Tag Archives: Cloud

How the mobile and cloud dream team is reshaping sport and enterprise

The NBA has led the way in the use of mobile technology, powered by the cloud, the bring the sport into the 21st century.

Mobile makes computing look easy; not only easy but sexy too. From point-to-point directions to play-by-play sports action, our screens light up at just the right moment to keep us in the know. In reality, however, mobile devices are just an endpoint. They are powerful, but nowhere near powerful enough to perform the processing required for all but the most basic operations.

And just as professional athletes make their sport look easy, in reality these super stars actually have an entire team behind them that propels them to shine at just the right moment. For mobile, this powerful teammate is the cloud. It is precisely in sports where mobile, and its massive computing power teammate, the cloud, shine their brightest.

The cloud, with its distributed and scalable computing model is the brains and brawn behind the mobile mod. The cloud is a critical component for exciting mobile experiences. It is the cloud in conjunction with mobile that is able to meet the demand of that ever growing number of mobile devices which now exceeds the population of the planet.

Sports venues and teams are leveraging cloud and mobile to jump ahead of enterprises in their pursuit of pushing the frontier at the end-user mobile experience. Business can find a lot to learn from the success of the power couple of cloud and mobile in sports.

First, sports teams are leveraging the power of the cloud and mobile to extend existing services. The NBA is using the cloud to deliver statistics, from the most recent games all the way back to the first game played in 1946. This just wasn’t possible before mobile and the cloud when the computing power of the average user was isolated to the PC on her desk. But fans today can use their mobile device to answer in an instant questions like, who is the bigger basketball star, Michael Jordan or Lebron James?

Businesses too should first look for systems and processes that would benefit from the computing power of the cloud to improve existing capabilities. They should look for present processes that are slow or could be enhanced through a more dynamic distribution platform. This could mean improving the systems and services for customers as well as internal employees.

Sport teams are also using mobile and the cloud to expand their fan base and loyalty in novel ways. From fan analytics to better understanding their customer, to social and sentiment analysis, to precision and contextual marketing

For example, to call on the NBA again, they are testing a precision marketing service, from mobile carrier Verizon, to present promotions that associate a fan’s location, demographic data, and nearby businesses such as fast food establishments. These establishments have seen an average increase of 8.4% in sales following a promotional game. What used to only be actionable well after the fact is now actionable in real-time because of the compute power of the cloud delivered directly to fans mobile devices.

Businesses too should be looking for ways to expand their existing sales and partner networks by using the power of the cloud. They should look for ways to combine ancillary revenue opportunities to further bring value to their clients. Businesses should be asking where can we leverage our customer base, customer data, partner network, and combine that into a compelling proposition that can be computed in the cloud and delivered as a value added service to existing and potential clients.

The power of cloud and mobile isn’t just for improving client services and offerings. It is being used in sports for looking at internal operations as well. Teams are asking, what could make us a better, stronger team? These teams have come to rely on analytics powered by the cloud and mobile as much as they do a coach or star player.

Professional sports organization are betting big too. From recruiting, to scouting, to salary cap management, to player analytics, sport teams are voraciously consuming the cloud and mobile to find that edge against the competition. The NHL uses analytics to analyze in real time the effectiveness of a team’s style of play. The NFL uses analytics powered by the cloud to help select draft picks. Teams are turning to the cloud via mobile on almost a play-by-play basis for next step insight.

Many sports teams are making the analytics department one of the most crucial members of the team. They have come to see that the success of their season depends on it. Why then are many business, with just as much on the line, not taking advantage of the same capabilities?

Like sports, business should be turning the power of the cloud on themselves to find efficiencies, advantages, weakness, and room for improvement. They should break down their processes and actions into distinct pieces to find an advantage. Most importantly, they should use mobile to get this data into the hands of the right people at the right time to leverage it to the fullest.

Sport teams have demonstrated that the cloud and mobile can be a powerful ally. Those who wield it win, those who don’t stand there wondering why. Is your business positioned to win or wonder? Is actionable data in the hands of those who need it the most when they need it? The cloud and mobile are on your team – have you put them in the game?

Benjamin Robbins is a co-founder at Palador, a mobile consultancy located in Seattle, WA. He can be followed on Twitter @PaladorBenjamin.

This article was originally published on The Guardian on Sept 29, 2014


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Getting Out of the Infrastructure Business

Arguably the purveyors of the coolest hipster beers available on the market today, Pabst Brewing Company is also leading the charge on the avant garde of technology under the visionary guidance of Ben Haines. It’s not every day I get a chance to sit down and talk with a CIO who can just as easily speak to BYOD as he can BYOB, so I was excited to have the opportunity to talk with Haines in Boston last month at MobileConnect. Haines, with a keen sense for looking at the big picture, is transforming IT at Pabst to a pure cloud-play though connecting business needs with hosted/cloud-based solutions.

Haines believes that IT needs get back to understanding the business they are part of; IT exists to serve the business and not the other way around.  “IT’s value to the business isn’t making sure the server light is green, its making sure the business has the services they need.” Haines stated.  This attitude is a surprisingly rare quality in a technologist, even at the CIO level. It is easy for those of us in technology to get caught up in the technology and wanting to bring it in-house. While Pabst isn’t 100% cloud based today, Haines is steadily driving the organization there. “Nothing needs to be on-site. I don’t see any need. I’d dump everything off-site if I could.”

Haines has experienced first-hand how the in-house approach to technology can have you running in circles. Haines described how at his prior position at Red Bull he spent two years and several million dollars putting in a WebSphere portal. “By the time we finished deploying it, we had to upgrade it. The upgrade was a nine month episode as well. By the time you get done with that you totally lose focus on the business,” he stated. Besides losing business focus, he also saw that the world around him had evolved as well. “At the end of the install, social was getting started, how do you fit that into the deployment?” His reply drove home the challenge with in-house enterprise technology deployments,   “More SKUs from IBM, with another eighteen months to two year installation and training.”

I asked Haines if moving to cloud services made sense financially and could be easily justified. “From an overall cost perspective it may be a little more, but it depends on which segment. Email is half the cost. I went from $120 per year to $50 per year per user. If you look at point solutions, it is easy math.” But Haines admits that there are some capabilities that, on the surface, a cloud solution appears much more expensive. “If you purely look at your [on-premise] storage costs against a solution such as Box, your storage will win hands down. It’s cheaper to put 4TB in a remote location than use Box. You really need to look at the big picture. What are your software development costs? What is it going to cost to revive that functionality?” It is keeping the complete scope in mind, i.e. the total capability he is trying to deliver versus the total cost, that allows Haines to confidently make the transformation.

The shift from internally owned and maintained infrastructure to cloud services shouldn’t be a blind exchange either. Though he prefers to move as much as possible to the cloud, Haines is aware of the limitation of cloud services. Haines would love to move to NetSuite or force.com for CRM, but past experiences with customization of cloud services keeps his approach practical. In a previous role, after burning through a half million dollars, “I had the’ oh shit’ moment and realized I was creating a bigger beast then I already had. As soon as you start custom coding you are in this whole world of pain…you are still in this world of owning the code. When you move outside of their business model you have challenges.”

While Haines has been able to move many functions, such as email, to cloud services there are still legacy systems that are not a good fit for current cloud capabilities. For Haines, the best answer is to find middle ground, an intermediate step, while waiting for cloud services to evolve. “I have to own some systems right now,” he said. “Everything I own is legacy, so the baby step is going to rackspace. I’ve taken the server room and moved it to rackspace; from rackspace then to public and private cloud solutions.”

I asked him why he thinks IT organizations keep going down the same path of being in the infrastructure business, of needing to own and maintain all of the technology in-house.  Haines replied, “IT habits; the IT comfort zone. That is why IT exists in their minds. Don’t get me wrong, in the past I’ve seen some really cool hardware. I’m geeked-out buying all that stuff. I put in a virtual infrastructure back in 2006 and took fifty servers down to six.” But Haines learned a very pragmatic lesson from that deployment that allows him to be confident in his approach today. He continued on, “It’s fun, but even that took six months to implement. You don’t have that luxury now. It’s about speed and agility at the end of the day, making sure IT can do what they need to do for the business.”

Next up – how Haines is tranforming minds as well at Pabst.


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MaaS360 – Win In the Cloud

This is the second post in a two part series of my discussion with Jim Sheward, CEO of Fiberlink, makers of MaaS360. The first post examined Sheward’s vision for enterprise mobility management. Today we’ll look at how that vision is becoming reality.

MaaS360’s pure cloud strategy creates very distinct advantages. The first is that with a single platform to support, they don’t have to develop and maintain two code bases. They also don’t have to worry about supporting all the server versions that an on-premise solution would need to be compatible with. As Sheward put it, “we don’t have to think of legacy platforms and legacy products in the same way. It gives us a chance to stay ahead in terms of features and capabilities that matter to customers as they try to move forward.”  One of the capabilities that MaaS360 provides is the ability to be up and running in a few minutes. Sheward told me, “The beauty of our platform is that it is an instant on. When people begin to recognize that they can begin to solve their problems 20 minutes after they go to our site, and then compare that to the fact that an on-prem installation is going to potentially take them 90 days; they start to recognize that in a world that changes as fast as this, they may need to rethink how they solve this problem.”

Sheward touted several other cloud advantages. “We believe we’ve taken the best of a SaaS environment – quick to set up, intuitive, easy to use – and combined that with a powerful tool that we can deliver to companies who have the most complex policy and security requirements.”  MaaS360 does this through a multi-tenanted environment that is redundant and FISMA certified. FISMA certification is the highest level of federal certification for security that you can get. They are the only MDM vendor to receive this authority to operate (ATO) under FISMA from the GSA. This certification has strict standards not only for the data center and its redundancy in terms of backup, power, and air but also how code is written, QA, administrative rights, data access, etc. “In an environment like ours, that gets changed every two weeks, thinking through security and functionality and building a solution to world-class capabilities is an important element for meeting client requirements.”

Sheward believes that a competitive advantage that MaaS360 has over other enterprise mobility management platforms, is that through MaaS360 you are able to manage a wide variety of mobile use-case scenarios.  Such as company laptops, personal computers, BlackBerrys, personal iPads, corporate delivered Android tablets, etc. – all from the same window. This ability to respond to a wide-variety of mobile use-case scenarios is key according to Sheward. “Each of these devices needs to be managed differently depending on who the owner is, what the location is, and what the application set is that is on the device.” As tablets become laptops and vice versa those issues will become critical as IT tries to figure out how to manage a more complex environment. “Today you have a content creation versus content consumption challenge between a laptop and tablet. Increasingly, that is morphing. As it does, there will be a desire to limit the number of devices that one carries. Sheward thinks that users will want to have both experiences in the same device.  He aptly justifies this by stating “it’s the same reason we have a phone that has email and pictures. People want to take pictures but don’t always want to carry a camera around. Because of this, we have century old photo companies disintermediated by a desire to collapse into one device what had been multiple devices. People don’t have a predisposition to carry extra devices. That is why the original tablets didn’t work; people couldn’t get enough benefit out of it to bother carrying the extra device around.”

MaaS360 does more than just manage at the device level. Application Management is an integral part of their solution. Their approach to application management is squarely aligned with their cloud-only strategy. “We think that application management is another example of something that is incredibly different from an on-premise versus a cloud based environment.  IT needs the ability to discern the corporate app from a personal one and which one is approved or not. We believe having that take place in the cloud, rather than trying to distinguish this from in the office, is the right way.”

Sheward believes that the user experience should be the primary driver in how the enterprise thinks about assuring adoption of the corporate app store. Beyond just apps, Sheward also believes they need to be thinking about the data and location. “You want to be able to change users behaviors based on location. One of the things that we do that we think is critical, is say that when you are on the corporate LAN you get filtered, even on your personal device. But when you move off the corporate LAN, you can have access to whatever sites you want. We think that context matters, that location matters, and that you need to be able to define policies closely enough to be able to assess context.” He concluded that “Bad security is all on or all off. The need is to enable somebody to get very granular in their capabilities, if they want to, and deliver best practices and comparative information as it relates to their security requirements.”  As enterprises continue to leverage the cloud more and more, MaaS360 will be there to deliver those capabilities for the win!
Fiberlink is the recognized leader in software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions for secure enterprise mobile device and application management. Its cloud-based MaaS360 platform provides IT organizations with mobility intelligence and control over mobile devices, applications and content to enhance the mobile user experience and keep corporate data secure across smartphones, tablets and laptops. For more information, please visit http://www.maas360.com.

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