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Global and Mobile App Delivery in the Age of IT Consumerization. Part 2: Impact and Delivery Enhancements

Picking up from where we left off on the topics discussed in Gigaom webinar titled Global and Mobile App Delivery in the Age of IT Consumerization, sponsored by Akamai, this week we cover  the impact of consumerization, globalization, and mobility on application delivery and the prioritization of potential delivery enhancements.

The webinar addressed the following key areas:

Consumerization, Globalization and Mobility Challenges

Consumerization, Globalization and Mobility Challenges for Application Delivery. Source: CloudTimes

Each of these aspects has its own influence.

Being based in a peripheral EU country myself, i’d start with globalization, which i believe has  been one of the main drivers of cloud adoption. When your workforce and your customers are global, this means your applications may be accessed at any given time and from any given location. It also means spikes in traffic can and will occur, not all of which can be expexted and accounted for, and traditional infrastructure planning becomes an exercise in futility.

Therefore, for organizations that operate globally, missing out on the promise of the cloud for application delivery is not an option. The main perceived challenge there has to do with security and privacy – enterprises are concerned that by using cloud-based solutions, their data may end up in the wrong hands. So the issue of security is central, not only at the source, by means of trusting your cloud provider, but also in the middle and the last mile.

Consumerization basically adds insult to injury. So in addition to the anytime, anywhere access requirements that globalization brought about, consumerization adds the any device aspect. Of course, that was already there for organizations developing and hosting themselves applications for their customers, but Consumerization made this a concern also for organizations that are not in the software business. All these organisations typically want is to be able to distribute 3rd party applications for their own use internally. The BYOD trend has made this once straighforward, albeit time consuming task, more complicated than ever. The combinations of devices, OSs, browsers and VMs that IT has to support can be unmanageable.

It’s interesting to note however that this cuts both ways;

The potential increase in user productivity and satisfaction associated with BYOD policies may be mitigated by potential security risks, so the challenge there is to retain enough control to keep company data secure and compliance requirements satisfied.

On the other hand, the side effect that BYOD willingly or unwillingly has for some organisations is that it can externalize part of the procumerement cost. But this in turn may be mitigated by the additional effort required to manage an increasingly diversifying set of devices and keep applications running on all of them in sync.

Mobility is what i personally consider to be perhaps the greatest challenge. In part, this has to do with the fact that mobile access takes place over a different network layer altogether, one that for the most part happens to be less reliable and less performant than landline networks. We have seen some progress there, but it’s still an apples to oranges comparison. 4G is just setting its foot in, in fact in most parts of the world it’s not even available yet. As for 5G, despite the excitement it’s just not there yet.

The other thing about mobility of course is that it brings additional challenges due to the fact that we have a proliferation of mobile apps. It’s one thing to optimize web apps for a range of browsers, and it’s a totally diferrent thing to develop and maintain a whole range of flavours of native mobile applications. How do you optimize that? This can be a very painful process.

How should businesses prioritize delivery enhancements?

Jigsaw

How do you prioritize delivery enhancements? Start from what you can actually control.

Again, it depends on your specific situation. As a rule of thumb:

1. If you are an application provider: Optimize your applications at their core, by means of applying the techniques mentioned earlier. That’s a no-brainer – there’s not much point in trying to optimize anything else, if you have not made sure that everything on the app side is as good as it could be. Efficient network and hardware is not excuse for poor application design, chatty protocols and the like. Do your homework first and design for scalability – don’t wait for performance issues to hit and make you go back to the drawing board. Unfortunately of course, that does not apply in cases where the application provider is someone else, so there’s not much you can do in that case.

2. Reevaluate your hardware. Another no-brainer. Sometimes you will have to upgrade, sometimes you will have to purchase additional hardware, sometimes you will just have to throw obsolete stuff away. Some other times, you can make smarter use of your existing hardware, either by reallocating applications and reconfiguring, or by applying virtualization – and making any necessary changes to your application deployment plan.

3. Invest in your network. The impact from poor network performance on overall application performance can be significant. Packet loss can occur for many reasons, and most WANs are oversubscribed anyway, leveraging statistical gain techniques to maximize the use of available capacity. As data traffic is bursty and unpredictable, switches will begin to selectively discard traffic when network congestion occurs. The percentage of packets discarded may be low, but the impact on application performance can be dramatic.

4. Utilize an application delivery solution that can help deal with your performance requirements AND operate on top of anything else you are already utilizing. For example, it would be quite frustrating if you had to choose between a cloud-bursting strategy and an application delivery solution. Your application delivery solution should be like your organisation – making the best of all resources and strategies at all times under all conditions.

5. Go hybrid multi-cloud, and choose the right CMP (Cloud Management Platform) to help you cope. The amount of options and the subtlety of configuration and payments details are truely mind-boggling, but luckily there are solutions that help you manage that, bundle and deploy your applications and keep track of usage and costs.

What are the most cost-effective enhancements businesses can make today?

I find this one is hard to answer, not least because it has a lot to do with how you measure cost-effectiveness. It’s not always about dollars spent, as we have to factor in effort and opportunity cost  associated with each option. But i’d say that if you’ve got your base covered – as in, solid application implementation, hardware setup and utilization and network infrastructure, then an application delivery solution is probably the one thing that will have the most dramatic impact at the shortest time. It may not always look like the most affordable option, but i think in many cases it can actually be the most cost-effective one.

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