Make no mistake: SoftLayer is a big part of MobileFirst, and not just because it hosts BlueMix. In retrospect I first got a hint of this last year in an interview with Lance Crosby, CEO of SoftLayer, who said that IBM was investing big time in building out a global public cloud presence, including data centers in individual European countries to accommodate variations in government regulations. In the public cloud, data security and compliance is always a huge issue, and here's where Buckellew says another IBM acquisition comes in: "A lot of times companies don't want to have their data commingled with others, and with the acquisition of Cloudant earlier in the year, you can have dedicated instances of databases on SoftLayer."
The mobile side of security is where Fiberlink and its MaaS360 enterprise mobile management solution comes in, which includes not only MDM capabilities, but mobile application management, secure productivity suites, and enterprise app catalogs for application distribution inside the enterprise.
But there's a deeper side of mobile security. In effect, when you put enterprise applications and analytics on a host of mobile devices, you're creating a huge knot to unravel in controlling data access -- in fact, I see this as the biggest challenge to the MobileFirst initiative.
This is also where Buckellew believes IBM has a trump card to play: "We have a rich portfolio of identity and access management that determines who gets to see what when. For example, Security Access Manager allows you to do role-based selection of who gets access to what data. In our Information Management portfolio, we have governance tool that can audit who's looked at what data when, that can really help you from a compliance perspective in highly regulated industries. IBM has been a leader in this space for decades."
A lot is riding on the idea that enterprises are itching to get their employees equipped with mobile analytics and other mobile enterprise apps. As with so much else in enterprise IT, that's going to take a while to accept, particularly the wide distribution of all that proprietary data. In the short term, despite Buckellew's assertion that analytics will be part of everything, it could be that the biggest win will be vastly improved field service and other applications that actually require people to be mobile.
In the long term, however, I think the benefit for knowledge workers will be touch interaction with data visualization. Rod Smith and others at IBM have been visionaries in the big data space. If IBM's professional services can deliver that experience on the ground, we really are talking about a whole new class of enterprise applications.
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