A Case For Enterprise Mobile Middleware

By Paul Tocatlian.

Enterprise Mobile Middleware

Why Middleware Matters in a Mobile First World

As with every disruptive innovation that hit the enterprise in the last two decades, mobile technology is about to change the way enterprises engage with customers, transact with partners, and empower their employees. This time around, the transformation is occurring even more precipitously with mobile devices becoming the central computing hub for both our personal and professional lives.

You’ve probably seen the studies stating that mobility is the most critical IT priority for enterprises:

  • According to research firm Gartner, “The rise of bring your own device (BYOD) programs is the single most radical shift in the economics of client computing for business since PCs invaded the workplace.”
  • In recently completed Accenture survey of more that 400 global IT executives, 73 percent of the participants said that mobility will impact their business as much as or more than the Web did.
  • One-third of IT executives surveyed by Accenture cited mobility as one of their top two priorities and 75 percent put it among their top five.

As mobile technology takes center stage in the enterprise, mobile middleware will quickly become the glue that brings it all together – just like client/server middleware in the 1990s and Web application servers a decade later.

What is middleware and why does it matter?

Middleware is a layer of software that lies between an operating system and applications. It provides services, such as messaging and data exchange, that make it easier for software developers to write applications that communicate with other applications in a distributed computing environment.

The origin of the term middleware dates back to 1968 where it was first mentioned. Since then, middleware has manifested itself in myriad forms, most notably as the ‘slash’ in client/server and Web application servers. BEA Systems became the undisputed enterprise middleware market leader in the mid-1990’s until the company was acquired by Oracle in 2008 for $8.5 billion.

Client/Server Middleware

If you’re old enough to remember the 1990’s, you may recall that open systems – based on client/server technology – were a driving force within the enterprise. As the technology evolved from a simple 2-tier client/server model to a distributed 3-tier architecture powered by transactional service-oriented middleware, enterprises built modern systems that outperformed legacy mainframes at a fraction of the price. Companies that took advantage of these innovations outclassed their competitors.

Web Application Server

A decade later, the Web took over our desktops and the network became the computer. While households upgraded from dialup to broadband, new business models emerged and a new generation of “Web first” companies took the world by storm. Amazon, eBay, eTrade and Google forever changed how we search for information, consume content, buy and sell goods and services.

The impact on enterprises was no less disruptive. While the legacy mainframes and client/server systems were still at the center of many corporate IT infrastructures, Web-based applications, powered by Web application servers, quickly became the heart and soul of new system architectures, as they allowed companies to change the way they engaged with customers, partners, and employees. Companies that adapted to this new world order came out stronger.

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.

Call it enterprise mobile middleware. Call it a mobile app platform. Either way, a new generation of “mobile first” enterprises will leverage this technology and outperform the laggers again. While it may be too early to tell who will come out ahead, one thing is certain: as with client/server and the Web, middleware is going to fuel this transformation.

We’re not talking about the same old middleware that’s running today’s client/server or Web applications. Envision a new generation of middleware designed for a mobile-first world. Mobile middleware that will address problems that are unique to a mobile customer base and mobile workforce.

Related Reading:

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Image courtesy of  nokhoog_buchachon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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4 comments

  1. Well stated for middleware.

    One of the biggest gating issues for government and enterprise around secure mobility and cloud has been the missing middleware for strong security. This simply isn’t offered by the MDM / MAM vendors.

    Have you seen the royalty free PKard toolkits? Named for the region of France, they’re royalty free and strongly platform agnostic.

    http://www.thursby.com/products/pkard-toolkit

    1. Thanks for your comments. As you noted, MDM / MAM only addresses certain aspects of mobile security and is best suited for internal apps. Organizations building secure mobile apps for their customers and partners will need more than MDM / MAM.

  2. Very insightful, Paul. I certain can feel the motions of enterprises to embark on migration of a lot more enterprise applications to mobile apps, some even treat this as a mobile-first priority. For a few industries, mobile-only is the only way to survive.

    My 2 cents:

    And as you have alluded to, the new generation of mobile middleware is addressing the new set of challenges. To add the necessary enterprise elements, like contextual awareness (as you have less screen real estates and as the users are on the go) and offline business continuity, the next generation mobile middleware is required to have a lot more intelligence at run-time.

    As such, we are giving more technical details about how we can enable the mobile-only paradigm. You can look at the new content now, at:

    http://www.magnet.com/products/technology/architecture/ or

    http://www.magnet.com/why-magnet/how-we-are-different/

    Developers should be able to inherit advanced features and common integrations. In addition, they should be able to put in business logic to “orchestrate” and streamline communications and actions.

    1. Thanks for your comments. Let me add one more cent to the discussion: collaboration. As in connecting people securely, accessing services in context, and sharing resources in real-time. There are a number of interesting use cases related to these middleware services for both enterprises and educational institutions as EXO U (http://www.exou.com) recently announced with the initial rollout of their mobility solution to 100,000 students in Panama.

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