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Applications – The Elephant in IT Operations

by on September 8, 2015

It’s a longstanding joke among technologists. The only problem with technology is the people who use it. I think the joke needs an update. The only problem with technology platforms is applications.

I was talking to some of my virtual desktop friends the other day. We were talking about their challenges in keeping a stable platform in the face of the corporate chaos. Every day brings new underlying challenges. There are new applications. There are new security requirements on a regular basis. Even the foundational elements of the platform – network, operating systems, platform software from Citrix and VMware – will be patched and changing. No wonder if often feels like a house built on sand.

As engineers, we don’t get paid much for hand wringing, so we started to process these issues and think about improving the situation. Foundation issues really amount to change control. That’s not the easiest of disciplines, but it’s certainly manageable. There’s not much we can do about increasing security requirements. But, applications? Ugh.

Quick question. If you get your mail through Google Office, what kind of notice do you get when they decide to do an update? None. What if it’s a really big update that adds features or changes the UI? Sorry, still none. They update based on the platform needs. Is there any way to just hold a few users on the old version for a while? Um, again, no.

Salesforce is a little better in the notice department but still updates at their schedule not yours.

That’s because they know something that you don’t know. There is no way to stabilize a delivery platform without controlling the application stack.

I think you probably do know that. I think we’re avoiding the issue politically. As an IT professional, we’re not here to say “no” to business needs. We get our bonuses, and in fact keep our jobs, by deploying platforms that allow users flexibility. We need to balance this, though. In the end, there are no bonuses or jobs if the platform is unstable either.

We need to find ways to control and rationalize the application stack. We’re not in a position to allow every application, supporting multiple versions, because of a specific client request. We’re also not going to find our way to a draconian, lock-step, application policy. I believe there’s a middle ground and we need to be looking for it.

Confront the elephant. Say it with me.

There is no way to stabilize a desktop platform without controlling the application stack.

There is no way to stabilize a desktop platform without controlling the application stack.

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