Virtual Desktops and Applications are not as important as you think

We spend a lot of time optimizing how we deliver desktops and applications. But, the future will trivialize these things as the focus shifts the focus to data and the data moves to the cloud. It is happening now in the consumer market and the trend will infiltrate the enterprise as BYOD continues to become more prevalent.


We spend a lot of time optimizing how we deliver desktops and applications. But, the future will trivialize these things as the focus shifts the focus to data and the data moves to the cloud.  It is happening now in the consumer market and the trend will infiltrate the enterprise as BYOD continues to become more prevalent.

Applications are useless without data

Take a word processing application for example. Without data, the word processing application is really stupid. As soon as you start typing a document, you are creating data.  The application is just a mechanism for creating or consuming data.  And, in a lot of cases, this data is interchangeable between applications.  In other words, it is the data that is important – not the application.

Applications are just a data access layer

I like programming and a staple of any good programming language is object orientation. One of my favorite design patterns is called a façade pattern. The definition of façade is “the face of” something. So a façade in this case is the face of an object. The “face” is easily switched out, but the underlying objects remain the same (loose coupling).

Let’s relate this to applications. Applications are the façade to the data. Let’s take our word processing example again. I personally use Microsoft Word (for Windows and Mac), Google Docs, and iWork Pages. All these programs access the same data and they are easily switched out, so they are the face of the data. Dropbox (and more recently GDrive) keep my data where I need it, so those things are completely different facades to the exact same data. I can get my data on a fat client, web, mobile, offline, etc.

Consumerization and Cloud is driving the trend

Mobile devices have exploded and BYOD is gaining popularity. These 2 trends are directly associated with user demand – not IT demand. Brian Madden put it well on – “The new reality: The IT department has to compete against every random app & website out there!”

Let’s look at another example that is more consumer related.  When I purchase an online book from Amazon, I’m paying for the data (book).  I then have a choice of interchangeable applications that can be used as the face of the data – many versions of the Kindle, multiple iOS applications, multiple Android applications, multiple Windows applications, etc.)  The application is much less important than the data.  Consumers are getting used to freedom of choice and everything “just working.”  The same will creep into the enterprise and IT will need to cope.

So now what?

Windows applications aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so we’ll still be delivering those for quite some time. However, I see where the application is less important and we’ll be thinking more about data security, offline data, application and platform choice (Windows, Mac, Linux, mobile, web, etc.), data integrity, etc.  Or, perhaps I’m way off here.  What do you think?

Further Reading

VDI, ok? What’s next? Stephane Thirion

The VDI Party is Over. Benny Tritsch

9 thoughts on “Virtual Desktops and Applications are not as important as you think”

  1. It’s a sounds argument for me. For me personally, I can pretty much seamlessly move between a Mac, Windows, iPad, Windows Phone and the browser – what I’m using to access the data isn’t as important as the data itself.

  2. Hi Jason,

    I only 50% agree on the importance of datas 🙂

    Let’s take some examples :

    – Why is Apple so successfull with iPhones, iPad ? It is basically a solution only allowing me to access my datas … Just like any other one ! But it is a solution built on a powerfull HMI with a set of really intuitive applications
    – Healthcare application : even if you have your datas on a tablet, if you can’t handle them easily then your tablet project will fail, because users want to be able to manipulate datas in an effective an convenient way which means the application has been designed properly to handle such use cases.

    A last example : Splunk success is to me more about the way they can consolidate and present complex datas in a convenient way than about the datas themselves. “Turn Machine Data into insight …” is one of the slogans displayed on the website which means to me than raw datas by themselves are not enough.

    Working with one of my customers and living a day in a tyre business showed me that for the guy changing tyres datas & applications are not important. He just want to do his job without having to loose time because of IT.

    Best Regards,


    1. All valid points Pierre. My point is that applications are interchangeable whereas data is not. The application(s) that provides the best use experience wins.

      Another point that I often make is that looks matter in an application (like the Apple example you gave). Oftentimes, if an application looks good, it is perceived to be good. A crappy looking application may actually have more functionality, but the better looking application will be perceived as better.

  3. Apps aren’t interchangeable for all users, power users can handle this changes or maybe even change the apps themselves but there are still a lot of tasks workers that can’t handle a change of apps. Think of The kind of user that panics when the IE shortcut is moved from the left corner of their desktop to the right corner. Times are changing and so are users, IT just need to find a way to support them all.

  4. Agree with Kees, not for every user.

    I’ve an example about that : French Government has decided that every Public Service IT should go to open source.

    Lots of them decided to go to OpenOffice to abide the Law.

    Overall cost of the training they had to setup to support the MS Office to OpenOffice migration was in worst cases third times more expansive than upgrading the MS Office licenses.

    Typical users are made of habits and everytime you change some in these habits (IE applications for example) you can get them lost.

  5. “My point is that applications are interchangeable whereas data is not.” < This sentence resume everything for me.
    I agree with Pierre and Kees, changes, when too much, are not good. But I keep thinking and I see it EVERY day, even if the app is really crappy, as this is the only way to access the data, they use it.
    Pierre, the example of the French government is very good, and it didn't happen only one time… But with this software change, data needed to be change as well…
    I keep Jason's side and continue to think what I'm thinking 😛

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