With more enterprises developing policies around mobile device usage, the role of the cloud is a hot topic. And why not? Any number of trends, issues and mandates suggest that its role will be significant—as in:
- Tablets everywhere. The popularity of these devices, their more user-friendly touch-screens, and the propensity of workers to use them on the job all suggest that they’ll be running a wider range of mobile apps.
- Apps need data. Some data is so sensitive that enterprises don’t want it residing on mobile devices, so the cloud makes perfect sense. Mobile devices have limited storage capacity anyway.
- Some apps must do heavy lifting. Processing power is improving on mobile devices, but it will likely always be limited compared to what’s available in the cloud.
- Bandwidth is increasing. As 4G becomes more commonplace, more apps can retain their snappy performance even when running in the cloud.
- Security and privacy concerns. Those nascent mobile strategies we mentioned keep coming back to this issue. And many of the framers are operating under the theory that data that resides (only) in the cloud and processing that occurs (only) in the cloud can be more easily secured.
- So, thin, so light, so… brittle? This doesn’t hold as true for the growing array of tablets and hybrids designed with extra durability for workplace and enterprise use, but it’s an issue nonetheless: mobile devices are subjected to more drops, more sudden downpours, and more cramming into briefcases than are blade servers hunkered down in raised-floor basements. Even when enterprises see fit to allow data storage on mobile devices, they’ll need data backed up somewhere cloudward just in case.
As we pointed out in this infographic on cloud computing and the mobile enterprise, fully 80 percent of developing commercial enterprise apps will launch on cloud platforms in 2012. That’s an awful lot of business operations and intelligence right out there ready to be consumed by tablet-toting business users. If the security issues can be managed, these apps alone will make the cloud essential for mobility.
So, mobility and the cloud are, from an enterprise perspective at least, made for each other. In fact, a recent CSC survey of IT execs revealed employee connectivity through mobile devices as the single greatest reason to embark on a cloud initiative.
What are the issues and choices you’ll want to know about? Let’s start with two big ones.
This topic alone could eat up ten blog posts, so let’s just get a feel. Consider, for example, that many employees now use consumer-oriented cloud storage solutions for transferring, sharing and storing work related documents. Do they tell their employers? Not according to this Computerworld piece on mobile devices and cloud storage. Do they use truly secure, complex passwords or choose the same “pet’s birthday” passwords they use for social media and other personal pursuits? You guessed it. Yet another reason for putting the brakes on a BYOD policy, discussed more fully in my colleague, Lane Jesseph’s blog post on BYOD’s inherent risks.
Discussions about Web apps, native apps and distributed apps begin here, and the topic is laid out in detail in this still timely article from Bryan Betts’s on Mobile Cloud Computing (note, requires signing up for free membership to view). While most apps in use today are accessed through browsers or on a device’s native OS, they’re limited by numerous layers of technology, each with potential for latency and transmission delay issues.
Renaud Larsen, chief cloud architect at Juniper Networks, believes future apps—including and especially those developed by and for specific enterprises—will be increasingly distributed, pushing content and intensive processing closer to the user. To make this work, a monitoring and automated rebalancing infrastructure will be mandatory.
Larsen even believes that, for many enterprise mobile devices, the browser will get bypassed altogether for an increasing number of apps—and also warns that developers must respond to the enterprise employee’s increasing propensity to move from device to device during a single, coherent activity. Apps and infrastructure will need to be smart enough to manage the handoff seamlessly.
What can we expect? Rapid rollout of infrastructure services and solutions that can help enterprises optimize architecture and security. In one example, Lenovo recently announced Cloud Ready Client and Secure Cloud Access technologies designed to let cloud apps “see” client attributes, situational cues, authentication and other factors, then deliver applications accordingly.
Bottom line: especially where the enterprise is concerned, both private and public clouds—as well as hybrids—will play an important and growing role in mobile device usage. Is your organization already moving in this direction?
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