Harshad Khatri

Trends in Cloud Computing: The Impact of Mobile Devices

The cloud is increasingly being accessed by mobile devices. Companies that enable full access to corporate resources through these devices will gain competitive advantage.

by Stian Lofstad, January 2013

A mere generation ago, life was less hectic than today and cell phones were simply portable phones. The optimism and massive investments in internet connectivity around the change of the millennium prepared the ground for the ubiquitous access available today, and made possible a supply of mobile devices more powerful than desktop computers a decade ago.

Cloud computing is one of the most used and misused terms in technology today, but is essentially about providing users access to their data and the applications using that data wherever, whenever. Simplified access implies shorter time to consumption for end users, but also shorter time to market for value-added services built on cloud resources.

Smartphones and tablets are increasingly used for this access. A recent Goldman Sachs report stated that 29 percent of internet-connected devices today are PCs, while smartphones and tablets make up 66 percent. The change of direction Microsoft laid out with their Windows 8 family of devices — essentially betting the farm on a mobile future—is very significant. Microsoft’s operating system and office productivity dominance will be sure to further boost mobile access trends.

How will this continued drive toward a mobile, always-connected society impact cloud computing adoption, maturity, and governance? Let us have a closer look at just three developments. 

Cloud services must cater to the mobile reality of the customers

In the consumer space, mobility players such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft all offer variants of cloud-based apps and private storage. However, the line between the individual and the professional is increasingly being blurred. Allowing employees access to company resources using private devices makes them expect access to your CRM system on their iPad, with (near) real-time business intelligence reports delivered by the touch of a finger while sharing analysis with their teams on the collaboration platform. This trend represents a major headache to CIOs as well as a major productivity opportunity. For cloud service providers, it is imperative they help CIOs turn this trend into productivity rather than headaches.

Secure access is more complicated and more important in a mobile world

Estimates indicate that one-third of a company’s mission critical apps are now in the cloud, and this is growing fast. When employees bring their own devices (and even their own applications) to work in the corporate cloud, the task of ensuring support for and control over this usage takes on a whole new dimension. Enforcing proper usage of passwords and log-in routines when required over a multitude of corporate and personal environments and apps is already daunting. Add to this the fluidity of today’s workforce and the complexity of assuring that corporate directory services are up to date, and it is clear that CIOs have a challenge in securing business property while catering to regulatory and compliance requirements.

Mobile access must extend to administration and management

With concerns of using public clouds for core business information and the need for strong service delivery control, the increasingly dominant way for the CIO to deliver on these promises is to deploy a private cloud to complement public cloud services. A managed private cloud, where the cloud provider deploys and manages the private cloud within the corporate data center, further alleviates process maturity and certain expertise concerns. When we speak of cloud computing, we tend to think of the users of the resources. The CIOs’ customers want simplicity and rapidity of IT service delivery on the software, platform, or infrastructure level. It is up to the administrators of the cloud to ensure those qualities are offered to the customers; but in an increasingly mobile world, the administrators themselves are also mobile. Administrators must have mobile access to their interfaces and core functionality, which exacerbates the security topics discussed above. The realization of this is something that will drive further developments for mobile administration tools, processes, and governance models.

Our world continuously converges on technology advances, and mobility is a common denominator. Ensuring that your employees can take full advantage of corporate resources on powerful mobile devices will be one of the keys to gaining competitive advantage in 2013 and beyond.

Stian Lofstad is director of Data Center Technologies for Oracle Insight.