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Mobile Application Delivery: The Next Frontier

With the influx of mobile devices and applications entering enterprises, IT departments have a new mandate: to securely and efficiently deliver reliable applications to end users.- Mobile Application DeliveryMobile Application Delivery

App Delivery Poses Mobile Management, Security Challenges

The consumerization of IT, including the bring your own device trend, has forced enterprises to reexamine how they provide access to corporate applications and data. Employees are more comfortable finding and using apps and storing data in the cloud, but IT administrators still need to maintain proper control and regulatory compliance.

Application and desktop virtualization, BYOD and the cloud all promise to make admins’ lives easier, but IT must first determine how applications will be delivered, how mobile apps and devices will be managed, and how to maintain security amid a diversifying IT landscape. This updated handbook looks at the best approaches to take when delivering mobile applications.

In this blog post, consultant Robert Sheldon examines options for mobile application delivery. App stores, private clouds, Web apps and desktop virtualization each offer different pros and cons, but you’ll have to weigh ease
of management and security for your own environment.

Colin Steele, executive editor of Search Consumerization, breaks down the differences between mobile device management and mobile app management in our second article. Understanding these differences can help admins
focus on where to apply more granular controls for mobile app delivery.

Finally, security expert Lisa Phifer examines specific methods for secure delivery of mobile apps. Even in combination, security approaches such as encryption and remote device wipe still need to be used alongside proper network security.

Assessing Four Mobile Application Delivery Options

As mobile devices continue to pervade the workplace, IT must find ways to deliver and manage the applications and services that employees need to conduct business. Some organizations might use existing consumer services
to meet their business needs, such as Dropbox for file storage and sharing. In that case, workers simply go to Google Play, Apple’s App Store or another public marketplace to download the Dropbox app to their mobile devices.

The challenge with this approach is that it puts sensitive company data at risk and provides little way if any, for IT to control and monitor how employees use those services for business. In fact, public apps and services can be so risky that many organizations ban them outright.

True, some consumer services now offer enterprise-level alternatives, such as Dropbox for Business, but even these might not address all of IT’s security and administrative concerns. For this reason, many organizations are looking
to other approaches for delivering and managing mobile apps and services, including implementing an enterprise app store, delivering mobile services via a private cloud, building Web-based apps or implementing virtual mobile desktops.

1. Enterprise App Stores –  Mobile Application Delivery

Enterprise app stores provide a mobile app delivery platform that lets users browse and download IT-approved apps. But an app store is much more than an online catalog. Normally, it’s part of a larger mobile application management
(MAM) a strategy that helps IT secure apps and oversee issues related to compliance, data governance, bulk purchasing and licensing. Such a solution also provides a forum for user feedback and quality control, much like consumer app stores.

Creating a private app store is no small task, however. The store must be able to control and monitor the entire application lifecycle, which includes app delivery, usage tracking, removing outdated apps and controlling which versions workers use. Implementing and maintaining this type of system can require a significant investment in resources.

In some cases, an organization can tie into a public app store, but there are limitations to these programs. For example, Apple’s App Store supports only iOS devices and doesn’t give IT the same degree of control available to a homegrown system. That said, a private app store should still be able to interface with the public ones if that service is necessary.

Organizations have several options for implementing an enterprise app store. One is to build their own using such development tools as StrongNode and Titanium Studio. They can then host the app store in-house or with a cloud-based provider that offers Platform as a Service (PaaS) hosting.

On the other hand, organizations can purchase an out-of-the-box MAM solution, again, hosting it either in-house or with a PaaS provider. Companies such as Symantec, MobileIron, and App47 all offer MAM software packages. In addition, all three also offer cloud-based services that let an organization set up a virtual private enterprise app store (VPEAS). In fact, numerous companies now offer VPEAS services, including BMC, FullArmor, Salesforce, and Apperian.

2. Private clouds for mobile app services

Delivering apps to employees’ mobile devices is only part of the challenge IT faces. More often than not, business apps need access to corporate resources, and systems need to be in place to support that access. In some situations, business apps can interface with existing systems, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) product, in
which case, the app merely taps into the available application programming interfaces (APIs) and uses the existing infrastructure.

Quite often, however, an organization must not only deliver mobile apps to its employees but also implement a system for providing the services that support those apps. At the same time, users expect to be able to work with data
in a cloud-like manner.

They expect to be able to access data from multiple devices, update the data from any of those devices and have those updates automatically synced across devices. Users also expect to share and collaborate on that data with other users.

Taking a PaaS approach might be easier or cheaper to implement, but that means losing control over how and where sensitive data is stored.

Many consumer apps already provide these capabilities. And that’s where the private cloud comes in. A private cloud facilitates the type of data exchange users have come to expect with their consumer apps, without the risks associated

with public cloud services. To implement a private cloud, an organization can build its own or purchase one from a
vendor such as Hewlett-Packard or Microsoft. Another option is to build a virtual private cloud hosted on one of the many PaaS services that have shot up in recent years, such as Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

However, any option an organization chooses is likely to require a significant investment. Taking a PaaS approach might be easier or cheaper to implement, at least at first, but that
means losing control over how and where sensitive data is stored.

Developing an in-house service offers IT more control, but it also means investing in the resources necessary to develop, implement, house and maintain that system across multiple mobile platforms. Despite the costs, supporting mobile apps with cloud services offers a great degree of flexibility and provides a central access point from which to conduct and manage the business.

3.Web apps for mobile devices

Until recently, Web-based apps were considered an unrealistic strategy for providing services to mobile users, but better processors, faster connectivity and the latest generation of the Hypertext Markup Language, HTML5, have altered the landscape forever.

HTML5 has been particularly instrumental in this transformation. Web apps can now better deliver multimedia and graphical content as well as support offline operations through local storage capabilities, without requiring special plug-ins.

Unlike native mobile apps, users access Web apps through their browsers, making the apps more compatible across a variety of devices. IT can develop, deliver, maintain and upgrade Web apps more easily than native apps, and it doesn’t need to build multiple versions or provide a distribution system or private cloud.

Browsers are also delivering more native-like capabilities within their interfaces. In the iOS version of Safari, for example, you can make interface elements disappear as you scroll through the page content.

But Web apps still pose many hurdles for IT. For instance, whenever application-state data—the data stored in memory during a session— must be updated, a screen refresh is required. If the user’s connection is less than optimal, this refresh can affect performance.

Mobile device browsers are also limited when it comes to functionality. For example, pop-ups and multiple windows are not available on mobile devices, which makes displaying alerts and error messages more difficult.

Another issue to contend with is that Web apps, unlike native mobile apps, can’t take full advantage of device features such as cameras. One way to get around this is to create hybrid Web apps. The core of a hybrid app is still Web-based, but it is wrapped in a native app that can interface with other device features.

IT can develop, deliver, maintain and upgrade Web apps more easily than native apps, and it doesn’t need to build multiple versions.

This approach lets developers reuse code and create apps whose core remains platform agnostic, which reduces development time and costs while taking advantage of the flexibility of Web apps.

As the Internet world continues to solidify around HTML5, we’ll likely see a steady growth in the number of mobile Web apps promising is this technology, in fact, that even Amazon is now accepting HTML5 Web apps for their Android and Kindle Fire customers. Contact Musato Technologies to learn more about our ICT services designed to transform your business.

Gideon E. M
Author: Gideon E. M

Gideon Ebonde M. is the CEO and Chief Software Architect at Musato Technologies. He is experienced Software developer with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. He has a strong engineering professional skilled in Mobile Application Development, Enterprise Software, AI, Robotics, IoT, Servers, Cloud and business application. He is an accomplished DevOps software engineer and a visionary computer scientist and engineer.

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