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Senior Editor

DemoMobile: Start-up makes mobile middleware

Sep 18, 20034 mins
Network Security

LA JOLLA, Calif. – Although cool gadgets and awesome games make for some of the flashiest introductions at the annual DemoMobile show here, a small New Jersey start-up plans to introduce what amounts to mobile plumbing for the enterprise.

Open Terra will have, as do the other 36 companies selected for this mobile showcase, just six minutes to make Java messaging middleware sexy.

Open Terra’s mSolve software marries Java messaging with a graphical design toolset for quickly building Web browser screens and interfaces to backend databases.

Using mSolve applications, workers with a Java-enabled smartphone or any Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) device can run simple queries to corporate databases, such as inventory or customer-order checks. But they can also run far more complex operations, such as shifting order fulfillment to a second warehouse if the first one closes down. In fact, via a publish-subscribe feature, workers can be alerted automatically to events such as the warehouse closure.

The software is based in part on Open Terra’s JaQue server software, which creates an application-to-application messaging framework based on the Java Messaging Service (JMS) specification.

The software also supports the Wireless Access Protocol (WAP), an early standard for letting data-enabled cell phones access content.

Open Terra’s engineers have added several components to give mSolve a broader set of capabilities beyond the basic messaging framework:

– Mobile Design Studio, which is a browser-based graphical toolset for designing mSolve applications

– An array of ready-to-use software interfaces to corporate databases, to enterprise applications such as CRM, and to Web services based on SOAP, XML and other standards

– A rules engine to create a series of interrelated screens for stepping through complex business processes

– The mSolve agent, which is code that runs on the mobile device and can be downloaded automatically from a database of mSolve configurations

An application designer could use Studio to create screens a user would work with, graphically making connections to the appropriate databases or Web services and packaging it all into workflow based on the rules engine. When the designer hits the “Submit” button, an mSolve server program generates the needed Java code and creates and saves the client configurations. These configurations can be modified and distributed based on individual user names or group identities, such as “sales force.”

The end users log into a Web site, enter name and password, and the right configuration with the agent code is downloaded to their device, which could be a handheld with PalmOS or Microsoft PocketPC software, a smart phone, or any device that supports the Java 2 Micro Edition. Alternatively, smartphones with a WAP browser can also work with mSolve.

“J2ME lets us have connectionless logic,” says Ted Bielenda, Open Terra’s chief technology officer. “We add some code to the client, which lets you keep working until you get your next connection.” Once that connection is made, the underlying messaging infrastructure takes the queued-up messages and passes them to the server, and vice versa.

How much work you can do if a connection suddenly drops hinges on the amount of RAM the device supports, Bielenda says. The mSolve software uses memory sparingly: if there are 30 pages of order information on the backend server, mSolve downloads about the first four initially.

Open Terra’s rivals in the middleware market include a range of companies, among them Broadbeam, which has a complete mobile software development kit, Sonic Software, which has a sophisticated JMS middleware offering, and Air2Web, which designs and deploys mobile applications for enterprise clients. Open Terra CEO Dave Sasson says mSolve is intended to combine a range of diverse elements into one, easy-to-use package.

The company is seeking early adopters for the software, which will be available in January. Pricing will vary based on whether the customer licenses it for internal deployment or uses it as a hosted service from Open Terra.

According to the vendor, a customer could start using mSolve for as little as $200 per month for the service, with the average monthly cost expected to be about $2,000.

Senior Editor

I cover wireless networking and mobile computing, especially for the enterprise; topics include (and these are specific to wireless/mobile): security, network management, mobile device management, smartphones and tablets, mobile operating systems (iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry 10), BYOD (bring your own device), Wi-Fi and wireless LANs (WLANs), mobile carrier services for enterprise/business customers, mobile applications including software development and HTML 5, mobile browsers, etc; primary beat companies are Apple, Microsoft for Windows Phone and tablet/mobile Windows 8, and RIM. Preferred contact mode: email.

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