Friday, February 10, 2012

Understanding MEAP - Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms

MEAP's are going to be the new *aaS.  If you don't understand that statement, consider yourself blessed. You may feel like you need a computer forensics degree to understand it all.  Understanding technology industry analysts and acronyms is a difficult task. A relatively new category of Gartner Magic Quadrants have emerged one one in particular is a category that we think deserves a lot of attention.  Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms are not typical software like your daddy used to buy.  MEAP's are collections of services and components (including frameworks, profiles, libraries and more) that facilitate the types of functionality required to develop and maintain applications running on wireless devices (aka mobile devices).

Now I don't subscribe to hype and BS and neither should you.  As the former chair of the OASIS Service Oriented Architecture Technical Committee, the group that produced the standard reference model for SOA, I never anticipated that people would run with this and start all these (INSERT ANY CAPITAL LETTER FROM THE ALPHABET HERE)aaS.  Software as a Service (SaaS) is not really that different from hosted solutions is it?  If you disagree, you'd better hurry and claim one while there are still letters left for acronyms.  I think XaaS is not used yet.

When I see value though, I want to point it out.  MEAP is one of those rare acronyms that seems to be vastly underestimated by the majority of the industry.  The term itself seems to have come from Analyst firm Gartner in a paper published in April 2011 (Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms, Michael J. King, William Clark). I believe I read somewhere that Gartner believes over 95% of the technology industry will use some form of MEAP by 2012.  When I try to research this topic on Google, very little information comes up.  Regardless of the title, let's explore what a MEAP is and what it does.

In their paper, "The rule of three" is used as a quantifier for identifying when this functionality might be of interest.   Quoting from Gartner (via Wikipedia):
The Rule of Three refers to a concept developed by analyst firm Gartner, whereby companies are encouraged to consider the MEAP approach to mobility when they need their mobile solutions to:
  • Support three or more mobile applications 
  • Support three or more mobile operating systems (OS)
  • Integrate with at least three back-end data sources
According to Gartner, using a common mobility platform, like a MEAP, brings considerable savings and strategic advantages in this situation.
This helps frame the problem that MEAP's are trying to solve.  The ability to support these patterns requires a common set of "things". These "things" enable several common patterns of enterprise architecture to mobile device communication.  Some of the more common patterns are:
  • Mobile Device Management (MDM) - manages, monitors and secures distrubuted mobile environments. 
  • Multiple Message Exchange Patterns such as Push Notifications that are respect end users data plans and battery life.
  • Advanced Security Features such as remote session management and data wipes.  These are sometimes viewed as part of MDM.
  • Mobile Payment Gateway Services - services that can access a Merchant Processing Account and extend that functionality via the MEAP to the mobile environment.
  • Analytics of user interactions.
  • Temporal-Spatial Capabilities - the ability to work with geocoded and location graphs
  • User Administration and management
  • Data Synchronization when mobile devices become re-connected to networks.
  • Data Transformations to facilitate existing data being marshaled into formats that are optimized for mobile such as JSON or even HTML5 for mobile websites.
  • Data Persistence usually on both the mobile device and the server side.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of items.  Uberity will be writing some more about this topic in coming weeks. It is clear to use that some, if not all of these components, will be of interest to a large number of customers.

One last word.  I don't want to ever see someone pitching "MEAPaaS" but sadly I know it will probably happen.

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