s a perfect solution at this time of crisis.
Marcus Holloway: Yeah, it’s some great points, Karl. I mean, MTM, as you know, we’ve been a pioneer in virtualization for well over 20 years now, and it’s great to see these capabilities becoming foremost in people’s minds. Any other capabilities you want to talk more specifically about? What’s in AnyWhereApp 2.0?
Karl Connolly: Absolutely. So, as you can imagine, if you’re a remote worker and you find yourself now certainly at home, what you’re really striving for is a couple of things, arguably – continuity, comfort and security. And what this solution offers remote workers is the ability now to have those things. They can connect to their virtual instance over a secure VPN, which gives them the security. They are now faced with the virtual desktop, which has been set up by you, to emulate what they needed at work. So, that gives them the comfort. Because as you can imagine, these remote workers are not typically in that environment. So, even removing a desktop icon, which would give them access to an application or their files, can really set them off. And so, with MTM and the solution that you’ve put forward here into the market, it gives them that familiarity, and it gives them that comfort, and it gives them the ability to make up any ground on lost productivity, and really alleviates a lot of the concerns of work from home.
Marcus Holloway: Yeah. I think, as we were working with you to put AnyWhereApp 2.0 together, we’re really trying to focus on maintaining productivity. We know that’s hard, but that was always our goal is to make working remotely just as productive, perhaps even more so with the added time and availability you have to the desktop without commuting times, and we try to keep productivity as high. So, we’re trying to keep an eye on that as well. Karl, what do you think it means to IT organizations with AnyWhereApp 2.0 in place? You can increase their workload or decrease their workload?
Karl Connolly: Well, Marcus, I would certainly say it has decreased their workload to a large extent. And like I said, I speak to partners all day long, and Ingram as a company has been dealing with this challenge now for about a month. The partners, especially the IT guys, many of them, to be frank, have been caught with their pants down and had no ability to forecast this demand. And as such, even those partners who have spent a lot of time in the public cloud and who are familiar with virtualizing applications have never specialized in virtual desktop. And then, a natural tendency for those kinds of partners is to gravitate to the public cloud. But what they realized, and I know this is a fact from talking to them day in and day out, is that they don’t have the skill sets. They don’t have the scripting capability that they require.
Karl Connolly: And therefore, when you look at an AnyWhereApp solution from MTM, it really masks all of the complexity and takes the heavy lifting, if you will, of standing up a virtual desktop to support hundreds if not thousands of virtual desktops very quickly. So, basically, MTM has taken on the responsibility for setting up the infrastructure, for monitoring it, from maintaining it, and supplying all the resources that IT needs. And this really helps because as you can imagine, IT are typically scrambling now to answer the call of many of their remote workers’ questions. And therefore, by taking a huge part of the responsibility off their shoulders, it’s really a huge weight off them.
Karl Connolly: I think as well, when you look at the public cloud, initially, those offering look right, but they’re certainly bare bones. And so, fortunately, partners can now leverage your 20 plus years of experience in this field, whereby you’ve built images with everything built in. So, it’s a very turnkey solution. It’s a completely managed solution, a desktop as a service, offering which, again, all of the burden of support, even level 1, 2, and 3, is falling on you, and that’s just a service, I think, many partners are more than happy to employ.
Karl Connolly: I think one of the big mysteries, and this goes across the board for cloud, Marcus, that are our partners expressed a lot of concern is, is when they look at cloud and specifically virtual desktop because it’s all new to them, what they’re really looking for is predictability. And that is predictability in respect to spend, performance, security, and compliance. And I can tell you hands down that that spend factor is one of the biggest burdens or barriers rather to adoption of cloud. And what MTM solution allows is predictability and all those areas, specifically in spend because you bookend the cost of this solution. And that goes a long way because it certainly instills confidence and assurance that the organization can meet the demand that they suddenly face themselves with.
Marcus Holloway: Yeah. CEO, I can sure appreciate predictability, particularly now in this environment where you really must monitor every single dollar you spend because it’s certainly challenging times. Karl, any ideas on use cases that would be particularly appropriate for AnyWhereApp 2.0?
Karl Connolly: Yeah, sure. Quite a few actually. I would argue that most verticals could leverage this solution. A little bit more about the solution before I get into the verticals. The solution itself is very well designed, and that is a testament, obviously, to MTM s capabilities and expertise. You guys have chosen to architect this on a highly scalable, hyper-converged platform, which means that scaling rapidly is relatively easy. That’s the beauty of hyper-converged. The solution is built on best-in-class VM virtualization. And then, you’ve chosen to layer Citrix, which is familiar to many partners on top of it, which is great.
Karl Connolly: What I really like about this solution that you guys have done is really put yourself in the shoes, I think, of what an end user would want, and you’ve built out a complete solution inclusive of Trend Micro security. You’ve got a Kronos backup there if a file has lost, a user can quickly restore it. And table stakes today with virtual desktop as you guys know is two-factor authentication, and that’s built-in word Cisco Duo. And then, of course, there’s Microsoft Windows 10 as the OS. And of course, partners can activate Microsoft 365.
Karl Connolly: So, when you look at that core set of base technology and applications, it really suits a wide variety of use cases. The beauty of this solution as well is that it is a private cloud infrastructure. For industries that are very heavily regulated, like finance and healthcare, oftentimes, with finance specifically, performance is critical. All those financial transactions must happen very, very quickly; and therefore, in this type of environment where it’s dedicated hardware. So, there’s no sharing here. That means no noisy neighbors, no resource contention, and security and compliance standards can be adhered to.
Karl Connolly: So, with respect to use cases, arguably, those in finance area, where there is PCI compliance that they have to adhere to, or specifically in health care would HIPAA and HITRUST, where you’re dealing with patient data or actual customers’ financial records, the ability to have an isolated environment specifically today as you can imagine because hackers are taking advantage of the chaos, really, and exploiting every opportunity; and therefor, a lot of partners are rushing to virtual desktop without the expertise to secure it from the ground up. And I think what MTM has done, really, is to deliver a best-in-class solution that ensures compliance with mandated government types of compliance regulation and statute.
Karl Connolly: So, I would argue, for any partners out there that are dealing in the financial space that now are supporting workers that are working from home, think about wealth management firms like in New York where all their managers are working remote, they’re still governed by FINRA. Just because they’re working from home doesn’t mean the compliance standard goes away. And as an attorney, I know if you fall out of favor with a compliance agency, you face a lot of sanctions. So, clearly, you want to avoid those. So, when it comes to business continuity plans, these financial wealth management firms with remote workers can indeed employee a solution through MTM that meets performance, security, and compliance requirements as opposed to trying to cobble together a solution. This is really built with all those factors in mind from the ground up.
Marcus Holloway: That’s a great answer, Karl. Thanks. And that matches up very much with our experience with all virtualization. So, regulated industries of all types, anybody who’s really concerned with security. And I’m not sure what company would not be concerned with security during this time. Karl, walk the audience through some reasons for using managed remote workspace that provide value besides the technology architecture that’s within that?
Karl Connolly: That’s a great question, Marcus. Prior to join Ingram, I worked at EMC Corporation for many years. And for years, we had been designing reference architectures for partners in the VDI space, and the analysts were always saying that the next year was going to be finally the year of VDI, I think now, with these compelling events, 2020 will probably be looked back at as finally the year of VDI. But there are many, many benefits to employing a VDI.
Karl Connolly: Let’s talk about a few. A couple come to mind. First, it provides security in a time of crisis, which I’m sure most of the listeners will resonate with. What that means is an organization can finally deliver a uniform image, a uniform desktop image that meets the compliance requirement. So, in the event of a loss of the end user device due to theft or failure, that’s okay because the actual client image is in the cloud, and that client device is merely just a conduit to it. So, that gives IT control, and the security that it needs in this time.
Karl Connolly: The other big factor, obviously, I talked about the unavailability of client devices at this time. They’re basically all snapped open and very hard to come by. IT organizations are also looking at supporting bring your own devices. And therefore, this solution that MTM has put together really enables a remote worker to access their desktop image, the Windows 10 image that they’re familiar with on, any device from any place at any time, and that’s very powerful.
Karl Connolly: Moreover. I think in the future, Marcus, with the shifts that are happening today because of C-19, you’re going to see a big change in the workforce as well, and people are now more comfortable with not going to the office. And therefore, if you’re hiring new folks, you don’t really care where they reside. And I think that’s been talked about for a long time, but I think it’s going to come into being today. And therefore, being able to support remote talent wherever they reside is going to be a big factor.
Karl Connolly: The other big aspect, I think, is business continuity. And you kind of touched on this a wee bit. Aside from just losing a device, think about the fact that we can’t go to our physical offices now. So, that, obviously, would put a major dent in productivity. And think about even the loss of a site due to a natural disaster. Suddenly, your whole office is obliterated with remote workers capabilities and virtual desktop. That is no longer a major factor. Sure, you’re going to have to deal with the loss of the property but your assets, your data, and your ability to continue the business will not be lost.
Karl Connolly: And then, from a management perspective, we find a twitch on this. If you’re an IT administrator group, and we talked to a couple of partners in the last few weeks, while they have some capabilities, those capabilities are stretched. If you’re building on-premise resources for virtual desktop, it’s typically a three-month engagement for a partner. So, if they’ve only got a small staff of single digit and user compute experts, it’s a real challenge. And therefore, employing a completely managed solution, like what MTM has put to market, offloads that burden and simplifies the management. The ability let’s say to patch a Windows 10 image once, and then push out those monthly updates very, very simply at the click of a mouse.
Karl Connolly: And finally, Marcus, I think the obvious one is around IT and digital transformation. This has been a bit of a buzz word as we all know in the industry for the last couple of years. And I think had sort of died on the vine a wee bit prior to this. Now, with this crisis that we’re in, I think a lot of organizations are struggling with antiquated hardware and are really going to now lead with cloud adoption. That whole cloud-first mentality will have a new meaning altogether. And as part of that, I would argue, these organizations can now encompass and factor in virtual desktops because I can tell you, when I talk to people about cloud, typically, they’re talking about IaaS, infrastructure as a service, and that means just virtualized applications. Now, I think, more than ever, it’s going to be a conversation about virtualized apps. But more importantly, it’s going to say, “Well, where do your desktops reside?” And that, too, will be important.
Karl Connolly: So, I think the beauty of this solution with predictable performance, and security, and cost will really enable those conversations, especially for our partners. And leveraging MTM’s expertise is really, as I said, a godsend for our partners.
Marcus Holloway: Thanks. Thanks a lot, Karl. So, this pandemic is clearly driving unprecedented interest in virtualization and managed remote workspaces. But Karl, do you have any thoughts of what it might look like post the pandemic? I mean, it can’t come soon enough for any of us, but any thoughts on what may be the future for managed remote workspaces?
Karl Connolly: Yeah, sure. It’s a great question. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit. In my role, I spend a lot of time reading blogs and industry analysts comments and the likes of Forbes Magazine. I also spend a lot of time with venture capitalists. And I had a meeting last week, and I asked that very question. I think, in general, the consensus is it’s a little bit too early to tell to identify macro trends. But what we’re all seeing, I think, and we can all agree is that this pandemic, this terrible situation that we find ourselves in is really going to ramp up cloud adoption. I would argue, for those partners and customers who have been on the fence or have been putting up barriers to adopting cloud, I think it’s going to open their aperture a wee bit, and they’re probably going to reduce their on-premise resources, and start to employ more SaaS type solutions, and look for completely managed offerings, the like of AnyWhereApp 2.0.
Karl Connolly: I think as well, Marcus, we’re going to see a big push towards automation where robotic process automation will probably come into the fore, and organizations will want to streamline operations and leverage off automation. A huge other consideration will be security, which has always been there, but I think, now, more than ever, endpoint security has really got a spotlight in it. And from our perspective, coupled somewhat with virtual desktops and the whole move to cloud will be a greater adoption of IoT and wireless technology through 5G.
Marcus Holloway: Well, Karl, those are some great insights, and you’re in a unique position to work with so many partners to get that market feedback. And so, that’s a very valuable. I Really appreciate that. So, Karl, as we start to close this podcast on any AnyWhereApp, is AnyWhereApp available now? And how would somebody go about trying to learn more about it in their instance?
Karl Connolly: Yeah. So, it is available now. We’re excited that it is available in the market. As I say, there’s a huge demand now for this. And most important about this solution, I can’t emphasize this enough, this is an absolute turnkey solution, a completely managed desktop as a service. So, MTM have done a fantastic job configuring, installing the various components, and then the management. So, it really is going to offload the burden.
Karl Connolly: So, it is available now. Obviously, customers can inquire through MTM direct, MTM Technologies, or I would advise them, if they’re Ingram partners, which obviously I hope they are, they would reach out to their Ingram Partner Manager. And most likely, they’re going to be directed to our digital transformation solutions team who have been well briefed and all the ins and outs of this solution and how to acquire and how to work in conjunction with MTM.
Karl Connolly: I think what we’re seeing, Marcus, now is the realization for many of our partners that going forward, more organizations are going to have to partner with partners, and they couldn’t ask for a better partner than MTM. You guys are absolutely, hands down, the experts in this field, and they should take comfort with that. So, I would say reach out to your Ingram Micro partner manager, and we’d be happy to walk them through the solution in detail and give them all the information that they need to kind of evaluate their use case.
Marcus Holloway: Yeah. Thanks so much, Karl. Thanks for your insights. I think there’s a lot in this podcast to think about and consider. And I’d like to return the compliment that Ingram Micro has been an exceptional partner to MTM. I don’t know where we’d be without you guys, and it’s just always a pleasure to work with you. So, thanks so much.
Karl Connolly: Thank you, Marcus. And stay safe, everyone. And hopefully, we’ll get through this together.
Marcus Holloway: It can’t come soon enough. Thanks so much, everybody.