Enterprise IT now competing with apps stores, mobile devices

If IT pros won't deploy apps, users will find a work-around

Tablet computing has become a top priority of Fortune 500 CIOs and will eclipse PC use by 2015, if not sooner. Email is becoming a legacy technology in the face of social media. And consumer app stores are offering collaboration and communications tools that have vastly outpace enterprise apps.

Those trends are pushing IT shops to change, and change quickly, how they manage the growing number of devices and third-party apps their co-workers are using in the workplace, according to IT experts who spoke today at the Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise (CITE) Conference here.

"Users are getting access to an unlimited amount of applications ... and if they don't like that application they can throw it out and try another one," said Dion Hinchliffe, executive vice president of strategy at consulting firm Dachis Group. "It's very hard for traditional IT to compete with that."

Hinchliffe said that if enterprises don't begin developing their own internal app stores for employees to use, workers will find work-arounds that lack security and IT support. And if companies don't deploy internal social networking sites like those offered by Yammer, collaboration tools such as Salesforce.com or secure web browsers such as Dolphin, users will find their own.

But embracing a bring-your-own-device policy brings with it security concerns.

For Festo Corp., a producer of pneumatic and electric drive technology, it's about securing the data and not the device. The company is now in the midst of a four-month pilot iPad deployment.

Steve Damadeo, IT operations manager at Festo, said his company is now uses Microsoft HyperV to create a VDI environment for the iPads. For now, it allows him to secure the data and ignore the physical device. But he sees VDI as a stopgap measure that Festo will eventually move away from.

"We're a firm believer of secure the data and not the device," Damadeo said. "I don't care if you come with an iPhone, an Android, a laptop, a netbook, a tablet or whatever. We're interested in securing the data. If you focus on that, you can be a lot more flexible in your options.

"We believe in a two-tier approach. The first is enable basic access to it, and then get off the legacy application when possible," he said. "If I can provision it through VDI, it's no different than if you're accessing it through your laptop. However, beyond that we need to work into this idea of changing the idea of the way we handle applications."

For example, Festo custom built its sales force collaboration tool; it didn't buy from Salesforce.com. That custom app gave users access to the most frequent corporate data for sales purposes. But now, Damadeo is looking to connect data stores directly to the company's SAP CRM environment or to its Outlook and Exchange platforms.

"So, step one is at least be able to connect to it so you can do what you need to do. And then step two is be able to work your way off that platform...," he said. "I don't think VDI is the way to work your way off that platform."

Another issue Festo must handle is peripherals - which projectors, bar code scanners and external monitors will work with the tablet. Employees own more than one mobile device and not all of them work with the same peripherals.

"One of our biggest things we're targeting right now is voice over IP and video-conferencing capabilities," he said. "Let's say I have everything stored in the VDI. Fine. But what if I want to use the video capabilities for it. Is it going to use the one in my camera or is it going to try to connect to the thin client? I don't want to carry around separate devices."

Hinchliffe noted that there are now more than 400 social networks with one million or more users each. So the need for internal social networks to open up corporate communication and employee collaboration should be a top priority.

For example, Hinchliffe pointed to British clothier Burberry and its CEO, Angela Ahrendts, who recently said her company's supply chain was aging and inadequate. Burberry is now embracing social networking to connect the supply chain, drive sales and build the brand. The company has received millions of hits on its Art of the Trench social networking site.

"She said, 'We'll be fundamentally a social networking business. We'll connect the customer and suppliers together," Hinchliffe said. "They've seen a 21% increase to their bottom line."

Another major issue corporations face is the inability for workers to find information vital to do their jobs. Instead, legacy backend systems often silo corporate data. And in an age where a Google Search can sometimes produce inane information, users want an easy conduit to corporate information in the form of a simple and effective internal search engine.

From 80% to 90% of corporate information is not accessible because employees don't know where it is -- or if they do know where it is, they don't have authorization to access it, Hinchliffe said.

That's where big data and map reduce technologies such as Hadoop come in. They can be used to categorize data into usable information that can be accessed with simple search technology.

For Long Island University, embracing mobile apps and easy access to data meant deploying 16,000 iPads to students over the past two years. The University plans to deply another 4,000 iPads before next fall.

George Baroudi, CIO and chief business process improvement officer of Long Island University, said he sees student iPads in the same vein as banks that gave out toasters in the 1980s for opening a certificate of deposit.

Students were willing to pay an additional $100 fee to have their own iPad because it increased their access to curriculum information, online courses and let them purchase eBooks, which were cheaper than hard cover texts. The university is using a Citrix-based VDI to support the iPads.

Before the iPad deployment, the admissions process could be arduous, he said. Students had to carry around paperwork showing they'd been certified free of meningitis, had vaccinations and had paid their tuition fees. Now students can simply check off an online list, indicating they've submitted medical certifications and completed other admissions paperwork.

Baroudi sold the iPad idea to the University's chief marketing officer by saying it would set the school apart and add a measure of prestige. He then sold it to the chief academic officer by explaining how live webcasts and online materials could streamline learning. But the university also set up strict policies.

"We had a policy for BYOD, even though they were buying the device," Baroudi said. "We made them sign a legal form on the website. Any broken device would be between them and Apple. You're covered for one year through our policy and you can buy additional coverage if you like."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

Read more about consumerization of it in Computerworld's Consumerization of IT Topic Center.

This story, "Enterprise IT now competing with apps stores, mobile devices" was originally published by Computerworld.

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