Do You Need Mobile Middleware? - InformationWeek

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01:17 PM
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.

Enterprise investments in mobile technology are steadily transitioning from an intense focus on mobile device management (MDM) and mobile asset management (MAM) towards mobile experience management. (No, I'm not going make up a new acronym for that, but the concept is increasingly important nonetheless.)

Whether talking about mobile Web versus native apps, or B2C (business-to-customer) versus B2E (business-to-employee) mobile use cases, savvy enterprises are paying attention to the quality of interaction "on the glass."

Over the past five years or so, a large host of software platforms has emerged to support the surprisingly difficult effort of developing consistent experiences across a diverse set of mobile devices. Now these platforms are extending their reach to key post-deployment services via emerging middleware platforms that are tied closely to their mobile development environments.

[ Hurricane Sandy prompted New York City's Department of Transportation to prioritize a mobile strategy: How NYCDOT Put 'Mobile First' Dev To Work. ]

In general that's good news for all of us. But you can expect some serious bumps along the road. Real Story Group's just-released Enterprise Mobile Platforms Evaluation Report takes a hard look at 21 major vendors and concludes that the marketplace remains fairly immature -- despite the entrance of big players like Adobe, IBM, Oracle, and SAP.

Beyond Mobile App Dev

Most enterprise mobile platforms -- like Antenna Software, Appcelerator, appMobi, Kony, Motorola's RhoMobile, Verivo and others -- started out as mobile application development environments and then branched into middleware. Some offerings remain exclusively developer-focused today, including MoSync, Oracle's ADF, and niche player Sencha Touch.

In an appdev role, these systems help developers create near-native and/or hybrid apps, along with perhaps browsable mobile Web experiences, for deployment across multiple mobile operating systems. To be sure, the breadth of mobile environments supported, the underlying coding language, and the potential richness of the application experience can vary markedly today among these solutions. For example, FeedHenry’s JavaScript-based platform for developing hybrid apps can work effectively for certain B2E scenarios, but does not lend itself well to use-cases where you want to exploit certain native device capabilities or OS-specific displays.

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In many cases, however, vendors like FeedHenry are adding server-based facilities to their otherwise client-focused solutions. Categorized roughly as "mobile middleware," these services support and enhance mobile experiences after those native apps have been deployed out to app stores, or once you have created an initial mobile Web experience.

Vendors are really excited about middleware -- especially when they offer those services via their own cloud-based infrastructures -- because it brings them the ever-beloved recurring revenue stream.

What Mobile Middleware Can Offer

There are some reasons for you, the customer, to get enthusiastic about mobile middleware too. Here's a short list of potentially useful services, though to be sure, most enterprise mobile platform vendors support only a subset of them:

-- Application updates -- in conjunction with an app store or sometimes not

-- Messaging and notification services -- including potentially SMS, handy in many use cases

-- Integration brokering -- connecting mobile applications to back-end systems

-- Device detection and experience adaptation -- enabling savvy enterprises to try things like promoting higher-end products to iPhone customers or richer background information to tablet-based visitors

-- Location APIs -- to support location-based apps

-- Asset transcoding -- converting source image, sound or video assets into the right mobile format, sometimes on the fly

-- Mobile-specific analytics -- for basic traffic metrics, but also more advanced reporting on things like app crashes

-- Capacity offload -- as a kind of hosted caching layer for spikes in mobile interactions

-- Application-level security -- many important services here, not the least of which are application-specific data wipes, variable application access, and selective encryption; also overlaps with MAM.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
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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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