The new iPad hits the streets this week (I pre-ordered mine), and IT is once again faced with supporting these devices as more employees walk in with them. This year's crop includes tablets, smartphones, and (still) netbooks. Next year, count on set-top boxes, such as Apple TV and Roku, and gaming consoles. The year after, you'll be dealing with mobile devices embedded in our cars.
The natural reaction of traditional enterprise IT is to toss these evil things into a bonfire just outside the lobby. In reality, supporting these devices leads to better productivity and happier employees -- and that advantage goes right to the bottom line.
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What about security, privacy, network performance, and other risks that come with using these devices for business? The answer is to deal with mobile devices a bit differently than you've treated new technology in the past. Moreover, and most important to me, is how IT uses the cloud in support of these devices. But how?
The problem is that most enterprises believe they need to own and control all devices where business data is displayed to a user. Although I understand the urge, these days that wish is either impossible or too expensive. The world is moving toward a BYOD (bring or choose your own devices) strategy.
To find a solution to the BYOD challenge, first picture the world of IT 30 or 40 years ago, when users sat in front of dumb terminals. We've come full circle: We have the advantage of new technology to implement the retrofit of dumb terminals into today's devices. The key word is "abstraction," which means removing the devices and the underlying complexities from IT assets, including compute services and data services. Thus, the mobile devices function as mere terminals, providing a view into enterprise systems and data, typically operational and business intelligence data. These can be native applications running on the device or traditional Web-based applications that automatically adapt to mobile devices' form factors.