There’s been a lot of talk about cloud computing, and mobility has been in the news for years. But apps and an enterprise app store are going to bring it all together to remake the face of IT.
Cloud computing is a method for delivering computing resource. Its principal attributes are outsourced management, ubiquitous access and elasticity.
- Outsourced management allows us to obtain the use of software without having to deal with installing it, maintaining it, or managing the associated databases.
- Ubiquitous access means we can use the Internet to get to our software and data. Anywhere you can get access to the Internet, you can get access to your cloud computing application.
- Elasticity means we don’t have to worry about technology sizing. We don’t have to buy a server that will accommodate our peak demand, which maybe occurs only when the last Friday of a quarter corresponds to a full moon. Instead, we just use the resource we need, and we pay only for the resource we use. This is a very fair approach, and CFOs love it.
Mobility is one of those things that has snuck up on us. It started with mobile phones, then texting and mobile email, and now it’s gotten to the point where you can do anything just about anywhere. And if you think about it, that’s where things started in the first place. Before we got to the point of using computer systems, we relied on what we carried around with us to get our jobs done. We could move around freely to meet with customers and co-workers in the most appropriate environment for the job we needed to do. The idea that we should have to retreat to a single “corporate” location to find relevant data is an artificial creation of a time when computers were too bulky to carry around. The new reliance on portable computers and hand-held devices is just a return to where we started. We’ve thrown off the shackles of our behemoth computing captors and returned to a world where location is determined by our task — not by our limited access to data.
There’s a huge difference between an app and a traditional software application — particularly a Windows application:
- Apps can be self-installed in a few minutes by a novice. Traditional applications require lots of steps, the answers to a number of unanswerable technical questions, and often a restart of your computer system.
- Apps are intuitively easy to use. Applications require training and rote learning of arcane codes. That’s often because applications are more sophisticated than apps, but who came up with the stupid idea that an application has to be a swiss army knife and do hundreds of things when only a few things are really needed? Apps just do what’s needed; applications try to be adequate at everything and often end up being good at nothing.
- Apps automatically know how to get data from the principal data sources on your device. For example, apps which need address book or calendar information know how to get it. Traditional applications, on the other hand, require extensive configuration. You’ll have to be specific about telling your application exactly where to get data, even down to the directory where you’ve chosen to store it or the server where the data can be found.
- Apps can be installed without hurting other apps. Applications often interfere with other applications due to DLL overlaps and conflicting registry entries.
- Apps can be deinstalled without incident. Applications often leave behind old files and even software which will continue to haunt you when it conflicts with other applications you’ll later install.
Basically, apps are the new applications. They’re what applications should have been if we had been working in an environment which made apps possible.
Enterprise App Store
Anyone with a smart phone is familiar with the concept of an app store. You search for an app for a particular need, then buy it, download it and install it all in one easy step. An enterprise app store is just like the app store for a smart phone, except:
- The apps have gone through a selection and weeding-out process so that only the best and most appropriate business apps are available for your use.
- The store contains a mixture of generic and proprietary apps. The proprietary apps were designed, tailored, written or customized by people in your company to provide for the specific needs of your business. Those proprietary apps know how to access your corporate information and the cloud databases they use. And so when you use one of these proprietary apps, you’re actually updating the same corporate database that your company relies on for its day-to-day business.
- Access to the enterprise app store is secure, and only authorized employees are allowed to see certain apps. The apps you see in the store are restricted to those apps that make sense for your job and for your level of authorization within the company.
- There may be different versions of the same app. The version of the app you download will be determined by your job and level of authorization. For example, your app may let you look at your department, while your division vice-president’s app may let her look at the entire division.
Bringing It All Together
It you put all these things together — if you use cloud computing, mobility, apps and an enterprise app store — you can totally change the face of IT in your company. For starters, you have no need for a data center, since all of your data is stored in the cloud, and all of your applications are delivered through the Internet. Then you can drastically cut the size of your help desk, since you no longer have to worry about PC configuration issues for applications, and since apps are so much easier to use than traditional applications.
Of course, someone still has to develop the proprietary apps, but you’ll probably outsource most of that work. So the primary work of the IT organization will be:
- Strategic Technology Leadership — determining what ought to be done
- Systems Architecture and Integration — determining how corporate systems should look, breaking the requirements down into individual products, databases and apps, and then developing an overall approach for implementing what’s needed
- Project Management — leading projects for major technology initiatives
And yes, there will still be a need for some help desk support, but with properly designed apps, the amount will be much less than what is required today.
Each of these factors — cloud computing, mobility and intuitive apps — has had an impact on IT. But together these three factors, in conjunction with an enterprise app store, are going to totally reinvent IT. You can lead the change in your business, or you can drag your feet and get left behind. The choice is up to you.