In addition to supplying the organization with mobile devices, policies, and strategies, IT workers are increasingly turning to mobile apps to get their own jobs done faster, and from anywhere.
IT is going mobile. Gartner predicts that by 2017, half of level-1 service desk analysts will be using mobile technologies to deliver service, at least in large organizations. Many alpha geeks are doing so today, according to Robert L. Scheier's review of mobile apps for IT at InfoWorld.com.
iOS is the most popular platform for these workers, because of the greater depth of apps available there; Android comes in second and BlackBerry is fading. The iPad with the addition of a Bluetooth keyboard is replacing desktop and laptop computers in the toolkit of some IT workers, as it is in other industries and vertical segments.
Remote access is the killer app for mobile IT. There are Windows desktop viewers (from Citrix and Ericom Software, and those based on VNC) and SSH clients galore. Browsers give serviceable access to the Web-based consoles of many enterprise applications -- and such use cases rarely need the fine-tuned performance of a native app.
Another area of lively development in the remote IT space is mobile virtualization management. VMWare provides an iPad client for monitoring and controlling vSphere hosts and virtual machines. Some cloud storage providers offer their own management apps, and third parties are in this niche as well. For example, Decaf EC2 Client from 9apps offers detailed monitoring of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud instances.
Mobile apps can replace the function of the venerable beeper, and do the job better and more reliably. The communication can be two-way and it can be logged. Custom apps exist to cut through the potential clutter of emails and texts and make sure that an important alert is seen and attended to.
Mobile devices with apps to access core functions of a corporation could present a security worry if lost or stolen. Mitigating factors include the ability to lock or brick a device remotely if it goes astray, and the inherent barriers represented by, for example, the three passwords needed to access iPad, VPN, and then a management application. There are various virtualization solutions that can be used to create a locked-down system on an Android device -- Open Kernel Labs, for one, is working with LG Electronics on a "defense-grade" mobile device.
How many IT workers are using mobile devices and apps to do their jobs today? The data are a little hard to come by. A study late last year found that 45 percent of government IT workers used mobile devices on the job. But the survey included email as one of the applications it asked about, and that's what most of the workers were using; not hardcore dashboard or terminal apps run over a VPN.
Are you or your staff using mobile devices to do IT work today? Let us know in the comments about your experiences and about favorite apps and environments.