This blog post is contributed by David Marshak, who focuses on IBM's MobileFirst Platform, Bluemix Mobile Services, and strategic partnerships in the mobile space.
Having spent the past week at the Xamarin Evolve conference, I come away with increased validation that there is no one key to successful enterprise mobile apps. Rather, there are two areas that must be planned, coordinated, and nurtured: Developer Tools and Mobile Middleware,
Developer Tools: Give developers their choice
Which leads me to Xamarian Evolve. Xamarin delivers development tools that allows the millions of C# developers to build applications and have them compiled into native iOS, Android, and Windows apps. These developers, who have grown up in a Microsoft .net environment, previously faced two choices: build mobile apps exclusively for the Microsoft mobile platform de jour, or learn a new set of more broadly applicable skills (which would put them behind others and reduce their value to their companies, customers, and themselves). The Xamarin tools instantly make these developers valuable, and perhaps more importantly, relevant. They can take their skills, knowledge, and talent, and quickly build and deploy compelling apps. And that's exactly what they want to do. I have yet to meet a group of developers who are more engaged, dedicated, and passionate about creating great apps than the community at Xamarin Evolve.
Mobile Middleware: Manage, secure, and optimize mobile application integration with the enterprise
Compelling apps on the mobile device are certainly required for successful mobile enterprises. But they are not sufficient. The mobile apps need to connect to the enterprise -- standalone mobile apps while perhaps pretty, have little value to the user. The best way to do this is via Mobile Middleware that can provide Enterprise Integration, Security and Trust, and Application Management. At Xamarin Evolve IBM announced the integration of IBM Worklight (a key part of IBM's MobileFirst middleware platform) with the Xamarin tools. This integration enables applications built in Xamarin to seamlessly connect to the IBM Mobile Middleware -- combining the compelling user experience with the management that today's enterprise's need. Them resulting enterprise mobile app thus can leverage a broad set of capabilities including:
- Enterprise Integration -- Direct access to back-end systems, Leverage existing SOA services, Server-side caching, Unified Push and SMS notifications
- Security and Trust -- Single sign-on, SSL encryption, Multi-factor authentication, Secured offline access, On device encryption of user data
- Application Management -- App distribution, App version management, Remote disabling of apps, Analytics and usage reports, Log collection for problem determination
Getting software (in this case Xamarin developers tools and IBM mobile middleware) to work together is generally the easier part of the solution. Getting developers and IT to work together can be more challenging: IT frequently likes to dictate tools and developers don't generally share IT's level of concern for security, management, and back-end optimization. However, as we've seen, neither can be successful without the other. It is incumbent upon developers to continue to drive the tools that make them most effective in delivering apps that will delight the intended users. And IT needs to be the conscience of the enterprise when it comes to security, use of back-end resources, and management of the application life cycle. They both can and will choose their tools and middleware to meet their respective goals. The good news is that with some of the choices these can now work together. The better news will be when the groups work together to make the respective choices.