Mobile Backend as a Service Is the New Enterprise Middleware
MBaaS platforms need to provide efficient mechanisms to broker the communication between mobile apps & line-of-business systems
By: Jesus Rodriguez
Jul. 26, 2013 11:00 AM
Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS) has emerged as one of the hottest trends in today's technology market. While most of the adoptions of MBaaS technologies have taken place in the consumer or B2C space, these platforms are starting to make serious inroads in the enterprise. In order to win in the enterprise and to overcome the firmly seeded taboos with the adoption of cloud infrastructure technologies in corporate environments, MBaaS platforms must provide very tangible solutions to the well-known challenges in the mobile enterprise.
When analyzing the characteristics of enterprise and consumer mobile applications, we can find marked differences between the backend requirements of both paradigms. While consumer mobile apps typically leverage social network profiles and public data sources, enterprise mobile solutions normally require incorporating backend capabilities residing in corporate systems.
In order for MBaaS technologies to be seamlessly adopted in the enterprise, they need to provide efficient mechanisms to broker the communication between mobile applications and line-of-business systems, whether those are hosted on-premise or SaaS-based. If successful on this endeavor, MBaaS technologies have the opportunity to create a new generation of mobile-first middleware technologies that lay out the foundation for the mobile-first enterprise.
The Main Challenge of Enterprise Mobile Apps Is... Integration
To address those challenges, enterprise MBaaS platforms must provide a consistent and drastically simple model that allows developers to seamlessly integrate with line-of-business systems when building enterprise mobile applications. Whether integrating with a SaaS system like Salesforce.com or an on-premise application like SAP, an MBaaS platform should provide the APIs, libraries and management capabilities that allow mobile developers to accomplish that task in a seamless manner and focus on delivering a great mobile user experience instead of writing infrastructure code.
MBaaS as a Mobile-First Middleware
Like most novel enterprise software technologies, mobility introduces new integration challenges that require a specialized type of middleware. MBaaS technologies are a natural platform for enabling integration models between mobile devices and enterprise systems. To get to that level, MBaaS solutions should embrace traditional and emerging mobile enterprise integration patterns as first class citizens and simplify the experience for developer to incorporate those integration blocks into enterprise mobile apps.
Mobilizing Business Data
Given their ability to integrate with diverse line-of-business systems, enterprise MBaaS platforms are in a unique position to provide a robust mechanism that allows enterprises to expose corporate data sources to mobile consumers. I tend to think about the enterprise mobile data virtualization models as a natural next step in the evolution of enterprise MBaaS technologies. To accomplish this, enterprise MBaaS platforms need to not only expand their line-of-business integration capabilities but also provide a secured and compliance-ready infrastructure that allows organizations to seamlessly expose data resident in corporate systems to enterprise mobile consumers.
Fighting the Homegrown Mobile Middleware
In order to overcome those challenges, enterprise MBaaS platforms should provide very clear return on investment (ROI) criteria compared to homegrown mobile backend infrastructures. This ROI typically comes in the form or richness of features that can quickly solve some of the well-known challenges on enterprise mobile solutions. As simple as this might sounds, justifying the "Buy vs. Build" argument is one of the biggest roadblocks in the adoption of mBaaS platforms in the enterprise.
Public, Private and Hybrid MBaaS
While public clouds will still remain the preferred infrastructure of enterprise MBaaS platforms, these technologies must embrace hybrid and private cloud models in order to mitigate some of the traditional privacy and security concerns associated with the adoption of most cloud infrastructures in the enterprise. Supporting this diversity of models is not as big of a challenge as it might seem at first glance. From the technology standpoint, enterprise MBaaS technologies are exponentially simpler to deliver in a hybrid or private cloud model compared to their infrastructure or platform as service counterparts.
During the past few years, enterprises have invested in building different operational infrastructures and processes to enable the usage of connected devices. Technologies like mobile device management (MDM) or mobile application management (MAM) have become an integral component of any mobile experience within the enterprise.
In order to enable enterprise-ready mobile apps, MBaaS platforms should provide seamless integration with mobile operations technology stacks. This capability will allow developers to build enterprise mobile apps that are compliant with corporate policies while simplify the provisioning and management lifecycles of those apps. Additionally, the integration with MDM or MAM technologies will help to mitigate some of the fears expressed by organizations while considering MBaaS technologies.
Not Everything Is Middleware, We Need Apps
Due to the simplicity of its delivery model, MBaaS platform are in an enviable position to enable the next generation of mobile business apps. In that sense, MBaaS platforms should complement its infrastructure capabilities with mobile applications that can be adapted and tailored by organizations embracing the platform. This model will allow organizations to receive tangible benefits from the MBaaS platform from the first day by having access to various mobile apps that can be customized to their specific needs.
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