PaaS Offerings Needs MEAP Piece or Risk MBaaS Threat

Charlotte Dunlap
Charlotte Dunlap

Summary Bullets:

  • Backend integration is a key component of mobile enterprise application development (MEAP) technology
  • Vendors should include MEAP as part of their PaaS discussions, or mobile backend-as-a-service (MBaaS)will become the interim solution

Back-end integration is the most critical component of MEAP technologies, enabled through platforms or IDEs that are designed to make it easy to connect workflow applications to backend systems. Vendors need to continue to focus energies in simplifying this piece of their mobile strategy, to ensure enterprise customer adoption of emerging mobile app development platforms. Until that happens, however, enterprise developers continue to meet their mobile app development needs primarily through home-grown platforms, and struggle with the cumbersome task of integration so that their mobile applications can properly access the data necessary to support the applications.

Red Hat for one is working on an open source project called AeroGear, which connects mobile devices to JBoss backends for users of JBoss ESBs. Note, because the company does not yet offer a front-end framework, its developers typically rely on open source technologies such as Apache Cordova or other HTML5 frameworks. Red Hat has been wise in talking up the AeroGear project in conjunction with the company’s PaaS offering, OpenShift, which will simplify the backend integration process even further for Web developers building mobile apps. This coupling will provide developers with mobile Web in the cloud and enable hybrid application development via Apache Cordova, a combination which makes Red Hat’s PaaS and mobility strategy even more compelling. Unfortunately, not many application platform vendors are discussing their combined MEAP and PaaS strategies, yet developers are desperate to hear more discussion on cloud-based mobile development because they want to be able to focus on writing code versus managing the infrastructure for their applications.

Until that happens, more attention is going to be paid to the concept of MBaaS, a hosted service which sits between the PaaS and MEAP. This grassroots effort rolling out under a number of projects and start-ups provides a new approach in powering mobile and Web applications. For developers, it takes the pain out of creating Web and mobile applications by bypassing the process of integration apps with backend systems such as databases and applications servers. At a basic level, the approach is enabled by developers using RESTful APIs because backend-as-a-service is simply another API.

Mobile backend integration represents a missed opportunity among most application platform providers that are readying PaaS offerings later this year and early next year. This needs to be quickly corrected so that vendors’ MEAP strategies are prominent in their PaaS messaging. For example, IBM needs to talk about its new mobile strategy, IBM Mobile Foundation (stemming from its Worklight acquisition) in the same breath as its PaaS offering, IBM SmartCloud Application Services. Such a powerful combination will spur mobile app development and help prompt enterprise customers to drop their home-grown mobile platforms for middleware vendors’ PaaS offering.

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