Most industry analysts agree that mobile cloud computing is going to proliferate in 2011. There are many reasons for this, including the increased coverage, stability and quality of broadband wireless networks like 3G and the growth of broadband-enabled smartphones and tablets that can access and display cloud-based applications.
Mobile cloud computing builds on the principles of cloud computing, bringing attributes such as on-demand access and software as a service (SaaS ) to the mobile domain. In mobile cloud computing, most of the processing and data storage is moved off the mobile device to centralized computing platforms located in the cloud. Applications are then accessed over the mobile internet either via a thin native client or web browser on the device. Additionally, mobile cloud computing can leverage several mobile network centric capabilities, such as location information and payment-as-a-service.
But what about cloud service providers – what are they doing to support and fortify mobile cloud computing? Except for Google, which is already providing close integration with its cloud based services and Android mobile OS, few major cloud providers seem to have given this important cloud segment serious attention.
Amazon Releases Developer SDKs
One interesting and important exception is Amazon’s recent release of its Software Development Kits (SDK) for Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. With these kits, developers are provided with tools that will simplify development of cloud applications stored on the Amazon Web Services cloud platform, or AWS. Developing apps that can use many of the already popular AWS cloud services offers many new opportunities for the developer community, especially due to its low-barrier-to-entry and affordability, enabling more developers with limited resources to build and provision new mobile cloud services.
The new SDK includes libraries that simplify handling of HTTP connections, request retries and error handling, which used to be complex and arduous. Integration of applications with several AWS cloud services, like the Simple Storage Service (S3), SimpleDB database, Simple Notification Service (SNS) and Simple Queue Service (SQN) will be much more accessible than before. For example, it’s going to be interesting to see whether developers will build a viable messaging solution atop the AWS SNS service that can actually compete with mobile SMS services – which have been a long-time major cash-cow for many mobile network operators.
Although today’s smartphones have significant processing power and memory, they cannot equal the capabilities readily available in the cloud. Also, high-end smartphones are expensive gadgets, affordable for a relatively small number of mobile subscribers, especially in a global context. In fact, ABI Research predicts that computing power and data storage will move away from mobile phones and into the cloud, bringing apps and services to a much broader range of mobile subscribers. Furthermore, ABI forecasts that mobile cloud subscribers will have become about 1 billion in 2014, or nearly 19% of all mobile subscribers.
Cloud Deployment May Surpass Downloads
What this basically means is that today’s native and downloadable mobile applications will be displaced by its cloud-based counterpart. How will this affect cloud service providers? It’s certainly going to give them more leverage and demand a further infrastructure implementation to address the new mobile services and load.
As a result of significant growth of mobile cloud users, network burden and infrastructure load can be expected to increase dramatically especially as the mobile cloud becomes accessible to large subscriber groups in emerging economies like India and Pakistan. Cloud service providers like Amazon are taking proactive steps to prepare and impact this development directly. Others must follow or risk being left behind.
Olafur Ingthorsson is an IT professional in Reykjavik, Iceland who writes about cloud computing at Cloud Computing Topics.