Mobile cloud computing is changing the user experience, thanks in large part to containers and containerizing mobile workloads
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few years, you know that enterprises have flocked to containers as their de facto development and deployment model. According to IDC, organizations are now entering “a transition phase where they are learning new container skills, methodologies, and processes as they begin to both build new cloud-native applications and refactor and modernize existing applications.”
One of the prime areas for this innovation is in mobile cloud computing, where technology advances are now allowing more mobile workloads to be containerized using Android as the guest operating system. According to the Linux Foundation, more than 80% of new smartphones sold run Android, which is based on the Linux kernel.
Containerizing Mobile Apps
Containerized mobile apps delivered by telcos, with their ability to tap into unlimited compute and storage capacity in the cloud, are set to create disruptive mobile experiences for 4G and LTE customers now and 5G users in the future. Let’s look at five of the changes we’ll see.
Applications as Content
Thanks to the ability to run Android in the cloud, applications no longer need to be delivered as locally installed software binaries but rather can become remotely streamed content from the cloud, freeing apps from hardware compatibility constraints.
As a result, apps can be discovered and consumed as seamlessly as media such as YouTube or Spotify are now. Telco operators can have their own branded distribution channel for apps, thus breaking away from the Google-Apple duopoly of centralized app stores. Telco-owned app catalogs open new avenues for new value-added services and revenue streams.
As 5G takes hold, there will be more than 42 million active cloud gamers by 2024 and a market worth $4.5 billion, ABI Research predicts. But technical challenges must be overcome. Cloud gaming places a high demand on various hardware components, specifically GPUs that provide the underlying foundation for every video streaming solution. Graphic- and memory-intensive mobile games must be scaled to vast amounts of users while retaining the responsiveness and ultra-low latency demanded by gamers.
By removing the need to download a game locally on a device, a containerized mobile platform helps get the most out of available hardware capacity and optimizes the placement of new containers based on available capacity and resource requirements of specific containers.
Next to finding the right software and hardware platform, cloud gaming mandates positioning the workload as close to the user as possible to reduce latency and ensure a consistent experience. To scale across different geographical regions, operational tooling and software components are now available to ensure users get automatically routed to their nearest location, without any downtime or manual intervention.
All of this enables service providers to deliver a large and existing ecosystem of games to more users, regardless of their device or operating system.
Enabling enterprises to run Android in the cloud provides the flexibility to offload compute, storage and energy-intensive applications from mobile devices to hyperscale clouds. Furthermore, any number of virtual devices can be instantiated on-demand in the elastic cloud.
This means any smartphone can be spun into a hyper-phone, with several clones running in parallel in the cloud. Imagine being able to turn any smartphone into a gaming console, a workplace device or even an action camera at the push of a button, thanks to the cloud.
Additionally, telco operators can deliver traditionally device-dependent features from their cloud infrastructure, reducing reliance on mobile OEMs for shaping user experience.
The Democratization of Wearables and Headsets
AR/VR headsets and wearables such as smart glasses need ultra-powerful hardware to perform well. Due to this constraint, most wearables and headsets are neither mobile-friendly nor power-efficient (not to mention unaffordable for the masses). However, the confluence of 5G and running Android in the cloud changes the calculus.
Offloading graphically intensive processes to the telco edge clouds improves performance and frees OEMs from the need to embed such capabilities in devices. This can drive down hardware costs while also easing portability—in turn opening up new lines of services for telco operators beyond mobile telephony.
New Capabilities for Enterprises
Containerizing mobile workloads means enterprises can accelerate their digital transformation initiatives in a few ways.
They can deliver workplace applications directly to employees’ devices while maintaining the assurance of data privacy and compliance. They can reduce their internal application development costs by providing a single application that can be used across different form factors and operating systems. And they can emulate thousands of Android devices across different test scenarios and for integration in CI/CD pipelines.
Smartphones, apps, and mobile broadband are the foundations of the mobile experience, but, when you think about it, the basics of that experience haven’t changed for a decade. As these five examples show, however, Android in the cloud is quite a game-changer.