Apple embraces a multi-cloud future, and that's exciting

In enterprise or personal tech, the future isn't just one-cloud-fits-all but multiple services across platforms and devices. Apple just showed us it gets it.

Apple, iOS, iOS 11, Files, Cloud, Enterprise
Apple

We can all see how Apple has just created a brilliant bridge to the future with ARKit in iOS 11, but many may have missed another WWDC 2017 announcement that seems to show how bang-on-trend the company has got when it comes to enterprise IT—this time its readiness to support the multi-cloud environments that will be part of the future business ecosystem.

Clouds are everywhere

Oracle’s Larry Ellison in 2009 famously slated cloud computing as not being anything particularly new. These days, everyone uses cloud services. These range from the obvious ones, such as iCloud and Dropbox, to the less obvious ones, such as the data sharing that drives some of the services we use on our mobile devices.

When it comes to the enterprise, the general consensus is that systems should figure out how to embrace a multi-cloud future.

You can’t reasonably expect workers to abandon their connection to their iCloud photography collections when on the corporate cloud service, for example. (And yes, MDM systems do exist that will prevent just that if required.)

Of course, the real challenge sits in cloud services. In many cases, enterprises are beginning to see the value in working with different outsourced cloud service providers in order to meet the various business needs across different parts of their organization. At that scale, we see enterprises choose to deploy solutions built using Microsoft Azure or solutions from others. Apple doesn’t (yet) play in those markets, but you can already see that Cupertino now also comprehends the need to transition to a multi-cloud future.

It’s all in Files

The upcoming Files app in iOS 11 will bring real improvement to how we work on Macs and mobile devices. Not only will it let you access files on all your Apple ID-approved devices, but it will also link you up to online storage in your iCloud account. However, it doesn’t stop there—Apple (in its wisdom) has shifted its position slightly, and rather than forcing you to only use iCloud storage, it has decided to make third-party online storage services peer players in the new Files app.

This may seem of trivial importance. It may even seem to be a move predicated by the provision of consumer convenience, but the consequences of the decision mean Apple’s mobile devices are now much better prepared for a multi-cloud future.

Files splits what’s available into three sections: Locations, Favorites and Tags. The latter will help you organize your stuff, but Locations is the important bit. You see, iOS users will be able to link the Files app with their Box, Dropbox, Baidu, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and even their Adobe Creative Cloud accounts/apps on their devices.

Developer tools

Sure, it’s nice that you can access these other services from your iOS 11 device, but what’s the excitement?

Well, it’s because Apple is also opening this feature up (a little) to developers. And that means enterprise technologists can now begin to plan for completely private enterprise file storage services that not only function on iOS, but do so through a familiar interface (Files) that will enable their mobile users to effectively work with their data using an interface they will also be familiar with.

We’re not quite there yet—right now you have to work with supported online file systems (as noted), but I imagine Apple will listen to enterprise technologists who want to integrate their own systems.

A WWDC session went into more detail about this: “If you are an app developer, learn the details about how file providers work and hear about exciting opportunities to take advantage of service-specific APIs from cloud storage providers.”

Apple's closed system opens up—a little

This is a big step forward for Apple and productivity. It really means that those engaged iOS mobile enterprise users can now look forward to working in an even more effective way with those devices and their corporate information.

The closed system is opening up, if only a little. Though I do also suspect that data integrity, geo-fencing and data transit controls may need to be ramped up a little for this. Though, to be honest, in a multi-cloud world, that’s mandatory anyway.

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