Running a mobile application in native mode has some advantages -- most important, no latency or network bandwidth problems. But applications that run on mobile devices are often limited in functionality and are generally not business-class applications; it's very rare to find native smartphone apps used as serious front ends for database queries, for instance.
In contrast, mobile cloud computing applications run on servers that reside in the cloud. Application data also lives in the cloud and results are fed back to the mobile device via an over-the-air network such as 3G or 4G. Users access apps and data via the browser on their mobile devices.
Mobile cloud computing allows users to potentially run more robust applications, provided that sufficient security measures are in place. There can be problems, however, such as latency and network bandwidth issues for the transfer of data between the cloud and the mobile device.
Even though clouds may facilitate end-user access to mobile apps, IT organizations and developers must address a number of serious issues to correctly position an enterprise private cloud to accommodate mobile computing. Among them, Golden says: "Identity management has to be extended to mobile devices. You also want to be able to control what resides on the device should you decide to replace it, or if it gets lost."
Further, he explains, applications have to be architected correctly, so that apps running on mobile devices can access back-end corporate software and data residing on the cloud. App developers also "have to account for the fact that mobile devices have lower bandwidth ability and intermittent connectivity," Golden says.
Kamesh Pemmaraju, an analyst at the Sand Hill Group, says that mobile will act to accelerate corporate cloud adoption. "At the enterprise level, more and more employees are using mobile devices to read email, access calendars, and access databases" in read-only mode.
Tony Iams, senior vice president and senior analyst at Ideas Technologies, says, "Cloud computing and mobile computing are parallel developments" because both in some way involve moving "state" -- applications and/or data -- from the client to the server. "This creates a relationship between the two."
Creating a mobile cloud environment
Because data (and some applications) move between mobile devices and the cloud via off-premises networks, security is a major consideration. But application development and device management are also extremely important.
How organizations approach each of these issues will greatly affect the usability of the mobile cloud.