Rewind a few years and ‘mobility’ was the word that represented the exciting new direction for enterprise computing. The vision was that mobile devices would help enterprises spread their wings, cut their costs and thrust forward into a realm of new opportunity. Today the benefits of enterprise mobility are pretty much unanimously recognised. The real focus now is how to fuse enterprise mobility with the cloud.
To briefly spell out the issues around enterprise mobility and the cloud just think of all the different mobile devices out there and their different capabilities. Some can run web productivity and communications apps with no issues, others can’t. Now consider all the new platforms that are emerging: smartphones that are becoming ever smarter, tablet platforms that are seemingly proliferating by the week, laptops with the computing power of high-end PCs and more.
Not all devices are created equal which ipso facto means apps often don’t function to their full potential across different devices. In short, users often receive a poor experience. Within the context of cloud computing, clunky and sporadically-streaming apps that don’t provide full functionality overshadow the benefits of moving towards the cloud.
Yet, with the increasing consumerisation of IT and the growth of cloud computing this is an issue that can’t be ignored or sidestepped. It’s also an issue that needs to be addressed soon given that device proliferation is going to increase many fold in the coming years. A few years down the line computing is not going to be about the device in your pocket in its own right. Instead it’s going to be about how that device connects with the hardware in your car, the sensors embedded in sports stadiums, computing in retail outlets – in short, intelligent connectivity everywhere. This also means a lot of very varied engagements with the cloud.
There are several ways of addressing the issue of poorly performing web apps but broadly speaking a consistent user experience can be achieved by ensuring devices are ‘context aware’. Put simply, this means that cloud services are able to establish what client device is being used and what its capabilities are. As a result, the web application can perform optimally on the device.
For example, some of these API functions can include allowing an application to detect wireless signal strength so it can adjust content quality; establishing the CPU type so applications can be optimally displayed or executed; and periodic power updates to inform a user to conclude a process if, for example, battery power is running low. You can find out more here.
In short, client-aware devices expose their attributes and capabilities to the cloud. In turn the cloud must be able to detect device capabilities and choose to either run an application from a cloud-based server for a device with limited capabilities or to download the application and run it on the device when the device has suitable performance and capabilities. Enabling the cloud to detect device capabilities and state will also enable decisions to be made about the type of data the device can access and this will help enterprise IT maintain their security policies.
However, on the road to a truly client-aware cloud, this is only a first step, albeit a significant one. The ideal, which we should endeavour to reach, is a dynamic state in which devices and applications automatically react to each other ensuring the best possible service is delivered. To ensure that we slide fluidly into the age of context-aware cloud computing, rather than jolt along awkwardly, the industry needs to agree on universal standards so all manufacturers can help realise the true potential of the cloud. In turn, this means the end-user is using optimally performing apps whatever the client device.