Mobile Applications Development Platforms – Review and Update

Among the major issues in the enterprise space regarding the Mobile Cloud are:

1. The ability to make data from legacy systems available efficiently on mobiles
2. The management and control of multiple user devices, the BYOD issue
3. All aspects of security

In mid-to-late 2012, we did an analysis of the Mobile Applications Development Platforms (MADP) segment, including numerous interviews. Among the companies discussed were: Antenna Software, Smartsoft, CloudPointe, Box, Verivo, FeedHenry, SAP-Sybase, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, FileTrek and Egnyte. (Some of these are focused heavily on enterprise Collaboration, specifically, CloudPointe, FileTrek and Egnyte.)

A number of conclusions emerged from the analysis. Now that a further 12 months has passed, there have been some additional developments to note.

– MADP is still a valid area to consider – however – in a broader sense as enterprises struggle towards addressing: a) the cloud, b) mobile, and eventually c) the mobile cloud, a number of areas that might have been considered separate segments a year ago, begin to merge into more of an overall Enterprise Mobile & Cloud Strategy. This is definitely happening in the MADP space, where, as enterprises get more experience with mobile apps, they gain more appreciation for other aspects that have previously been considered separately, Mobile Applications Management (MAM) being an outstanding example. (We discussed this in our Antenna Software brief (June 2012) and our Enterprises and Mobile: Update (June 2013).

– We see competition in this area expanding rapidly. While many of the emerging companies have led the way, in the past 12 –to-18 months, majors have increasingly been addressing mobile and mobile apps development. These include legacy software suppliers to enterprises, notably SAP, for example, and large consulting and services companies, for example IBM.

– There has been good deal of movement within the MADP space. For example, among the companies mentioned above from our 2012 analysis:

Antenna in December 2012 introduced a significant update to its AMPChroma platform, which included an open client and allowed developers to use third party tools; in addition it included a centralized management console for MAM.

Verivo which, when we first spoke to them, featured a drag-and-drop “integrated development environment” (IDE), AppStudio, priced based on the number of CPUs purchased, completely revamped its strategy and product offering, with the release of Akula in mid-2013, a custom mobile app open platform, with offers of free trials and a tiered fixed price scheme.

Smartsoft, a significant SAP partner, saw its development team leave and join Mobiquity in July 2012. Mobiquity stated that this addition would enhance its ability to deliver mobile solutions as a partner of SAP.

Following are some of the comments we published about several of the companies in our June 2012 review.

Smartsoft

Smartsoft was focused on providing middleware platform and packaged applications to facilitate using information from back office enterprise databases on mobile devices.

The management observed that the enterprise area has actually been slow in “mobilizing.” In the past, mobile requirements were often dealt with through specialized, ruggedized hardware devices.

Now with the profusion of generalized smartphones, tablets and other devices, the issue is how to offer solutions that work well on the profusion of devices and can connect to enterprise legacy data systems, in which enterprises have enormous investments.

Often the answer, to date, has been through a customized solution for an individual application in a single enterprise. While the Smartsoft team provided some customization services, its primary focus was in “productizing” solutions. This is done through a combination of a middleware platform and software “connectors” to various backoffice software systems that allow for developing packaged application software – that can be used across a range of mobile devices. The company also offered packaged applications built on its platform. Early examples were its apps for PO approval and customer location on mobile devices.

The company explained the issue it was tackling as follows:

“Through best practices in solution architecture, and the use of mashups, the mobile user can make one request and receive the right data needed to make a decision from multiple systems in one mobile application. The key is in the architecture of the solution and the use of filtering data. This minimizes the amount of data transferred to the mobile device, optimizing bandwidth usage, minimizing back office connections needed in the solution, but maximizing the value received simply and easily by the mobile audience.

All software solutions start from specific needs addressed locally but evolve becoming more and more packaged. Mobile apps today have evolved for consumers, but B2B apps still lag evidenced by the number of legacy tools available for enterprises to build their own mobile apps.”

Smartsoft pointed to the fact that enterprises do not each write their own payroll or accounting packages, but they are still largely using customized software to deliver solutions for optimizing use of their data on mobiles.

The company maintained a close relationship with SAP and highlighted its expertise in ERP (enterprise resource planning) apps.

It describes its solution as B2E (business to everyone) highlighting: 1) Compatibility with multiple mobile operating systems and multiple enterprise systems; 2) Its offering of Mobile Applications, Services Bus, and Connectors, including true native mobile device applications.

CloudPointe

CloudPointe is a software provider with an intense focus on the area of secure, managed collaboration. The company states:

“We are dedicated to providing an easy-to-implement middleware platform with embeddable tools for exchanging and sharing documents and content across the web, regardless of where or how it is stored.”

The company’s core approach is to prevent duplicating documents in situations where workers are collaborating and to define and control a single authoritative copy of a document. Under the CloudPointe system any document that is transmitted out of the control of the customer’s system (whether to employees, partners, contractors, e.g., lawyers or consultants) is a copy of the authoritative document.

CloudPointe Connect works on top of business document management systems (DMS) which provide storage and sharing, such as Microsoft’s SharePoint, FTP, or Amazon S3. It extends features of “check-in/check-out and revision control” to Connect users. The customer company maintains control through Connect over whether the outside user is allowed to change the document. The system provides the customer’s IT department a full transaction log of any usage of the document.

In April 2012, CloudPointe released CloudPointe Hub as part of its 3.0 version of its platform. This allows multiple parties to collaborate on a document through a common control point, the Hub. But the document is never stored in the Hub and the only authoritative copy remains in the home storage DMS. The initial version of Hub was designed for desktop use, but the company expects to release an HTML5 version for mobiles.

CloudPointe can be used to share a variety of types of files, such as video, images, AutoCAD files, etc. – it is not limited to documents.

Box (formerly Box.net)

Box was competing in the personal cloud market, offering storage, syncing and sharing services, with a typical freemium offer (5 GB of free storage). But in 2011-2012 it  turned a great deal of its efforts towards mobile cloud services for enterprises.

Box stated that it can consolidate all of enterprises’ content services including;

– Replace NFS, FTP, MFT and consumer file-sharing and sync tools

– Streamline system administration and reporting

– Reduce IT resource requirements while effortlessly meeting increasing storage needs

It also states that it can provide cloud-based content management with a high level of security (“Box is a leader in content management security”), including mobile content management (which includes integration with MDM provider software from Good Technology and MobileIron.)

Box’s tools were upgraded in spring 2012 to include a set of programs for document collaboration, Box OneCloud. OneCloud includes 30 applications for document preparation and sharing through mobiles. These include most prominently integration with: Quickoffice, Adobe EchoSign, Nuance PaperPort Notes and PDF Expert.

The company is also emphasizing what it calls “Social Workflow” with tools for group collaboration on mobiles. These include: First, creating tasks and managing their progress. Second, “you can call for the attention of a specific teammate using the ubiquitous [email protected] symbol.” Third, leaving comments via email. And fourth, editing content.

FeedHenry

FeedHenry is mobile application platform as a service (PaaS) company focused on the enterprise market. (We have also covered FeedHenry for its Backend As A Service (BaaS) capability.) In May 2012 it announced that its PaaS would be available on the HP Cloud Services. The company states that its platform allows enterprise to develop apps that “integrate with backend systems and deploy them across multiple mobile devices.” The company’s products include its AppStudio, for app development, AppCloud for integration and AppManager, which enables an internal enterprise app store to be created.

SAP – Sybase

SAP acquired Sybase in 2010. At the time Sybase was already moving aggressively into mobile. Its products included its iAnywhere Solutions segment for enterprises which offered mobile device management, wireless email, mobile middleware platforms, database and synchronization, and other solutions; as well as its Sybase 365 segment which provided mobile information and mCommerce services to carriers, and enterprises, including financial institutions. SAP maintained the Sybase identity until 2012 and then integrated Sybase into the SAP product line and now offers the Sybase Unwired Platform, its enterprise mobile apps development platform, as the SAP Mobile Platform.

SAP also offers SAP Afria, a mobile device and apps management platform, which it upgraded to release 7.0 in early 2012. SAP has placed a high priority on mobile and the cloud. It states that it delivered 50 mobile apps through 2011 and that its partners (see discussion of Smartsoft as an example) delivered several hundred more. In April 2012, the company also announced the acquisition of one of its development partners, Syclo, which specializes in field service and mobile professional apps development.

SAP has made this forceful statement recognizing the vast potential impact of the mobile cloud:

“The pervasiveness of the cloud and mobile devices, together with the power of in-memory computing, allow people to connect and collaborate wherever and whenever they choose. At the same time, they can access and analyze large amounts of data in seconds. We strongly believe that the convergence of these technologies has the potential to create enormous business value and power new business models both in developed countries and emerging markets. We further believe this will change cultures — both within companies and externally among their customers, partners, and others across their business ecosystems.”

IBM

In April 2012 IBM announced its Mobile Foundation, which “spans application development, integration, security and management.” In  February 2012,  IBM completed the acquisition of Worklight, a mobile software company that provides platforms and tools for developing mobile apps.

As a leader among the major enterprise system integrators, IBM’s mobile capabilities include:

– Integration of cloud and mobile systems, using  IBM WebSphere Cast Iron Connect for integration with major embedded systems, including Oracle, SAP, Salesforce.com and others.

– Applications Development, using tools from IBM Worklight and other capabilities.

– MDM, using IBM Endpoint Manager

Hewlett-Packard

HP has been a laggard in the overall cloud space, including mobile. HP announced that its public cloud, HP Cloud, is in public beta, as of May 2012. In April 2012 it announced a mobility platform, HP Enterprise Mobility, aimed at communications service providers. This platform is intended to enable carriers and other SPs to enable enterprises to offer mobile apps to their employees. It includes an HP Enterprise Mobile App Store and an HP enterprise Mobility Gateway, both of which would be hosted by the carrier or service provider.

FileTrek

As is characteristic of the entire mobile cloud world, there are new products coming into the market for enterprise collaboration and document management. An example is FileTrek Software, which in early 2012 released its product which it describes as “enterprise-class file sharing and innovative tracking.” While the company offers a plan for individuals, its real claim to value added appears to be its collaboration management tools, including the ability to track changes in documents being worked on by a team.

FileTrek highlights the following features of its system:

– Share files via the cloud on multiple devices

– Backup every version of critical files in real-time

– Keep files in sync regardless of location

– Generate automatic audit trails showing file genealogy

– View project dependencies and related files

Egnyte

Egnyte also focuses on the enterprise market and claims to provide “unprecedented file sharing, large file transfer, collaboration and backup capabilities.” Egnyte emphasizes its offering of a “hybrid cloud” approach, which includes its Cloud file Server, which syncs with a Local Cloud that is maintained on the client’s infrastructure. The company states: “ Egnyte automatically detects and synchronizes changes made to Local Cloud files and online cloud files to ensure that your users have fast, reliable access to the files they need, wherever they are.”