Report: SDN, NFV, and open source: the operator’s view

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SDN, NFV, and open source: the operator’s view by Mark Leary:
Software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) represent two of the more dramatic oncoming technology shifts in networking. Both will significantly alter network designs, deployments, operations, and future networking and computing systems. They also will determine supplier and operator success (or failure) over the next five to 10 years.
As has always been the case with successful networking technologies, industry standards and open systems will play a strong role in the timely widespread adoption and ultimate success of both SDN and NFV solutions. Open source is poised to play an even more critical role in delivering on the promise of standardized and open networking.
This great promise and potential impact begs two questions. First, “Where are SDN and NFV today?” And second, “What influence will open systems and open source have on the future of SDN and NFV?”
To find answers to these questions, in December 2013 Gigaom Research ran an extensive survey of 600 operators (300 enterprises and 300 service providers) in North America. Based on findings from that survey, this research report provides key insights into the current activity and future direction of SDN and NFV advancements as well as the development and deployment of open systems and open source within SDN and NFV environments.
To read the full report click here.

Report: Hybrid application design: balancing cloud-based and edge-based mobile data

Our library of 1700 research reports is available only to our subscribers. We occasionally release ones for our larger audience to benefit from. This is one such report. If you would like access to our entire library, please subscribe here. Subscribers will have access to our 2017 editorial calendar, archived reports and video coverage from our 2016 and 2017 events.
Data - generic
Hybrid application design: balancing cloud-based and edge-based mobile data by Rich Morrow:
We’re now seeing an explosion in the number and types of devices, the number of mobile users, and the number of mobile applications, but the most impactful long-term changes in the mobile space will occur in mobile data as users increasingly interact with larger volumes and varieties of data on their devices. More powerful devices, better data-sync capabilities, and peer-to-peer device communications are dramatically impacting what users expect from their apps and which technologies developers will need to utilize to meet those expectations.
As this report will demonstrate, the rules are changing quickly, but the good news is that, because of more cross-platform tools like Xamarin and database-sync capabilities, the game is getting easier to play.
To read the full report, click here.

BYOD policies are behind the times, and we haven’t seen anything yet

A recent study by Champion Solutions Group showed some very surprising results. While we have come to rely on mobile devices as a critical aspect of business communications, the research found glaring deficiencies underlying the administration of those devices.
Champion surveyed 447 IT decision makers, from a wide variety of sectors, looking to find what is the state of the practice in mobile policy enforcement and security.
The key takeaway is that we’re still in the early stages of dealing with the explosion of BYOD in business. Less than one-half of businesses polled have a formal BYOD policy, and less that one in five requires multifactor authentication for mobile.
The findings give a pretty clear picture of a split in BYOD approaches, but many companies are quite immature in their approach:

  • Organizations are nearly evenly split between those that have a formal BYOD policy (47 percent) and those that do not (53 percent).
  • When it comes to password policies, most organizations favor complex alphanumeric passwords of six to 10 characters.
  • More than three-quarters (77 percent) of those polled have policies to lock out devices after multiple failed login attempts, usually between three and five failed tries.
  • Around 72 percent of organizations require re-authentication of mobile devices after periods of inactivity, with most opting for lockoutafter five to 15 minutes.
  • The vast majority of those polled have provisions in place for expiring passwords and prohibiting reuse of old passwords.

There is really no reason that companies can’t roll out a BYOD policy in short order, to allow employees to use their devices but to protect the company at the same time. Here’s a policy template from IT Manager Daily, for example, that requires the company to detail what is and isn’t allowed — such as prohibiting or allowing cell camera use while in the company’s facilities, or enumerating which apps are prohibited and spelling out in detail what the security policies will be.
Most importantly, according to Matt Karlyn, of Cooley LLC, a tech savvy law practice, a good BYOD policy will clarify the rights of both the company and the employee. His advice is that a good BYOD policy lays out general rules about personal mobile device usage.
It clearly articulates what the company’s rights are with respect to monitoring, accessing and reviewing all the data stored on, processed or used by the particular device. It goes through the employee’s obligations with respect to keeping the device secure, password requirements, all the things you’d expect to see in a general IT policy. It talks about what happens if you’re terminated or decide to leave the company.
Karlyn concludes that one of the goals should be to avoid any surprises, for example, when litigation or other events lead the company to access or wipe the employee’s device.
As the market for smartphones continues to grow, these issues will become only of greater importance. Market research firm IDC has predicted that nearly 2 billion smartphones will ship globally by 2019, and as much as 60 percent of them will be used in BYOD settings. MarketsandMarkets have projected that to be an over $250 billion market, a 200 percent spike in six years.
Given that sort of growth, it may be unsurprising that formal BYOD policies and security provisions aren’t ubiquitous, but companies will have to get on the dime if they want to sidestep the dangers inherent in informally managed BYOD. Both companies and employees will need to understand and set policies to manage data securely.
This is only going to grow in importance as employees begin to bring other devices to work, and not just smartphones and tablets. When corporate information can find its way to smartwatches, augmented and virtual reality gear, or other connected devices, we’ll have to expand the purview of BYOD policies.
Consider the recent concerns about ‘Hello Barbie’, a doll that can listen to conversations, upload the audio to a server with AI capabilities to interpret them, and then to respond intelligently. The basic idea seems appealing, superficially. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a doll that can talk with your child, and ‘get to know them’, quote unquote. But it winds up in creepyville, when such a toy could be building a profile of your children’s interests. Or simply archiving a record of everything it hears your child say.
So even something as apparently utilitarian as an Amazon Echo in the lunchroom, that listens to requests and queues up music, poses some of the same security questions as a smartphone in a confidential meeting. And such devices — all 21 billion of them in 2020 — will have to be considered as part of an overarching BYOD strategy, and soon.

This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. For more on these topics, visit Dell’s thought leadership site Power More. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.

Work IT: bring-you-and-your-own-everything

Cast your mind back a decade or more. Did you request specific hardware from your company’s IT team? If so, you started a trend that continues to play out to this day, and will continue to its logical and exciting conclusion.
You may or may not have been successful in your request given IT’s historic intransigence, but nowadays many of us expect to rock up to work with the laptop and tablet and smartphone of our choosing – often our own – and expect the IT team’s full accommodation.
We’re also bringing our own applications. Non-IT staff have adopted software-as-a-service without necessarily going through their IT colleagues. Yammer, Trello and Slack for example. Perhaps Google Docs crept in without organization-wide adoption of Google for Work. Meeting schedulers. Note-takers. Expense trackers. Skype. Dropbox. Instagram. The list is as long as the kind of things you need to get done.
It’s useful to think of this in terms of Enterprise IT and Work IT. The enterprise owns Enterprise IT whereas the worker owns Work IT. In simple terms, Enterprise IT is focused on the organization, Work IT on organizing. Enterprise IT is top-down with the starting position of locking everything down, whereas Work IT is bottom-up, thriving by facilitating sharing and openness.
It’s impossible to separate Work IT from the transformation of organizational design. Work IT supports emerging approaches to organization – sociocratic, holacratic, podular, wirearchical – over the traditional hierarchical command-and-control structures. And the advantages of such networked organization encourages innovation in and the adoption of Work IT. I consider sustainability to be the major driver.
Sustainability – the health and resilience of living systems including our societies and organizations – requires individual agency, diversity, and distributed networks to facilitate the emergence of collective intelligence. This then conveys some of the traits we will demand for the continued growth of Work IT, including openness and privacy, accessibility and digital inclusion.

Open and private

Open society, open government, and open organization help create greater transparency and accountability, and yet concurrently concern for the privacy of personal data and information is growing. In the absence of self-regulation when it comes to the mass surveillance of our use of digital technologies, law-makers are stepping up to the mark. Non-compliance with the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation for example might incur penalty of 5% of global turnover. That focuses the mind.
Work IT may excel at openness, but centralized Enterprise IT remains the stronghold for data security and compliance, impeding the growth of Work IT. This will only be addressed by some metadata mechanism to express the provenance and confidentiality of data such that it may flow where it will but not where it should not. And just as Work IT supports a distributed network of workers, this facility will in turn likely hang off the only known system for incorruptible, distributed database – the blockchain.

Accessibility and digital inclusion

We are all unique. We all have different digital, numerical, information and visual literacy. Millions of people have one or more disabilities, and millions more will become disabled with age, yet UI designers simply cannot cater to this variety.
We need all things digital to adapt to us, not as currently the other way round. Only when Work IT and the digital interactions with all variety of organizational stakeholder adopt a human interface might we have the chance to reap everyone’s full participation. In other words, bring-your-own-interface.

Social business

With compliance built-in rather than bolted-on, and all things digital deigning to adapt to us, major frictions currently impeding the individual’s ability to seek, sense and share are eliminated, manifesting in organizational learning, collective intelligence and responsiveness.
Social business is about all stakeholders coming together to add mutual value faster than otherwise, with the help of social technologies, appropriately transformed culture, and a network orientation rather than command and control. It’s co-creation with customers, partners, suppliers, everyone, constantly striving to find the right combination to best pursue shared objectives, guided by shared values.
Social business is, by this definition, sustainable business, and such self-organization demands that Work IT enables the organized self. By this I mean software that represents us in finding opportunities to create mutual value with others, and then helps us realise that value.
In just a few decades then we’ll have moved from a hoped-for exceptional choice of laptop to fast-and-loose organization inviting you to bring-you-and-your-own-everything. Indeed, to you playing your part in spontaneous organization.

With Android for Work, Google aims to secure 1+ billion BYOD devices

We’ve all been doing it, to the dismay to some of our bosses: Employees have long been bringing their own devices to work, reading corporate mail on the same phone that also is used to run their favorite games, snap their family photos and browse the web at large. Now, Google wants to legitimize BYOD, as the bring your own device is being called within the industry, by making Android more secure for work.

The company launched a new Android for Work program Wednesday that promises to not only make new and existing work devices more secure, but also bring enterprise-strength security to more than one billion Android handsets and tablets that consumers have acquired on their own. “Every employee should have a work-enabled mobile device in their hands,” said Android for Work Product Management Director Rajen Sheth during a press briefing in San Francisco Wednesday.

The basic idea behind Android for Work is to offer enterprises and their employees a secure area within their Android phones and tablets that can be managed by a company with dedicated policies and easily accessed by a user. For example, users can access a work-specific version of Google’s email client, and then simply switch back to their personal email client. Work apps are visually set apart from personal Android apps through a small suitcase icon.

This is how Android for Work looks like on a Lollipop device.

This is how Android for Work looks like on a Lollipop device.

On devices running Android Lollipop, this is done via dedicated profiles that are integrated on the operating system level. But Google also wanted to make Android for Work available to older handsets, which is why the company developed a dedicated Android for Work app that brings this kind of separation to non-Lollipop devices — an increasingly common tactic for Google, which has been fighting the often-decried Android fragmentation by adding key functionality updates to apps like Google Play services instead of Android itself.

Google is also launching a dedicated Google Play for Work store, which can be managed by each enterprise to deploy only whitelisted apps, or even purchase apps in bulk. Enterprises could decide to manage policies on their own, or work with third parties like VMWare or Citrix to handle these tasks.

Google Play for Work doesn’t really change anything for app developers, who only have to publish their app once to make it available to both consumers and enterprises, and are even able to add Work-specific security features to the same apps that are also installed by consumers. However, down the line, developers could expect new forms of monetization through Google Play for Work, which could include special bulk subscription tiers for enterprises. Sheth said that the company wants put a lot of focus on getting developers to build new apps as well as secure existing apps for Android for Work.

Google's new for Work productivity apps.

Google’s new for Work productivity apps.

Finally, Google is also making its own suite of productivity apps available as part of Android for Work. These are essentially customized versions of the existing Google apps. I got to see an email client that on the surface looked like Google’s Gmail app, but integrates with Exchange and Notes.

Google got a number of partners to launch Android for Work, including device manufacturers like LG, Sony and HTC, app and services businesses like Box, Salesforce and SAP as well as enterprise services companies like Citrix, VMWare and BlackBerry. Samsung, which at times has been a bit of a contentious partner for Google, got a special mention for its Knox security framework that integrates with Android for Work. The company also touted enterprise partners that have already been testing for Work, including Woolworth and Pearson.

However, the Google is also eyeing other industries, and looking to take Android even beyond BYOD, and to specialized single-purpose devices. One example mentioned by Sheth: Amusement parks, which could hand out a tablet or phone with some very specialized apps to each attendant. Restaurants could also benefit from dedicated Android apps that help staff to take and process orders, he said, adding: “That can open up an opportunity for many more devices that don’t exist today.”

Virtual desktops don’t replace EMM

A few weeks ago, a Gigaom Research client told me she was “sick of BYOD” and wanted out. She asked me if I thought she could “dump everything and just have employees remote into their desktops when they need to work from the road.”

It’s a compelling question, and timely, too.

In his 2015 end-user computing outlook, Gigaom Research analyst Simon Bramfitt documents the persistent fears that businesses have of BYOD plans along with the growing acceptance of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). It’s tempting to think that the two trends are directly connected: By turning smartphones and tablets into dumb terminals, we combine the redundant connectivity of a mobile device with all the security and manageability of a containerized desktop environment. If your iPad falls into a river, let it float — your data is safe on a server.

And plenty of vendors support VDI as an important component of an enterprise mobility solution. Citrix is  leading in mindshare, with a solid enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform and perhaps the industry’s best-known VDI solution. With AirWatch firmly under its wing, VMware offers a very similar range of features, and Microsoft isn’t far behind. Every week, in fact, I see lots of excitement from vendors about virtualized environments on mobile devices. But we’ve heard barely a peep from IT management — the ones who actually manage mobility programs. So while scrapping mobile app development in favor of delivering general-purpose apps to any device via a virtualized desktop seems like a tempting solution to a mobile headache, it clearly doesn’t stand in as a replacement for a BYOD plan.

In the last two years, I’ve only heard one other client mention an interest in using VDI as an alternative to apps. Here are three reasons why.

Assets still matter

An unlocked top-of-the-line smartphone like an iPhone 6 or a Galaxy 5 costs nearly as much as a laptop, and supporting and configuring that hardware is expensive (particularly if the tech support staff is not familiar with a specific phone model). And even if virtualization solved all security and access problems, tracking, managing and provisioning devices would still be a necessary and resource-consuming evil.

Mobile-device management (MDM) software provides those asset-focused services, and should be a standard deployment for every enterprise. And since most MDM providers already bundle a free or low-cost suite of applications to handle the most common productivity tasks, using those apps is generally much easier (and cheaper) than creating and supporting a virtualization program to connect to desktop apps.

Mobility is about more than the app

 Enterprise mobility isn’t simply about accessing apps on the go. The devices themselves are an integral part of the picture. That includes SMS, voice, location-based services, and the camera, all of which need to be managed and integrated into a system. For example, a sales app might integrate text and email communications with prospects while using GPS to guide reps to a meeting.  Enterprises supporting similar use cases beyond routine productivity  will want to take full advantage of everything a device has to offer through traditional apps.

There are also a number of mobile-specific concerns that rely on device and usage context. Throttling data transfers or disabling certain applications when a user is roaming or over a data cap can be managed fairly easily with EMM tools in traditional mobile settings. Connecting app behavior to device and plan data is much more difficult when the app is running inside a virtualized black box with limited connection to the device.

Mobile apps are different

Successful mobile apps are rarely anything like their desktop counterparts. While a desktop or web app can provide a wide range of choices through menus and expansive screens, a good mobile experience is heavily dependent on context and workflow, providing only the tools a worker needs at that moment to accomplish their current task. And since task switching is particularly difficult on mobile devices, good apps often pull from a number of different sources, mashing up traditional enterprise apps into a unified-but-focused front end.

And building those apps continues to get easier. No-coding platforms allow non-developers to drag-and-drop app components and data sources to create basic business apps. Cross-platform Mobile Application Development Platforms (MADPs) allow developers to write one set of code and deploy it to multiple target platforms.

VDI will certainly play a role in enterprise mobility. Our other client who asked about VDI had a very specific goal in mind. Following an acquisition, he wanted to provide an iOS environment to 500 new sales reps on non-Apple tablets. He needed his new employees to be productive right away, and he didn’t want to replace perfectly good hardware. That’s the kind of use case that’s absolutely perfect for VDI. It’s also a great solution for occasional users who need short-term access to a wide range of office applications and assets. But as a catchall solution, we’re going to have to live with EMM and mobile as we know them. Our devices are too smart to become dumb.

Image courtesy of triloks/iStock.

Blackberry purchases ‘virtual SIM’ startup Movirtu, will bring the technology to iOS and Android

Blackberry has acquired Movirtu, a London-based company that specializes in virtual SIM technology, it announced on Thursday. Originally, Movirtu’s business centered around shared phone service for poor regions in India and Southeast Asia, but Blackberry is likely to use its cloud-based account management technology to improve its enterprise and bring-your-own-device capabilities — so an IT manager could, say, apply policies to a work phone number on a employee’s personal phone. Blackberry intends to deploy Movirtu technology on other smartphone operating systems, including iOS and Android.