Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Liz McMillan, Dana Gardner, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Mobile IoT

Mobile IoT: Article

The 'MIDDLEware' Child: Often the Forgotten One

The 'MIDDLEware' Child: Often the Forgotten One

Selecting a middleware solution should be easy, right? Yet in this crowded market, it is important to understand how one middleware solution differs from another, not only in terms of features/benefits, but also investment protection.

Wireless communications have experienced rapid growth in the last five years, climbing to 50 million users, according to the research group IDC ­ a faster adoption rate than cellphones and the Internet. IDC estimates wireless technology usage in the enterprise will grow to a 15+ billion-dollar market by 2004. Furthermore, nearly 40% of U.S. companies with 10,000+ employees are developing mobile strategies now ­ and most (69%) plan to deploy the solutions to employees first. Driven by the need to communicate and collaborate quickly and securely, wireless solutions are viewed as a low-cost, high-return investment for mobile professionals.

The word wireless means different things to different people: pagers, cellphones, PDAs, laptops, voice, and data are just some of the possibilities. For the enterprise, wireless means anytime, anywhere access to productivity tools that run the business, regardless of device or network. Although the device is the most visible component of a wireless implementation, the heart of a successful deployment depends on "behind-the-scenes" technology powering productivity applications into the wireless environment.

There is a wide range of wireless solutions to choose from, all geared to diverse levels of corporate needs. While some employees require access to e-mail and simple messaging services, others need access to enterprise applications like customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning. These varying needs can represent a quagmire for the corporate IT buyer. Flooded with promises of the latest and greatest technologies, buyers tend to overlook the core need for a secure and reliable solution that supports all corporate citizen needs. Deploying the foundation ­ a wireless middleware platform ­ to facilitate access to a variety of enterprise applications will ensure simple, flexible, and powerful wireless communications.

The 'MIDDLEware' Child
What is wireless middleware? In basic terms, it connects disparate applications seamlessly to the wireless environment regardless of device or network. Wireless middleware should use common technology standards and APIs, provide security features consistent with enterprise requirements, and grow and expand with enterprise needs.

Not all wireless middleware platforms are created equal. Since middleware solutions vary in terms of agility and levels of data access, it's important to understand how they rate against user requirements, support staff needs, and business benefits.

In general, a middleware solution should allow the user to choose any wireless device. This is important because it expands the utility to the user and enhances the solution's overall value. Regardless of device, employees realize that staying connected to the office is a requirement. Whether working remotely, traveling, or on personal time, having access to the latest information can make a significant difference in a corporate citizen's ability to be timely and productive. The right wireless solution will deliver reliable, ubiquitous coverage, be simple to use, and make the transition to wireless access straightforward.

From an IT perspective, the solution should deliver enterprise-grade functionality and support. Wireless support staff must leverage existing technology investments, by wirelessly enabling productivity tools already familiar to end users. This way, the amount of training, support, and ongoing administration can be significantly reduced. Additionally, IT will not want to be restricted to one type of network or device. Networks and devices are changing all the time. For example, a mobile executive may be given a wireless e-mail device as a productivity tool, but when on vacation, she only uses her cellphone. She should be able to access the same information regardless of device.

Finally, the company demands all of the above, but also needs to understand how this investment affects the bottom line. A wireless middleware solution should arm mobile professionals with the ability to stay connected while out of the office, thereby increasing productivity and reducing operational costs.

Show Me the Money
In theory, a wireless solution seems like a great idea, but raises the question, "What measurable return will this solution provide?" With today's shrinking corporate IT budgets, this is a fair question.

Consider the following example from a sales productivity perspective: daily travel for a sales executive is as inevitable as the frequent need to check e-mail and voicemail messages. The challenge comes when the executive needs to boot up a laptop, find a network connection, get into the e-mail system, check for messages, and re-synchronize a PDA. This process can easily consume more than 45 minutes each day. So the sales executive who travels four days a week will accrue a minimum of three hours of unproductive time each week.

Apply this example to a salesperson responsible for a quota of one million dollars. Let's assume he works 50 hours each week to achieve the quota. The three hours of unproductive time spent accessing corporate data each week consumes 6% of time unrelated to achieving the quota.

This may not seem like much, but over the course of a year, it comes out to over three weeks of lost productivity. If we apply that lost 6% to productive selling activities, we can easily add another $60,000 to the bottom line!

Equipped with this information, selecting a middleware solution should be easy, right? Yet in this crowded market, it is important to understand how one middleware solution differs from another, not only in terms of features/benefits, but also investment protection.

A Few Wireless Thorns
For all of its accolades and merits, users have voiced general concerns about wireless solutions. Slow response time, lack of coverage, applications outlasting device investments, and poor customer service are just a few of the many complaints. Customers are presented with promises of convenience, but instead, deal with technical or support issues.

Despite these concerns, middleware solutions have, by and large, stayed above the criticism. The middleware is less visible to the user so expectations have been modest for those interested in basic e-mail functionality. The vast majority of wireless middleware implementations have been done for individuals or small groups within organizations; therefore scalability and extensibility were not a requirementŠuntil now. According to a 2001 Forrester Research report, devices, network problems, and application limitations ranked among the highest concerns in implementing a wireless solution.

The first concern reflects the notion that companies are hesitant to deploy a solution that requires a specific wireless device investment. With device obsolescence taking place in a matter of months, this becomes problematic. Application limitations ­ security, scalability, common standards, and general manageability ­ have also been defined as "watch-outs." If the software behind the solution fails, companies are stuck with a useless solution and a stock of useless wireless devices.

Network concerns stem from the fact that wireless is not known for its ubiquitous coverage. Problems with speed and accessibility prevent many companies from investing in wireless technology. Networks have a wide range of connectivity quality ­ from spotty to superior ­ and it is crucial to know when and where the solution will work.

Today, there are a few solutions available that are device and network agile, and can conform to a variety of preexisting IT investments. Therefore, you should separate these overall wireless concerns from the capabilities of a wireless middleware solution.

Preparation for the 'Big Game'; Some Wireless Calisthenics
If you are looking into a wireless middleware solution, do your homework. Evaluate a solution based on its ability to provide value to the organization in a cost-effective way. Before you make a significant investment, follow these four steps to determine whether or not a solution lives up to its promise:

Step 1: Create a Pilot Program
To create a pilot program, identify a need (i.e., a mobile professional needs access to e-mail or a sales rep needs mobile access to customer account information). Then, determine what's important to the user in terms of features, functionality, data to be accessed, and where the users will be when accessing the information. Network coverage is paramount in your decision, so be precise as to the coverage requirements. Is coverage needed in major population centers or rural environments? While on the road or when deep inside a facility? Without reliable coverage, the value of wireless access diminishes rapidly.

Step 2: Understand the Technology
Take the time to understand the technology architecture, security, hardware, software, and network requirements. Overall, a solution should be able to evolve and grow with your organization's wireless requirements.

Step 3: Try it Out
The "latest and greatest" may sound wonderful on paper, but if it doesn't deliver on its promise, it is worthless to your team. Solid and reliable middleware solutions are known for having a simple interface, reliable system responsiveness, easy installation and configuration setup, and ongoing manageability.

Step 4: Report and Analyze
Gathering feedback from end users will be the best indicator of a solution's potential for success. Take both positive and negative feedback to the vendor for further information and clarification. You can then make the best possible decision for your organization. When discussing the merits of a middleware solution, be sure to include the solution's short- and long-term benefits and support features.

Conclusion
With wireless communications, you can be sure of two things: 1) technology will evolve rapidly, and 2) there will always be the "latest and greatest" solution vying for its "15 minutes of fame." As the market matures and evolves, it's the middleware platform that will come to the forefront as the foundation for any successful wireless enterprise strategy.

More Stories By Frank D. Brilliant

Frank D. Brilliant is a vice president of Arch Wireless, Inc. Frank's group
focuses on the development, marketing, and service support of
delivering "enterprise class" wireless data and
two-way messaging solutions to companies
with large mobile workforces.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Moroccanoil®, the global leader in oil-infused beauty, is thrilled to announce the NEW Moroccanoil Color Depositing Masks, a collection of dual-benefit hair masks that deposit pure pigments while providing the treatment benefits of a deep conditioning mask. The collection consists of seven curated shades for commitment-free, beautifully-colored hair that looks and feels healthy.
The textured-hair category is inarguably the hottest in the haircare space today. This has been driven by the proliferation of founder brands started by curly and coily consumers and savvy consumers who increasingly want products specifically for their texture type. This trend is underscored by the latest insights from NaturallyCurly's 2018 TextureTrends report, released today. According to the 2018 TextureTrends Report, more than 80 percent of women with curly and coily hair say they purcha...
The textured-hair category is inarguably the hottest in the haircare space today. This has been driven by the proliferation of founder brands started by curly and coily consumers and savvy consumers who increasingly want products specifically for their texture type. This trend is underscored by the latest insights from NaturallyCurly's 2018 TextureTrends report, released today. According to the 2018 TextureTrends Report, more than 80 percent of women with curly and coily hair say they purcha...
We all love the many benefits of natural plant oils, used as a deap treatment before shampooing, at home or at the beach, but is there an all-in-one solution for everyday intensive nutrition and modern styling?I am passionate about the benefits of natural extracts with tried-and-tested results, which I have used to develop my own brand (lemon for its acid ph, wheat germ for its fortifying action…). I wanted a product which combined caring and styling effects, and which could be used after shampo...
The platform combines the strengths of Singtel's extensive, intelligent network capabilities with Microsoft's cloud expertise to create a unique solution that sets new standards for IoT applications," said Mr Diomedes Kastanis, Head of IoT at Singtel. "Our solution provides speed, transparency and flexibility, paving the way for a more pervasive use of IoT to accelerate enterprises' digitalisation efforts. AI-powered intelligent connectivity over Microsoft Azure will be the fastest connected pat...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
Codete accelerates their clients growth through technological expertise and experience. Codite team works with organizations to meet the challenges that digitalization presents. Their clients include digital start-ups as well as established enterprises in the IT industry. To stay competitive in a highly innovative IT industry, strong R&D departments and bold spin-off initiatives is a must. Codete Data Science and Software Architects teams help corporate clients to stay up to date with the mod...
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
Druva is the global leader in Cloud Data Protection and Management, delivering the industry's first data management-as-a-service solution that aggregates data from endpoints, servers and cloud applications and leverages the public cloud to offer a single pane of glass to enable data protection, governance and intelligence-dramatically increasing the availability and visibility of business critical information, while reducing the risk, cost and complexity of managing and protecting it. Druva's...
BMC has unmatched experience in IT management, supporting 92 of the Forbes Global 100, and earning recognition as an ITSM Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader for five years running. Our solutions offer speed, agility, and efficiency to tackle business challenges in the areas of service management, automation, operations, and the mainframe.