Meet a MEAP

Feature Article | May 4, 2011 by Daniel Hardt & Heather McIlvaine

One platform - multiple apps and devices. That's the beauty of a MEAP. (photo: Völkel)

One platform - various apps and devices. That's the beauty of a MEAP. (photo: Völkel)

In our recent overview of enterprise mobility, see “Mighty Mobility,” we stated that a mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) will become an essential tool for businesses to develop mobile apps and manage devices as enterprise mobility moves forward.

What is a MEAP exactly? Gartner defines a mobile enterprise application platform as comprising these five elements:

  • an integrated development environment and modeling tool
  • an enterprise application integration tool
  • libraries and connectors & ready-made parts
  • a mobile device management console
  • client user interface and end-user environment

Let’s take a close-up look at one such MEAP offering, the Sybase Unwired Platform. This platform supports a variety of enterprise applications, including SAP, and can be integrated with Afaria, a device management and security solution.

Write once, then customize. That's the logic behind SUP (screenschot: Sybase)

Write once, then customize. That's the logic behind SUP (screenschot: Sybase)

Write once, then customize

The Sybase Unwired Platform delivers quick and simple development for mobile apps by using 4GL tooling and integrating with popular development tools, such as the Eclipse development environment. This approach should help most companies avoid having to hire skilled experts or retrain employees, saving money in the process.

In addition, the unified platform gives companies more reusable code components. The core applications can be developed once and then customized for different devices and for specific capabilities. Customization is critical to ensure that applications are optimized for each different mobile device and operating system. For a look at the current SAP mobile applications supported by Sybase Unwired Platform, see our article, “Sybase: Making Mobile Possible.”

Support for various devices

Companies looking to support multiple applications on various devices will be on the right track with the Sybase Unwired Platform. It doesn’t matter where the back end data comes from – data centers, the cloud, or packaged applications like SAP – the platform makes sure the data can be used with a variety of mobile devices. The Sybase Unwired Platform supports Windows Mobile, Windows 32-bit laptops and tablets, iPhones and iPads, Symbian devices, and RIM BlackBerry devices.

Sybase achieves this heterogeneous environment through the use of mobile business objects, or MBOs. MBOs are the foundation of the Sybase Unwired Platform. They take complicated back end integration and simplify it for mobile devices. Business process logic is combined with an integrated design tool, allowing the mobile solutions to reconnect to the data source. And as other devices and systems become available in the future, the Sybase Unwired Platform can easily evolve to accommodate them.

On the next page, we examine Afaria, Sybase’s mobile device management solution that can be integrated with Sybase Unwired Platform.

Next Page: Mobile security with Afaria

The structure of Sybase Unwired Platform (screenshot: Sybase)

The structure of Sybase Unwired Platform (screenshot: Sybase)

Architecture of Sybase's Afaria Architecture (screenshot: Sybase)

Architecture of Sybase's Afaria Architecture (screenshot: Sybase)

Security is a primary concern with mobile applications: After all, they transmit data beyond companies’ walls on more or less public channels. Enter Sybase’s Afaria, which manages and secures mobile operating systems and devices from a single, central console. This solution encrypts sensitive data and gives IT departments constant “over the air” (OTA) control, as well as the ability to delete data remotely in emergencies. Through Afaria, employees can also receive updates and information in the background without needing to take any action themselves.

Risk scenarios

Risks such as losses, abuse, and unauthorized use and distribution of company data can be financially significant. According to an IDC study, 1.19 billion people will be using mobile technologies by 2013 – more than a third of them for business. Today, already more than 70% of business data is no longer managed at company headquarters. Smartphones, meanwhile, are now used for both business and private purposes, which makes them more vulnerable to malicious software and other forms of misuse.

To read more about the dangers today’s companies face, check out the article: “Road Show: All About Mobile Security.”

OMA standard for all platforms

The functions Afaria offers are available for mobile operating systems such as Windows Mobile, BlackBerry OS, Symbian, Android, and Apple’s iOS 4, thanks to the 6.6 version of Afaria released last year. Based on the Open Mobile Alliance Device Management (OMA DM) standard, the solution thus enables companies to run a variety of device types and control them from its central console.

Rolling out Afaria requires no third-party client; companies can carry out updates and configurations, for example, simply by issuing text messages. The native OMA DM client also makes it possible to install third-party software on users’ devices.

Architecture built for security

The OMA DM client connects to Afaria Server through a relay server in the given network’s demilitarized zone (DMZ), which requires no internal firewall ports to be opened. With OMA-based editing tools, administrators can configure smartphones and tablets for different user groups.

These tools include a VoIP configurator, an SCM editor for application provision, and a trust editor that governs e-mail and connections between servers and mobile devices. A free-form editor is also available for additional XML-based functions.

IT integration

Afaria integrates seamlessly with SQL Anywhere databases, and combining it with NT- and LDAP-compatible directories is also possible. Meanwhile, the solution also supports Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle databases; Microsoft .NET, HTTP and HTTPS; and TCP/IP, RAS, WAN, and LAN connectivity. Afaria Server runs on Windows Server 2003, and users can control devices by text message by integrating SMS 2003.

Components

Sybase’s Afaria consists of the following components:

Antivirus & Firewall Manager: serves as central security component for mobile applications

Backup Manager: archives data and documents

Configuration Manager: secures device and system configurations

Document Manager: organizes transfers of new content and updates to existing data

Inventory Manager: stores hardware and software information on devices in use

License Manager: monitors behavior and compares software usage with the number of available licenses

OneTouch: simplifies connection processes, logging in, and critical specifications

Patch Manager: manages Microsoft updates, such as for servers

Remote Control: facilitates remote device access and control

Security Manager: implements central security guidelines, such as switch locks and hard drive encryption

SMS Integration Suite: makes Afaria compatible with Systems Management Server 2003

Software Manager: simplifies administration regardless of device type and location of use

Session Manager: automates business processes for devices that are not constantly connected

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