Thanks mainly to a sharp spike in demand for custom mobile applications, the way enterprise IT organizations think about how mobile applications interact with backend applications and services is fundamentally changing.
Collaboration is key
Rather that stitching together all the individual backend services that mobile applications need to invoke, many IT organizations are increasingly turning to backend as a service (BaaS) platforms that unify the management of these services. Intended to be a more turnkey approach to deploying mobile applications, a backend as a service platform exposed via application programming interfaces (APIs) enables developers to use software development kits (SDKs) to invoke user management tools, push notifications, and integrate with social networks.
Of course, not content to stop there, some vendors are also incorporating backend as a service platforms within larger mobile application development platforms (MADP). These include everything from full blown platform as a service (PaaS) environments and integrated development environments (IDEs) that support multiple programming languages, to security software and enterprise mobile management (EMM).
The emergence of both these approaches has profound implications for IT services providers. As part of the general shift toward modern DevOps processes, IT organizations are starting to combine the development and ongoing management of applications. Instead of having entirely separate teams to develop and manage applications, IT organizations are migrating to platforms that provide a more holistic mobile application development environment. This change allows developers and IT operations teams to work in a more hand-in-glove fashion.
The need for speed
Two facts about mobile application development are driving this shift. The first is that a rising backlog of mobile application development projects is pushing IT organizations to find a more systematic approach to developing multiple applications simultaneously. Being able to use a common set of APIs to invoke a common set of backend services dramatically speeds up that process.
Mobile applications also need to be updated frequently. By integrating mobile application and device management with the tools needed to secure those applications, IT organizations can securely deploy and update mobile applications at a time when updates to those applications are needed continuously.
While most MADPs are built around modular architectures that enable IT organizations to swap in third-party modules to handle specific functions such as security, it’s clear that major vendors like IBM, Oracle, and SAP have a full court press on to get customers to standardize on a single MADP.
Obviously, the mobile application development and management market as a whole is still fairly fragmented. But, it’s only a matter of time before most IT organizations find that standardizing on a single MADP is the path of least resistance. After all, every minute they spend integrating modules inside an MADP is less time they have to develop a mobile computing application.
Change in methodology
Naturally, over time this methodology will get extended to all application development projects. In fact, the line between what constitutes a mobile versus web application development project is already getting blurry.
The end result of all this should be an ability for IT organizations and the IT service providers that work with them to bring applications to market significantly faster. But, IT service providers that specialize in products and services that are rapidly becoming features inside larger MADPs will face a challenge. They will need to reevaluate how they go about adding value within what is quickly becoming a much larger integrated application development and management framework.