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The Intersection of Cloud, Mobile and Social

An exclusive Q&A with Ric Telford, IBM VP of Cloud Services

Increasingly organizations are looking to tap the collective power of social, mobile and cloud technologies. We asked Ric Telford, IBM VP of Cloud Services, to share his perspective on the trend in light of IBM's new social business software including SmartCloud Docs, a cloud-based office productivity suite. University of Texas at El Paso is using the software to collaborate in the cloud using mobile devices.

Cloud Computing Journal: What's the connection between Social, Mobile and Cloud. Are they just three tech buzzwords?

Ric Telford: Social, mobile and cloud are inextricably linked as three facets of the same movement - a new era of computing. Some call it the "third platform," others "SoMoClo; let's just call it "new era" for now. Cloud is the delivery, mobile is the ubiquitous access, and social is the personal engagement. Cloud is scalable, flexible IT resources on-demand with the compute power to handle real-time analytics and Big Data; mobile is having simplified, user-friendly access anywhere. Social adds the power of collaboration. As one consolidated framework, this "new era" enables flexible delivery of services and expanding reach - bringing communication and productivity to whole new levels.

Cloud Computing Journal: Is the intersection of these a business opportunity, or a threat?

Telford: Another aspect of the "new era" is the consumerization of IT - where enterprise IT requirements are driven by what employees are using in their personal lives - smartphones to transact, social networks, and cloud-delivered apps. Employers need to recognize this and develop a consistent and systematic "new era" strategy across their business and IT governance. When adopted strategically, social, mobile and cloud can improve businesses' bottom line by increasing productivity, responsiveness and efficiency. Implementing a BYOD strategy, delivering an internal social networking solution and deploying internal apps in a cloud-delivered model are a few examples of steps to take.

Cloud Computing Journal: How is the BYOD movement related to Social, Mobile and Cloud?

Telford: The consumer world drives people to embrace the latest technologies. This creates a dilemma in the enterprise when the gap between corporate devices and consumer devices grows too large. BYOD is a way to bridge the gap - embrace and allow employees to use their own device to do work. The challenge is to ensure the device is secure and "does no harm" when brought into the work environment. This drives the requirements for a good BYOD solution. The advantage to the enterprise is that employees are now always connected and thus making highly collaborative activities that much easier. Cloud enters the picture as well, as it is the preferred delivery model for applications supporting many devices.

Cloud Computing Journal: If your cloud, which is already off-premise, can now be accessed from anywhere via mobile, isn't that a security issue?

Telford: Security, as always, remains top of mind. But instead of setting up roadblocks at every turn, intelligent security tools like data analytics can recognize and flag potentially unwelcome activity, such as correspondence to/from a country you don't do business in, an employee in one division downloading data from another, etc. However, while personal freedom and flexibility is important to employees, employers must understand that maintaining the integrity of confidential data is a corporate concern and responsibility. Corporate IT should assess social, mobile and cloud-based tools. Those that can't ensure the safety of proprietary data should be regulated.

Cloud Computing Journal: How can business leaders harness the explosion of Big Data, another aspect of this "new era," for competitive advantage?

Telford: With new data now exceeding 2.4 quintillion bytes per day, business leaders must differentiate from competitors by embracing technology-driven business models that better harness this explosion of real-time Big Data. An enterprise needs to turn this "data" into "insights" by leveraging analytics technology. This means analyzing the data on each of your customers to hone marketing down to the individual - and empowering your on-the-go sales force to execute that strategy via a tablet or smartphone. Further, by adopting the transformative power of social, mobile and cloud, companies are converging their physical and digital infrastructures and applying new intelligence capabilities. This is the key to empowering today's business leaders.

Cloud Computing Journal: What is IBM's play in the "new era?"

Telford: Organizations today are looking for help devising and integrating their social, mobile and cloud strategy. While most clients are using pieces of these technologies, IBM provides the technology, skills and business understanding to connect these together across complex operations and geographies. We help clients build or rent clouds. We offer a mobile development platform and social business services. We offer security intelligence software and services to protect your data - whether it's in the cloud or mobile environment. On top of that, we have the Big Data, analytics and social business offerings to drive new insight from cloud/mobile data.

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