Three Stages of Mobile Cloud Development

Over the next three-to-five years we project there will be at least three stages of development of the Mobile Cloud.

Stage 1 – Standards and middleware development, focusing on Mobile Cloud reliability issues

Stage 2 –  The proliferation of  Mobile Cloud services and applications; increased stability and security

Stage 3 – The “dispersed” or “distributed” Mobile Cloud, where the Cloud turns in on itself and users become incorporated into the Cloud

These stages will overlap and their timing will be heavily influenced by the rate at which advanced, higher speed network capabilities become available.

Stage 1

We are currently in Stage 1 of the Mobile Cloud. We have gone beyond early adopter companies – an example would be a Salesforce.com, which transitions from offering their product as a client on user devices to a remote software app (SaaS) and then turned to offering mobile capability.

Numerous other providers are offering an array of cloud apps and services optimized for mobile usage. Stage 1 consists not only of attracting more companies to offer Mobile Cloud services, but on improving the performance of the Mobile Cloud, with standards and middleware designed to deal with issues, such as accessibility, reliability and security, raised by mobile. Mobile is a dynamic environment, with variable transmission characteristics. Making apps work satisfactorily will undoubtedly require a fair amount of middleware. Tools for diagnostics and security will need to be developed.

Stage 1 can be supported from the mix of current network capabilities, an amalgam of 3G, 4G (HSPA+, LTE, WiMAX) and WiFi (and, in the case of mobile M2M, 2G as well.)

Stage 2

The second stage is the point at which companies begin to modify product offerings and strategies on a large scale to adapt them to the Mobile Cloud. This stage began in 2012. Examples include in-store payment apps being employed by Apple and were beginning  to be embraced by Walmart as of early 2013.

It will continue through the full-fledged launch of LTE Advanced where the 100 megabit transfer rates become reality and through launch of 802.11ac (advanced WiFi), as well as white spaces Wi-Fi product, which should become mainstream in 2015.

Stage 3

In Stage 3, with gigabit transfer rates widely available between functionalities, more and more resources are optimized to virtually only live in the Cloud to be complete. Applications will be designed to expect a cloud environment with an almost global scale of asset resources available.

A device may be only a CPU or only a GUI with a communication processor. This unleashes and optimizes a dispersion of resources. It enables the Cloud to turn in on itself and for users to be part of the Cloud, offering applications and services, as well as using the Cloud themselves.

This is a realization of the concept of distributed computing, which has often not been successful in earlier iterations. There are at least two major reasons why we believe in the sustainability of the “dispersed” mobile cloud model as opposed to many past efforts in distributing computing.

The first factor is “scale.” The past world of distributed computing relied on terminal devices/laptops and towers numbering in the hundreds of millions, which were tethered to terrestrial networks. The world of the mobile cloud is one of smart, personal devices, numbered in the billions (and even far more considering M2M). This makes a “dispersed” service solution inevitable..

The second differentiator is device economics. The devices of the future will include billions of smart ones – with intelligence equal to the smartest laptops of the past, at radically lower cost. This allows intelligence to be efficiently dispersed.

The following table summarizes the three stages of the Mobile Cloud, their approximate timing (stages will overlap) and the concomitant network developments that will accompany them.

 3 Stages of the Mobile Cloud: Timing, Focus and Network Status

Stage – Timing Focus Network Status
Stage 1: current-to-2014 Early applications; extensive work on standards, diagnostics, security – “making the Mobile Cloud work” 3G; better with early 4G (HSPA+, LTE, WiMAX); WiFi
Stage 2: early examples today; 2014-2015 Hybridization; modification of offerings to fit Mobile Cloud; widespread adoption of mobile cloud services Mass deployment of LTE by 2014; 802.11n (with MIMO) widely available
Stage 3: 2015 and beyond Explosion of resource dispersion. Cloud turns in on self – Users as Cloud resources LTE Advanced becomes available; 802.11ac (chipsets in 2012; in Apple devices starting in 2014)