iOS 8 CloudKit – A Game Changer
Another consumer based initiative will soon have a very disruptive impact in the enterprise. In Gartner’s new Magic Quadrant for Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing, there are over 100 vendors selling EFSS offerings as stand-alone products with file sync and share as a core capability, or extensions where file sync and share capabilities are added to established products or applications. A new storage extension protocol is about to arrive with iOS 8 – CloudKit – and it will be a game changer in how we manage content.
The iOS 7 release was focused on the UI. iOS 8 is all about developers. It adds or modifies 4,000 APIs and introduces a new programmer language – Swift. Apple’s new iCloud Drive service will use CloudKit which is a highly asynchronous storage provider extension service. There will be a growing number of cloud services that will leverage the CloudKit open transport mechanism APIs.
The problem they are solving is today mobile apps do not have a common file system. Each app has a sandbox that contains its own data. When you use a service like Dropbox, another copy of the file is created. Synchronization software just creates more duplicates. If you need to modify a document with multiple apps, you need to create a copy of a document in each app’s container. Federico Viticci’s article, “Beyond the Silo: How Apple Plans to Reinvent Document Management with iOS 8”, provides a good overview (summarized below) of how Apple will get users and developers to depend on this type of file service:
“With iOS 8, Apple is going to reinvent both sides of document storage and management. For users, cloud storage and sync will become more visible with iCloud Drive, and apps will be able to collaborate on the same file without creating duplicates. For third-party developers who don’t want to rely on iCloud, Apple is building a new integrated solution: storage provider extensions for any app.”
The reinvention begins with the recognition that big data (e.g. your movie library) and little data (e.g. your receipts) have different needs. Also the architecture includes every CloudKit-enabled app getting a container that has a public and private database. The private database has user instances. Zones between the databases can be setup to set relationships and delta downloads between records. CloudKit Dashboard service will provide administrator views of the public data and schema. To learn more about CloudKit, download the WWDC iPad App that has all the 2014 Apple World Wide Developer Conference videos and view sessions 208 and 231.
This new, highly flexible data management method supports many other iOS 8 major features such as:
- Continuity – Here you can start an email on your phone and complete it on the Mac. Or answer, make calls, send SMS on your iPad or Mac when your iPhone is in another room.
- Extensibility –Apple iOS apps will now be able to share services. This supports services like active widgets in the Notification Center, ability to add different keyboards, adding photo editing features from other apps inside your photo library, and multiple apps sharing the same content.
- HealthKit – Secure paring of multiple health sensors for holistic presentation, analysis, and wellness plans.
- HomeKit – Secure paring of devices that map to named rooms and scenes – as well as behavior, like telling Siri it’s time for bed.
Apple will not be the only challenger to introduce game changing methods in this hot file and sync market. Amazon (who is not on the Gartner quadrant) has introduced Zocalo (a Dropbox and Google Apps hybrid) that provides audit logs, sharing and storage location controls and integration with existing corporate directories. Users can sync content among devices and access a hub to request and manage feedback on documents. It’s expected, like Apple, that Amazon APIs will be made available for developers to add file and sync directly into their applications.
One thing that’s certain is that IT will require new thinking about data management. The new methods will be adopted quickly by end users as the services are injected into their mobile OS and apps. It will be a very competitive marketplace as vendors compete for the new land grab. And very disruptive, as it will have broad implications on how apps will be developed, used, and how data will be secured. It will be important to know where enterprise data is going, and who owns all the client and server encryption keys.