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Mobile in 2016: IoT, Cloud and App Factories

Cathal McGloinBy Cathal McGloin

As we enter 2016, the mobile landscape is poised for shifts in a few key areas — mobile app development, the Internet of Things and cloud services, among others. Few of your customers will be immune to these changes, and it’s likely many will need help adjusting to the constantly changing nature of the mobile marketplace in 2016. Here are some of my predictions, and advice on how to stay on top of mobility:

1. Successful companies will use mobile lessons learned to adopt IoT. Industry research firm IDC predicts the worldwide IoT market will reach $1.7 trillion by 2020. While these projections are encouraging, even downright exciting, for analysts, many companies are still easing into significant IoT investments, despite high expectations. An IoT survey conducted by TechValidate on behalf of Red Hat in June 2015 shows that respondents are approaching IoT slowly and deliberately, with only 12 percent indicating that they are currently rolling out an IoT solution.

This is reminiscent of the path taken with mobility: The excitement and hype in the early days seemed unstoppable, but the rubber hit the road when we realized how complex it is to roll out mobile apps at scale. If you’ve started looking into IoT, that probably sounds familiar.

Next year is likely to be when smart companies get real about determining how IoT will help their businesses, and how they can integrate it into their digital strategies. How mobile and IoT might impact existing infrastructure, architecture and applications – and the modernization of these to accommodate the move towards digitization – is what will keep customer CIOs awake at night.

My advice: Leverage existing work. Many customers’ mobile-app development is just hitting stride. A 2013 survey conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of FeedHenry (acquired by Red Hat in October 2014), showed less than 10 percent of respondents had fully implemented mobile app strategies. However, a similar survey conducted by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Red Hat in 2015 showed a big rise in the importance of mobile, with 52 percent of respondents claiming to have fully implemented strategies.

There’s no doubt that enterprise mobility still faces many hurdles. The good news for teams immersed in building mobile-app strategies is that they may have a jump-start on tackling the complexity of back-end application integration, more loosely coupled architectures, cloud and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) deployments, Agile development and security management across connected devices. Customers that create and implement a company-wide digital strategy spanning mobile and IoT are likely to be better placed for digital competitiveness. Yes, hardware manufacturers will continue to develop IoT-specific devices, but don’t get sidetracked: It’s the applications, IT infrastructure, data analytics and services that are most likely to take off as enterprises grapple with securing, integrating and doing data management of these new “things.”

2. Mobile integration solutions will mature. Enterprise mobility can be complex, especially when you’re tackling integration, deployment, security and the management of a growing volume and diversity of mobile applications and data. As “mobility” evolves into “digital transformation” in the coming year, interoperability with other key technologies like networking, middleware and IoT, will also become more complex. As a result, I predict that customers will likely reject standalone solutions in favor of a broader portfolio of enterprise-grade capabilities and technology stacks that can be offered by larger enterprise vendors. These “mobile backend as a service,” or MBaaS, solutions have largely supplanted mobile application platforms. They’re aimed at providing a common set of services that can be shared among all the apps in use by the enterprise, thus minimizing development work. Think file storage, messaging and hooks into select enterprise applications.

The cloud has emerged as a key enabler for enterprise mobility, and in 2016, MBaaS providers will likely expand their portfolios to include more cloud, mobile and data-analytics services.

My advice: If you have not partnered with an MBaaS provider because you felt the market was in flux, 2016 is a good time to add this tech to your portfolio. A number of cloud providers have already broadened their offerings to include more value-added mobile solutions and services, and I expect this trend to continue in 2016. That presages greater consolidation and a maturing market — which adds up to a simplified vendor and solutions landscape with a more established technology stack.

Some standalone players and solo MBaaS providers are likely to feel pressure, while others may make a bid to play a broader role as part of a more comprehensive enterprise IT offering. The key thing to look out for is, which are able to continue innovating with their mobile entities and enable an agile environment, while still lowering the complexity quotient that often haunts mobile enterprise deployments.

3. The rise of the app factory and citizen coders. As mobile priorities continue to shift and broaden in the next year, more organizations will look to create “app factories,” or “Mobile Centers of Excellence” — MCoE. Most large enterprises already have these groups, and partners can play a role helping smaller customers gain the benefits. The Red Hat research from Vanson Bourne shows that 37 percent of respondents have already implemented these types of centers, and as mobile continues to mature in 2016, I expect that number to grow. It also bears mention that 2016 could be the age of the citizen developer. While mobile specialists will still be in high demand, it’s likely we’ll see more services emerge for non-developers looking to create apps swiftly, with the ability to integrate and deploy them in the market on a short timeline.

My advice: MCoE collaborations bring together key app project stakeholders from the business and IT as well as partners to provide development, integration and ongoing management to mobile programs. It’s the only way to grow mobile-app portfolios in a secure and integrated way while eliminating expensive duplicative efforts. An MCoE is also a venue to ensure customers get the benefits of their citizen developers while providing proper recognition and governance.

This is just a snapshot of what could be in store for mobile in 2016. However, from my perspective, the transformative power of mobile is clear. As organizations mature, mobile app, cloud and IoT strategies can play key roles in maintaining and accelerating growth.

Cathal McGloin is vice president and general manager of mobile platforms at Red Hat Inc., the world’s leading open source technology company. He is responsible for all of Red Hat’s mobile business and is leading the drive to make the Red Hat Mobile Application Platform the leading open source cloud-based mobile application platform for enterprises.

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