Those of you paying attention in Sunday School may remember this thing called the apocalypse. Earl Robert Maze II was my Sunday School teacher, and he may be the most fearsome schoolmaster ever to scratch a chalkboard. One spitwad and there was sure to be a rapture. Mr. Maze would get pretty wrapped up in the lesson of the day and we'd all have to keep at least one eye on him as he paced back and forth. Not because we were worried about being asked a question, but because as he paced and talked, he'd build up globs of white something or other in the corners of his mouth, and every so often one of them would take flight and land on some unsuspecting front row pupil's hand, to their horror.

As luck would have it, I was late to class on the day Mr. Maze deemed that we were, at last, ready for the book of Revelation; I took the last seat — In the front row — Right in the line of fire. Sure enough, he was so worked up by the time he got to the part about the divine apocalypse, that one of those white gobs of goop chose that moment to set itself free and was headed for me like a heat-seeking missile. There was nothing I could do! And so to this day, the term apocalypse conjures up a frightening memory for me.

Which brings me to the current situation in the client management vendor landscape. The apocalypse was to be foretold by four horsemen representing conquest, war, famine and death (if you've ever worked for a company whose business has been disrupted, as I have, you've probably met with all four!). The four horsemen before us now in the client management market in the second quarter of 2012, are:

  1. The explosion of tablets and smart phones.
  2. The elusive management of client virtualization.
  3. SaaS-based client management vendors (see Windows inTune).
  4. New application delivery models (app stores, virtualized apps, etc).

The days of Windows PC management being the biggest challenge are GONE! In 2003, most firms were trying to get patching, packaging and provisioning right. Now that's baseline stuff and they'd do away with all of it if they could. The workforce computing landscape right now is radically more complex, and the resources that employees need are shifting rapidly from inside the firewall to outside. Consumerization of both devices and services is disrupting the client management vendor landscape as we've known it.

To cope with the changes, I&O organizations have been shopping for solutions that can help them corral more of the horsemen, but the fact of the matter is none of the solutions can, fully. Only a few have managed to build out data models, policy engines, and automation that are virtualization aware, or add mobile device management to the solution set, to name a few.

In the The Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Client Management Suites, Q2 2012, we have defined criteria to help I&O professionals understand which vendors are most prepared for the coming apocalypse — criteria to help assess advanced client virtualization functionality, including hosted, local and cloud-based virtual desktop, and mobile device management have been included and weighted heavily.

In the months and years to come, we expect cloud-based client management vendors to finally come into their own after a long, hard wait. It will get harder and harder for firms to justify handling traditional client management activities in-house, as Millennials continue to stream into the workforce, BYOC takes hold, and the primary challenges for workforce computing professionals shift to the virtual and mobile worlds. Their networks will move to Zero Trust models, and over time, responsibility for the employees' computers will fall into the employees' hands, where they are once again free to make their own decisions about which applications are the best fit for their needs.

For now, firms enjoy a rich array of solution vendors who each offer unique strengths. Some are optimized toward huge environments of 250,000 endpoints on up, while others are geared toward smaller organizations of less than 5,000 endpoints. The Wave model spreadsheet allows you to choose the criteria that are most important to you, and re-sort the Wave results to fit your priorities. We encourage you to experiment with this feature — it is unique in the industry. Mr. Maze would approve.