4 tips for managing the cloud in today's mobile-first enterprise

A cloud perspective
A cloud perspective

Recently ABI Research stated that the evolving enterprise mobility space will spark tremendous growth in new cloud-based solutions as enterprises seek to go mobile quickly and easily. It’s no secret that the cause of this drive towards mobility is the development and deployment of enterprise mobile apps, and there is a growing number of devices and device platforms accessing enterprise content and systems. As companies seek to improve productivity, collaboration, and efficiency, apps provide the tools today’s employees require – and are demanding – on the mobile platforms they use 24/7.

However, the development of an enterprise app isn’t always time- or- cost-effective. New research found that more than half (56 percent) of companies spend 7 months to 1 year building a single app, and nearly 20 percent spend more than $500K on the development of each app. Cloud-based solutions are becoming popular as tools to combat long and expensive development processes; mobile continues to fuel cloud adoption in the enterprise, with 67 percent of CIOs turning to cloud solutions to help move their mobile projects along faster and more efficiently. In fact, ABI Research predicts that cloud platforms will generate U.S. $3.6 billion in mobile enterprise application revenue by 2019.

Regardless of how many apps you’re developing or the goals you’re looking to achieve, it’s important to have a solid understanding of your infrastructure – and to make sure it supports the work you’re doing. Here are four things every enterprise needs to do in order to successfully develop and manage cloud in today’s mobile-first enterprise.

Take inventory of your current “mobile gap”

Map out how your current IT infrastructure, systems, and business processes work together. You will likely discover that the existing on-premise software architecture and delivery models were designed for the web and might not provide the speed, cost model, or feature set needed to sustain mobile-first initiatives.

Don’t leave behind your current IT infrastructure

If your enterprise is going to support your cloud business activities and deliver meaningful, effective mobile apps, you need to make sure that you are incorporating at least some of your existing business systems. It simply does not make any sense for a business to create a new identity system to support just cloud or mobile initiatives. Likewise, they aren’t going to replicate a database to a more mobile-friendly system. (Think of all the headaches that ensuring multiple identity or data systems are up-to-date would cause.)

Accept that you will need a set of lightweight web services to serve as a translation layer. Instead of creating integrations using your existing systems of record for each and every app (which is inefficient and can lead to dangerous and expensive inconsistencies), the most effective method is to connect these systems to a translation layer and then provide RESTful connections to your mobile developers via service catalogs.

Close the “mobile gap”

After taking inventory and identifying where the mobile gaps exist, it’s time to take steps to fill them. Most enterprises are missing these three critical mobile architecture tiers:

  • Mobile Client Tier. Mobile is different than the web and it requires an additional layer to maximize performance and engage users.
  • Mobile Context Tier. Mobile apps are designed to take advantage of new capabilities that your enterprise likely cannot support today, including location services, beacons, push notifications, cameras, other sensors, and new data types. Instead of building and maintaining these features for each app, look for a standardized and consistent platform to meet all of your development needs today and in the future.
  • Mobile Aggregation Tier. Transformative apps combine data from multiple sources with new mobile capabilities to provide mash-ups with mobile-friendly views. But don’t forget that you have to provide consistent and secure access to protect enterprise assets.

Support two speeds for development and IT

Mobile moves faster than cloud/web deployments; as a result, organizations that embrace BYOD have far less control over the client devices on which applications may be running. Mobile, therefore, requires iterative, agile development processes that result in incremental releases on a monthly or weekly timeline.

When it comes to anything touching businesses-critical systems of record, IT needs a more thoughtful approach that simply does not support this kind of iterative and aggressive pace. Connections to business systems require methodical, rock-solid development to standardize integrations while securing mobile data and identity. Additionally, these integrations can’t be changed on a whim without first examining the compliance and security implications of an update.

As a result, your organization needs to support these two speeds simultaneously. To do so, you have to decouple the front-end development process from the back-end architecture one. There are a few ways you can do this – and mobile Backend as a Service is one – but the fact of the matter is that an enterprise mobility initiative is going to fail if the two development processes are too tightly coupled.

Managing from the cloud in a mobile-first environment can seem a bit intimidating, especially given the rapid rate at which mobile innovation happens. These steps provide a solid foundation and blueprint as you set out to meet your company’s cloud and mobile goals. After all, we have moved beyond developing for the Web – and infrastructures need to evolve to meet not only the current, but also future (and as of yet unknown) demands of mobile users.

  • Sravish Sridhar is the founder and CEO of Kinvey