Do You Need Mobile Middleware? - InformationWeek
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Tony Byrne
Tony Byrne
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Do You Need Mobile Middleware?

Major software vendors seem to think you do -- and they might be right. Just don't expect mature platforms.

Sounds good, huh? Well, don't get too carried away. These are early days, and mobile platform vendors still have a lot of ground to cover. Here's a selection of bumps in the road you may encounter on this journey.

You may already own "regular" middleware:
 And that middleware may want to perform those nine services listed above because it's supposed to be good at most of them. The problem here is that most incumbent middleware and enterprise portal platforms are not yet very mobile-aware. So they frequently lack services around things like adaptive experiences and notifications. Some major infrastructure vendors like IBM and Oracle are working to align around single platforms for managing across delivery channels, but progress remains slow.

Incomplete services:
 Of the nine services listed above, no single vendor offers more than six or seven, and perhaps more importantly, most vendors specialize in only a couple areas. Which brings us to...

Weak integration frameworks:
 If you're looking for advanced integration frameworks and pre-packaged connectors, for the most part you'll come away underwhelmed. Many mobile platform solutions are still just beginning to address integration requirements.

High costs:
 Remember, vendors are excited about the revenue streams here. In most cases, you pay according to traffic or transaction volumes. Maybe hosting in a vendor's cloud is cheaper than serving or brokering your mobile experiences on-premise. But maybe not.

Stack lock-in:
 Binding your middleware layer to a specific application development framework should give every enterprise architect pause. Correction: should give any IT leader pause.

Poor reporting:
 Nearly all vendors with middleware services can log application activity. But when it comes to actual reporting on metrics, the spectrum runs from non-existent to achingly bad.

Young vendors with new services:
 As you would with any jumped-up cloud software vendor, you want to investigate how well an enterprise mobile platform provider knows how to operate a 24/7 service, as opposed to just delivering software updates. This includes big-name vendors, who typically came to market by acquiring an ankle-biting competitor.

I could go on (and on, and on) adding to this list, but by now you get the idea. Forewarned is forearmed.

How to Evaluate Mobile Platforms

OK, so you'd like to standardize an enterprise-wide mobile platform. Great, now how do you decide which one?

I firmly believe that you select the right platform or platforms the same way you would choose other important enterprise applications: through rigorous testing of different alternatives by a widely representative set of stakeholders, against a solid set of realistic use cases.

Note however, that most vendors excel at very specific use-cases, so you'll want to think carefully about your business priorities. In Real Story Group's vendor evaluations, we contrast how different platforms "fit" against seven common scenarios such as "Offline Apps" and "Mobile Websites" -- some more B2E-oriented, others more B2C-oriented. Alas, you'll find that vendors tend to focus on B2E use cases or B2C needs, but not both. So in the end, you may need two platforms.

Enterprise mobile platform technology is clearly evolving quickly. But if mobility has become a critical part of your digital workplace or digital marketing strategies going forward, you'll want to investigate these solutions more closely.

Just make sure you don't let your mobile appdev horse tie you to a middleware cart that won't work for you.

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User Rank: Strategist
7/13/2014 | 12:31:19 AM
A case for enterprise mobile middleware
As smartphones and tablets take a more prominent role in our daily lives, mobile technology will change – again – how enterprises engage, transact, and empower people.  If you were to draw parallels from the past two decades, it is clear that a new class of middleware will emerge and help enterprises fuel this transformation.

Here's an interesting blog post that makes the case for enterprise mobile middleware.

User Rank: Strategist
7/13/2014 | 12:24:16 AM
Mobile Middleware and The Enterprise Mobility Landscape
The enterprise mobility landscape is in a high state of flux: 

- The lexicon of acronyms in enterprise mobility has exploded. 
- Market research firms are providing disparate perspectives. 
- Vendors are shifting their focus at a rapid pace. 

Choices abound: 

- Native versus Web versus hybrid mobile apps. 
- Open source versus commercial solutions. 
- Cloud versus on premise deployment. 

So many changes. So many choices. So little time. 

This presentation attempts to outline the enterprise mobility landscape and highlight key vendors in each of its segments: 

- Mobile App Development IDEs 
- Mobile App Development Frameworks 
- Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaas) 
- Mobile Middleware 
- Mobile Security 
- Enterprise Mobility Management 

The only constant is change. So we'll be updating this presentation periodically. Your comments and feedback are most appreciated.
User Rank: Strategist
6/5/2014 | 12:52:48 AM
re: Do You Need Mobile Middleware?
Embarking on a seamless journey from Web applications to mobile apps isn't necsssarily a smooth ride, especially for companies trying to build enterprise-grade mobile apps from the ground up. So how do you make the journey more seamless? One can make a case for enterprise mobile middleware in how mobile middleware enables trusted and contextual user experiences.
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 1:36:03 AM
re: Do You Need Mobile Middleware?
Last month, I had the opportunity to present at an enterprise mobility conference intended for IT professionals seeking to deliberate on the matters of mobile strategy, infrastructure, and architecture. The topic of our presentation was how to leverage advances in mobility for enterprise transformation and the role mobile middleware plays in enabling trusted and contextual user experiences.

Let us remember the middleware lessons of the past, while considering the realities of a mobile-first world as enterprises embark on a journey from Web applications to mobile apps. Mobile middleware solutions provide a better and faster way to develop and deploy true enterprise-grade mobile apps that enable trusted and contextual mobile user experiences.

View or download mobile middleware presentation.
User Rank: Strategist
5/17/2014 | 11:12:49 PM
re: Do You Need Mobile Middleware?
The race is on. More people have access to cell phones than toilets. 1.5 billion people worldwide use mobile apps. 56% of U.S. adults are now smartphone users. 75% of U.S. workforce is mobile. Mobile middleware will enable app developers to build mobile apps better and faster. There is definitely a case for enterprise mobile middleware. Here are some additional thoughts:
  • Mobile middleware should support both native and web mobile clients for B2C and B2E apps.
  • The mobile backend should be deployable both in the cloud and on-premise.
  • Mobile middleware should include message-oriented and data API that support offline operations.
  • Other key services: contextual awareness, secure API to enterprise systems, activity insight.

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