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The Achilles Heel of Mobile Enterprise Apps

...is probably not what you think it is. And it's not something within the control of developers (though IT managers sure as heck do).

...is probably not what you think it is. And it's not something within the control of developers (though IT managers sure as heck do).

In order to tantalize/frustrate you a little longer, let's first take detour along memory lane to 2003, and the Rise of the MachinesWeb 2.0.

As they became inundated with Web traffic, Web 2.0 startups looked for cheaper, less brute-force solutions than their dot-com predecessors would, such as buying Sun servers or renting T3 lines.

Enter "load balancing," which describes the strategy of spreading out your Web or internal network traffic for better performance. This could be done in one of two ways: plopping in a switch-type product into your existing network, or re-architecting your network from several powerful central servers into a large, distributed 'server farm' made up of hundreds or even thousands of PCs.

Load balancing is no longer a hot topic, as the solution has pretty much trickled down from the Web to mainstream enterprises.

But mobility re-creates the need for enterprises to re-balance their workloads.

Why? When PCs were the primary device and 3G still just a dream, real-time access to data was neither important nor expected. Reports were e-mailed to you at regularly scheduled intervals - nobody went into Crystal Reports and pulled data themselves. Any ad hoc reports would be sent as a request to your friendly business analyst, who would then come back with something for you after several days or a week.

Today, we have powerful smartphones and tablets, 3G and 4G networks and easy-to-use mobile apps that connect directly back to the server. Everything on the front-end is enabled for real-time.

How about the back end? Not so much. Delays still abound. Suddenly, your application and data layers look out of balance again. There's your Achilles Heel.

Of course, switching server applications or middleware to decrease latency can frankly be expensive. But the ROI can be well worth it.

I've often talked up the sheer scale of the mobile device deployments at my parent company, SAP: 11,000 iPads, 5,000 iPhones, experiments with the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Amazon Kindle Fire, etc.

What's equally impressive, however, are what it's done on the back-end.

SAP's salespeople used to rely on Excel to track sales, one of many factors why "we had to wait 2, 3, 4 months to understand what was selling, what was not selling," said Global Sales President, Rob Enslin in a recent video.

Now, his salespeople as well as SAP executives can get such information instantly on their iPads. This is enabled by the use of SAP's HANA in-memory data appliance in conjunction with SAP BusinessObjects. Together, they accelerate the processing of 3 TB of CRM data so that it can crunched and manipulated by end users.

SAP heads know what I mean by the acronym COPA. It stands for the Profitability Analysis module of its long-standing ERP software.

HANA is also being used to speed up COPA internally at SAP. During a Tweetchat last week, CIO Oliver Bussmann revealed that HANA sped up processing time so much that a key KPI fell from 28 hours to 4 hours - a seven-fold improvement.

As Bussmann tweeted during his chat: "The combination of real-time data combined with the mobile access is the new killer app."

In other words: if you want to get the most out of your mobile devices and apps, then you need to bolster, if not overhaul, your back-end systems. By doing so, though, you'll regain your prior balance, but at a higher plane.

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Time for a quick commercial: Sybase, an SAP Company, has just released a new book, Mobility Manifesto: Transforming the Enterprise, for which I was the editor.

You can download it at www.MobilityManifesto.com. Expect a mix of snarky observations about the plight of mobility-starved workers, possibly like yourselves.

Mixed in also is helpful business strategy and actionable IT tactics. All with a minimum of shilling for Sybase and SAP products.

You could even send a copy of the book or e-book to your boss or CIO. It’s easier than Occupying his or her office, and may turn out to be just as effective.

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