Without Cloud, iPad Pro is an executive's desk paperweight

Just who is this device made for, anyway? And what is the usage case?
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

The iPad Pro. There's been a lot of fallout as to whether this machine is truly enterprise worthy, is or isn't a laptop replacement, or if the device will resonate with prosumers and enterprises.

I maintain that despite the misleading "Pro" moniker, this device is not an enterprise-class device, nor is it well-suited for many kinds of existing vertical market applications, for a number of reasons. But I'm not going to re-hash that in this piece.

The success (or lack thereof) of this device is going to hinge upon whether or not an elite group of high-level business executives at large corporations are going to want to use one of these as their primary device instead of a Mac or Windows laptop or even a regular iPad, like they may use today.

We need to better understand the use case for why this device was developed in the first place, and who it was actually targeted to. The size and resolution of the display on this device is a dead giveaway -- consumption of video, documents, and visualization of data.

What do high level executives do? They fly on planes a lot, so they watch movies. They read magazines, news sites and newspapers. They compose emails. They review and make annotations to productivity documents as well as business presentations. They may also need access to certain types of data, such as a CRM, or business analytics.

All of which are well suited to a large, high-resolution screen,

One could say that the high-level business executive is a task worker. A very high-level task worker, but still, the scope of what they do with their systems is not as sophisticated as what an information worker, a software developer or even a data scientist might need.

The iPad Pro is rumored to have 4GB of RAM. That's twice what the previous high-end iPad model had (The iPad Air 2) but that still is a fairly tight memory configuration for a demanding line-of business application especially if you have other apps and processes running in the background.

And what do demanding line of business typically applications run on? Well, in vertical markets and if they have legacy components, they run on Windows front-ends if their systems architecture cannot be easily decoupled, so you need some type of remote access solution like Citrix, Windows RDS or Azure RemoteApp to display that application.

Otherwise, the application has to be consumed using web services. You can write an iOS front end UX, but the back end of that app with all that business logic and data storage sure isn't going to live on an iPad.

And where does that stuff all run? Well it runs within a datacenter somewhere. If you watched the iPad Pro demonstrations during the launch event on September 9, you saw Microsoft go onstage and demonstrate the powerful document sharing and collaboration capabilities of Office 365.

That all lives in the Cloud, specifically in Microsoft's datacenters strategically located throughout the world.

You also saw a complex data visualization application, 3D-4 medical, using interactive anatomical models. While the graphics processor and display unit on the iPad Pro can definitely render those graphics with ease, the data models needed to make those kinds of apps work, particularly in the medical imaging and aerospace fields require hundreds of terabytes of data.

In this type of application deployment, you have a client app which uses remote processing power and data storage in the cloud.

This type of an application is sometimes referred to as "Extreme SaaS". Up until this point these things have been more theoretical than real deployments, because the scale efficiencies of using server side GPU rendering within public cloud environments haven't quite yet reached a point of cost-effectiveness for the service provider or the ISV providing the SaaS app.

We're close -- very close. Probably within 2 years for more common types of deployments of something like 3D-4 medical. But not quite yet.

Where are we getting to with all of this? If in fact the iPad Pro is going to be the wave of the future for business executives and for certain types of highly data-driven vertical applications, then the real heavy lifting is going to occur in the cloud.

That may be public clouds like AWS and Microsoft Azure, Google Compute, or even IBM's BlueMix. They might even be industry-specific private clouds needed to address regulatory controls, such as for the financial and medical industry.

The sum total of all of this? It means the iPad Pro is the most expensive thin client ever made.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing. But if the iPad Pro is the future of computing, particularly for executive task workers and for high-end data visualization, then we really need to think about capacity management in the cloud and how we may need to re-architect existing LOB apps originally designed for Client-Server, now being lifted and shifted to IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) to minimize development, to scale as PaaS (Platform as a Service) in massively multi-tenant, public cloud environments.

Because without the Cloud, the iPad Pro is just a very expensive executive paperweight.

Is the iPad Pro the most expensive thin client, ever? Or is it how the future of Extreme SaaS will be delivered? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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