Headaches Abound with Mobile-in-the-Cloud

While the cloud is taking the data center by storm few are noticing the thunderhead rolling in over mobile management. Perhaps since IT has successfully mastered mobile evolution to this point, it presumes “mobile-in-the-cloud” is just more of the same. To a degree, that presumption is understandable as the cloud does move smartphones closer to functioning like laptops — a device IT has years of experience in managing. This creates a false sense of security, however, as the cloud will change far more than that in mobile.

“Cloud computing — mainly infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) — is a fertile ground for extreme innovation,” as Yaron Levi, director of Business Development and Cloud Strategy for ANX puts it. That extreme innovation will change mobile devices in rapid-fire order. Few IT departments will be prepared for that.

Think wearable devices — wristwatch computers, clothes and eyeglasses, for example — to tiny nano computers designed to wear inside the human body. In essence, the pocket-sized handset will give way to unobtrusive and invisible devices. Thin clients will waft into thinness so almost-not-there that it fits in the shadow of a single human hair.

Now, add to that flood of old and new devices (and nearly all them owned by employees rather than the company), all the security, conformity and compliance issues currently lurking in cloud computing and you begin to get a sense of how serious a problem mobile-in-the-cloud becomes.

A multitude of devices, mobility networks and a new surge of seemingly endless information raining down from the cloud “results in an unmanageable mess for IT,” said Rob Juncker, vice president of technology operations at Shavlik Technologies, a provider of cloud-based software for automating IT operations.

This forces IT departments to make some tough decisions around mobility. “If they can’t manage the device and network sprawl, they have to either fight it, which takes a ton of resources, which can be better utilized somewhere else, or embrace it,” explains Juncker.

There is one other element that will make this the perfect storm on IT: the proliferation of apps and app stores. “App stores are the greatest hostile software distribution center ever invented by man,” warns Winn Schwartau, an expert on information security and chairman of the board of directors to M.A.D. – Mobile Active Defense.

In short, whatever company info or networks mobile devices can access can also be invaded by apps that are downloaded by employees — usually without IT’s permission or foreknowledge. Despite these huge risks, avoiding the direct hit of the cloud on mobile is impossible.

“By 2013 over half of the end-points connected to the cloud will be mobile, making them inextricably linked,” said BoxTone’s CEO, Alan Snyder. “While the cloud provider will be accountable for the management and monitoring of the cloud end-point, the responsibility for the mobile end-point itself and the overall mobile service will undoubtedly remain an enterprise IT or managed service provider function.”

Mobile carriers will be of some help, of course, but not as much as many enterprises will need.

“Mobile carriers are providing some management tools for enterprises today, such as killing devices if they are reported lost, or providing various levels of encryption,” said Azita Arvani, principal and founder of Arvani Group, a boutique consulting firm. “But these tools need to be more flexible and configurable to each enterprises’ unique set of requirements and circumstances.”

Best practices in enterprise cloud adoption will include a strong and strategic mobile component that covers the gamut of possibilities including periodic negotiations with carriers for additional protection of the enterprise. Even so, the overall cloud adoption plan had better remain flexible and open-ended to accommodate the rise of new devices and sophisticated new device management tools.

The mobile-in-the-cloud movement is building. It’s time to prepare for the storm.

A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker’s published credits include numerous articles in leading publications including, but not limited to: Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers. She has also authored several analytical studies on technology and eight books. Baker also wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making. Baker is a member of the National Press Club (NPC), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and the Internet Press Guild (IPG).