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Virtualize The User To Control The Device

AppSense's upgraded Environment Manager supports phones, tablets, and PCs and enforces policies based on how a device affects the network and data security.

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Is a bring-your-own-device policy a way to give employees freedom of choice while cutting enterprise IT costs, or just an attempt to offload expenses on to staff that can turn into a support and security nightmare? User virtualization vendor AppSense thinks it's the former, releasing new software Tuesday that it says mixes IT control of data with user flexibility, no matter what device the data is accessed through.

"A couple of years ago, everyone had just one PC furnished by the company and running a fairly standard set of apps," Doug Lane, director of product marketing at AppSense, said in an interview. "Now, a typical user might have three devices: a smart phone, a PC, and an iPad; that's untenable for IT to directly control."

AppSense's answer is to centralize user settings and applications so any client device can access them. Though originally aimed at desktop PCs used for hot desking, AppSense now sees bring-your-own-device (BYOD) as a growing market. The new version of its software, AppSense Environment Manager 8.1, supports a wider variety of devices, including phones and tablets as well as PCs, and offers improved management capabilities that enforce policies based on how a device affects the network and data security rather than on what software it runs. "We can control behavior without having to manage whole OS and apps," said Lane. "If a user has a particular app that IT doesn't want running on the corporate network, you can't stop them running it on their own PC." Instead, they prevent that application from accessing the network and, if necessary, restrict the applications and services accessible to the user through that device.

AppSense also is aiming to help enterprises moving from local to cloud-based applications, another important way to separate data from devices. The new software also migrates data automatically from local applications to clouds, something the company says many enterprises are combining with migration to Windows 7. "Some enterprises are wanting the fastest possible way to get to Windows 7, but others see application deployment and management as an area where they can optimize the user experience," said Lane.

However, AppSense doesn't support every platform yet, and most of its customers are still using Windows PCs. The new software has a more modular architecture that it says will help with eventual support for many more mobile devices, but right now that is still a future plan. It also has to overcome the argument that its software isn't necessary, as some of the same functionality it offers can also be achieved through application virtualization or thin clients from major vendors including Microsoft and Citrix. AppSense's answer to this is to try to build on the features offered by the larger vendors, partnering with many of them. In recent months, it has announced collaborations with Microsoft, Citrix, HP, and Cisco.

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