IBM last week unveiled an expansive new strategy to deliver mobile business solutions under MobileFirst, its new brand of software and services for delivering apps on smartphones and tablets. With MobileFirst, IBM seeks to bring together all of the elements required by an enterprise to successfully roll-out mobile solutions, including development, deployment, device management, and security tools. And, IBM being IBM, it also includes a healthy dose of professional services, but no apparent IBM i hooks at this time.
MobileFirst is an umbrella brand that brings together many pieces of software that already existed in IBM’s portfolio, but it introduces some new software as well. There are literally dozens of products parked under the new MobileFirst banner, including products from familiar IBM brands like WebSphere, Rational, Domino, Tivoli, and Cognos. Recent IBM acquisitions, like Q1 Labs (security), Emptoris (expense and expenditure management), and Tealeaf (customer experience management) also play a part.
IBM breaks MobileFirst products down into four main categories, including MobileFirst Platform, MobileFirst Security, MobileFirst Management, and MobileFirst Analytics. Within these four, there are no less than 28 individually named products and services sitting under Big Blue’s new mobile umbrella. Simplicity has never been IBM’s strong suit, and apparently it’s not going to start now.
The key product under the new MobileFirst Platform is Mobile Foundation, a pre-existing suite that previously combined three tools but now appears to sport only two: Worklight, an HTML 5 mobile application development and runtime environment that includes a Java-based server component and an Eclipse-based studio; and WebSphere Cast Iron, an integration framework for connecting on-premise and cloud applications and systems.
Worklight, you will remember, is on the short list of IBM apps that several prominent IBM i experts, including Roxanne Reynolds-Lair, the Power Systems champion and CIO of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, want running and supported on IBM i. The work done by Reynolds-Lair and another Power Systems champion, Steve Pitcher, were instrumental in getting other new IBM offerings supported on the platform, including Notes Traveler and IBM Connections, both of which IBM has committed to supporting on IBM i.
And lo! What do we have here but an IBM announcement letter on February 19 for Worklight version 5.0.6. Could it, would it, include a statement of direction in support of IBM i? As diligent readers scroll down, they read:
"IBM intends to provide additional platform support for the IBM Worklight product offerings in response to customer feedback and market demand…IBM anticipates extending support to IBM System z hardware and the IBM z/OS operating system in the future." Actually, IBM committed to supporting z/OS with Worklight back in September, so this isn’t news. What is disheartening is that Worklight apps can be served up from z/OS, Windows, AIX, Solaris, Linux, and Mac OS–every "major" business OS but IBM i (and HP-UX).
Worklight isn’t the only component of MobileFirst Foundation. IBM CLM [collaborative lifecycle management] suite, which in turn is composed of Rational Requirements Composer, Team Concert, and Quality Manager, is also a part of MobileFirst Foundation. Others include Rational Test Workbench; Web Experience Solutions; Lotus Domino Designer; and WebSphere MQ.
MobileFirst Management is based largely on IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices, which previously was called just Endpoint Manager when it was part of the Mobile Foundation. Endpoint Manager is a Windows/SQL Server-based app that enables businesses to adopt "bring your own device" (BYOD) strategies, and supports all popular mobile platforms, including iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, and Symbian. MobileFirst Management also includes Tivoli Netcool/OMNIbus, WebSphere Datapower, and Emptoris Rivermine Telecom Expense Management.
MobileFirst Security includes a new release of Security AppScan that has been gussied up to spot potential vulnerabilities in iOS apps; it previously supported Android. The Security Access Manager for Cloud and Mobile component delivers single sign on (SSO) capability for mobile apps–definitively a nice thing to have in enterprise environments. Integration with the security information and event management (SIEM) product QRadar is also part of MobileFirst Security, turning tablets and smartphones into listening posts to detect the activities of hackers and cybercriminals, while Mobile Connect establishes a virtual private network (VPN) connection between a mobile device and a server.
On the analytics front, IBM has crammed several apps into MobileFirst Analytics boat, including: Tealeaf CX Mobile, for detecting potential problems in the mobile user’s experience; Mobile Commerce, for mobile e-commerce; and Cognos Mobile, for accessing Cognos reports, dashboards, and metrics from mobile devices.
Bringing all these tools to bear on customers’ mobile strategies may be difficult, but never fear: IBM Global Services is here! MobileFirst has a wide array of services components, including: mobile application development; integration with back-office systems; infrastructure and planning; network integration; running mobile apps from the cloud; and embedding unified communications and collaboration (UCC) capabilities into mobile apps.
IBM also unveiled a new partnership with AT&T to integrate Worklight apps with AT&T’s cloud APIs. There’s also a new program called "Ready for IBM MobileFirst" to get ISVs going with the new brand, and new initiatives with colleges, too. IBM financing also got into the MobileFirst act.
It is almost as if every department in IBM gets to play a part in MobileFirst, which is undoubtedly what led IBM to call MobileFirst the first "true end-to-end mobile solution" that businesses can use to "transform their entire business model." Considering that most of the tools already existed in IBM’s portfolio, that claim is a stretch. (It is even more of a stretch unless IBM has done the hard work to integrate the tools, not only from a functional aspect, but from a licensing aspect, too). Every organization will have specific needs as it relates to mobile, so there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution, despite whatever messaging IBM’s marketing committees agree on.
With so many components in MobileFirst, it is likely that any given organization will find something that addresses at least some their mobile needs. And customers can even look outside of the MobileFirst family, to tools such as Rational Application Developer and Rational Business Developer, which gained Dojo X Mobile support in 2011, but which missed the first departure of the MobileFirst train.
It is clear that MobileFirst represents the product branding that IBM is using for its smartphone and tablet computing solutions, and it will undoubtedly evolve in the future. Now all that IBM needs to do is support IBM i with Worklight–the foundational element of MobileFirst–and it will have piqued the attention of 150,000 of its best customers.