Cloud, millennials and Generation Z: The mobile imperative

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In the eight years since the release of the  iPhone  we have witnessed amazing changes in society, a telecommunications revolution. Mobile computing has taken over around the world—and it did so with advancements in cloud technology and security.

A friend returning from helping earthquake survivors in Nepal told me that mobile technology is everywhere— children and adults communicate on Facebook and all have email accounts. Mobile phones are their primary means of communication. The Nepalese use solar cells to charge phones during the day, and when it is overcast or rainy, they are left to traditional means of communication, which they accept with remorse.

I look at myself, a 57-year-old IT architect in the thick of technology as an IBM Cloud Advisor, and over the last two years I have rarely used my laptop in deference to my iPad and iPhone.

Mobile is everywhere, and when we look at millennials and those from Generation Z, their life is based on mobile technology. They are digitally linked to their world through their phones, and it is difficult to imagine returning to the “old days.” Though we had mobile phones prior to the iPhone, mobile technology has been the key social/commerce technology advancement in recent years. In a word, amazing.

We live in a world where five and six year olds lobby for cell phones (or are just “awarded” them as a rite of passage). In a March 2015 Forbes article, Bill Grady stated that the “fundamental distinction of millennials is their digital proficiency.” This is even more pronounced with Gen-X and Generation Z (and the “baby boomers” like myself). Millennials and Generation X/Z are “digital native,” abandoning traditional computers for mobile devices.

A recent Nielsen study found that that more than 85 percent of millennials in the U.S. own smartphones. Another Nielsen study reports that U.S. millennials touch those smartphones 45 times a day. And it’s not just the US — mobile technology is globally ubiquitous.

The cloud contribution

Part of this mobile revolution is due to advances in devices and consumers’ need to have the latest greatest hardware. But it would not have occurred without fundamental shifts in IT architectures—cloud and security. The ability to provide reliable and resilient mobile platforms allows us to communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time. The convergence of cloud and mobile is one of the most rapid shifts we have seen in computing—it is an inflection point in society made possible by technological advances.

A recent IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) report on millennials and technology pointed out how mobile is changing business as millennials become a critical market. One comment stands out:

“The millennial generation is the first to come of age during the information era. Raised alongside the first search engine, influenced by social media and constantly connected to their smartphones, millennials have grown up with a unique set of experiences. Empowered by information and emboldened by their social impact, they are poised to transform the way consumers throughout the world evaluate, purchase and consume goods and services.”

Given the velocity of change in mobile technology, what’s needed to manage the explosive growth of mobile technology and applications? We need to address a number of architecture aspects:

  • How can we enable the scalability needed to support, for example, millions of online mobile users viewing live information from Wimbledon or The Masters tournament?
  • How do we reconcile security requirements for mobile technology?
  • How do we enable (and optimize) time-to-market and warp-speed application delivery to satisfy the fickle requirements of mobile consumers?

Given the convergence of mobile and cloud, we need solve these issues. Scalability requires dynamic workload request management, which is enabled through cloud infrastructure. Security and integration with enterprise systems requires a mobile platform to manage device security and integration with enterprise infrastructure to prevent penetration and hacking of application resources. These requirements mandate an end-to-end mobile platform integrated with hybrid cloud infrastructure. Finally, the time-to-market-imperative requires leading-edge development technologies to address continuous delivery of applications (e.g. DevOps).

This is a tall order. We often see clients making compromises as they attempt to build these solutions. Clients grapple with an ever-changing set of technologies from multiple vendors using DevOps solutions from Vendor A, public cloud technologies from Vendor B, security solutions from Vendor C, and mobile platform solutions from Vendor D. And the result—as you might imagine—is multi-vendor chaos.  (One article recently called it “FrankenCloud”—I am still laughing.)

When we looked at these challenges at IBM a few years ago, it was clear that we needed to set a new path. Building on open standards such as OpenStack, Cloud Foundry, and emerging container strategies, we began a multi-year effort to provide our clients the ability to integrate mobile solutions and hybrid cloud into an end-to-end solution architecture. This enables a cloud fabric with requisite scaling, security, integration and time-to-market efficiencies to allow for the most demanding mobile applications.

To quote Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, “Everything is going to be connected to cloud and data…  All of this will be mediated by software.” To effectively service the rapidly evolving requirements of the Millennial and Generation Z populations, three key requirements exist: scalability, security/integration and time-to-market advantage. Finding solutions for these requirements will enable the ongoing transformation we see with millennials/GenX/GenZ consumers as we shift to an increasingly nomadic distributed computing model. This evolving model needs to provide seamless experience across web, mobile and fixed locations like bank branches, retail locations, transportation centers. The cloud ultimately will facilitate this solution approach.

On a recent episode of The Tonight Show Jimmy Fallon commented, “A new survey says 64% of Americans own a smartphone. This is interesting, because in a related survey, 100 percent of smartphones say they own an American.” With the changes we are seeing, this may start to apply to the people in Nepal and people around the globe. We are in a new age with mobile and cloud is driving transformation.

Sr. Cloud Advisor

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