A closer look at the mobile cloud
By Roelof Louw, cloud computing expert at T-Systems in South Africa
The proliferation of mobile devices and applications has changed the way we buy and use business today.
And interestingly, it is employees that are driving this trend, not IT.
Cloud Computing is also directly impacted by the above trend and according to Juniper Research more than 240 million business customers will access cloud computing services via mobile devices by 2015.
The mobile cloud is set to become an important cog in the cloud computing engine, particularly with the explosion of mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets that make simplified accessibility to information a major business consideration.
This said, the mobile cloud also comes with its own particular set of challenges that companies should be aware of from the get-go to ensure that they are fully abreast of what it takes to adopt the mobile counterpart of the information strata.
Demystify the mobile cloud
Mobile cloud computing is not mobile computing. Mobility in the cloud is fundamentally a hosted, centralised offering that runs mobile enterprise extensions and services in a virtualised environment.
Like its cloud computing counterpart, the mobile cloud is made available through various structures including the pay-per-service or pay-per-use model and is aligned to industry best practices for the provisioning of these services.
These devices are managed - particularly within the context of the private cloud - securely by a hosted environment that is governed by industry standards and up-to-date security solutions.
Also, it offers a flexible, shared service that delivers critical benefits such as saving costs on physical infrastructure implementation and
Importantly, it also allows for greener IT practices as these numerous mobile devices are now able to access corporate information residing on the cloud remotely.
It therefore takes the spirit and known benefits of cloud computing and adds a layer of mobility to it which extends IT services and accessibility to both corporate workers and private users across the globe. Indeed, it allows for device proliferation in an environment that is secure and managed.
Familiarise yourself with the challenges
However, with the mobility also comes a set of challenges and questions. How do you manage accessibility to your corporate intellectual property within the cloud while at the same time ensuring that the privacy of these mobile devices is not infringed upon?
At the heart of the above is security and policy orchestration which is also a hot topic in discussions on general cloud computing challenges.
For one, companies should establish a clear mobile cloud policy which can be based on available best practices and guidelines. The orchestration component of this policy will ensure that regulatory, governance and information protection criteria are met which pertain to both corporate (cloud) and personal information (residing on the device).
These policies must be mandated to ensure that information residing within the organisation and on devices are effectively accessed, managed and protected.
Without effective security and management, mobile cloud computing will not enjoy adoption and the resultant benefits it promises to deliver.
Private or public?
Whilst they do function as relatively removed offerings, the private and public cloud will always be connected, one way or another. The same goes for the mobile cloud.
As some stage, service providers will have to integrate the private and public cloud to ensure accessibility to all information residing within the cloud. Quite obviously, this raises a security challenge to the private cloud offering; however, with strong integration and management mechanisms in place this can be overcome by a cloud computing expert.
The mobile cloud is not going anywhere, it might be a way off for some but as with cloud computing it will be driven by the consumer.