BYO computers and the decline of the SOE

An article in The Australian newspaper got me very excited:

The BYO (bring your own) device program at one of Australia's largest insurers means staff will be able to break free from the shackles of their company-issued PCs and plug in their personal laptops, tablets and smartphones into the enterprise network.

"We can supply you with desktops here, but if people want to bring in their Macs or other devices, then that's their choice. People should use the device they feel the most productive in.

"It is part of Suncorp's fundamental strategy to attract, develop and retain top talent and to give them a great place to work, and try to inspire them to do great things." Mr Smith said Suncorp's goal was not to have infrastructure be a constraint to people's innovation and ingenuity.

I tend to work for lots of clients during a year, usually from their offices. I'll arrive, meet the team, and I'm excited to get started. Then I meet my desktop. It's a Pentium IV, with 1GB of memory, running Windows XP with a 7200 RPM (if I'm lucky) spinning chunk of rust. Hardware is expensive, and good computers aren't laying around in most organizations, so temporary workers like me tend to get to experience the joys of using a computer designed for 2004 in the year 2011. "This was the only machine we could find on short notice" is the usual explanation.

While the company-issued desktop is taking 15 minutes to compile the solution, and struggles to have two instances of Visual Studio open, my dual core, 8GB memory machine running a modern operating system sits in my backpack. Although my laptop is superior to the company issued workstation almost every single time, I'm never allowed to plug it into their network and use it, no matter how much it might increase my productivity.

While frustrating, I can usually understand the reasons why:

  • Computers cost money. Most companies won't buy top-of-the-line hardware to sit around in case someone like me swings by for a few weeks.
  • Protection. I can't plug my laptop in to the corporate network: I could have viruses (though given USB devices seem to work fine, this is probably moot)
  • Credentials. Who am I? I probably can't/don't want to join my computer to the corporate domain, which is necessary for a lot of software to work.
  • Data security. Since it's my laptop, I might walk out of the office with customer data on my disk. This poses a long list of legal problems (though again, a USB drive is probably just as dangerous).
  • Support. What if I'm running the wrong version of Office? I might flood their helpdesk with questions.
  • Not their problem. Due to the way most organizations are structured, IT is a cost centre that needs to be minimized. Their KPI is keeping things running, not enabling me to be productive.

Suncorps move is

A picture of me

Welcome, my name is Paul Stovell. I live in Brisbane and work on Octopus Deploy, an automated deployment tool for .NET applications.

Prior to founding Octopus Deploy, I worked for an investment bank in London building WPF applications, and before that I worked for Readify, an Australian .NET consulting firm. I also worked on a number of open source projects and was an active user group presenter. I was a Microsoft MVP for WPF from 2006 to 2013.

30 Mar 2011

I was very encouraged by this news too. It has repercussions for all those horrible intranet web apps that only work on the browser version installed on the SOE (usually IE6), but I suppose the fallback to citrix/virtualized corporate desktops mitigates this a bit. Overall I'm very pleased to see a large organization take this initiative.

Carl Scarlett
Carl Scarlett
30 Mar 2011

Nice one Suncorp.

Over here at Bankwest we're in the process of doing something similar, except we're also coupling the process with incorporating a newly constructed eco and tech savvy building. The main strategy (as I understand it) is that everyone in the building will be issued with a laptop which is docked into any desk in the building and via some sort of RDP will connect to a virtual desktop in a locally hosted cloud. Telephones and printing automatically follow you whereever you are.

Admittedly I'm still concerned about having the right amount of resources to work on WPF development under this model, but at least the hardware is software controlled, so getting a beefier box shouldn't be an issue anymore.

I do have 2 issues for your comment Paul:

  1. In copying data to your laptop to work on it, data security is still an issue and it may be locked down. I've recently been frustrated by this issue; I've got a you-beaut PC sitting at home but I can't copy over my RDP because it's so locked down (banks are understandably knee-jerky when it comes to data security).

  2. I've noticed rendering issues when WPF is viewed over RDP; mainly that UI tends to stop anti-aliasing and snaps to pixel boundaries. Have you encountered this issue and do you have any recommendations?