Here and Now !

Ajit Jaokar has published a post on Mobile Cloud Computing, in which he asks some questions about mobile computing. I found his questions very interesting, so here are my answers (I kept them short, but I will try to develop some things later):

a) Is ‘mobile cloud computing’ a distinct domain in itself? Or is it more about ‘Web Cloud providers going mobile’
Mobile cloud computing relies on the same principles than standard cloud computing, with one major differences at the client level: Mobile clients a link btween the real world and the virtual world, because they are always connected, and they are with us. The consequence is that our requests are very often about where I am now, what I am doing now, who I am with, and similar things. Basically, mobile cloud comuting is about “Here and Now”

b) Do mobile providers have any advantages over web providers (like Amazon)?
Yes, if they take advantage of specific mobile characteristics to actually establish links between the cloud and the world we live in. Things like location and proximity (for instance, the ability to exchange with a neighbor). Otherwise, no advantage.

c) What are the key issues and key advantages for mobile cloud computing?

  • Issues: Leveraging the available information. Connectivity Issues (i.e., local caching) Adequacty of user interaction (quantity, presentation).
  • Advantages: Availabiliy of the user. Link with physical interaction.

d) Will mobile cloud computing be about privacy in addition to security?
Privacy is a big issue for cloud computing in general. Adding information like location, proximity of others, or similar information, makes privacy more important, but the principles remain the same.

e) What are the biggest privacy and security threats to mobile cloud computing?
I see two levels of problems: first, we need to define the proper access controls. Cloud computing is can be made more interesting by making some information available to services/ partners/ friends, but both service providers and end users must ensure that the proper access controls are defined.

The second level is to properly enforce these controls. At that level, the easy part (maybe) is to implement software correctly on servers and mobile devices. The hard part is to make all users understand the importance of privacy and access controls.

g) Will providers use Mobile Cloud computing to ask payment for granular features(like access to voicemail) aka the Ryanair business model for Cloud computing!
The Ryanair business model can work for a few crucial services, and possibly in some professional settings, in exchange for a better quality of service. Micro-payments (or better, micro-accounting), would be far better.

h) Will enterprises be the key drivers for Mobile Cloud Computing?
As users, most likely not. Most enterprise jobs are static, but we all move around in our personal lives. As service providers, it would be nice to see “classical” businesses being able to do something.

i) Mobile Cloud computing can be implemented at many levels in the Telecoms stack: The Device/Platform, the Operator; The Mobile Web; Infrastructure; SIM. Any more potential ways in which mobile cloud computing can be implemented? And what are the pros and cons of the approaches?

This is a crucial question, and I would love to read other people’s answers, because mine are still confuse at this day. Among the other ways to implement mobile cloud computing, there may be some things to do with small embedded servers (Java Card 3.0 of course, but not only); also, the Device/Platform category may be too vague, because there are several actors there, including the application framework, the Trusted Execution Environment, and more.

j) Which applications would be most likely to benefit from Mobile Cloud Computing?
Most likely not the obvious ones, like mapping or very obvious uses of local information. Combinations of social aspects with location, content sharing are sound to me like winners, but I can’t really see how.

k) Would PCs/Sub netbooks and other ‘non phone’ devices covered by Mobile broadband be impacted by this trend and if so, how?
If they are able to include the information about “Here and now”, why not? It’s not the device that counts, it’s the connectivity. Other devices, like cameras or MP3 players, could also get involved. If they are connected to the network (directly or indirectly) and if they know about “Here and now”, they can do things.

l) Many providers use ‘data backup’ as a stepping stone to cloud services. Will these services evolve beyond the ‘data backup’ i.e. for instance will customers trust their backup providers with personalized information leading to other services
Data backup is a first step, which could/should/will be reversed. The main copy of the data is in the cloud, and there is a cache on the device. However, it should be possible to protect some information (for instance, by only storing it encrypted in the cloud).

Another question is about the “ownership” of the data in the cloud. Users would benefit from having much more data in the cloud, potentially shareable with others. Think about shopping lists, medical files, and much more. Of course, if we consider such sensitive data, then filtering and presentation becomes very important. But then, by giving more data to be correlated in the cloud, we also increase the potential value of services.

j) How important is end to end security for Cloud computing?
End-to-end? Of course, it’s important. And it basically depends a lot on the data to be protected.

k) How important is the management of the client on diverse devices important for end to end cloud security?
Very important, but not more than for any other kind of mobile application. The data may be in the cloud, but some of it is likely to be cached, making it available through standard vulnerabilities.

l) Is the Mobile Web a good client for Cloud computing?
Is Mobile Web good enough for enforcing access control? Maybe not, unless it is complemented with mobile apps, or with high-level widgets.

m) Will emerging markets adopt Cloud computing services?
Yes, most likely not the same ones. The fact that in many markets, mobile phones are more prevalent than any other high-tech device makes mobile cloud computing a good candidate for a lot of new applications, adapted to the needs of every market, including emerging ones.

n) Will low spec devices (ex feature phones) benefit from ‘thin client’ cloud computing services?
Yes. More than the device, is issue is the connectivity offered by the operator. The price of mobile connectivity can be a strong deterrent, but it is likely to go away, in particular if it is restricted to a limited number of cloud services.

o) Identity and the Cloud.
On a mobile device, the username/password model is even more broken than on a PC. So, mobile devices may push strong identities on the cloud. Another important thing is that identity is not only useful between a user and a service provider, but also between two users, before to trust each other.

3 Comments

  • p) From the point of view of the device, is “Cloud Computing” anything else than a rebranding of the old client-server model?

    Usually not. But that does not mean that there isn’t some interesting challenges in this field.

  • Frederic Martin wrote:

    [ Long time no see “Kooorrg” :) ]

    Just about the Cloud Computing’s “hype”, it is some kind of Client Server model revival but with huge shared server ressources. Cloud computing do not solve security concerns (in fact this model can bring new problems) but it allows people to have scalable server solution without having the need to maintain low level system and hardware architecture.
    New services or not, pricy or not, killing IT jobs or not… it brings lots of questions on recent medias…

    About the “Mobile Cloud Computing” thing… even after reading a few articles on this precise subject… it is still not very clear to me :)
    I guess it is mainly a new way to say that “Mobiles are now able to use standard web services in web computing clouds”.

  • Agreed with Frederic about the cloud definition. Basically, we are not exactly sure where the server is.

    We can also extend it to say that a cloud may contain data from several providers, or that several clouds may need to collaborate. So, security looks like an issue.

    Also, the cloud is about managing data, AND about providing services. And that’s where it can become mobile, if it includes mobility-related services, hence the “Here and now”.

    So, what should be these mobility-relatey services? Well, mapping is obvious, but there must be much, much better.

    Also, related to security, the way in which we handle the “history” of things is interesting. Think about what Microsoft (and others) would disclose to law enforcement about your whereabouts …

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