Enterprise mobility has transformed the way businesses engage with customers, partners and staff while exchanging critical information. Innovative applications are only part of an overall mobility solution – integrating them with existing systems in a scalable manner is equally important and can be even more challenging.
There are two commonly used approaches for building integrated mobility solutions: Point-to-point integration and Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP). This paper explains why an enterprise mobility integration solution is needed, describes and compares the two approaches, and provides a guide for how to choose the right mobility integration technique for your organization. The paper also examines various MEAP platforms available and the key differences between popular platforms.
From a mobile application development standpoint, there is another widely used approach: cross-platform development frameworks. These frameworks allow developers to build once and deploy across multiple device platforms. However, these frameworks lack integration and mobile device management capabilities, and therefore we have excluded them from consideration for the purposes of this whitepaper. To learn more about cross-platform development, download our whitepaper: “How to Choose the Right Architecture for your Mobile Application” – https://www.rapidvaluesolutions.com/whitepaper/
Gone are the days when employees would sit in front of their desktop computers all day to do their work and communicate with coworkers and clients. More and more companies are adapting enterprise mobility solutions to make it easier for their employees to work out of the office using mobile devices and cloud services to perform business tasks. Point-to-Point: An application deployment technique which allows mobile users within the organization to perform a business operation and engage with co-workers and customers. It is mainly designed for smaller organizations.
The two most popular enterprise mobility deployment techniques are:
Point-to-Point: An application deployment technique which allows mobile users within the organization to perform a business operation and engage with co-workers and customers. It is mainly designed for smaller organizations.
Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP): An application middleware designed specifically for mobile enterprise application users. It allows controlled access to all mobile applications hosted on a particular platform. Employees and enterprise customers can access and exchange data from any mobile device to perform a number of business operations.
There is a general tendency to combine MEAP/middleware tools with cross-platform mobile development tools. We would define MEAP as a platform that includes:
– Comprehensive integration capabilities – Connectivity to corporate systems such as ERP, CRM, etc.
– Mobile application development – Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for building mobile applications
– Mobile Device Management (MDM) capabilities – Support for device provisioning, secure transmission of data, remote configuration, mobile asset tracking, policy identification and adaptation, etc.
– Mobile Application Management (MAM) capabilities – Support for provisioning and access control to mobile applications used in business settings (configuration settings, user authentication, push notification services, application usage analytics, etc.)
As the name implies, cross-platform development frameworks provide the ability to develop once and deploy across multiple platforms, but mainly on the client/device side with minimal support for integration. Since this paper is about integrated mobility solutions, we focus on the MEAP approach, with the view that cross-platform frameworks are outside the scope of the discussion.
Typically, a Point-to-Point (P2P) integration solution is used to develop an independent native application for each business requirement, using individual resources/middleware to handle the data and control layer of the application. This solution is useful when data segregation is possible and independent security for the application is required.
|P2P Solution||User experience is rich (typically based on native application development).||Need to build each application based on the specific business requirement, with limited reusability.|
|Less expensive to build compared to MEAP if the features required are straightforward.||Any changes required in the application need developer involvement.|
|Performance is higher compared to MEAP since there are fewer applications to handle.||Requires additional integration with identity management.|
|Requires third-party connectors to integrate with external systems.|
Gartner Group has developed a concept called the Rule of Three for determining when to use a Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP). According to the rule, you should use the MEAP approach for enterprise mobility if the business requirements include (i) Three or more mobile applications, (ii) Three or more mobile OS (Operating Systems) and (iii) Integration with at least three back-end data sources.
|MEAP||Highly scalable architecture.||Initial investment is high – requires upfront payment for the solution, maintenance fee and user based fee.|
|Pre-integrated to identity management system.||Dedicated administrator is required to maintain the MEAP server.|
|Supports multiple platforms – native (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry), web (XHTML browsers) and hybrid applications.||User interface and usability are sub-optimal.|
|Can leverage device features seamlessly.||Initial implementation time is higher.|
|Plug-in or connectors are available to communicate with systems such as SAP, Oracle, CRMs, etc.|
|Web service layer runs on DMZ to secure the entire infrastructure.|
|The solution can be deployed on premises or in a cloud.|
The following table summarizes the key differences between Point-to-Point solutions and MEAP
|Parameters||Point-to-Point Solution||Mobile Middleware/MEAP|
|User Interface||Typically a native application – rich user experience||Not as great as point-to-point|
|Cross-device platform support||Unique solution for every mobile device/ mobile OS||One solution across a wide range of mobile devices|
|Device Management||Each device update needs to be managed individually||– Builds are specific to each type of device
– Remote locking of mobile devices and remote wiping of data are supported
|Flexibility & Change Management||– Each application update needs to be managed separately
– Multiple proprietary tool sets are required for managing & monitoring applications, security and devices
|– New applications can be placed in a pre-defined shared location in the middleware
– Centralized management of data
– Single tool for managing all devices, applications and security
|Remote Installation and Updates||Not part of the solution but possible to distribute them over the air individually||Allows OTA provisioning to many devices and mobile operating systems simultaneously|
|Connectivity||Multiple integrations required to connect all backend systems||Pre-integrated with all kinds of backend databases and other applications|
|Security||Each point-to-point solution has its own security controls||– Data resides in a centralized server
– Controlled at one location with single console
|Scalability & Redundancy||Requires additional hardware and software to support additional users and/or mobile applications||– Flexibility in expanding mobility
– Seamless user experience with increase in number of users and/or mobile applications on the platform
|Implementation Cost||Initial investment is low||Initial investment is high|
|Performance||Decreases as number of hosted mobile applications increases||High, with optimized services between client and server networks|
|Overall Cost||Customizations are expensive. IT cost increases with increase in team size (mobile enterprise app users)||– Lower administrative, maintenance and support costs
– Cost-effective if many mobile enterprise applications are to be supported supported
The table below summarizes the differences between two popular MEAPs: Kony and SAP Unwired. We have selected only these two MEAPs for comparison to illustrate key parameters you should evaluate before deciding on the right MEAP for your enterprise.
|NATIVE APPLICATION CAPABILITIES|
|Single code base for all native UI components||Yes||Native UI components have to be developed specific to each platform using native languages|
|Access to all native capabilities||Yes||Supported with code written in native|
|Native code generation||Yes||Not at present|
|User experience||Rich UX||Browser-dependent. Code must be written specifically for each native platform|
|Device platforms||iPhone, Android, BlackBerry (4.2.1 and above), Windows Phone (5.0 up to Windows 8), Symbian, Palm, J2ME||Windows Mobile 6.0, 6.1, 6.5 (Standard and Professional), Windows XP, Vista and 7 (32 bit and 64 bit), BlackBerry 5.0 and 6.0, iOS 4.2 and 4.3|
|Desktop clients/kiosks||Windows 7||Windows XP, Vista and 7|
|Device-optimized mobile web||Eight dedicated websites for 15+ browsers, five form factors, from WML to HTML5||Not at present|
|Number of operating systems for native applications supported||7+||7+|
|Access to HTML5 capabilities||Yes||Yes|
|Cross-platform debugger||Yes||Not at present|
|Quick UI preview on all platforms||Yes||None. Need to build and compile the projects to view the UI|
|Foreign function support from single codebase||Yes||Not at present|
|Ability to seamlessly create native deployable binaries for all platforms||Yes||Requires usage of platform specific native SDK tools (to be configured and understood)|
|Extensions – ability to augment existing APIs without knowledge of underlying SDK||Yes, all glue code is auto-generated||Yes, but glue code has to be manually written for each of native SDK|
|Drag & drop widgets for UI development||Yes||Needs to be done outside the developer platform|
|Coding required for consuming data from network services and mapping it to the UI widgets (80% of the application codebase)||Not required||Yes, all data mapping code has to be handwritten|
|Wrapper-based solution (uses WebView for rendering)||By default purely native, optionally WebUI can be used for rendering||Yes, a hybrid web based container approach|
|Synchronization capabilities||Yes. Also supports offline sync||Yes. Also supports offline sync|
|Ability to download a new version of the application without accessing app stores||Yes||Yes|
|Mobile Application Management with App management capability||Yes, supported via Kony App Store and Kony App Management Container||Requires additional license and component via Afaria|
|Integrated Development Environment (IDE)||Eclipse plugin from Kony||Eclipse IDE|
|INTEGRATION AND CONNECTORS|
|Backend system integration||Web Services support – REST/SOAP||Sybase ASE 12.x and 15.x, Sybase SQL Anywhere 11.x, Oracle 10g and 11g, MS SQL Server 2005 and 2008, UDB 9.1, SAP R/3 4.6 and higher, SOAP and REST (XML) Services|
|Extensible connectors to consume data from SAP, web services, XML, Java API||Yes||Yes|
|Oracle backend support||Yes||Yes|
|Connectors to Siebel, PeopleSoft and SharePoint||Yes||Yes|
|Connectors to SAP||Five ways to connect to SAP JCO, Gateway (OData), Web Services, HTTP, iWay , and SAP Namespace (inside SAP) – i.e. no middleware||Supports JCO, Gateway and Web Services|
|SMS/MMS (2-Way & push)||SMS/MMS – 2-Way and common push APIs||Not supported|
What approach works best for your enterprise? While each organization will have a different mobility strategy, when it comes to selecting mobile enterprise applications, you will reach a point where you have to decide between a point-to-point solution and MEAP. As always, the right solution for your organization depends on your business requirements. The following figure illustrates key factors that will help you decide on a mobility solution that’s appropriate for your organization.
– Focus is on building a small number of applications to run on a few mobile operating systems only (Blackberry, iOS, Android, Windows mobile)
– Out-of-the-box solution is acceptable, and does not require much customization
– Requires very few internal updates
– Requires device-agnostic solution
– Host multiple mobile applications across multiple mobile operating systems
– Simplifies integration to back-end systems
– Cost-effective over the long term
According to industry experts, a MEAP solution works best for organizations looking for over three mobile applications or above 150 users. This decision-making chart will help you select between the two enterprise mobility approaches. However, before making a decision, you need to understand the pros and cons of both types of enterprise mobility solutions and the cost involved in switching between the two solutions in the future should that become necessary.
Of all the factors driving the need for mobility, the main parameters to consider are the number of applications, the device platforms to be supported, the amount of flexibility and control you need for managing the servers and how quickly you plan to scale up. A point-to-point solution is the most cost-effective and fastest approach for an immediate, single mobile application deployment. MEAP is best suited for organizations with a well-defined mobility strategy and a vision for expanding their use of mobile applications.
If you have any questions or need more information about building an integrated mobility solution, please write to the author Kavyanidhi Narayan, Director – Marketing at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!