Editor’s note: This article is based on content initially published in the SHARE President's Corner blog.
About about a dozen people gathered for “The Mobile Computing Revolution,” a focus group hosted by SHARE
Marketing Director Ray Sun, during the SHARE in Anaheim
event in August.
“Part of the challenge of mobile computing is describing the issues and opportunities,” Sun told the group. “And we believe SHARE as an organization has the experience and insight to lead the discussion of where mobility meets the mainframe and beyond to the whole of enterprise computing.”
The SHARE community launched the “where mobility meets the mainframe” topic in June with a series of posts on the President’s Corner blog by veteran tech business writer and Forbes blogger Erika Morphy. The articles are part of SHARE’s escalating concentration on mobility that will feature a “Mobility Spotlight” during SHARE in San Francisco
in February 2013, and SHARE in Boston in August 2013.
“Mobile is a significant component in the evolution of computing” that’s rapidly moving into the enterprise, said John Gibson, client technical specialist, Expert Integrated Systems for IBM. Gibson helped Sun lead the focus group by tracing the roots of the mobile-computing revolution back through the Web, desktop and client/server technologies to the mainframe.
IBM Distinguished Engineer Rosalind Radcliffe, an enterprise modernization solution architect in the IBM Software Group, joined Sun and Gibson in facilitating the focus group. She said the progression from mainframe to mobile can seem “scary and hard,” but it’s also an opportunity to “extend and transform” enterprise computing.
Based on feedback and real-world anecdotes from the focus group—Sun, Gibson and Radcliffe crystallized SHARE’s mobility-and-the-mainframe agenda around three core topics: governance, cloud computing and best practices.
Governance of Mobile Computing
A core issue mainframe professionals must consider when evolving to mobile platforms, devices and applications is control. The matter comes down to physical location. Historically, technologists managing mainframe systems always knew exactly where the hardware resided and, therefore, had extensive control of the data and applications the hardware processed.
But the location of mobile-computing hardware continually changes, which puts individual users largely in control of the data and applications resident on mobile devices. In the past, technicians—corporate or otherwise—had complete control over which applications were installed on devices, and when and how they were installed. Mobile devices have turned that model on its head.
One way to cope with this loss of control is through corporate policy. Gibson and Radcliffe recommended a mobile policy that’s “simple to understand, enforceable and enforced,” covering these elements:
- Mobile platforms supported
- Systems accessed by mobile devices
- Requirements and responsibilities of specific roles in the organization regarding mobile computing
- Policy differences between employer-owned and employee-owned devices
- Software applications allowed on mobile devices
- Actions management may take to implement and enforce policy
- How mobile policy extends to laptop computing, which has mobile characteristics
“There are issues around mobile policy, such as who pays for service, comingling of data, dealing with the loss of corporate-owned devices, whether corporate data on personal mobile devices is ‘discoverable’ in a legal action against a company, and others,” Sun said after the session. “We want to explore these issues at greater depth for the SHARE community and the enterprise-computing community as a whole.”
Intersection of Mobile and Cloud Computing
“How much of my [mobile] desktop is in the cloud?” Radcliffe rhetorically asked the session attendees, referring to the data used and shared by apps on mobile devices. The answer is critical to forming policy, security measures, designing applications and a host of other issues. Participants recommended that future SHARE conferences invite technical experts from companies heavily invested in Internet computing, such as Google and Apple, to host working sessions that explain how their technology moves data and applications through the cloud to mobile devices. Understanding the mechanics is critical to managing the risks of sharing corporate data through the cloud.
Best Practices in Mobile Computing
One best practice explored in the session was building an “Enterprise App Store,” which would be a self-service Web portal similar to consumer app stores. The site would provide corporate-approved, customized apps for accessing corporate data and systems but include other popular, approved business apps that enhance user productivity. Session attendees viewed an Enterprise App Store as one way to convert a mobility challenge into an opportunity by:
- Serving as a means of distributing and retrieving critical corporate data to mobile devices
- Affording IT professionals the chance to vet popular non-corporate apps and issue recommendations or warnings to users, allowing corporate policymakers to elect to restrict users of corporate-owned devices to apps vetted and downloaded through the Enterprise App Store
- Facilitating greater security and license compliance among users in their role as repositories for critical information and updates
- Gathering statistics for device and data-usage analysis
Facilitators and participants in the focus group agreed that IT users, developers and managers—mainframe specialists or otherwise—are working in an era of sometimes radical and permanent change. And in the realm of mobility and the mainframe, SHARE is positioned to help all parties cope with insight and education.
Communications strategist Bob Dirkes attended SHARE in Anaheim on special assignment. Follow him on Twitter @RCDirkes. Follow SHARE on Twitter @SHAREhq.