Enterprises Apps Stores: an easy choice to make but not easy to run

Gartner thinks enterprises are headed for a world dominated by apps stores but there are pitfalls along the way

The news that 25 percent of enterprises will be relying on corporate apps stores by 2017 is a strong indication that the world of work is going to be very different in future.

The introduction of Apps Store by Apple turned out to be a precursor to a new way of thinking about software delivery. It was some years ago that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff mused that the delivery of enterprise apps should be as simple as Facebook.

While we’re not heading that way yet, the emergence of repositories for apps is clearly going to be the way forward but where does this leave the IT department?

The apps for these enterprise stores are going to be chosen by business managers, probably the best approach as these are going to be the very people making use of the apps but it does cause difficulties for IT managers and CIOs.

Repositories for apps are going to be the way forward but where does this leave the IT department?

How are these apps going to be incorporated within existing IT setups? This is not a trivial problem, implementing cloud-based apps is not something that can be done within a tea-break but can cause a considerable amount of grief: a developer friend of mine is still cursing the day his company opted for Salesforce as it entailed quite a few late evenings.

IT departments are going to be faced with the task of implementing tools that they haven’t selected, haven’t checked for compatibility, haven’t assessed the security implications and where they have no inkling of the functionality. But it’s going to their heads on the block if things go wrong.

There’s another issue too: one that has been pointed out by Steve Schmidt, VP of Flexera Software. Schmidt acknowledges the advantages of enterprise apps stores but delivers a warning on some of the possible repercussions. “It can be incredibly difficult for enterprises to manage software licensing, control entitlement and track actual software usage.” He says that most users are happy with concepts like the iTunes App Store, but says enterprise app stores have to be smarter, otherwise users are going to play havoc with an enterprise’s licensing compliance.

Schmidt calls for tighter integration between the backend to approve, track, manage and optimise usage of applications available on company app store. Even allowing for his vested interest, he does have a point. We’ve already seen companies run into problems with VM sprawl when virtualisation has got out of hand, are we going to see problems with licensing.

My guess is that, in the short term, we will but in the long term we are going to see some considerable changes on the licensing front. Many software vendors are still operating as if the old paradigm was the only game in town, I suspect that this attitude will shift before long. The only caveat to the enterprise apps store is how long away it will be. In 2010, Gartner predicted that by the end of last year 20 percent of companies will own no IT assets . That hasn’t happened: there are lot of company-owned data centres, run by company IT departments out there. And they’re probably scratching their heads about enterprise apps stores right now.

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