It’s the dawn of the mobile-cloud era. Now what?

By Keerti Melkote, Blog Contributor
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We've all heard the buzz about the mobile revolution and the pivot to the cloud, but one thing is clear — the move to the mobile-cloud model will be bigger than the transition to the client-server in the 1990s. The stakes get even higher when you factor in the consumerization of IT and the Internet of Things (IoT).

After years of status quo, the mobile-cloud model is driving innovation and changing the industry, reshaping companies as venerable as Microsoft, with its mobile-first, cloud-first strategy. This phenomenon is also a major catalyst behind Aruba Networks (the leader in wireless access) and HP (the data center leader) joining forces.

The move to mobile-cloud is driven by the smartphone — our go-to device, always in our hands, pockets, or next to our pillows. You might make a phone call, update the sales forecast, or check social media from your mobile device, but it's likely accessing the information in a cloud data center.

In addition to ensuring high performance connectivity to reach cloud-based apps, software deployed in the cloud must scale with the pace of adoption, which frequently resembles a hockey stick in the smartphone era. Enterprise IT managers have experience deploying private data centers to serve thousands of users' desktops that are active in spurts between 8 AM-5 PM, but few businesses beyond the Facebooks and Googles of the world have experience scaling their services to millions or even billions of smartphones that are always on 24x7, 365 days a year. But that's what we need to learn.

How do you get ready for the mobile-cloud era?

To get your organization ready, begin by thinking of every application as a service. Mobile apps scale out and are updated at a breakneck pace compared to yesterday's applications. The cloud infrastructure comprised of servers, storage, and networks needs to be agile and programmable, for humans can no longer keep pace with the rate at which changes need to be made to the data center. This is why software-defined data centers are all the rage now.

To enable the delivery of mobile-cloud applications, enterprise IT needs to mobilize the network infrastructure to adapt to applications on both ends of the network – the user end and the server end. We'll talk about this more in future blogs, but in addition to a software defined data center that can change with the needs of the service, you also need a mobile-first access network that becomes the foundation for your digital workplace.

The changing network ushers in opportunities

The network is often solely thought of as the utility that connects mobile devices and applications to the cloud. But in the mobile-cloud era, the network is finally more than plumbing and it can enable new business value beyond just transporting data. By tapping into metadata about the network, such as location information, businesses can create a new generation of context-aware applications.

The innovation has already started. Some of our customers have combined location-based services with a mobile app to book conference rooms. Schools can use context-aware mobile apps to take attendance automatically on buses or in the classroom. Universities are using context-aware mobile apps to enhance campus security.

The network manager's job is changing, too

With IT moving to the cloud, it may seem like the IT manager's role is diminishing — but it's quite the opposite. It is true that the advent of software defined networking makes the network smaller, more agile, and automated. Network managers are freed from dwelling on the details of configuration management and the intricacies of the command-line interface.

The cloud also frees network managers to contribute more directly to the business. Network managers can help the business create new applications that tap into the context of the data that's currently trapped in the network infrastructure. That's a lot more fun than fielding complaints about the network being too slow.

Keerti Melkote is co-founder and president of Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.