Q&A with Liquidware Labs and co-founder Tyler Rohrer

I recently had a chance to get Tyler Rohrer, Co-Founder of Liquidware Labs view on User Virtualization and Desktop Transformation. So, here are my questions to him and his answers to them.

Q: Can you give a quick overview of Liquidware Labs and your offerings and industry space?

A: Liquidware Labs was launched on a very fundamental principle: Making the desktop better through virtualization. The desktop workspaces we all use, and have used over the past 25 years, are changing—enabled by new innovations and technologies such as virtualization. We saw how disruptive and initially daunting server virtualization was in the early 2000’s, yet how powerful it could be to transform IT and its processes if done right. By late 2008, we saw the same process applied to the desktop but with the difference that the process and build-out were much more complex.

Liquidware Labs was formed to enable customers, platforms, and partners to more elegantly address the expanding demand in the enterprise for a suite of software offerings to progress through the lifecycle of desktop transformation. We also formed Liquidware Labs to add value—regardless of what stage you are at, what your desktop strategies and goals are, and what platforms and technologies you choose to employ.

So, we brought the first true end-to-end Assessment offering to the market with Stratusphere FIT™ in 2009—winning major awards, platform acceptance, and customer praise. We will soon be releasing Stratusphere Designer aka IXD™ here in early 2012 to take the powerful insight an assessment gives you—and using that insight to take action on image composition, application delivery choices, host architecture, storage design, and software licensing—a true bill of materials based on your use cases and design goals. Very cool.

Migration is a key offering with ProfileUnity™, which provides the ability to preserve user customizations, user data, and IT policies and then directly apply them to these new desktop environments, clouds, etc. User virtualization, aka Persona/Profile management, is a rapidly-expanding portion of our portfolio and an area of great potential. On average, we are seeing 10,000-seat deployments—huge scale. In addition, our announcement of FlexApp™, a truly unique way to create application portability, is something every customer has told us they can use.

Lastly, Stratusphere UX™ is an absolutely unique solution for user experience, which is actually another area we are again defining for the market. Virtual desktops run on shared systems, which makes them notoriously difficult to troubleshoot, manage their workloads, or scale—unless you have a solution like Stratusphere UX.  This software tracks the performance of the entire infrastructure, including inside the guest,  but from the viewpoint of the desktop user. What this means is once you get that call from a user, you can start by looking into their desktop but then go from there to user groups, machine groups, and virtual hosts through all the systems and storage plumbing and out into the network to figure out where the problem is. This is radically different from other monitoring tools that track systems first.  We have seen Stratusphere UX™ come to the rescue for numerous customers when in-house tools could not isolate problems with their virtual desktops. We believe this will become a ‘must-have’ solution for every virtual desktop deployment in future. Stratusphere UX will transform the virtual desktop infrastructure from an unwieldy backend into sleek data-pushing machine, so desktop administrators can check the status of all of their desktops—physical, virtual or otherwise—from a single pane of glass, something unheard of today.

Q: What is your view on the importance of Desktop Transformation, and how important will this be in 2012?

A: You can call it the transformation of the desktop, consumerization, cloudification, etc., and I think what we are all really talking about is that when I comes to the new standard in desktops, that there is no standard. This isn’t doubletalk. We really have hit an age, where every single user no longer needs to be fitted into a technology silo. Why not let them use the technology that allows them to be the most productive member of the company—So long as it also creates a productive environment for our budgets and management as well? We are seeing that now. The myth that one magical innovation will emerge to solve the world’s desktop problems is a romantic one but not true. But what’s more exciting is that we are bringing disparate technologies made by Apple, Dell, VMware, Microsoft, and Liquidware Labs to work together in unison—that is how it will happen.

Q: With Windows 8 coming up, do you think User Virtualization will be more important to get right, and why?

A: I do. User virtualization is the notion that the user counts and is the true pivot point in the mix of technologies we give them to do their job. I think we all got a bit spoiled by Moore’s Law and thought that box was it, the machine was it. Not true—it has always been the creativity and needs of the user that drives productivity. Business has always had the task of balancing user freedom to create with the need of the administrator to enforce the policies they need—that is still  the delicate balance for user virtualization. Windows 8, and an increased interest in things like Hyper-V 3 client side hypervisors, will drive this home even further. The machine is increasingly only a platform, simply there to deliver a powerful user space. The big trick here is to deliver that user space consistently to the user as he/she moves about and through the different work tasks they have—a consistent, device-tuned experience. User virtualization takes advantage of that user-centric and device (and OS) awareness, while at the same allows admins to enforce IT departments rules and policies, which is huge. Also, with the talk about Windows 8 being cross platform—from phone, to tablet, to PC, to VM—tremendous opportunities exist to extend the Windows environment and its management into markets we were never able to explore before (phone/tablet).

Q: The ability for a user to install applications in their virtual desktop is key…what is your take on User Installed Applications?

A: We think any sufficiently-advanced user virtualization offering has to have the ability to present UIApps, and we are really, really enthused by the feedback FlexApp has received in the market. Now the user profiles and their apps are portable. Not only does this count in the persistent/non persistent VM conversation, but imagine the implication to fleets of kiosk-style PC’s or thin clients in a call center, for example. Walk up to any machine, login, and your entire profile, personalization, data sets, and now apps are snapped into the workspace for you to use as if you never left…and when you log-off, all changes are stored back to the network. The next user also experiences their own personal workspace as quickly as a login.

The next frontier we are working on is DIA—the ability for administrators to manage thousands of disparate apps, used and required by different users, customized by different users—as a single entity. Patch them, add them, or remove them universally but with individual customization that persists: Stay tuned on that.

Q: What is your take on device freedom? And that the User profile follows the user no matter what device they connect from?

A: Great question—in fact the idea of a universal identity that follows you across devices, OS types and clouds locally is a very powerful one. Device freedom with a common OS across those devices is another one all to itself, and I suspect driving a lot of the enthusiasm with Windows 8. Looking out, you get the sense that both will probably need to happen. My thought is that I need the device type, given my specific use case in the moment, to allow me to be the most productive user I can be—while at the same time fitting the security, agility, cost goals of my company. As desktop transformation continues to evolve I think it will be less about BYOD and more about a suite of software, delivery mechanisms, and devices our companies will provision to us. Sometimes I will own the device, sometimes the company or service providers will, but in the end, my personal life is separate from my work life. But both often times will co-exist on the same device. The most important point here, I think, is that we are really looking at a future where information will for the first time trump the systems that they are delivered on. If I, as a user, can access the information I need—personal or otherwise—anytime, anyplace and regardless of the device I am using, think of what doors that unlocks!!

Q: Any comments on the “Twitter war” recently with AppSense about User Virtualization?

A: I imagine, that when one of your competitors is a non-funded, organically grown, self-sustaining company that is winning customers and seats from you at a healthy monthly clip level and rising, well, it’s gotta sting. So, the Twitter and blog rants are a reaction to that, I suspect. However, Liquidware Labs will not back down from offering our customers alternatives to existing technologies, and we won’t back away from providing good information to users in order to help them make informed decisions. One of our great strengths as a young company is that we don’t have to support any legacy constructs. We are free to invent the future with innovative products. We don’t believe you have to do things in the same old way, and we don’t believe enterprise companies should pay through the nose for solid robust tools.  We also talk to our customers all the time, and we really listen to their problems. We never forget that they come first. I believe it’s working. There are some people at Appsense I hold in high regard, and ‘nuff said.  The only other comment I will make is that we support healthy debate, but we will never engage in personal attacks. Not cool.

Q: Is there a demo of one your products you can provide a link to?

A: Yes—some great demos can be found via any of these links:

https://www.youtube.com/user/liquidwarelabs

You can follow Tyler Rohrer on Twitter here