In today’s enterprise IT there are many challenges including faster smart phone adoption. Mobile applications continue to grow in popularity along with an increasing number of popular smartphones. All of these apps and devices need to have access to several backend databases, and all of this data needs to be synced and secured. Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms (MEAPs) are helping to solve the complex issues resulting from the burgeoning mobility space.
MEAPs address the difficulties of developing mobile software by managing the diversity of devices, networks and user groups at the time of deployment and throughout the mobile solution’s lifecycle. Unlike standalone apps, a MEAP provides a comprehensive, long-term approach to deploying mobility. Cross-platform considerations are one big driver behind using MEAPs. For example, a company can use a MEAP to develop the mobile application once and deploy it to a variety of mobile devices (including smart phones, tablets, notebooks and ruggedized handhelds) with no changes to the underlying business logic.
Platform applications are best for companies that wish to deploy multiple applications on a single infrastructure, scaled to the size of their current mobile field force and available in an online and offline mode. Mobile platforms provide higher level languages and easy development templates to simplify and speed the mobile application development time-frame, requiring less programming knowledge for mobile business application deployment.
The Rule of Three refers to a concept developed by analyst firm Gartner, whereby companies are encouraged to consider the MEAP approach to mobility when they need their mobile solutions to:
- Support three or more mobile applications
- Support three or more mobile operating systems (OS)
- Integrate with at least three back-end data sources
This helps to frame the problem that MEAP's are trying to solve. The ability to support these patterns requires a common set of "things". These "things" enable several common patterns of enterprise architecture to mobile device communication. Some of the more common patterns are:
- Mobile Device Management (MDM) - manages, monitors and secures distributed mobile environments
- Multiple Message Exchange Patterns such as Push Notifications that are respect end users data plans and battery life
- Advanced Security Features such as remote session management and data wipes. These are sometimes viewed as part of MDM
- Mobile Payment Gateway Services - services that can access a Merchant Processing Account and extend that functionality via the MEAP to the mobile environment
- Analytics of user interactions: Collect user statistics from all running applications, Generate built-in & pre-configured user adoption and usage reports
- Temporal-Spatial Capabilities - the ability to work with geocoded and location graphs
- User Administration and management
- Data Synchronization when mobile devices become re-connected to networks
- Data Transformations to facilitate existing data being marshaled into formats that are optimized for mobile such as JSON or even HTML5 for mobile websites
- Data Persistence usually on both the mobile device and the server side
- Integrate with enterprise-level server configuration management systems
This is by no means an exhaustive list of items.
According to Gartner's MEAP Magic Quadrant report, the following vendors are challengers, visionaries, or niche players in the MEAP industry:
- Antenna Software
- IBM Worklight
- Kony Solutions
- Verivo / Pyxis Mobile
- Sybase Unwired Platform
According to e-Zest's Mobile team, RhoMobile is of the promising MEAP today.
Building enterprise class applications requires more than just the ability to write a simple app quickly. In any informational app, the majority of your development effort is integrating with the backend application (retrieving data, parsing it, storing it to the database). RhoMobile's RhoConnect performs all of that integration work for you. Since the Rhodes framework is the only framework with support for a sync server you also get the value of synchronized offline data for your users.
Enterprise-class mobile applications should also leverage modern development approaches like Model-View-Controller to provide a maintainable app structure and accelerate productivity, Object Relational Managers to handle the database and an app generator to provide the basic structure of an informational app quickly. Rhodes is the only framework to provide any of these capabilities. More generally, Rhodes takes the unique approach of trying to provide all of the best of modern development practices and making them available for mobile apps for the first time.
It will be still interesting to see detailed comparison of the MEAP platforms also understand road-map of each individual platform.