SHARE in Anaheim Journal: Big Opportunities in Mobile Computing for the Mainframe

Early one morning during last month’s SHARE in Anaheim event, about a dozen participants left their smartphones and tablets in their bags or pockets to discuss “The Mobile Computing Revolution,” a focus group hosted by Ray Sun, SHARE Marketing Director.

As an independent, volunteer-run association providing IBM customers with user-focused education, professional networking and a forum to influence the information technology industry, SHARE is taking a leadership position in the relationship between mobile computing and the mainframe, helping member organizations cope with rapidly developing challenges and opportunities.

“Part of the challenge of mobile computing is describing the issues and opportunities,” Sun told the group.  “And we believe SHARE as an organization has the experience and insight to lead the discussion of where mobility meets the mainframe and beyond to the whole of enterprise computing.”

The SHARE community launched the “where mobility meets the mainframe” topic in June with the first in a series of three posts on the SHARE President’s Corner blog by veteran tech business writer and Forbes blogger Erika Morphy.

Another Morphy blog series on mobility for President’s Corner is planned for October.

The blog articles are part of SHARE’s escalating concentration on mobility and the mainframe that will feature a “Mobility Spotlight” during SHARE in San Francisco in February 2013, with an even larger emphasis during SHARE in Boston next August.

(SHARE in Anaheim showcased a “Big Data Spotlight” with a concentration of sessions – 14 hours of interactive discussions in two days –designed to address the “most pressing Big Data questions and concerns” of its community. See my last SHARE in Anaheim Journal post on the President’s Corner blog.)

“Mobile is a significant component in the evolution of computing” that is rapidly moving into the enterprise, said John Gibson, Client Technical Specialist – Expert Integrated Systems for IBM. Gibson helped Sun lead the focus group by tracing the roots of the mobile computing revolution back through the web, desktop, and client/server technologies to the mainframe.

IBM Distinguished Engineer Rosalind Radcliffe, who is an Enterprise Modernization Solution Architect in the IBM Software Group, joined Sun and Gibson in facilitating the focus group. She said the progression from mainframe to mobile can seem “scary and hard.” but it’s also an opportunity to “extend and transform” enterprise computing.

Based on feedback and real-world anecdotes from the focus group participants, Sun, Gibson and Radcliffe crystallized SHARE’s mobility-and-the-mainframe agenda for blogs and future events around three core topics.

Governance of Mobile Computing

A core issue mainframe professionals must consider when evolving to mobile platforms, devices and applications is control. The matter comes down to physical location. Technologists managing mainframe systems historically always knew exactly where the hardware resided and, therefore, had extensive control of the data and applications the hardware processed.

But the location of mobile computing hardware continually changes, which puts individual users largely in control of the data and applications resident on mobile devices. In the past, technicians – corporate or otherwise – had complete control over which applications were installed on devices and when and how they were installed. Mobile devices have turned that model on its head.

One way to cope with this loss of control is through corporate policy. Gibson and Radcliffe recommended a mobile policy that is “simple to understand, enforceable and enforced,” and covers these elements:

  • Mobile platforms supported
  • Systems accessed by mobile devices
  • Requirements and responsibilities of specific roles in the organization regarding mobile computing
  • Policy differences between employer-owned and employee-owned devices
  • Software applications allowed on mobile devices
  • Actions management may take to implement and enforce policy
  • How mobile policy extends to laptop computing, which has mobile characteristics

On the topic of governance, Sun promised SHARE would delve more deeply into the issue of ownership – i.e., similarities and differences between policies for corporate-owned devices and policies for companies with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs – in future blogs and at future events.

“There are issues around mobile policy, such as who pays for service, comingling of data, dealing with the loss of corporate-owned devices, whether corporate data on personal mobile devices is ‘discoverable’ in a legal action against a company, and others,” Sun said after the session. “We want to explore these issues at greater depth for the SHARE community and the enterprise-computing community as a whole.”

Intersection of Mobile and Cloud Computing

“How much of my [mobile] desktop is in the Cloud?” Radcliffe rhetorically asked the session attendees, referring to the data used and shared by apps on mobile devices.

The answer is critical to forming policy, security measures, designing applications, and a host of other issues. Participants in the focus group recommended that future SHARE conferences invite technical experts from companies heavily invested in Internet computing, such as Google and Apple, to host working sessions that explain how their technology moves data and applications through the Cloud to mobile devices. Understanding the mechanics is critical to managing the risks of sharing corporate data through the Cloud.

The interaction of mobile and cloud computing is a topic planned for future blog posts on President’s Corner.

Best Practices in Mobile Computing

One best practice explored in the session was building an “Enterprise App Store,” which would be a self-service web portal similar to consumer app stores. The site would provide corporate-approved, customized apps for accessing corporate data and systems but include other popular, approved business apps that enhance user productivity.

Session attendees viewed an Enterprise App Store as one way to convert a mobility challenge into an opportunity by seizing these advantages:

  • An app store can serve as a means of distributing critical corporate data to mobile devices – and a way to retrieve it.
  • An app store affords IT professionals the chance to vet popular non-corporate apps and issue recommendations or warnings to users. Corporate policymakers could elect to restrict users of corporate-owned devices to apps vetted and downloaded through the Enterprise App Store.
  • An app store can facilitate greater security and license compliance among users in its role as a repository for critical information and updates.
  • An app store can gather statistics for device and data usage analysis.

Facilitators and participants in the “Mobile Computing Revolution” focus group agreed that IT users, developers and managers – mainframe specialists or otherwise – are working in an era of sometimes radical and permanent change.  And in the realm of mobility and the mainframe, SHARE is uniquely positioned to help all parties cope with insight and education.  Stay tuned to SHARE.org for more information on the SHARE in San Francisco Mobility Spotlight.

Communications strategist Bob Dirkes attended SHARE in Anaheim on special assignment. Follow him on Twitter @RCDirkes.  Follow SHARE on Twitter @SHAREhq.  Next “Journal” entry: Big Opportunities in Mobile Computing for the Mainframe.

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