The advent of smartphones and tablets have changed the way we interface with enterprise systems. Smartphones have redefined the way we communicate with added features like GPS, camera, scanners and much more. This is also driving changes in the way business processes are implemented within organizations. Hence, it is evident that mobile technology has a major role to play within most organizations, as remote access to enterprise systems becomes an absolute necessity with accessibility of relevant applications as and when needed. Enterprises are embracing newer technologies in this area including the best options to implement an enterprise app deployment strategy. This blog tries to explore some the current enterprise mobile app deployment strategies.
As is generally evident, smartphone users have a shorter attention span compared to users of desktop applications and often require access, when they need most or when time is the priority. Tablets to certain extent offer more scope for data input and processing, and also has an added advantage of portability. Hence, when designing applications, one has to take into consideration certain factors like the nature of the gadget for which the application has to be designed, how data is being viewed, duration of usage and the levels of user interaction.
However, one of the greatest challenges for developing mobile applications is the myriad number of varied smartphones and tablets that need to be supported. There are several things to consider when you intend to create user interfaces for different mobile device types – designing UI for non-touch screens is quite different when compared to designing a UI for touch screens. One interface type may not be compatible with the technical requirements of all device types.
Now, let’s understand some of the industry’s best deployment approaches. There are currently four deployment options for mobile applications:
- Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) as middleware
Native deployment has certain basic advantages such as providing a more appropriate look and feel to the user and allowing usage of I/O devices within the mobile devices. This approach tends for easy adoption. However, one of the challenge is the knowledge and support for at least four client languages in order to accomplish native deployment for multiple device types (For instance, for Android devices, you need the support of J2SE, which is again incompatible with iOS and Blackberry). To make matters worse, there are different versions of these languages and newer ones are continually being released. Hence, this approach entitles possession of multiple skill sets and the ability to meet the challenge of maintaining them.
This deployment integrates a native application container with an HTML5 front end. However, the user interface is displayed using an embedded HTML5 standard web browser control. This model lets developers to enjoy the benefits of using the HTML5-standard in the front-end, while retaining the power and flexibility of a native application container. However, this approach is plagued with few challenges – requires a specialized skill set and there are unresolved security related issues with the usage of HTML5.
WEB (HTML5) DEPLOYMENT
Though HTML5 provides an advantage to achieve multi-purpose web application development, however, it is just a non-enterprise grade and immature standard and not considered as a de facto standard currently. Since World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) hasn’t finalized the definition of the HTML5, it is still not valid and reliable. When it comes to the issue of securely connecting to the enterprise systems, certain vulnerabilities associated with HTML like phishing, malware and denial of service are still applicable.
MOBILE ENTERPRISE APPLICATION PLATFORM (MEAP) AS MIDDLEWARE
These platforms offers high level of flexibility in mitigating challenges of developing mobile applications by managing the diversity of devices, networks and user groups at the time of deployment and throughout the entire solution’s lifecycle. With the provision of high level languages, it enables rapid mobile application development. MEAPs provides a comprehensive and a long term approach in deploying mobile enterprise applications, particularly when cross-platform connectivity becomes paramount. MEAPs lets you develop mobile enterprise applications once and allows you deploy it to varied mobile device types.
It consists of two components: middleware integration server and a mobile client server. The middleware component lets you integrate with the organization’s applications, taking care of cross-platform support and security. On the other hand, the mobile client server enables rapid development and deployment of the mobile presentation layer across varied device types.
In addition to the above deployment strategies, there are a few specialized packages, which provide connectivity to some or most mobile devices. These systems consist of a front-end studio that lets developers create presentation layers as required on the mobile devices, thus eliminating the requirement to create for each device type. This is an emerging market, but looks promising.
Though there are several approaches for deploying mobile applications, developing a specific native language is a practical option for specialized workflows that involves connectivity between a specific application and a specific device type. Specialized packages can also be a good option, but requires full scale integration with specific enterprise applications. However, for organizations which consists of cross-platform applications that access multiple device types, MEAPs can be the most effective and productive option.
From an organization’s perspective, you need to clearly understand your users’ needs, technologies and the resources (money and people) that you intend to invest, before you embark on the right deployment strategy.
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