Not too long ago, I wrote a post about IBM’s then very recent acquisition of a mobile application platform company called Worklight. Given the fact that is has been a while (at least in mobile market time) and IBM recently released (6/15) the new IBM Worklight 5.0 product, I thought it was a good time to revisit the topic.
First things first, the acquisition of Worklight by IBM and the subsequent release of IBM Worklight does not change the nature of the solution. It is still a mobile application platform, and it still provides the end-to-end capabilities that you probably (or at least should) expect from such a solution. At a high level, those capabilities address the following needs:
- Application runtime: IBM Worklight provides mobile application runtime capabilities that span from the mobile device to the enterprise backend through the IBM Worklight Device Runtime and the IBM Worklight Server respectively. The device runtime provides a rich set of APIs that are cross-platform in nature and offer easy access to the services provided by the IBM Worklight Server. Additionally, the device runtime provides a key-value, encrypted cache that your mobile applications can use to store data locally (on the device) in a secure manner. This cache can be instrumental in enabling applications to function offline and in improving overall application performance.
On the backend, the IBM Worklight Server provides services such as data integration, data transformation, application security, device authentication, direct application update, auditing, and more. It is worth pointing out that the IBM Worklight Device Runtime and the IBM Worklight Server are engineered to work together. This ensures your mobile applications have easy access to the services provided on the server, and it means there is a mechanism to deliver value right out of the box. There is ample evidence of the value of this integration, from the ease through which you can integrate existing enterprise information systems with your mobile applications to the ability to directly and proactively update application assets that are running on a user’s device.
- Application management: Of course just as important as providing for the ability to develop, build, and run mobile applications is enabling you to effectively manage and administer said applications. IBM Worklight provides a web-based console that delivers an easy to use UI for leveraging some of the management features of the IBM Worklight Server. From the console you can manage multiple versions of an application across multiple platforms, send notification messages to application users, remotely disable specific application versions to prevent user access, and manage push notification sources and targets. Additionally, the console provides reports based on the audit data captured by the IBM Worklight Server. These reports provide important information about application usage such as application visits per day, total visits per application, newly detected devices per application, and more. Furthermore, the source data for these reports can be exported into your BI or analytics tool of choice.
I started off by mentioning the recent release of IBM Worklight v5, so I think it is appropriate to do a quick rundown of a few of the enhancements made in that recent release:
- WYSIWYG editor for quickly building mobile application UIs in a drag and drop fashion. The new Rich Page Editor can be used to quickly build mobile UIs using HTML5 and Dojo Mobile constructs. In no way does it limit the control you have over the underlying application source code, but it does make the construction of the views in your mobile application much simpler.
- Integration with IBM Cast Iron via an out of the box adapter. This adapter allows for bi-directional communication with IBM Cast Iron thereby delivering a rich set of application connectivity options right out of the box.
- Simulator for quickly testing mobile applications in a browser. The new Mobile Browser Simulator allows you to test your mobile application in a browser while simulating many different device form factors across a number of different platforms.
- Channel for easily sharing mobile applications during the development and test cycle. The new IBM Application Center makes it easy to share mobile applications amongst important stakeholders of a project while enabling those stakeholders to immediately provide feedback about the application.
- Much more. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself by visiting the developerWorks site for mobile development. On that page, you will find links to download the new IBM Worklight Developer Edition which provides the end-to-end capability of the platform installed as a set of Eclipse plugins. That’s right, the only thing required to install and get your hands on the product is an Eclipse environment! Furthermore, it is completely free to install and use on your local machine!
Okay, so this has gone on a little longer than I intended, but I wanted to wrap up by addressing one more thing. The entire mobile space is hot, and it is crowded with technology providers. A question that I often get asked from my clients is ‘Why IBM Worklight?’ While the answer always varies based on the unique scenario, it often comes back to a simple but profound statement: ‘IBM Worklight delivers a truly open approach for developing and running mobile applications.’ This is first encountered in the development environment where you can choose both the mobile application architecture and libraries that you want to use to do the job. It extends to the runtime by allowing you to quickly and easily integrate with a heterogeneous ecosystem of enterprise information systems. To be sure, there are many valuable and differentiating features and functions of the platform, and if you are so inclined I strongly encourage you to dive deeper into it (after all, it is free to try). That said, I do not think I can understate the value of a truly open platform!