Integration Not The Least Of IBM i Mobile Challenges
October 13, 2014 Dan Burger
Organizations everywhere come under heavy criticism for failing to have mobile application projects lined up like ducks on a pond. The folks with the pitch forks and torches outside the IT castle include the C-level transformational business types, the marketing miracle makers, and the human resources employee self-service advocates. Meanwhile, inside the IT department, there are application development teams wrestling with problems such as integrating front-end systems of engagement with backend systems of records, keeping data secure in a mobile world, and managing the boatload of mobile devices that workers, customers and business partners have at their disposal.
Phil Buckellew, IBM‘s vice president of enterprise mobile, wears no rose-tinted glasses. He leads the product management strategy for MobileFirst, Big Blue’s mobile initiative. He and I sat down together in Las Vegas last week during the IBM Enterprise2014 conference.
IBM has been planning and executing a mobile strategy for years. A big chunk of the resources were acquired, but they have been combined with a substantial home-grown expertise as well. There are more than 30 products and services currently offered within the MobileFirst brand. And as you might guess, integration is a big concern, particularly integration between IBM i systems of record and a wide variety of options on the system of engagement side.
Middleware, the bridge building infrastructure, plays an important role in connecting IBM i and the mobile devices that span the globe.
As Buckellew points out, “not everything we have will work in IBM i environments.”
IBM i shops hear that a lot when it comes to the big four topics that command the most attention–mobile, analytics, cloud, and social. Buckellew brushes it aside.
“A lot of our integration is at a higher level in the stack than the OS,” Buckellew says. “The integration points are different types of data sets. Mobile developers like JSON, for instance. Being able to call an API or a REST service on the back end and transform that data so it can be accessed by the mobile device is what we try to do inside any platform.”
IBM i has its strengths. Back-end systems are going to get hit with new workloads once new mobile devices are exposed and are running transactions, he notes. IBM i is built to handle workloads and it will be to that platform’s advantage when integrations are cemented.
The integration piece in a mobile project typically involves multiple devices and multiple operating systems. So IBM i needs to play well with others. It doesn’t always play well.
“We’ve been working on the capabilities that go into building back-end systems and applying them to a middle tier that can then serve data in the way it needs to be served,” he says. “We are working with business partners regardless of what kind of backend systems they work with. We think we have the technology to help them make it secure and manageable.”
So, yeah, after you get the integration piece figured out, there are other challenges that await, like security across multiple devices, the features and functions of the apps and content on the devices, the connectivity for the devices, and the management of the devices and the data.
One step at a time.