San Francisco - Gartner Symposium/ITxpo — Between the existing ranks of mobile workers who now need the ability to access/update records in real time, and the new ranks of workers who can now leave the office by virtue of the latest mobile enablers, one of the biggest challenges to enterprises looking to to keep all of them in touch with back office systems in real time is building the end-to-end application. First, there's the variety of devices on the client side to deal with (PDAs, tablets, notebooks, smartphones, BlackBerries, etc.). Then, provided you can get to some functional state on the mobile device side, you still have tie it to whatever system lives on the back end. For example, an ERP or CRM system from Oracle, Siebel, or SAP.
Here at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, Dexterra is showing off an application development framework that its marketing director Jason Nadal claims will give developers the equivalent of a 300-meter head start in a 400-meter race (I was never good at the mile). In a nutshell, Dexterra shortcuts what could otherwise be a very laborious development cycle by providing pre-canned mobile applications on the device side as well as vendor-specific connectors that wire them up to the back-office end of the equation. If, for example, you were to develop a field service application that ties into Siebel's CRM system, between Dexterra's pre-canned field service application and it's Siebel connector, enterprises can get a huge head start on the mobile project.
During the interview (which is available as an MP3 that can be downloaded or, if you’re already subscribed to ZDNet’s IT Matters series of audio podcasts, it will show up on your system or MP3 player automatically. See ZDNet’s podcasts: How to tune in), Nadal talks about how the company may offer canned solutions, but also describes how enterprises can take the shrink-wrapped vertically-oriented code and modify it to their heart's content. To date, Dexterra has focused exclusively on Microsoft's .Net and, in making provisions for its code to be modified, the company offers a plug-in that works with the integrated development environment (IDE) in Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net.
Here at the show, however, Dexterra is announcing that it will add support for Java-based devices such as BlackBerries and Symbian-based smartphones. On the Java IDE side, the company's development modules will plug into Eclipse as opposed to NetBeans.
On the downside, getting the sort of headstart that Dexterra may give you doesn't come cheap. Architecturally, the solution involves three parts -- the technology that goes into the mobile clients, a server that sits in the middle tier, and the connectors that run on that server to connect the mobile workers to whatever back-end enterprise software they need to be connected to. Whereas the connector comes at a one-time cost, both the client and server components are billed on a per seat basis that adds up to be about $1000 per user. At that rate, a break even analysis might easily yield a point (a number of users) where it makes more sense to go for a less-expensive solution that requires you to develop your mobile applications from scratch. Of course, that may take longer and time can be an issue in highly competitive environments.