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Will the iPad and Android Tablets Save Business Continuity?

Setting the stage for HTML5 to improve business continuity

Hurricane season is fast approaching and IT pros are once again called to evaluate their business continuity plans. A major challenge will be how to continue to provide user access in the face of office closure. The emergence of HTML 5 could ultimately help address this challenge, but application and networking challenges must first be solved.

Even with a Disaster Recovery (DR) site in place for remote offices, organizations are challenged with getting workers up and running. In theory, Virtual Desktop Integration (VDI) would help by enabling users to access their desktops from any PC, but VDI today can be complex to configure and costly to deploy.

Your iPad and laptops (those old, outdated things) let workers access the information they need from anywhere, but bring their own security concerns. According to a 2011 AT&T Business Continuity survey of 401 IT executives, there was a 16 percent year-over-year increase in the number of respondents worried about the security threats posed by mobile devices, by far the greatest increase in any section of the survey. So, what’s an IT manager to do?

The good news is that while mobile platforms may carry their own security threats, they also force application developers to pursue platform-agnostic development options, namely HTML5, which will profoundly impact your business continuity plans.

"For us, HTML 5 is a savior. We can't afford to develop native applications for each platform. It's just not feasible for a large ERP application. So HTML 5 is part of the solution," says Simon Griffiths, product and industry marketing consultant at Syspro, according to itWeb. In fact, 79% of mobile developers say they’re going to incorporate some part of HTML5 in 2012.

HTML5 incorporates Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) content, amongst other changes, that enables the same kind of rich application experience you would require today with Flash or Silverlight browser plug-ins. Corporate applications will then be inherently "VDI-iable" (don’t bother looking up that word) without plug-ins or special infrastructure, my colleague and Silver Peak CTO David Hughes noted in a recent webinar.

The use of HTML5 is enabling some IT pros to change their business continuity plans. The government of Orlando, Florida, for example, is in the midst of deploying Chromebooks, laptop PCs that run Google Chrome OS, equipped with Ericom Software’s HTML5 client, AccessNow. The latter enables Chromebook users to tap into Microsoft Windows applications, which are delivered as VMware View virtual desktops.

But HTML 5 is only part of the answer to platform-independent deployments. The other part is having a decent pipe and making the communications secure.

Indeed, network ineffectiveness is a major cause behind VDI failures in general. A survey conducted by VIBriefing, on behalf of Virsto, the virtualization vendor, found that while VDI projects continue to be of great interest to a majority of responding medium- and large-enterprise IT organizations, the reality is that VDI deployments falter on performance, cost, and end user-complaints. While more than half of the survey respondents (54%) piloted or deployed a VDI project, less than half (46%) of the projects stalled due to unacceptable end-user performance and projected cost overruns. (See graphic - open in a new tab to view closer.)

If organizations are to successfully deploy HTML5 they need to address the underlying challenges of their network – namely packet loss, bandwidth limitations and latency. These three conspire to dramatically undermine network performance. Even on very large pipes this can be a huge problem. A 155 Mbps MPLS connection, for example, drops to 3.3 Mbps of throughput when there’s 50ms of latency (about the time from the coasts to the Chicago) and half-a-percent of loss (very common).

Disaster recovery has for a long time struggled with getting users redeployed quickly and securely. The emergence of HTML 5 holds great promise to address those requirements without additional infrastructure, but organizations will only be able to achieve this vision if IT inspects and addresses available WAN challenges.

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