October 12th, 2012

Dispatches from NY
Don’t be a Control Freak

Interop New YorkA week back, I had the privilege of joining some industry peers at New York’s Interop conference, to discuss trends in enterprise mobility. Each of the companies represented a sub-segment of the mobility space. We had a big data company, an MDM vendor, a client virtualization company and me representing the MBaaS wing. Each presenter made a case for why their sub-segment is essential to enabling the mobile enterprise.

Not surprisingly, they all emphasized their security and management credentials as being central to their value propositions. Each vendor took a different approach to protecting the welfare of the enterprise but in the end, we all promised we could defend organizations against risk, both technological and financial. What we neglected to mention, I realized afterwards, was that a little risk is sometimes good.

Don’t get me wrong, security is something I take seriously. We at Layer 7 guard some of the most sensitive government and commercial APIs against cyber attack and misuse. But there is a downside to an unbalanced emphasis on insecurity – and that is fear. Some fear ensures prudence. Too much fear can arrest the progress of whole industries.

In a few short years, smart mobile devices have completely transformed how we communicate, socialize, shop and get entertained. Almost overnight, an economy has grown up around mobile apps. This same app explosion is poised to change how enterprises function, by completely un-tethering employees, while providing a way for companies to reach their customers beyond the PC and TV. But to get there, enterprises will have to encourage app innovation and the only way to achieve that is by opening up.

Now, no one says that opening up needs to be a foolhardy effort. Opening up data and applications to mobile apps needs to be done in a guarded and prudent manner. But in all the talk around mobile security, it’s important not to stifle innovation around mobile development. Security has to go hand-in-hand with connectivity.

September 25th, 2012

Do You Need MBaaS to be a Mobile Bad Ass Developer?

MBaaSSimple answer: no. But if you’re a developer building the next great consumer app in a hurry, it probably won’t hurt. MBaaS (“mobile backend as a service”) solves some pretty prickly problems for the start-up developer. MBaaS offerings like Appcelerator, CloudMine, FeedHenry and StackMob deliver the basic components for storage, messaging, notification, user management and so forth that mobile developers need, making it easy for developers to set up and operate the backend for their applications.

But let’s say you’re not a bad-ass consumer app developer. Imagine you’re a mild-mannered enterprise dev looking to make a solid app for your field sales organization. What does MBaaS do for you? Maybe the right question is what does MBaaS not do for you? Answer: it doesn’t get you access to the one thing you need as an enterprise developer – enterprise data.

Enterprise apps need data like plants need sunlight. It could be customer records, documentation, pricing information, inventory levels or a myriad other things. But that data is stuck in the enterprise, inside of SAP this and SharePoint that and database the other. No amount of simplifying interactions with AWS will get that information into your hands to build the super-compelling apps employees need access to.

Enter mobile middleware like Layer 7’s SecureSpan Mobile Access Gateway. Getting the stuff that’s locked inside the enterprise into the hands of devs is a middleware problem. It’s about information sharing. It’s about opening up but in a very targeted manner. MBaaS has some great ideas for making a mobile developer’s life easier. Enterprise devs want the same benefits but with the added benefit of access to enterprise data. I joined Layer 7 from a prior gig at RIM to help that happen. Stay tuned for details.