Cloud and mobile – a dynamic duo?

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A new buzzword is gaining momentum: mobile. According to the Economist, we will have 10 billion mobile devices by 2020.

The rapid adoption of mobile devices has surprised many companies and brought others the idea to “mobile-wash” their offerings, quite similar to the “cloud-washing” that has been done in the advent of cloud computing. Although I have not seen so many products with changed names to suggest mobile capabilities, a lot of slides have been updated with mobile features and usage patterns without real feature enhancements that have been done in the development labs.

The current trend of mobile offerings is similar to the evolution of web pages in the mid-nineties when all companies wanted to have a web page. These web pages were filled with information, but there were no or just very limited ways to interact with customers. The current mobile app generation looks better than the early web pages, but most of them do not offer much interaction. Many services which are provided as web application are not available as mobile app. To be fair, mobile is a relatively young technology. Remember that we were not used to tablets about three years ago, before the Apple iPad was introduced.

Companies have invested in cloud solutions, so many services are already running in the cloud. The next step is to combine mobile and cloud to gain competitive advantage. A discussion about mobile should be split into business-to-employee and business-to-consumer scenarios.

For business-to-employee scenarios the mobile cloud solution will have specific requirements. Many companies are implementing a bring your own device (BYOD) strategy. Employees utilize their private phone for work tasks. This brings a special requirement regarding security, where it makes sense not only to secure the device and the access to the device, but also the access to the content. Imagine, your 8-year-old doing business critical decisions while playing with your iPad.

For business-to-consumer scenarios user experience is key. The consumer expects various possibilities to interact with the company, such as buying and storing a ticket on the phone and not only the option to check the prices. A typical consumer is not very patient and expects quick response times. Therefore mobile data transmission needs to be optimized.

On one hand we need to make sure that our (cloud) services are ready for mobile usage, on the other hand access to these services needs to be secured and optimized for performance.

A recent trend, called mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) has been adopted by several startup companies. The technology is used to provide cloud services, such as storage or analytics, for mobile applications. A MBaaS solution makes it easier for developers to focus on the design and content of an app without putting too much effort on the creation of a backend infrastructure. This can be helpful for quick development of an app.

Apps, which require access to data that resides in the enterprise, can be conveniently developed with mobile middleware or a Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP).

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