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Cloud-based rendering makes a splash for mobile app access

Companies such as Splashtop are finding new ways to simplify application delivery to mobile devices.

NEW YORK -- Performance is a big concern around remote application access on mobile devices, but there are ways to deliver apps and data from the cloud without compromising speed.

Mark LeeMark Lee

To keep performance on par with traditional desktop applications, Splashtop Inc. uses its enterprise customers' existing server infrastructure to deliver apps to mobile devices.

The company has only been around for three years, but today has 15 million users across iOS, Mac, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices. Its remote app and desktop delivery software also comes in a Software as a Service (SaaS)-based business edition, or users can download a consumer version right to their tablet or smartphone.

Splashtop CEO Mark Lee sat down with SearchConsumerization here at the Interop conference to explain the benefits of a hybrid approach to app rendering and why some apps are so difficult to mobilize.

Do you see demand for full desktop access on mobile devices or just certain apps?

Mark Lee: Most people opt for specific app delivery. There are lots of interesting uses; it's not just bringing Windows apps to mobile. One customer uses Siri on iPads for doctors to dictate into, then it converts to text and uses Splashtop to stream that into their [electronic medical record] system.

We see [that] people want certain apps, as well as their data. … But the line between content and application is a little blurry. A lot of applications, especially gaming, are content and the application in one. So we see a lot of people using our product for remote 3-D gaming; you can't get World of Warcraft on your mobile devices.

How does the security of these applications work?

Lee: All our traffic is encrypted using SSL [Secure Sockets Layer], AES [Advanced Encryption Standard], 256 bits; we offer audit trails reporting.

Some companies told us they don't trust SaaS yet, so when you install the on-premises version, all the traffic goes through your own private cloud. We also offer Active Directory [AD] integration, so instead of using a Splashtop ID, you can use your own AD credentials, then you can centrally manage and control the applications.

With the other tools out there -- like GoToMyPC [and] LogMeIn -- you have to create an account with them and traverse through their cloud.

How should organizations decide which applications they want to send to mobile devices?

Lee: A lot of people will embark on developing new apps, which is a big investment. People tend to focus on supporting iOS first, but then they quickly realize Apple is a consumer company. The next thing you know, they upgrade to iOS 7, so you're on this treadmill, always trying to catch up to Apple. When iOS 7 came, a lot of developers said their apps crashed. So, it's really not that easy to develop native apps for mobile devices.

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Plus, there is [such] a wide array of applications that it's simply impossible to mobilize and develop for iOS or Android -- apps that require a huge amount of computing power. AutoCAD and 3-D design apps can't run on these ARM processors, even on x86 Intel processors. They need graphics cards and gigabytes of data, which you're not going to stream down to a mobile device over 3G or 4G.

Cloud-based rendering and leveraging your server infrastructure -- whether it's VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure]or not -- allows for the best high computing power and big data bandwidth. You turn every mobile device into a mobile thin client. It's not just accessing traditional keyboard-mouse applications; you get a lot of the native experience locally, but you leverage the computing and rendering capability of the cloud. We support that model.

Another key way people can bring apps to mobile is [with] HTML 5 and Web apps. However, there are still a couple of limitations. Browsers are not all the same. Even developing a simple website, people have run into all sorts of compatibility issues across [Internet Explorer], Chrome, Firefox and mobile browsers. Plus, mobile browsers on iOS, for example, don't support Flash, Java and so many [other] different critical business application needs. With Splashtop, rendering an HTML 5 browser in the cloud becomes a very powerful way to deliver applications. IT could manage the updates and security, and deliver apps to all endpoints.

What does IT have to do to prepare themselves and their users for remote app access on mobile devices?

Lee: IT first has to decide which apps they want to deliver -- is it line of business? Is it productivity apps? -- and the number of users. What's the likely concurrent number of user sessions? Also figure out the infrastructure requirements. …

What methods are most organizations using today to deliver apps to users?

Lee: VDI is very complex and can get very expensive. Instead of VDI, a lot of people are doing session-based [Remote Desktop Services], RemoteApp. VDI is quite a broad word, and we're seeing things become a more hybrid approach today. … IT can make the decision very quickly to bring a lot of existing applications to mobile by meshing HTML 5, hybrid applications and cloud-rendering technology.

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