Most enterprise mobile apps are not like most consumer apps. Those differences require features not found in most consumer-focused UI design and development tools.
The missing features mean developers have to do extensive custom coding to link each mobile app with an array of back end applications and services.
That’s the rationale behind Verivo’s Akula software, which is a set of server-based middleware components and client-side libraries that can be used to securely connect mobile app front-ends with the transaction systems that form the heart of most companies’ business.
“Today, iOS developers for example, face big problems in creating these kinds of apps, and integrating them with [resources like] Active Directory, tracking changes offline, and then resyncing [those changes] with backend transaction systems,” says Steve Levy, CEO of Verivo.
To create and run apps that leverage enterprise databases, security, and applications such as SAP or Oracle Applications, mobile developers need four key capabilities, according to Levy. Mobile apps need to interact with backend systems and resources. They need to be “visible” to IT groups for tech and customer support. They have to be handle corporate and customer data securely, and be protected. Finally, mobile apps need to do all this whether they are designed as web apps or native apps.
Akula provides the software to do this. The Akula Server is a J2EE server that provides a range of traditional “middleware” functions to client apps: standard and custom interfaces to backend systems, security, authentication, identify management, APIs to enterprise apps and to system administration software such as Tivoli. The server can run as a hosted service or behind the corporate firewall in a data center.
For more details, see “How Akula Works” on the Verivo Website.
Verivo drew on several open source projects, among them Shiro, which is a Java-based security framework for such tasks as authentication, authorization, encryption and session management.
With an Akula-enabled mobile app, a field sales employee pushes a button on his app to see recent purchases by a customer whom he’s about to visit. The client app makes a request to the Akula Server, which collects the customer information (from several sources if needed), packages it, and sends the data to the client for display. The employee could update a customer’s information on his smartphone or tablet; if the device is offline, the local Akula code accepts and ‘records’ the change, and forwards it to Akula Server when the device reconnects. The server maps these changes to the relevant backend systems.
None of these interactions have to be created from scratch by developers. Backend changes only have to be accommodated on Akula Server, since the clients are no longer hard-wired into specific databases or apps.
Akula Server also includes a management console for administrators, letting them monitor, manage, troubleshoot the interactions between the mobile client, Akula Server, and the enterprise resources.
Akula represents a major shift for Verivo, which was focused on mobile apps for financial services company. But the shift was a logical outcome of Verivo’s own experiences, and challenges, in building mobile apps for the enterprise, according to Levy.
Akula will be released June 28. The team development license is $5,000 per year. Deployment licenses start at $30,000 per year. Verivo is offering a free download and 30-day trial.