Review: NComputing Brings Virtual Desktops to Mobile Devices with oneSpace
True enterprise mobility demands a multi-platform virtual desktop experience, which NComputing's oneSpace delivers.
Extending business applications, traditional Windows applications and cloud services in a unified fashion to mobile devices has become an issue that many IT administrators have to resolve. After all, many users are looking for alternatives to traditional desktops to increase productivity, especially while on the go.
NComputing, a company well-known for their vSpace Desktop and Application Virtualization Platform is taking on the world of mobile devices with a new product called oneSpace, which the company touts as the first unified workspace solution designed for small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs). But don’t be fooled by the SME label. oneSpace can bring unified desktops to mobile device users for businesses of any size.
Hands-on with oneSpace
oneSpace, built on NComputing’s popular vSpace platform, has been on the market for several months and has experienced rapid growth and adoption. NComputing is obviously committed to the product and has consistently provided updates, upgrades and enhancements to continually improve what was an already good product.
The most obvious place to start with a review of a product like oneSpace is with the end user experience. After all, oneSpace is designed to offer a unified, virtual workspace to users of portable devices, and is positioned to solve the problems that most portable device operators encounter when trying to use enterprise applications, cloud services and access enterprise data.
oneSpace solves those problems by creating an easily accessible workspace that is designed to bring various types of applications and files to the mobile user in a unified and manageable fashion.
It’s difficult to come up with a simplified description of what oneSpace offers because the product enables mobile users to access business applications, cloud services and enterprise/cloud file services in such a way that the usage of those elements seem almost transparent. oneSpace accomplishes that with what could be summed up as a paradigm shift for mobile productivity. Here, the product combines access to virtual machines with other business-related services in a virtualized workspace using an innovative delivery mechanism that leverages a mobile device client.
Simply put, a local client app gives device users access to a virtual workspace, where they can access defined applications, data and services in a secure fashion, all without needing to configure any virtualization, data storage or security elements on the endpoint itself.
Case in point would be the typical iPad user, who simply installs the small oneSpace app, which grants the user access to a "workspace," an environment that aggregates a variety of applications and file stores to be delivered over a secure connection. Processing (save for the local client application) takes place back in the data center and is fully secured and managed in a unified fashion.
With the local app installed, authorized users can access Windows applications and other programs not normally supported on an iPad, such as Internet Explorer, Flash and countless other Windows specific applications. What’s more, the mobile device user also has unified access to secured cloud services and enterprise data stores/storage services, all of which are enabled via the workspace. End users no longer have to care about where applications are installed or data is stored, or how SaaS applications are configured. Everything needed is delivered in a nice, tidy package directly to their mobile device.
The menu provided by the oneSpace app proves easy to navigate on the iPad.
Windows-specific programs, such as Internet Explorer, run with ease on iOS devices.
The end user experience on the iPad (and Android powered devices) proves to function quite well, with touch screen functionality added to the applications and elements, allowing users to leverage touch controls, such as pinch to zoom, swipes for scrolling, 2 finger taps and so forth, adding intuitive gesture interaction to applications which were originally designed for traditional pointing devices. Users entering data in applications will find the ability to zoom in on forms, touch to change fields and scroll using touch a much improved experience over previous attempts to shoehorn a Windows desktop onto a tablet.
Other end user-focused capabilities include the ease of which recently used files can be found and used to launch associated applications. Those recently accessed files may be stored in the cloud, on enterprise servers or most anywhere, as long as the oneSpace administrator has approved the service for business use.
Data, settings and passwords are not stored on the physical device, and are protected by the logon security offered by the oneSpace platform, making oneSpace a good solution for those enterprises seeking an easy way to enable BYOD without having to take complete control of the end users device.
On the management side of the equation, oneSpace leverages the vSpace Management Center, which is a browser-based application that offers command and control of vSpace environments. NComputing has melded the oneSpace management components into the vSpace management console, offering administrators a single management platform for oneSpace, vSpace and the various applications and devices supported by NComputing, such as desktop and workspace environments, thin clients, Windows PCs and iPad and Android tablets.
oneSpace uses the vSpace management console to unify and centralize management of nComputing products.
Application delivery is enabled by building a library of applications using wizards found in the management console. NComputing bundles in several presets for popular applications, including some web-based ones as well, and administrators will be pleased to find adding applications to the library straightforward.
Applications to be delivered to oneSpace clients are stored in a library, to which administrators can easily add new applications using wizards and templates.
One innovative feature offered by oneSpace is the ability to integrate cloud storage services into the workspace. NComputing calls those storage options Data Stores and allows administrators to link those data sources into the workspace. Data Stores prove to be an important concept, allowing BYOD users to seamlessly access data, wherever it already is, without having to relocate it to an official or proprietary system. What’s more, some cloud storage platforms offer optional auditing capabilities, which allow administrators to audit the traffic and associated file movements across the cloud storage platform. That could potentially address data leakage concerns and give administrators a method to report on data usage, without having to do anything special with oneSpace or its management components, and in a pinch serve as tool for meeting compliance requirements.
Cloud storage services can be integrated into the oneSpace platform.
Workspaces can be predefined with cloud storage options, making it easier for administrators to pre-populate user workspaces with enterprise storage options.
All of the magic of oneSpace happens in an environment called the Workspace. Administrators define a workspace for the end user, and the workspace functions as a portal for predefined applications, storage access and so forth. The workspace is presented to the end user via an application. Control of the workspace remains with the administrator, while the workspace environment is accessed and personalized by the user on a local device like a tablet.
Administrators have full control over what applications are made available to the end user and can also define file associations and data stores and even create blacklists, which prevent users from accessing defined URLs.
Administrators can create a default workspace on which to build individual user workspaces. That way, primary applications, data stores, file associations and blacklists can be defined and automatically included when a user is provisioned into the oneSpace platform.
Administrators can fine-tune user settings and create user-specific workspaces.
As stated before, each user has their own virtual workspace, which can be fully customized to include applications, cloud services and data stores for their individual needs. What’s more, those customized environments can be accessed across multiple devices, allowing the end user to move from one device to another with ease.
NComputing’s oneSpace solves many of the problems associated with integrating mobile devices into SME environments. The product leverages proven virtualization technology and integrates an easy-to-operate management console that should remove many of the burdens encountered by administrators looking to extend the organization’s environment and assets securely to multiple users.
What’s more, oneSpace offers many features that make it much easier for businesses to adopt BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) practices by creating a virtual workspace that can be managed and delivered to mobile devices without over-controlling the device itself.
Applications are further secured, since applications and the respective data are not housed on the mobile device and access is secured using LDAP-based authentication (ie. Active Directory), which prevents lost/stolen devices from accessing enterprise data and enterprise applications.
I did find a few nits to pick with oneSpace, such as the lack of full fledged auditing and reporting capabilities, and in some cases an oversimplification of administrative options. However, as NComputing is improving the product regularly, I would not rule out seeing more sophisticated features in the near future.
Administrators can deploy oneSpace in several different fashions, including on premises, fully cloud hosted, or a hybrid of the two. One of the best choices to evaluate the service is to run a trial account on NComputing’s own servers, allowing oneSpace to function as a cloud delivered solution. Administrators looking to take the next logical step and move into production can then chose the deployment model that works best for them, and even add virtual desktop delivery to thin client devices if desired from the same installation.
Frank is an award-winning technology journalist, professional speaker and IT business consultant with over 25 years of experience in the technology arena. He has written for several leading technology publications, including ComputerWorld, TechTarget, PCWorld, ExtremeTech, Tom's Hardware and business publications, including Entrepreneur, Forbes and BNET. Ohlhorst was also the Executive Technology Editor for Ziff Davis Enterprise's eWeek and formerly the director of the CRN Test Center.