Well, BYOD or not BYOD, here is the problem: you have to manage many (sometime thousands) iPads tablets. I hear it every day from small and large companies: they are adopting these devices both for vertical and generic tasks (and, let me say, also because it is in fashion).
When the number of enterprise tablets (added to the number of smartphones) grow, new needs pop up like mushrooms! The next big wave will be a company-wide shared cloud storage, like a big dropbox: easy to use, intuitive capable to manage private and shared data.
The story of the bicycle
Here in Italy, we have a saying that I could translate as follows:” Have you asked for a bicycle? Now you have it, shut up and pedal!”
Actually, many IT managers haven’t asked for iPads but now, willy-nilly they are forced to manage them.
Local storage isn’t the strongest feature of these devices (they range between 16 and 64GB, sometimes only 8 ) and every thing you store (i.e.: a photo album or a HD movie) occupy a significant portion of it! These tools need a network attached resource to store files and documents.
Plenty of solutions for SMB
In my company we have done it for a couple of years now. The solution, in our case, is called Dropbox. It’s is a cloud storage service that allows us to store and retrieve data from PCs and smart devices: it’s cheap, easy to use and there is a version for small work teams. (last year, we dismissed our local file server)
You can find similar service from many vendors. Also Microsoft and, probably soon, Google have similar services in their buckets! People are choosing these services looking at: price, integration with other applications/apps, service quality and perhaps, security (probably the evaluation weights are in this order)
Not so easy if you are a large enterprise
If you aren’t alone or part of a small SMB team things aren’t so easy and the viable solutions are drastically reduced.
The features list that I wrote about above capsize and the functionalities that you look for will grow.
For example: sometimes the access policy to enterprise file servers is very severe and it’s managed from Active Directory. How can you replicate these policies to an external cloud service? How can you maintain different copies of files (internal and external) and manage related security? And this is only the tip of the iceberg!
Furthermore, Tablets (and smartphones) don’t have a Filesytem concept (at least from a GUI perspective) similar to the one we find in ordinary PCs.
Lately, there is a lot of hype about cloud storage gateways: physical or virtual appliances that are able to present remote cloud storage resources as local ones. These solutions always have similar backends: a public cloud -object- storage. On the other hand, the fronted protocol varies in a function of their usage (files or blocks).
One possible solution could be a gateway that interacts with local file servers to expose files as objects on the network. It could be a very simple approach that avoids dealing with the legacy infrastructure. The gateway could be accessed via standard APIs (i.e. CDMI) to ease the development of simple Apps.
The risk with this kind of solution is that it’s not suitable for the long term: scalability and manageability concerns could rise very quickly.
On the other hand, some object storage vendors are working on the opposite solution: transform all your local file servers in one big private object storage, swapping the traditional file servers with gateways (very similar to the dropbox architecture!). When you have all your unstructured data stored as objects it will be simple to manage them with different protocols and from many different devices!
Also in this case, designing and deploying Apps to deal with object storage will be an easy task!
we have been talking about access data from everywhere and from any device for years now… but seems that, at least for unstructured data, we are still far away from that vision.