IBM

Enterprise Mobility – MEAP’s Are The Way To Go

The launch of Blackberry 10 and BlackBerry Z10 has brought the spotlight on enterprise mobility. Whether this crucial step re-thrones the ex-king of mobile enterprise devices or not, remains to be seen, but speculations on some impact in the enterprise mobile app development cannot be ignored. According to the analysts, the battle could be for third place in the OS ecosystem. In spite of iOS not being very enterprise friendly, it still reigns supreme in the users’ choice of mobile devices, both in enterprise and consumer space. Android devices fall in second place, even though they offer more flexibility to tweak to enterprise requirements.

domoMobile enterprise app development is very different compared to consumer app development. Consumer app development is an outlet for a coders’ fantasy, without great expectations of ROI. It can be considered as a free form work of art utilizing all features the device OS has to offer through native APIs, without rigid standards or framework. The most popular method of consumer app development is developing them as native mobile apps for each mobile operating system. To gain the advantage of the multi-platform capability, without having to port the source code from one mobile OS to other, developers resort to multi-platform development tools like PhoneGap, Titanium, Sencha.

For enterprise apps in BYOD organizations, besides the necessary condition of the ability to run on multiple mobile OS, enterprise app development aims to minimize employee downtime, improve real time processing and deliver a rapid return on investment. Enterprise apps are required to run on optimized enterprise wide middleware, a variety of security mechanisms, with integrated management and analytics capabilities. They are designed to run on cross platform devices and plug in seamlessly into the enterprise wide system architecture, specifically connecting to the enterprise data sources.

Prominent mobile enterprise app platforms which I have evaluated and worked with include IBM Worklight, Antenna, Kony, Pyxis-Verivo  and SAP Sybase SUP.

IBM Worklight V5.0 provides a unique support for hybrid coding to develop, run and manage a variety of mobile application types including HTML5, hybrid and native apps. It has an Eclipse based studio with a WYSIWYG drag and drop UI design tool which enables creation of HTML files which enables creation of HTML files using a built in palette. It offers a choice to develop apps using standard web development skill like HTML, CSS and JavaScript or native code or a combination of both. Developers can use the Optimization framework to access and utilize device-specific resources to deliver a consistent optimized UX across environments. The centralized web based management console complete with direct updates and remote disable capabilities to monitor the entire mobile app ecosystem.

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Antenna IDE is an eclipse plugin for building native, hybrid and mobile web apps. App development is simple, using pre-built templates, workflows and drag-and-drop UI. This limits advanced feature development for complex applications. Antenna IDE approach is focused towards publishing packaged apps for B2E where IT can control and manage the apps based on the organizations policies. Antenna uses Rapid Scripting language (RSL) which has a steeper learning curve than JavaScript. Hybrid coding is limited, web and native code cannot be mixed.

Kony has a proprietary IDE Kony One studio, offering drag-and-drop UI development. The SOA based KonyOneapproach to develop multi-channel apps running across desktops, smartphones and tablets. It also has an integrated multi-channel deployment and management capability to control when and how apps are deployed, supported and restricted as per organization policies. Kony platform uses Lua as the scripting language, not as common as Javascript.

Pyxis-Verivo also has a drag and drop IDE, AppStudio providing code-free architecture. It enables central build, deployment and management capabilities across multiple devices. It provides real-time app editing and immediate updates across devices. Just like other template based IDEs, it is easy to build simple application screens but support for advance feature development for complex applications is limited. HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript cannot be used directly, which ties the organizations to Pyxis technology. It also uses Lua for cross-device client side scripting, instead of Javascript.

SAP Sybase SUP, is a convenient enterprise mobile solution to organizations which already use SAP. The greatest benefit is to develop multiple devices enterprise apps while still connecting to the mission critical SAP back-end systems. But the limited support that it offers for HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript acts as a drawback for development of Mobile web apps. The template based form editor makes development of simple applications faster but needs work arounds to call device APIs like context aware APIs.

Appcelerator Titanium is a cloud based open platform for creating multi- platform mobile apps on iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry as well as hybrid and HTML5. It runs on Eclipse-based IDE and supports development using JavaScript. It lacks a built in drag and drop UI builder, but works well with third party UI tools. Though more popular among the developer community for a library of cloud services like push notifications, status updates, photo storage, social integration etc. it also making inroads into the enterprise app space, with the use of JavaScript as the driving factor.

MEAPs will always be a step or more behind the rapidly evolving mobile devices and their operating systems. It will be faster for a hobbyist solo programmer to utilize the latest mobile operating system feature in the newest app than for an enterprise to propagate the upgrade through the entire line of mobile apps. But the priorities are different; the enterprise need is not a race to be the first in line to utilize the newest feature, but to ramp up the development efforts to produce a solid mobile solution that fits seamlessly in the enterprise architecture and works flawlessly on multi-platform mobile devices.

So if you have not considered MEAP’s yet I would say its time to REFINE your Enterprise Mobile Strategy

 

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Vishal Rajpal

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