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Getting the enterprise out of the mobility stone age

By Keith Higgins, Symphony Services, special to Network World
January 18, 2012 04:59 PM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

Consumers relish in their cool gadgets at home and there are new apps to try on a daily basis. Then there's work. Same black laptop. Same BlackBerry. Same applications. It's been a long time since there's been anything radically new to get excited about at the office.

So what do people do? They bring their personal devices to work. Most IT shops today have accepted the inevitable: They must support a range of company and personal devices accessing both enterprise and consumer applications. For many the question is this: Is the network ready to accommodate both additional mobile users and the multitude of devices they bring with them?

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Charting a path for mobility development that aligns user needs with strategic business priorities, all without disrupting production or innovation, can be daunting. Companies struggle mightily to close the gap between what users expect from the mobile experience and what businesses can realistically deliver while still ensuring scalability, reliability and security.

How does the enterprise execute the most effective mobile strategy that will meet user expectations and minimize risk? There are three fundamental challenges:

1) Adapting applications for a cross-platform environment.

2) Device and data management, including security.

3) Expense management.

Let's address these challenges one at a time and shed light on how they might be solved.

Adapting applications for a cross-platform environment

Now that the enterprise is embracing the full spectrum of mobile platforms -- including BlackBerry, Android, iPhone, Phone 7 and WebOS devices -- adapting enterprise applications for these platforms is a major challenge. IT has to decide which platforms mobile applications will be deployed on, or whether a mobile application needs to deployed at all.

Keeping up with multiple software development kits (SDKs) and integrated development environments (IDEs) for each platform (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian, BlackBerry) is a must. Moreover, building or finding partners with deep knowledge across a range of development languages/IDEs is becoming essential.

One solution that is gaining popularity is to develop common code and deploy it on multiple platforms so the apps are device agnostic. This "Develop Once and Deploy Anywhere" paradigm reduces development time since application testing cycles reuse code and it also significantly reduces maintenance costs.

We suggest centralizing mobile device specifics and development semantics into a sophisticated development and deployment platform. Complexities of coding, application representations, form factor handling and other device idiosyncrasies all get handled at the platform level, while providing the developer a unified, intuitive and consistent experience. Adopting this platform approach insulates development teams from changes and updates happening in the device OS and also provides easy scalability to the ever changing device landscape.

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