How often have you heard that cloud is a great way to scale, keep the business agile and lower the cost of infrastructure? It’s the central theme of the cloud story everyone has memorized: Cloud offers near-infinite provisioning with a few mouse clicks (and the swipe of a credit card!) in a pay-as-you-go model. Few stop to consider the implications of cloud enabling better access to computing power, storage, data, applications and services from just about anywhere. Cloud adoption implies providing employees better connectivity to leverage the full power of the technology. Perhaps you have already connected the dots and sensed the larger implication: Mobility is one of the key drivers of cloud adoption. It’s not very obvious but neither is it a complete surprise.
A recent study across 8 countries by CSC called CSC Cloud Usage Index showed the nexus between cloud and mobile adoption. Of course, business agility and cost savings were major factors for cloud adoption. But was it the single most important driving factor? “Overturning conventional wisdom, one-third of respondents cite their need to better connect employees who use a multitude of computing devices as the number one reason they adopt cloud,” said the report, “Seventeen percent cite accelerating the speed of business, while 10 percent say cutting costs is the top reason for cloud adoption.” Further, the report points out, in “the United States, this trend among small businesses is especially pronounced, with nearly half (46 percent) citing information access as most important, while just 10 percent cite cost reduction.”
There is adequate empirical evidence to support the findings. For example, Box, a cloud storage platform, attributes its phenomenal growth to mobile adoption. The company saw the total number of new mobile users jump by 171 percent each month in 2011.
Mobility is seeping into every activity and process in the enterprise. In fact, its ability to extend the boundaries of the enterprise — both in terms of geography as well as a business — is what makes it attractive. Mobility combined with cloud is being used in a variety of situations as the technology itself grows.
Driving Mobility Growth
Three key factors are liberating employees from their desks, driving the growth of mobile workforces:
- Consumerization of technology and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend: Digital lifestyles, affordable, lightweight and highly-intelligent devices are making it easier for enterprises to adopt mobility to accelerate efficiency, to improve collaboration between teams, to stay connected with the customer and to improve business velocity.
- Growth in apps: According to a 2012 study by ABI Research, smart phone users worldwide were expected to download about 36 billion apps in 2012. That figure means 37 app downloads per smart phone user this year, a 6 percent rise from the 35 native apps downloaded per user in 2011.
- Network proliferation and interconnectivity: Networks — wired, wireless, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, RFID, etc. — are growing, making it easier to push communication across systems at increasingly affordable costs.
Consider the following examples: A miner does not have to be physically present at a remote site. Sensors, monitoring and recording vast amounts of continuous data from the equipment send them to a cloud-based infrastructure where the data is stored, analyzed and instantly distributed to user dashboards on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. The miner can take decisions instantly, over the mobile devices, regardless of location. Or consider a nurse in a hospital who can check patient records on the cloud over a mobile device without having to return to a workstation. Farmers can check soil conditions with remote probes that instantly send the data over wireless networks to cloud-based storage where millions of data points from thousands of farmers are collated for analysis and action. These are new markets and services for mobility and cloud to explore.
The bigger implication of cloud and mobility for businesses is service discovery — a way to grow business and ensure higher levels of customer satisfaction. An example of this is using a remote sensor in a vehicle to send continuous data over a mobile network for analytics. The vast amount of data being generated can be stored and analyzed in an elastic cloud-based infrastructure. Using predictive analytics — an element that requires elastic compute resources best delivered over cloud — alarms can be set off when a component is about to break down. The user can be updated about the impending break down, remote service teams that are already in the field can be directed to the vehicle using mobile systems, replacement components can be identified in service warehouses and dispatched to the site. The backbone for all this? Cost-effective and elastic mobile and cloud infrastructure.
It is the underlying service discovery that presents a new opportunity at the point where mobility and cloud intersect. The convergence is helping businesses create entirely new service lines and discover markets and consumers for their products to boost bottom lines.