Mobility; it’s not a device, it’s an IT architecture

IT needs to address mobility as an architecture issue and consider a myriad of technology, infrastructure and policy decisions, so said Gartner during the opening of its annual Catalyst Conference.
Written by John Fontana, Contributor

San Diego – Mobility has quickly become a focal point for IT, but while BYOD is the issue getting the ink, the true challenge is developing an architecture that can lead enterprises into this new era of computing.

That was the message Monday when Gartner opened its annual Catalyst Conference, with the theme: Any device, Any service, Any source.

“Enterprises must approach mobility as an architecture problem,” said Paul DeBeasi, a research vice president at Gartner. “Mobility effects legal, HR, policy, security, support, identity, business infrastructure and application decisions.”

He implored IT to think architecturally to avoid becoming irrelevant as mobile erodes controls that IT has traditionally administered.

Nearly 10 months ago DeBeasi and his colleagues began working on a Mobile Reference Architecture, which they rolled out for the first time on Monday. The architecture is designed to help IT organize the technology, infrastructure and policy decisions to support their mobile use cases.

“The mobile device is becoming the focal point of our personal and professional lives and it is creating issues in the enterprise,” said DeBeasi.

Devices have shifted control away from IT and into the hands of end-users as the Bring Your own Device (BYOD) revolution has evolved in the past 18 months.

“We knew consumerization was driving IT, but mobility is driving consumerization,” said DeBeasi. “Mobility is so insidious, it actually effects how we think, how we act and interact.”

DeBeasi and his colleague Jack Santos, a Gartner research vice president focusing on leadership and management among other IT areas, outlined the challenges mobility presents to IT.

The pair said IT must answer questions in six relevant areas: business and user needs, data mobility, application architecture, identity and security, management and governance, and wireless infrastructure.

They said the “big picture” can be hard to put together but without it IT is hard pressed to determine consequences of decisions such as data storage vs. compliance, or user experience vs. security.

Each decision in one part of the business is apt to create a conflict somewhere else that is not always obvious. In that atmosphere, a reference architecture helps IT make choices based on use cases, policy requirements, security and other factors.

Santos said mobility puts data everywhere making compliance a huge challenge, especially when the storage point is a public cloud service such as Dropbox.

“It is about the business, it is not about IT,” said Santos. “The revolution will not be televised, it will be mobilized,” he quipped during the opening keynote while wearing a mask popularized during the Occupy Wall Street protest.

There are also issues around mobile device management, how social media impacts application development, the trade-offs around Web-based mobile apps and native mobile applications, user interfaces based on voice or gestures, and the loads mobile places on wireless networks.

“Wireless networks are not prepared for mobility,” said DeBeasi. “What happens in the building when hearing aids are Bluetooth, when there are network connected heart monitors? What does that do to the network? What risks are there to the employees who have those devices?”

He says IT has basic questions to contemplate such as what is my role in the new world of mobility? What actions do I need to take? What does IT do?  What do I do? And how do I do it?

Santos says IT should strive for balance between risk and reward or face dire consequences.

“The wrong answer could create excessive risk. It could bring down companies,” he said.

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