SOA is the secret sauce to building great mobile apps. Loosely coupled, policy driven SOA services help establish a flexible architecture that address the most critical challenges of implementing enterprise mobile apps. For instance, you can uniformly enforce security policies across all types of mobile apps in a reliable and consistent manner. Using SOA services helps accelerate time-to-market for new mobile apps, lowers maintenance costs and allows you to implement changes quickly. And last but not the least SOA services help you deliver high-quality mobile apps, earning you well-deserved appreciation from both the business and your customers.
Every other customer I talk to wants to leverage mobile as a key business channel. Consider this – more people on earth have access to mobile phones than a toothbrush(1). That makes everyone with a mobile phone a potential target for your business. No wonder that 61% of the CIOs plan to enhance their mobility capability during the next three years(2). And, mobile apps and middleware spending is up by 45% in 2012.(3)
Broadly speaking, the kind of mobile apps that companies are investing in are –
- Business to enterprise to increase worker productivity especially those who are customer-facing
- Business to consumer to improve customer satisfaction & deepen customer loyalty, and
- Government to citizen to provide information at fingertips and better serve the citizens
But implementing great mobile apps is fraught with challenges when it comes to integrating these apps with rest of the enterprise systems. The key issue I hear from our customers is how to provision mobile apps to access core enterprise systems in a way that is secure and maintains the integrity of these internal systems. In addition, there are several other challenges, such as –
- How to offer reliable mobile user engagement given intermittent connectivity
- How to integrate mobile apps with back-end data sources
- How to assert control over deployed apps
- How are our apps being used, how much and on what platforms
- How to offer consistent authentication and authorization for native, hybrid and web apps
To address these challenges, an architecture based on SOA principles has two major layers –
- Service Mediation Layer
- Business Services Layer
The business services layer enables core enterprise systems to deliver capabilities (functionality and data) as reusable, standards-based services. Residing inside the firewall, these services do the heavy lifting. They perform the most complex business tasks that are needed by enterprise-class mobile apps. However, they do not interact directly with the mobile apps. The service mediation layer acts as a proxy to these services managing all interactions between mobile apps and internal core systems. This is the layer where security is enforced, denial of service attacks are repelled, apps usage and performance is tracked, and messages are translated and routed. The service mediation layer provides a clean way to consolidate all quality-of-service requirements, eliminating the need to code these into individual apps.
Many of our customers have used this approach to successfully drive their mobile strategy. An excellent example is Bank of Oklahoma Financial. Head-quartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma with full service branches in 8 states, the bank leveraged their SOA infrastructure to deliver retail banking mobile apps in just 4 months! Not only did they experience outstanding system performance but also negligible production issues. Over time they experienced a large chunk of their customers migrating from web to mobile to access their accounts and lowered call volume to their call centers. That’s the kind of value great mobile apps can deliver for your business.
So, what’s your take? Is this the approach you are taking to fend-off mobile integration challenges? I would love to hear from you.
- Main Street Analyst, More Mobile Phones Than Toothbrushes – Infographic, Jan 2013
- Gartner, Inc., Magic Quadrant for Mobile Application Development Platforms, April 2012
- Forrester Research, Inc., Forrsights Budgets And Priorities Tracker Survey, Q4 2011 and Q4 2010