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Mobile Computing and BYOD Challenges the Data Center

By April 1, 2013Article

Mobile devices including BYOD, corporate-provided smartphones and now media tablets are rapidly becoming a primary device for access to more than just email and texting. Mobile application users are presenting new challenges to in-house IT departments, as they demand access to business-critical data and processes from mobile devices. Mobile device proliferation, application development and management, represents a paradigm shift in both enterprise and personal computing. Information technology departments are struggling to provide comprehensive enterprise security and mobile device management access for employees, consultants and partners to business-critical enterprise information.
Together with Unisphere Research and IBM SHARE, Asterias Research conducted a study in December 2012. The primary objective was not so much to ascertain what current mobile devices are in use, but how they will impact the data center and the state of integration with mobile applications and business-critical back-end data sources.
We also explored the current state of the organizational mobile application development environment, its challenges to IT and how organizations are managing and deploying mobile devices and applications.  According to recent market research studies by Gartner and others more than 90 percent of organizations have already deployed smartphones and a growing tsunami of media tablet use is on the horizon.
In the first section of the survey of more than 500 companies conducted primarily in North America and EMEA, we asked about mobile device use, security, management organizational policies, impact of mobile device and application deployment on organization/enterprise IT departments and infrastructure. In the second section we focused on mobile applications and profiles, primary mobile application development platforms, challenges in extending mobile applications, testing and development and management of mobile applications, along with how IT organizations are addressing management of mobile application developers.
Net/net and executive summary
The majority of survey respondents were IT professionals with some knowledge of their organization’s mobile device management and mobile application development plans. Of the 537 survey respondents, only 100 indicated that they were directly involved in the management and development of mobile applications; the remainder are assumed to be mobile device and application users that are aware of, and/or are involved in the management of mobile devices.
Responses to the question on budgets for mobile device management clearly indicate that the majority of the sample base is casually involved, and/or not directly involved in mobile device management. Nonetheless the responses to question sequences are consistent; however, caution should be applied when extrapolating business opportunities from this data set.
Rather than post the comprehensive series of questions and answers I have condensed the results into two easy-to-consume bullet lists from each survey section. 
Section I: Mobile device use, security, management and organizational policies

  • Most organizations provide mobile devices, support BYOD and reimburse users for mobile device use.
  • Apple and Google smartphones and tablets were listed as heavily used (especially tablets), although the BlackBerry was the most widely used.
  • Organizations are more concerned about the security and management of BYOD and mobile devices overall. Many mobile device users did not know what security model was in place or know about policies such as mobile device encryption or locking/wiping out of devices if lost.
  • Security, especially user authentication and back-end data access, were of significant concern to many organizations and were cited as having the most impact on IT departments. Nearly half of the survey respondents indicated that their organization supplies mobile application encryption.
  • Organizational mobile application access is in an early stage of development as most users cited email, VPN, and text messaging as their most important applications. Business intelligence and CRM applications were cited as the second most important mobile applications.
  • Security, mobile device management tools and application management, along with application interface design, will have the most impact on data centers. The majority of the sample base did not know how their organization is integrating mobile applications with back-end data.
  • Mobile is all about customers. Quicker access to customer data, improved customer satisfaction, support, customer access to business functionality and the ability to respond to customer demand were the most important business functions.
  • Customer feedback on products, support and service were the most vital information followed by customer interests and habits.
  • Organizational plans to deploy location or context-based mobile services to consumers were largely unknown to the sample base.
  •  Organizational plans to reconsider mobile device service level agreements (SLAs) and capacity-planning procedures were largely unknown to the sample base.

Section II: Mobile applications and profiles and primary mobile application development platforms

  • The majority (34 percent) of the organizations indicated that they have 1-25 developers working on mobile application development and the budget for mobile application software development garnered a large range of somewhat meaningful responses.
  • Windows is the primary mobile application development environment followed by UNIX/Linux.
  • Browser-based access is the primary mobile application delivery model.
  • Security, deployment and UI deployment/management represent the greatest challenges in extending mobile devices and applications to the organization.
  • User experience and security testing were ranked as the most important aspects in mobile application testing; however, testing of mobile application interaction with back-end systems was not known by nearly half of the sample base.
  • Distributed environment developers are the primary developers involved in mobile application management.
  • Mainframe environments are not used for mobile application development.
  • Speed to development, cost reduction and integration are the most important priorities in mobile application development.
  • Top mobile application life cycle management challenges are:
    • Complex back-end integration
    • Managing changing requirements
    • Version control of OS
    • Consistent reliable build processing
    • Lowering costs, standardization and improved application quality are the biggest benefits in leveraging existing applications for mobile applications.
    • IDEs are the number one platform for building, deploying and testing application changes.
    • Lack of tool integration and process control were cited as a challenge to coordinating development teams.
    • Separate dedicated LPARs are used for development and this addresses CPU balancing issues.
    • Notifying teams about automating testing and build errors are the top parameters used to provide quicker feedback to development teams.

The majority of respondents to this survey are IT professionals who responded to a total of 36 questions; very few line-of-business professionals participated. A broad spectrum of industries participated in the survey, although financial services, professional services, high-tech and public sector were most prominently represented. There was also a good distribution of small, medium and large organization responses, and EMEA responses (N=100) to questions were consistent with North American trends in the data set.
Organizations are just now beginning to develop and integrate mobile applications with back-end data sources; therefore, many of the issues associated with this integration outside of traditional application management such as security and life cycle management are not yet well known according to this data set. The length of this survey instrument actually resulted in two surveys in one. No respondents were paid to participate.
Consistent throughout responses in this survey was the need for advanced management and security solutions and platforms to manage not only devices but also mobile applications and their associated business-critical data. There is a significant opportunity for vendors to provide mobile device management software and services focused on security, integration/access to back-end data sources, and mobile application life cycle management and development to this installed base.
Peter J. Auditore is the principal researcher at Asterias Research, a boutique consultancy focused on strategic and executable marketing communications for this millennium. Formerly he was head of the SAP Business Influencer Group and a veteran of four technology startups including Zona Research (cofounder), Hummingbird (VP Marketing Americas), (president) and Exigen Group (VP Corporate Communications). He has over 20 years of experience in selling and marketing software to LE and SME organizations worldwide. 

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