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Mobile Expert Opinion: Mobile Platform as a Service

MBaaS falls somewhere in between SaaS and PaaS

My colleague at Cognizant and mobile expert, Peter Rogers, shares more of his thoughts and opinions on how enterprise mobility is and will evolve in 2014.

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I think most businesses have realized the most effective mobile solutions are holistically designed from the outset. That means not just building the most beautiful front end, but also making sure that the supporting enterprise services are provided in a timely and secure manner. This has led to mobile and cloud being tightly integrated for many years, it was just hidden behind a black box inside of a MADP (Mobile Application Development Platform). Now it seems the black box has opened up and we are seeing open, standards based, cost effective and flexible Mobile First services being delivered through the cloud. It kind of begun with Parse who offered remote data manipulation and now we are seeing full life cycle management including real-time analytic visualisations.

Mobile Back End as a Service (MBaaS) falls somewhere in between Cloud Software as a Service (SaaS) and Cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS), with the key differentiator being a Mobile First intent. The original offerings like Parse were non-enterprise offerings and largely focussed on remote data manipulation, location services and authentication. Later offering have looked to differentiate their offerings by adding dedicated enterprise connectors and these are classed as Enterprise Mobile Back End as a Service.

In the non-enterprise MBaaS space then we are already seeing lots of acquisitions and new people moving into this space like Famo.us and AppMobi. The closest thing to a traditional Mobile Application Development Platform is an Enterprise MBaaS, but you will not find a portable native (cross platform) solution on the client side. Instead, a lot of the MBaaS vendors offer partnerships with Mobile Consumer Application Platform (MCAP) vendors - which was the original name for portable native or cross-platform solutions. As such technologies like Titanium, Xamarin, PhoneGap and XDK offer the missing client side part.

The next stage of this technology adventure is the business vertical alignments of Enterprise MBaaS. We will start to see specific services being offered for verticals like Life Sciences, for example a Health Cloud. Indeed Life Sciences is probably the least Mobile First vertical and one of the largest areas of R&D budget so we should see some massive changes sweeping in over the next 18 months. It is worth dissecting an Enterprise MBaaS at this stage before we go any further.

Generally speaking if we performed an autopsy on an Enterprise MBaaS we would find the following: a Service Tier for hosting custom servers (such as Node.js); a number of enterprise connectors (such as SAP); some pre-built server-side services (such as social media integration and push notifications); and a security framework that holds it all together.

Throughout 2014 then we will see the following evolutionary steps:

  • business vertical alignment for the sets of enterprise connectors
  • generation server-side services like Cloud CMS and Mobile Data Management
  • more MCAP integrations with greater client-side libraries
  • new and evolving field of life cycle management services.

Within the B2E space then not everybody has accepted the argument of portable native. However, if we look at real-time analytics it offers us the ability to effectively control the B2E ecosystem by monitoring which apps are in use. This in turn enables us to end-of-life applications that are not being used in order to reduce maintenance cost. It also enables us to spot problems with applications being used through crash reporting. We can even start to look at the successful applications and build more of those in order to start looking at application portfolio management; rather than just building apps for the sake of it.

Real-time analytics was born in the cloud and so this is a prime example of a Cloud SaaS that can be used to enrich mobile application management. We can have dashboards that show in real-time when the application is launched, where it is, and even have dedicated crash reporting that shows if an application goes down. In the B2C space we seem to wait until our App Store ratings drop before taking action but this enables us to see what is happening in the field and to release an update before getting a mass of bad reviews.

I see two types of Cloud SaaS that will become more popular:

  • Developer services - I would class the following as developer services: performance management; crash reporting; remote SDK; HTML5-to-Native conversion; JavaScript cross-compilation on the Cloud.
  • Life cycle management services - I would class the following as life cycle management tools: real-time analytics; dashboards; automated testing on the Cloud; server-side unit tests; template solutions; and easy personalisation.

The ability to plug existing native applications into a life cycle management framework has to be one of the most exciting concepts for 2014. Sure, there is always integration work, but maybe we will start to see the emergence of tools that can automatically add in integration points into the code for common areas of analytics such as when the application starts, stops and crashes.

I would, therefore, see the emergence of a new form of Enterprise Mobile Back End as a Service that has embraced both developer services and life cycle management services. It also offers some second generation frameworks to support server side development: like offering hosted Express along with Node.js; or having a Cloud CMS; or even a full mobile data management solution. These kind of platforms need a new name to differentiate them.  How about we all use Mobile Platform as a Service.

A Mobile Platform as a Service is the natural evolution of Enterprise Mobile Back End as a Service, and it features:

  • dedicated verticalized enterprise connectors
  • a service tier that comes with supporting frameworks and second generation services like Cloud CMS
  • developer services and life cycle management support for both hybrid apps and native apps with minimal integration required.

These are Peter Roger's opinions.  What do you think?  Agree or disagree? Comments?

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Kevin Benedict Senior Analyst, Digital Transformation Cognizant View my profile on LinkedIn Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict Browse the Mobile Solution Directory Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

More Stories By Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict is an opinionated Senior Analyst at Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work, SAP Mentor Alumnus, speaker, writer, and mobile and digital strategies expert. He is a popular keynote speaker, and in the past three years he has shared his insights into mobile and digital strategies with companies in 17 different countries. He has over 30 years of experience working with enterprise applications, and he is a veteran mobile industry executive. He wrote the Forward to SAP Press' bestselling book on enterprise mobility titled Mobilizing Your Enterprise with SAP, and he has written over 3,000 articles.

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