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Mobility as a Service: Is This the Future of IT?

Mobility as a service, or MaaS, may be the most cost-effective way for organizations to provision IT infrastructure that yields essential benefits.

Mobility is our natural state as human beings. We need to get out there, for fun and/or profit, because being free to go where we need and want to be is essential to who and what we are. And, thus, an always-evolving array of wireless and mobile products and services has unsurprisingly shifted the entire IT conversation to where we are now, with many--if not most--end users more than happy to center not just their work but their very lives around a personal array of devices. Even with sales of smartphones now leveling off (no surprise here; everyone has one, and new products today lack the innovation required to encourage more frequent purchases and upgrades), billions of dollars are still spent on mobile devices every year.

And billions more are being spent by enterprises, governments and beyond on the rest of the IT infrastructure required to support mobility, thus begging the question: What’s the most cost-effective way for organizations to provision an IT infrastructure that yields the essential benefits required? We already know that the requisite hardware set is changing regularly, but there’s an innovative and likely even more effective solution: mobility as a service, or MaaS.

The general idea behind MaaS is to convert as much capital spending (CapEx) and uncoordinated operational spending (OpEx) into a single expense item, and this is very much in keeping with the “aaS” concept as applied to many other elements of IT. Imagine getting devices, wireless networks (both local- and wide-area), Internet access (the only access that matters), management (either access or managed services), and even adjuncts like servers, applications and storage all under a single umbrella from a single supplier. Plans can be structured to enable all the flexibility that organizations require, with easy growth and scalability (even to global, if required), a key element in the bargain. And a competitive market of service providers building on standards but also adding proprietary value in the form of added convenience and customized services will help to hold down prices while encouraging growth of the MaaS industry. And, of course, MaaS rolls very nicely into other aaSes--from NaaS all the way to ITaaS.

Carriers like AT&T and Sprint are already offering MaaS solutions. The key themes here center on cost control, convenience, simplification and, of course, security. Essentially any service can be brought under the MaaS umbrella, including IoT. Just think of MaaS as a specialized form of outsourcing, and the benefits of the concept become clear pretty quickly. And, again, MaaS offerings are commonly built around customization, so bring your wish list--you’ll likely be surprised at how easy it is to get started with MaaS, and how easily it can be structured to meet both your needs and budgets.

And, yes, MaaS is already working with consumer-driven BYOD today, with a good example being the new-phone-every-year plans offered by some carriers. We expect that the consumer and organizational angles will be brought under a single umbrella in the future, with devices still selected and owned by the individual (and still subsidized as desired by the organization), with the work elements of each device managed via the enterprise mobility management (EMM) capabilities of the MaaS selected by a given organization. Win/win/win (organization/end-user/service provider)? You bet.

And with mobility today the center of IT operations, we’ll eventually see the end of networks and data centers as we’ve known them, with all of this moving into carrier networks and the cloud. With 5G eventually offering gigabit-plus speeds and carriers implementing 5G small cells with 802.11ax microcells--and offering all of this as a service to organizations--we’ll eventually see "everything as a service" (EaaS) or what we’re calling "ultimate virtualization," and that’s truly a paradigm shift if there ever was, or will be, one. MaaS, while clearly of increasing value today, is also the key link in the chain to that eventuality.

The MaaS concept is now being more broadly applied, with travel in general and emerging provisioning models (especially for automobiles and other vehicles) already justifiably sharing the term: After all, why own a car when one could be available on demand? Ignoring the personality and other psychological elements often at play in the selection of a personal car, the future we see is one of networked (but not fully autonomous, as such replaces one competitive operating strategy with another) vehicles. However, it’s a good bet that those self-driving electric vehicles of all forms will eventually be available under the Uber/Lyft model, on demand, temporary, very cost-effective and perhaps eventually the dominant provisioning mechanism. So, then: ditto for mobile networks, services, and even devices as well.

 

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