Apple's iCloud and iOS 5: New challenges for the enterprise

Could business data escape the workplace and get lost in the cloud?

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Of course, Apple also notes that iCloud syncing can be disabled. Exactly how it is disabled and whether it needs to be disabled across an entire enterprise or can be done on a device-by-device basis isn't yet clear. Nor is it clear whether it must be completely enabled/disabled for a device or whether specific components of iCloud sync can be selectively turned on or off.

Apple did make a big point in the last major iOS update of introducing a powerful and granular device management architecture that many third-party providers have plugged into. It's hard to imagine that Apple wouldn't offer some additional management choices related specifically to iCloud. But exactly what those choices will be and how pervasive they'll be is open to speculation for the moment.

Overall, while there are some concerns about iCloud from a business perspective that will need to be examined when iCloud and iOS 5 launch this fall, they are largely extensions of an array of potential issues around any mobile device or platform in the workplace.

On the flip side, iCloud's "work once, store/access anywhere" approach has an amazing array of possibilities for mobile professionals and small businesses. It offers constant access and continuous backup along with easy transfer of data and apps to new devices. That's a powerful combination. How big these gains are to users and businesses will depend on how broadly -- and how well -- they're adopted by third-party developers. I don't really see broad adoption as something Apple has to worry about; the question is more about how long it will take for broad adoption to occur.

Corporate iCloud?

This future cloud-centric release of iOS lends itself to a very intriguing question for CIOs and IT managers: Can I replicate iCloud's features internally? The answer may be yes.

Apple's only reference to its server software during the keynote was a note that it will be an add-on feature to Mac OS X Lion. This isn't new information. Apple announced Lion Server as a feature of Lion earlier this year. While there are still few details on Apple's Lion Server page, there is information about "File Sharing for iPad" as a feature:

Lion Server delivers wireless file sharing for iPad. When you enable WebDAV in Lion Server, you can access, copy, and share documents on the server from applications such as Keynote, Numbers, and Pages.

While Apple specifically references its iWork apps here, it seems pretty clear that the company is using them merely as examples. That makes sense because Apple used them to demo iCloud's document capabilities. But it seems clear that this feature will extend to other apps as well.

What isn't clear is whether this is something that will be iCloud-like in its approach or something completely different. Apple could be giving developers two separate sets of APIs for storage: one for iCloud, which was mentioned specifically during the keynote, and one for WebDAV on Lion Server. The more logical approach would be to use a single cloud storage API in multiple ways.

Lion Server aside, one implication is that iOS file sharing/storage (iCloud or not) is based on WebDAV. That wouldn't be completely surprising. Apple's current iDisk feature is based on WebDAV. In fact, that's how you connect to it from a PC that doesn't have Apple's Mobile Me control panel applet installed. Apple has also showed preferences for customized uses of WebDAV and WebDAV-derived services like CalDAV and CardDAV over the past few years in iOS, Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server.

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