Should cloud services treat a million end-user devices equally?

'When it comes to the ability to access, display, manipulate, or secure data, some devices are clearly more capable than others.'
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

The ultimate goal of service delivery is to remain hardware independent, to be able to support any device of the end-user's choosing. There's a strong case to be made for “client-aware” computing – especially when that client is running HTML5.

That's the view of Jonathan Ding, Jennifer Jin and Samuel Xu, as spelled out in a recent article in Service Technology. “HTML5 is a key technology for cross-platform content delivery from PC to tablet, TV, and smartphone,” they state. All three authors are with Intel, and regard client-aware computing as a part of Intel's compute continuum architecture. (The original article reflects a strong Intel slant.) The W3C is also doing work in this area.

Why bother with client-aware cloud (or computing) at this time? Many employees, via BYOD, are accessing corporate services via mobile devices, and unless the IT department has designed a clever little app, attempting to access web front-ends through a small screen is a totally miserable experience. Most IT departments do not have the bandwidth to build and maintain funky little apps for the multitude of device platforms out there.

Instead, there's HTML5 -- which supports a range of client-side processes -- as well as the rise of shared services, the authors point out. This means more centralized management of service delivery. “We believe a centrally managed virtualization era will come,” they state. “It drives to centralized administration and will support both client-hosted and server-hosted virtualization, and will deliver a secure, effective, and seamless environment for computing, collaboration and communication.”

Ding, Jin and Xu define a client-aware cloud as “an intelligent cloud infrastructure that can deliver cloud-based applications taking into account the capabilities of the device at hand.” Client awareness covers local device compute performance; network connectivity and bandwidth; and security capabilities.

Device awareness is needed, they add, because “different devices may have different capabilities, such as different screen size, graphics capacity, and security level. Unfortunately, most Internet services are dumbed down. They probably can recognize the screen size but may be unable to determine and then take advantage of other local capabilities.” When it comes to the ability to access, display, manipulate, or secure data, “some devices are clearly more capable than others,” they note.

Delivering device-aware services not only allows for a more satisfactory end-user experience on their mobile, but also enables more efficient application and data delivery. Plus, a client-aware service delivery scenario isn't as constrained by infrastructure or architecture, Ding, Jin and Xu state. “Organizations that have complex, sensitive, or network-constrained applications may find it hard to take advantage of the cloud because of the need for such things as a high bandwidth network connection, a secure communication tunnel, or dedicated client resources,” they state. “With a client-aware cloud, there may not be so much dependency on the architecture, as the intelligent cloud can detect a client's capability and then determine how the application should run accordingly, such as providing a lower resolution picture over a poor network connection or providing a sensitive application with additional authentication and authorization in an untrusted network.”

(Thumbnail photo: Joe McKendrick.)

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