In our consulting business, we are often faced with the same questions: how can mobile applications be integrated and managed in an existing application landscape? How do we achieve maximum reuse of existing application logic using homogeneous architecture? The answer to these questions is often: with a mobility platform.
Problems many customers face
Most companies now understand that enterprise mobility will be one of the major drivers of innovation in the next years. After some initial and often hesitant experiments bringing selected business applications to smartphones and tablets, companies now see the opportunities in making core processes and applications available on mobile devices. This mobilization results in greater flexibility and efficiency in the implementation of the companies business processes.
At the same time companies face the problem of integrating mobile application into their existing application landscape. Over the years, systems and applications were developed creating a large application landscape, representing a significant investment. This previous development did not consider offering service interfaces for mobile applications, at best it was designed as a service oriented architecture. But for the usage with mobile applications, these interfaces will not work out well. Consider just one example of a CRM app for tablets: a company wants to provide their field staff with the latest customer data from their CRM system, push the resulting contracts to a custom mainframe application and create appointments in Exchange server, all from a single tablet application.
If you were to build this scenario in a mobile app, this app would need access to all three systems. These systems should offer a public interface and the app needs to take care of all the issues such as authentication, transactions, security, etc. After creating several apps, you will have various interfaces to your core systems combined with an unknown number of users and not to forget a risk of security breaches at all levels on the long-term.
One possible solution for this scenario is the introduction of a central mobility platform. It works as a middleware between the mobile devices, their applications and the back-end enterprise systems. Instead of the previously numerous channels between the apps and the systems, the mobility platform bundles all connectivity between the clients and the backends into a dedicated channel. Our previous example will look something like this:
The advantages of this solution are clear:
- The mobility platform offers a uniform and mobile-optimized interface to the mobile devices and applications. Mobile-optimized means that the connection does not rely on heavy-weight formats such as SOAP, but can use lightweight formats like Json. This is particularly important when facing bad mobile network connections thus improving the overall performance of the mobile application.
- As the mobility platform is located within the corporate network, it can communicate via a secured and trusted interface with the back-end systems. Thus, the existing back-end systems only need to be extended to a minimum to implement the exposed interfaces in a chosen format (e.g. SOAP, RFC).
In addition to the integration aspect, a modern mobility platform also supports the development of mobile applications. With extensive development environments and tools, mobile applications can be created for various operating systems and platforms and managed and deployed via an Enterprise App Store. Even the management of the private and corporate mobile devices is supported by some mobility platforms as part of their mobile device management.
Due to the complexity and the required effort to introduce a mobility platform, a rough minimum of three mobile apps or three connected back-end systems should be in the scope of your enterprise mobility strategy. Even choosing the right mobility platform out the dozens of available suppliers is a tough task and will take time and ressources. Then, however, the mobility platform offers significant value and should be an integral part of the mobility strategy of any company.