Global enterprise mobility: How cloud launched mobile into the stratosphere

By Megan Irvine

Mobile technology has been around for a while now, but how did it reach today’s level of global enterprise mobility? It is an interesting story — and cloud plays a major role.

The first hand-held mobile phone was developed in 1973, but it was not until 2008 that mobile took a significant turn. As each major device platform leveraged new capabilities, they offered more featured apps. Suddenly, our mobile phones were more than just phones: We could use mobile devices to access email, games, the stock market and more. The later emergence of Web 2.0 (along with the Ajax, HTML5 and JavaScript frameworks) made it possible for web-based mobile apps to flourish. We were well on our way toward global enterprise mobility.

Now, there are millions of mobile apps, and millions of public websites, that are optimized for mobile.

Just before app marketplaces launched, I started hearing a lot of buzz about the cloud and how it would change everything. Mobile was ready to grow exponentially, but there were hurdles for the enterprise to overcome. We had the tools to create a great user interface on the front end, but what about accessing our resources on the back end? Could our infrastructure support an influx of mobile users?

Cloud arrived just in time to propel mobile into its next phase.

In 2013, I attended IBM Impact in Las Vegas, and “mobile first!” was the new battle cry. As I said in the article that I wrote shortly after that experience, you don’t just adopt a mobile approach. It requires a fundamental change in thinking. Going mobile has many consequences, one being a significant change in usage and traffic patterns. Mobile users are constantly performing small actions, like checking statuses, posting updates and so on. This activity adds up, and it generates a lot of data.

The push was on for the enterprise to extend its reach and connect mobile users with the data and services they desired. The question was, how? Cloud answered many of the problems that we had foreseen. I am particularly impressed with these two solutions, which have revolutionized mobile in different ways:

1. Virtually unlimited storage

One of the first walls that I ran into with a mobile device is that they have such limited storage space. Each new smartphone that I purchased had greater capacity, but I outgrew it quickly. That is becoming much less of an issue these days. With apps like Box, for example, you can store files in the cloud, sync them across multiple devices and share them with others. Box can also address many enterprises’ concerns about data resiliency, privacy, globalization and security.

That kind of solution addresses a specific problem in a specific way. But what if your needs are more complex?

2. No platform? No problem

Some might argue that mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) is a subset or feature of platform as a service (PaaS), while others might place them side-by-side as complimentary peers in an architecture diagram. Either way, PaaS and MBaaS access the same data layer and can be used to connect to systems of record, other apps and services on the back end. Without these kinds of solutions, developers would have to build their own mobile application back end the hard way. It is a costly and time-consuming process that requires many resources, not to mention the personnel to maintain them. PaaS saves you from having to perform low-level tasks, allowing you to focus on the application itself. MBaaS goes even further by offering common mobile services that you can use in your applications, such as authentication, data and analytics.

Bluemix is a fine example of an open PaaS solution with an MBaaS component. When it became generally available in 2014, it opened doors for many developers. Bluemix gave them the platform that they didn’t have. It is incredibly easy to register for a Bluemix account and start building and running all kinds of apps.

Of course, there are many other cloud solutions not mentioned here that have enabled mobile to take that leap toward global enterprise mobility. What do you think? Feel free to comment here, or join the conversation with me on Twitter @mirv_pgh.

Written By

Megan Irvine

Technical Enablement Specialist at IBM

Megan Irvine has been developing education for IBM Software for 20 years, and is currently a Technical Enablement Specialist for IBM Cloud, specializing in Mobile. She designs, develops, and delivers training to IBM customers, business partners, and employees around the world. She…

Other Articles by Megan Irvine
See All Posts