What I learned about mobile at IBM Impact 2012

In this post I talk about IBM mobile products and what happened at a large IBM conference. As a result, it is more specific to IBM’s offerings than some of my other blog entries.

This week I’ve been in Las Vegas at the IBM Impact conference. The days have been a blur of meetings with partners, customers, and colleagues from around the world. We’ve talked about the new PureApplication System and updates across the software portfolio for connectivity, integration, business process and decision management, and application integration.

The Liberty Profile in the new WebSphere Application Server version 8.5 has been an especially hot topic. Conversations about that often go something like “It takes up less than 50Mb. Wow! It loads in 5 seconds. Show me! You can develop with it on your Mac. IBM did that?”

We’ve also had quite a few conversations about mobile and I’ve learned a lot.

Now I’m one of the executive leaders for mobile at IBM and I discussed it (briefly) on the main stage on Tuesday, gave an hour+ talk on “Top 11 Trends for Mobile Enterprise,” did press interviews and a panel with journalists, and challenged and was challenged by industry analysts on the topic. So I had a lot to say about mobile. But more than whatever I said, I learned an incredible amount of what our customers and partners are doing with mobile today. We also discussed how IBM’s new mobile products, IBM Worklight 5.0 and the IBM Mobile Foundation, could be essential to them over the next few years.

Here’s a bit of what I learned.

System integrators are looking to pick the one or two best mobile platforms on which to focus their efforts. The hybrid mobile app development model in IBM Worklight is very appealing because of its open standards and technology approach, and because it allows the creation of everything from pure native apps to those that are mostly HTML5 content.

Security and app management are critically important. Both IBM Worklight and Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices, included in the IBM Mobile Foundation, have capabilities that address this. In some organizations, the BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, movement is accelerating their concerns but also their need to react quickly. My suggestion is to consider security and device management as extensions of what you already do for your website, web applications, and hardware like laptops and servers. Don’t think of mobile as this odd new thing, consider it as adding on to what you do already.

Partners have started building mobile apps on Worklight, often without any initial guidance from IBM. This is wonderful. It reaffirms what we knew when we acquired the company earlier this year: Worklight is an elegant product that you can use to create mobile apps for multiple device types, connecting them securely to your backend infrastructure.

Mobile apps are not islands. That is, don’t think of a mobile app server as something that sits in the corner by itself while the rest of your infrastructure is elsewhere. We included IBM WebSphere Cast Iron in the IBM Mobile Foundation because we knew that customers and clients needed to have apps talk to enterprise applications like SAP but also services that run on clouds.

Infrastructure support for a mobile app could be very little or might need to be very large. IBM Worklight 5.0 will ship the Liberty Profile of WebSphere Application Server in the box. So you get small and fast. If you have an existing WebSphere Application Server ND deployment, you can put IBM Worklight right on top of that. This includes WebSphere running on System z mainframes using Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Mobile can extend your business. If you have a web presence for retail, mobile can extend that. If you are a bank and have ATMs, mobile can extend some of those functions to mobile devices. If you have automotive repair shops, mobile can increase customer trust and loyalty.

Mobile can transform your business. Your first mobile apps will enable some core functionality, but later apps and versions may bring in social, analytics, commerce, and industry-specific elements. Don’t think of just an air travel app, think of one that helps me use my time in airports productively and eat healthily.

So to sum it up: mobile is surging for good reasons, customers and partners are asking the right questions, IBM Worklight is appealing to them as platform on which to build multiple mobile apps, we think the IBM Mobile Foundation is a solid base on which construct your mobile enterprise, and I’m looking forward to showcasing the many, many mobile apps created by and for our customers and partners at Impact 2013.

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