Mobile applications and cloud services are both increasingly relevant to CIOs and IT decision makers. The IT industry is starting to talk about the Mobile Cloud; however, there is no official definition of what the mobile cloud is or how it will impact the enterprise. Indeed, I moderated a panel a few months ago with top vendors and service providers. I asked each panelist to present their vision of the mobile cloud. To my surprise, there was no commonality or cohesion across the panel.
In this and subsequent articles we are going to break down the technical components of the mobile cloud. We are going to look at what is happening in the industry, and discuss the implications to IT professionals. This article considers where you should put your applications, in the cloud or on the device.
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Do You Put Your Applications in the Cloud or on the Device?
To answer this question, we first need to look at the mobile device.
The number of mobile phone users worldwide is measured in billions, with most countries exceeding the number of active phones per population by 70%. While the growth of the smartphone and the tablet has been impressive, the growth is measured in millions, and these numbers pale in comparison with the number of mobile phone users.
The key question is, "Will these mobile phone users move towards the more expensive smart phone, or will these users prefer a cheap device with pay-as-you-go services in the cloud?"
The mobile network service providers would certainly like it to go towards a cloud based model, as it increases their relevance as a provider of wireless services. By branding services such as storage and data recovery, the mobile service providers keep their relevancy in the consumers' minds. Providing cloud services also obviates some of their fears about becoming a megabyte pipe provider, where they provide the physical network, but the applications and the service is provided by another party.
Device manufacturers and application developers largely favor the growth of smart phones. The cloud pay-as-you-go utility model makes it feasible for small application developers to build and host cloud services. However, it is hard to imagine that we will ever see the growth in mom and pop stores developing cloud services like we saw with the iOS and Android platforms.
The answer to whether you should put your applications in the cloud or on the device is: it depends on what the service is. There are some services that are better suited to the cloud environment and some services that are ideal for deployment on a rich media device.
The social and one-to-many services are ideally suited to residing in the cloud. Examples of these services include sharing and collaborative applications, interactive training, and the next generation of social interaction with realistic avatar and user generated content.
Personal services that are unique to the individual fit more naturally on a rich media device. Personal services include services such as personal assistants, mobile payments, single player games, books, and self-improvement tools.
Then there are a series of applications which benefit from a combination of a rich device and cloud capabilities. The obvious services that fall into this category are location services and asset tracking.
What Does this Mean for the IT Professional?
Adoption of mobile consumer applications into the business will continue. There is particular excitement around the collaboration and location based services. These applications will exist on cloud and device platforms. In addition, the range of user devices will continue to diversify, with users bringing multiple devices into the corporation. These devices will introduce a new level of networking and security complexity, as they will automatically form networks and intercommunicate with each other.
In response, IT development organizations need to start classifying user services based on whether a rich client or a cloud host environment offers the best business solution. They need to look for cloud providers that offer a development framework for delivering solutions in the cloud in conjunction with rich devices. In addition, plans to handle security in the cloud infrastructure will not be sufficient. You have to develop a multi-level security solution that encompasses the device.
The decision on whether to put your applications in the cloud or on the device really just depends on what the service is. Some services are better suited to the cloud environment and some are more ideal for deployment on a rich media device. In subsequent articles, we will continue to break down the technical components of the mobile cloud.
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