By Greg Jensen on Dec 31, 2013
In the previous posts in this series of blog posts, we covered many concepts, from Mobile Device Enablement, BYOD, Mobile Device Management (MDM), Mobile Application Containerization & Mobile Identity Management. While the focus on all the prior series were around the pro’s and con’s and best practices, we would like to take a detour in the conclusive post of this series and focus on the cloud and how it co-relates to the “mobile” landscape.
BYOD, MDM and Cloud Computing by themselves are technologies that are becoming an integral part of the IT landscape at a rapid pace. While organizations have invested in infrastructures that allow their employees to work remotely via technologies like VPN, the technology stack in the advent of the MDM / BYOD age needs to extend to allowing for remote access via these mobile devices too.
In the information era, innovative concepts come along and emerge as a new trend. Not all trends are made equal. Cloud Computing is one such term that has not just emerged as a trend, but has enabled technology to take a leap forward in terms of scale and usability. It has taken a quantum leap forward in terms of ambition. As with most technologies, there are many benefits that can be gained, but along with understanding the benefits, the business risks must also be evaluated. While evaluating such benefits, it’s important to not just look at the short term benefits but also the long term objectives and goals of an organizations strategy.
What Is Cloud Computing
The definition of the term is just one of many that we have been introduced with in the industry. But what does it actually mean? Let’s take a brief look at a few definitions of the term:
Wikipedia: “Cloud computing is a phrase used to describe a variety of computing concepts that involve a large number of computers connected through a real-time communication network such as the Internet”
NIST: “Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction”.
Merriam-Webster: “The practice of storing regularly used computer data on multiple servers that can be accessed through the Internet”.
For Dummies : “The “cloud” in cloud computing can be defined as the set of hardware, networks, storage, services, and interfaces that combine to deliver aspects of computing as a service”.
Before we provide you any more references to confuse you further, let’s take a pause here. We cited the top 3 sources of references. And each have their own variation of the definition. So which definition is more apt? Do they all mean something different or do they all mean the same? The short answer is, they are all the same. Any which way you read it, it translates to “cloud computing” being a model. A model that has certain characteristics.
The characteristics of a cloud network essentially are it being an on demand service, ability to scale to exponential proportions at a rapid pace, the ability to aggregate and resources from across multiple platforms and the ability of it being measurable.
The four fundamental deployment models of a cloud service are a public cloud, a private cloud and a hybrid cloud. Where the terms public private by themselves are indicative of its use, and the term hybrid as it’s itself definition goes is an amalgamation of the 2 models.
BYOD in the Cloud:
BYOD’s success is equivalently proportional to the variety of devices and platforms that it introduces to the IT systems. For organizations that are proponents of the BYOD ideology, the key factor that determines the ease of onboarding of users onto the corporate network is the use of Virtual Private Networking (VPN) technology. Enabling users to tunnel into the network via VPN allows organizations to enable their user to access files and/or control the applications on local machines that they require for their daily routines regardless of the platform or device they are using or their location as long as they are connected to the cloud.
Therefore, it is imperative that cloud connectivity plays an important role in enabling such access across platform or device agnostic systems. BYOD needs to be part of a wider, holistic approach to Cloud computing.
Now take into account the general Cloud options. The problem with this is that you can lose control of the data while not losing responsibility for it. You don’t even know where it is. At a technical level, this might not be important; however at a legal and regulative level it definitely is. Moreover, your only ultimate control over your own data is your contract with the Cloud provider - and if the provider fails, contracts are no substitute for data.
The BYOD concept is evolving very quickly and the changes are influencing "how enterprises have adopted this technology" vary considerably. They are forcing IT section chiefs to think more intrusively and acquire tools to control this situation without restricting the end user experience. MDM or Mobile Device Management is one such very handy tool but as BYOD concept continues to spread, businesses would require many other services in integration with MDM. Two of such services are Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Content Management.
MDM in the Cloud:
Cloud based device management doesn't minimize application or operating system bloat but what it does do is leverage the Internet's bandwidth for delivery, monitoring and metering. If an organization is geographically dispersed and diverse, cloud based MDM becomes a necessity rather than a requirement. A smart way to setup a cloud based MDM solution is to place the organizations asset management system in the cloud and allow the processes to take place via user's personal bandwidth. It's kind of an extension of BYOD but in this case it's BYOB, where the "B" is bandwidth.
By using an employee's personal bandwidth for that "last mile" leg of the delivery process, the corporate network's bandwidth, even on a segregated network, remains available for monitoring, operating system delivery, server patching, administration, and other required maintenance activities.
Cloud-based MDM will be most effective with user devices, which will always outnumber data centered ones. User devices burn up the bandwidth due to the sheer numbers of them.
When we refer to MDM in the cloud, a key issue that pops into mind is “security”. Arguably the greatest challenge faced by organizations embracing BYOD is that of security; ensuring that personal devices aren't compromised in themselves and don't pose a security threat to the rest of the network. Allowing BYODs introduces many more vulnerabilities at various steps in the network and so there are many ways in which these risks can and need to be addressed.
The first step is to reduce the risk of the personal device being compromised in the first place. This is particularly pertinent where employees are bringing their own device in to connect to the businesses LAN. To achieve this, some organizations have conditions of use which require that the user's device has specific anti-virus and management software installed before it can be allowed onto the network. However, the risks can also be reduced by ensuring that personal devices are only allowed to connect to the local network via a VPN rather than a direct connection, even when the user is on site.
Using a VPN is a must for users in remote locations as the secure tunnel of a VPN prevents any information being intercepted in transit. It can be tempting for employees working off-site (or even on site) on personal devices to email documents, for example, backwards and forwards but the security of such communications can never be guaranteed.
What's more that approach requires that at least some work data is stored locally on the personal device - a cardinal sin in terms of data protection. Again both VPNs and cloud solutions can negate the need to store local data. Using a VPN will allow the worker to operate on the local network, accessing, working on and storing everything they need on there, rather than on their own device. Secure cloud services on the other hand can be used to provide collaborative workspaces where users perform all their work in the cloud so that colleagues, wherever they are, can access it. However care should be taken to check the security measures used by cloud providers before signing up to such services whilst the user must also ensure that someone who misappropriates a device can't then easily access their cloud account (through lack of device security and stored passwords etc).
Since MDM itself is a relatively new concept there is disparity in opinion regarding the implementation of a cloud based system. While most organizations prefer a cloud based solution, others are not willing to let go of a very recent transition made from traditional networks to MDM. Some however have opted for a hybrid solution where data processing is done on servers A purely cloud based solution however is more beneficial to the requirements of companies especially if they're on a small scale.
- Setup Time : The setup time for a cloud based system is very little. This is because the data is ultimately on a cloud and the creation of a system which gives access to multiple devices can be easily done.
- Setup Cost : Budget constraints are common problems faced by small companies. The BYOD automatically removes the strain of providing devices to employees whereas cloud systems enable mobile device management without the need of spending money on technical equipment such as server machines, cables, power outlets and switches.
- Maintenance : Regular maintenance of the server will be unnecessary. If the software has the latest updates and is working properly, chances are the server is providing optimal performance as well.
- Costs : One of the most appealing features of MDM is the low initial cost of set up. What is overlooked however is that the running or operating costs of the cloud systems are reasonable as well. Payment is done simply on usage basis and according to the number of devices connected to the cloud system.
- Ease Of Access : The cloud may be accessed from any locations which means that workers in remote locations will be able to work from home or other locations.
Oracle Fusion Middleware:
Cloud computing may appear to be spreading like wildfire with both enterprise and personal users jumping at the chance to take advantage of the cost effectiveness, scalability and flexibility that it offers. However, there is a strong debate amongst industry experts, and beyond, as to whether this uptake, however rapid, has been severely tempered by a lack of trust and understanding around cloud services from prospective clients.
Many propose that, as has been the case in many markets that have preceded cloud computing, the answer to client wariness is standardization with the aim of delivering transparencies. In other words, create a market where a client can shop between multiple providers and judge their security levels, data handling, performance and service stability on comparable metrics.
Oracle Fusion middleware does just that. It’s based on standards and enabled organizations to standardize their platform offerings.
Oracle Fusion middleware enables you to secure mobile (native and Web) applications with Oracle Access Management. This includes authenticating users with existing credentials; enabling two-factor authentication; and using mobile authentication to enable secure Web services and REST APIs, REST-to-SOAP transformation, and identity propagation.
Version 188.8.131.52 of the latest release of Oracle WebCenter Sites provides an integrated mobile Web solution that enables business users to author, edit, and preview content for different groups of mobile devices—all from within the same interface that is used to manage their main Website. Oracle WebCenter Framework is an Oracle JDeveloper design-time extension that breaks down the boundaries between Web-based portals and enterprise applications. It also provides the runtime portal and Web 2.0 framework on which all Oracle WebCenter technology runs.
The Best of Breed
With Oracle Fusion middleware, you gain access to the best of breed in technology platforms and tools that would not just enable your organizations BYOD program to sprint forward but would enable to enhance the service delivery model by providing your organization with the core tools and technology that would not just power your BYOD and MDM strategy but also enable you to leverage the exact same platform for your enterprise wide security strategy.
If you’d like to talk more, you can find us at simeiosolutions.com