The concept of a platform or portfolio approach to full cycle mobile application development, application management, and device management will likely become a dominant force in enterprise mobility in 2014. A primary benefit of a mobile back-end platform approach is offering enterprises a standard set of tools for mobile app development, integration with back-end corporate applications, and security management.
I recently had an opportunity to speak with Tony Kueh, Global VP & Head of Product Management from the Mobile Division at SAP. He gave me an overview of SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 and some insight into SAP’s overall mobile strategy.
SAP Mobile Platform 3.0: First reactions
One very important thing about SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 is that it's device and tools agnostics. Organizations considering a move to SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 don’t have to learn new development tools or have their mobile users standardize on one mobile device or operating system. The SAP Mobile Platform offers organizations and their developers:
- No reengineering of processes, resources, or existing infrastructure
- Focus on mobile app core services including onboarding configuration, life cycle management, logging, and data integration
SAP plans to add support for native, hybrid, meta-data driven, mobile web, and SMS app architectures in the future.
The SAP Mobile Platform also has a future-proof architecture based on open standards and open source technologies, including:
- Offline capabilities using the Open Data Protocol (OData) standard
- OSGi architecture with Spring and Equinox frameworks; open-source Apache Cordova container with platform plug-ins
- HTML5 both in the product and for building apps
- HTTP REST APIs common across the on-premise and cloud versions of the platform
SAP and mobility
SAP’s mobile strategy is certainly a departure from the strategies we assume with SAP. Kueh explained to me that SAP Mobile is a portfolio of five key areas:
1. Mobile security: According to Kueh, the first key area is mobile security for employees to do any enterprise work using Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and corporate-owned devices. SAP Mobile includes a portfolio of security products around MDM and the mobile app management space.
2. Platform: The platform play by SAP Mobile is another key element of the SAP Mobile portfolio. “It’s around the notion that you need a common runtime environment for all the applications, whether it be for integration, services, policy implementation, or multi device support. That’s where the technology and IT is to make that easy so your incremental investments in additional applications can be done very quickly and easily,” says Kueh.
3. Applications: “The next is our set of applications,” adds Kueh. “I think the applications that are traditional to SAP are there, but we see a new wave of applications that are increasing leveraging mobile to transform our thoughts around what an application should be.” It’s important to note that SAP stopped looking at apps as an inside/out process. SAP has broken from the established franchise focus they’ve traditionally held with their ERP and CRM applications with a new focus on open standard and technology agnostic back ends.
“About a year and a half ago, the company introduced the concept of persona-based frameworks. Instead of saying, 'Here is the CRM system what can we extract out of it,' we talk about, 'Here is the sales executive and design applications that meet those needs,' and then we leverage the platform to integrate the necessary back-end content to ensure that the application is fully functional. Technology-wise, there is a subtle difference, but from a design perspective, it is completely different.”
4. Mobile messaging: SAP also has its own mobile messaging portfolio based on an SMS messaging infrastructure. According to Kueh, “We are able to participate in the global exchange of the SMS network, which allows us access to 99.8% of the mobile devices that are provisioned on this planet." SAP sees messaging as a common denominator, with use cases like pushing an invite to download applications and sending password reset information to a known device.
5. Cloud: “Finally, we have the cloud,” says Kueh. “The way we see mobile and cloud is not mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, often mobile is spoken together in the same context of cloud.” Kueh explains, “Most of our large deals have a multi-backend requirement, and the reason for that is they are enabling life of specific individuals. They want to enable the sales team to be entirely mobile. For that, they need to enable ERP and the CRM, which may not necessarily be SAP.”
“And, so with all of the investment we are making around cloud, we are leveraging as much of that as possible for mobile deployment. We also have our mobile platform and mobile apps available in cloud deployments in our data centers and managed by SAP or compatible with cloud infrastructure players, such as Amazon AWS, and we offer subscription pricing. This is a multilayer approach around cloud and SaaS that we have put forward in the last 12 months.”
Kueh also told me that SAP Mobile customers are no longer only large enterprises, and their customers buy into the SAP Mobile stack in a variety of ways. After my discussion with Kueh, it’s easy now for me to see that mobile moves quicker with SAP and could be quite disruptive (in a positive way) to the staid side of their enterprise software business.
SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 can help enterprises develop, launch, and manage a mobile strategy that accommodates tablet and smartphone users without the challenges of mixing and matching infrastructure solutions. SAP Mobile does have a 30-day trial available if you want to explore the platform further.
Is your organization considering a platform solution for mobile app development, MDM, and security in 2014? Let us know in the discussion thread below.
Will Kelly is a technical and marketing communications writer based in the Washington, DC area. He has written about SMB technology, data center management, project management applications, mobile computing, Microsoft Office, and productivity applications for online and print technology publications. You can reach Will at email@example.com.