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Five Steps to Solid Cloud and Mobile App Delivery

While the idea of an enterprise app store may appeal to enterprises for a number of reasons, most organizations still need to lay a considerable amount of groundwork to ensure the success of their initiatives.

Natalie Lambert, a former Forrester analyst and one of the thought leaders responsible for pushing the acronym BYOD into the limelight, said she believes organizations need to go through five stages to reach app-delivery nirvana. We take a look at some of her recommendations, along with commentary from other industry pundits discussing the challenges of supporting an environment that consolidates the best in mobile and cloud technology.

Step 1: Unify Cloud Apps.

A well-oiled enterprise app store will likely play into a broad goal of managing application and data delivery across all devices and locations. Cloud infrastructure plays a big role in this kind of unification, according to Lambert, who's now directory of product marketing at Citrix.

"Centrally managing access to corporate intranet, Web, SaaS and virtualized Windows desktop applications from the cloud is a key strategy for any enterprise," she says.

On the mobile front, this unification will take foresight and planning around the new paradigm of user interfaces introduced by mobile devices.

"Since most Windows apps were designed for a keyboard and mouse, the key for these applications is to use a solution that can optimize the user experience for mobile devices," says Lambert.

Most importantly, she notes, single-sign-on authentication will prove an important ingredient to the mix.

"A unified content controller approach with single sign-on can provide necessary management across a broad array of application types," she explains.

But experts warn that it's critical to ensure that single-sign-on (SSO) deployments aren't rushed for the sake of expedience without taking care to implement a truly secure authentication mechanism to support that ease of use. The nature of SSO is such that the stakes are much higher if the authentication process is compromised, sayd Eric Olden, founder and executive chairman of identity management firm Symplified.

"When you concentrate so much access behind a single authentication and that authentication is a weak password, then you run the risk of 'hack me once, compromise me everywhere,'" he says.

Step 2: Secure Local Content.

Organizations may be spending too much time mired in the minutiae of mobile device management, and not enough on local application and data management, Lambert warned. Enterprises must do a better job of refocusing on managing and securing the content rather than the device itself in order to put "fine-grained information control back in the hands of IT," Lambert says.

Development planning needs to be on order to gather the reins of control on that local content when delivered through native mobile apps, she says.

"For native mobile apps, there are two keys to securing and delivering mobile applications: 'wrapping' the application for native execution and providing flexibility for cross-platform development, such as HTML5 apps," she says.

At the beginning of the year, IDC reported that a survey of mobile developers found 79% were planning on integrating some kind of HTML5 support within their mobile apps in 2012. It remains to be seen whether those plans pan out at year's end, but Gartner analysts warn that HTML5 still has a long way to go in the enterprise.

"There is visible momentum around HTML5; however, as with most technologies, especially on the Web, interest is occurring primarily outside the enterprise sector--among progressive Web designers and among mobile application developers," wrote Hung LeHong and Jackie Fenn in a recent Gartner report, "Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies."

Regardless, cloud data needs additional attention to securely and sanely deliver that content across all devices, including smartphones and tablets, Lambert says.

"For cloud data on mobile devices, this involves encrypting the data files on mobile devices, providing 'follow-me' access across devices, and supporting the ability to wipe the data if needed," she says.

Next: Steps 3-5, From Controlling Access to Bringing It All Together

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