According to Gartner, 2014 saw us enter the era of the personal cloud, ending the generation of the PC as sole access device. This has raised questions about new approaches to enterprise IT and delivering application and services to employees. Peter Tebbutt, UK&I Country Leader for Alcatel-Lucent, discusses the effect this fundamental shift will have on the enterprise through 2015 and beyond.
First and foremost, let’s be clear what we mean by the Personal Cloud: the Personal Cloud is that collection of applications, web destinations and content we collect over time and may want to access at any time, from any device.
Day after day, employees are building their own, unique Personal Clouds from which they access services in addition to what IT departments provide them with. Think business applications, personal file exchange or storage, collaboration and social tools – any of the countless websites, apps or online services we use in our personal and professional lives.
The consequences for the enterprise are huge. Up until now, IT departments have been primarily concerned with the physical presence of the device itself, rather than looking at the processes needed to facilitate the use of these devices. Not only do users now expect to be able to use an app for most tasks, but they also expect seamless network access – wired or otherwise.
This requires the CIO to rethink service delivery completely as the architecture to support this delivery must be built by an Application Fluent Network strategy that is user-centric, not device-centric.
It must be able to deliver applications, data and services to any user in the most appropriate and secure fashion, understanding the device the person is employing at the time, as well as the type of application he is using, to then provide him with appropriate connectivity – and this needs to be achieved across both LAN and WLAN.
The three pillars of a new era
This is a generational shift in the way we use computers and IT, but there are multiple benefits for organisations in this new era. To understand them, let’s consider the three pillars for the transformation towards the new PC Era.
First, users or user experience: Providing the users with what they want and expect is definitely helping raise the bar of employee engagement, for the benefit of the whole organisation.
Secondly, technology: Most organisations struggle to use technology for immediate business advantage. The new PC Era offers many opportunities and clear business cases to accelerate deployment of state-of-the-art technologies such as SIP for communications, virtualisation in data centres, SDN or Unified Access at network level to name a few.
Third, models: The shift to the Cloud and demand for ‘as a Service’ models offer a fantastic opportunity to organisations which can gradually move towards a consumption-based model, giving them some room to launch innovative projects.
Users are impatient. They can get almost any application from anywhere in a couple of clicks. It creates a gap between expectations and what IT departments are capable of providing in a timely manner.
The main risk that enterprises are starting to see is ‘Shadow’ IT departments forming here and there, out of the control of IT and disrespectful of the enterprise’s compliance and security guidelines. This is coupled with much greater mobility of data, with unsecured devices, accessing unsecured networks. A recent survey shows us that 43% of employees have accessed sensitive corporate data on an unsecured public wireless network, and that at least 20% bring their own personal smartphones to work even though it is against IT policy.
My best advice to businesses is to demonstrate goodwill towards the demands of users and gradually implement projects with clear road maps to transform services and infrastructure for the visible benefits of both users and the whole organisation.
The new PC Era is shifting organisations from the Personal Computer to the Personal Cloud, where what’s really important is the ability to access our own ‘cloud’ anywhere, and at any time. As a result, BYOD needs to be addressed not only through the angle of the physical device, but also to take into consideration what it is that the device is going to bring over the network in terms of apps, service and content.
It reinforces the need for Network Access Control, as well as agile and adaptable management that will automatically control resources at application, service, device, user and network level. But this won’t necessarily mean a complete rip and replace of existing networks, but an evolutionary change.
Businesses that fail to adapt their IT strategies and take into account the changes that have occurred in IT will suffer as a consequence. As the development of new business technologies, services or applications continues unabated, the organisations that have failed to adapt their approach will be in no position to engage with these transformational advances.