While many extoll the virtues of working on the go, it’s not always easy for companies to build the applications, databases and infrastructure to make it possible.
SAP hopes to address the burgeoning demand for mobile applications with the newly released version 3.0 of its SAP Mobile Platform. The company announced the new release along with a cloud-based version of the platform at SAP TechEd this week.
Version 3.0 places an emphasis on open-source standards and multiplatform compatibility, and SAP promises that the “platform will require no re-engineering of processes, resources, or existing infrastructure.” The company aspires to keep developers “out of the weeds” and focused on delivering a compelling user experience.
With more mobile-only users  on the rise, SAP is making bold and serious strides to address the need for mobile-friendly applications and experiences.
“Mobile is a major thing for us here at SAP,” says Jim Jacquet, senior director of product marketing. “Mobile is not some fad. It's not something a company is going to get into for one year or two years and turn off and just go back to desktop computing."
The company uses the SAP Mobile Platform internally to “scale and support more than 55,000 devices and 60 mobile apps across all business functions.”
The numerous functions and lines of business within a company are one reason that SAP believes its standards-based, platform approach to building and managing mobile applications makes sense.
It’s not uncommon in companies today for marketing to contract with an outside firm to build one mobile app while HR or sales to do the same with another vendor. That creates a nightmare for IT departments as they try to manage and support all of these fractured applications with different requirements and developers. It also hurts the growth of IT professionals within the company.
“You're not building core skill sets where you can take a pool of developers and use them for other projects,” says Jacquet.
Additionally, differences in authentication and back-end access can put the organization at risk.
“Those two are tricky. If you don't do it properly you can create [security] vulnerabilities,” says Jacquet.
Since mobile devices usually come with some sort of wireless connectivity, it would make sense to go with a cloud-first approach for application development and management, right? Yes and no.
In a move to address the need for cloud-hosted services and applications, SAP is releasing a cloud version of the SAP Mobile Platform built on its SAP HANA Cloud Platform . The cloud version allows for scale and rapid deployment, but it doesn’t feature the full functionality of the on-premises version.
“If you want to take a packaged application from SAP and deploy it to 50 users and just evaluate the business case and see a return on mobile, that's a great reason to use the cloud [version],” says Jacquet.
But for companies that need to deploy larger, more complex applications and host their own data center (and are staffed with a dedicated IT team), deploying the SAP Mobile Platform on premises is a worthwhile and incremental amount of change to support, he adds.
Part of SAP’s goal with its mobile platform is to push the mobile industry toward a standards-based approach. That means building applications and tools in HTML5 rather than native code .
The company’s App Builder runs in a browser and simplifies the process for creating HTML5 applications.
“We make heavy use of HTML5. It's built into the product as well as support for HTML5 apps,” says Jacquet.
But that doesn’t mean the platform ignores native apps.
“There are use cases that lend themselves to a native implementation as opposed to hybrid,” he says.
For example, if a group of executives needs an application and they’re all using iPads, it makes sense to build a native app for this group, since the scale is manageable, Jacquet says. With consumer-facing apps, supporting multiple native apps becomes far more challenging.
But regardless of the coding approach, there’s no denying the growth of mobile app development in the enterprise.
“A lot of companies will probably work their way up to 40 different mobile applications over the next few years,” says Jacquet — which makes the need for a scalable, manageable and user-friendly mobile app platform toolset all the more pressing.
Watch this promotional video to get an overview of the new features in SAP Mobile Platform 3.0