Mobile apps need service-oriented systems behind them

Service oriented architecture was intended to render technologies and device choices irrelevant. This plays well in the BYOD era, when a new device comes through the door every day.

Will organizations with strong investments in service oriented architecture fare better with mobile apps? 

iPhone in use-photo by Joe McKendrick
Photo: Joe McKendrick

Tigerspike's Zaheer Hamza thinks so. He just did a great job of connecting the dots between service-oriented thinking and the emerging mobile app space.

The rise of mobile -- as has been the case with enterprise cloud -- has rejuvenated SOA discussions. "Start talking about enterprise mobile solutions, and immediately, you conjure up thoughts of back-end services needing to collaborate," Hamza points out. SOA is the way you design back-end services that will support mobile -- and any other -- client interface. He also has an interesting choice of words: SOA is about "standardizing on the inside" to "differentiate on the outside." This especially becomes relevant in today's BYOD era, when IT leaders have no idea what kind of device end users are going to bring in the door tomorrow. A well-designed IT architecture needs to be ready to support anything.

Hamza points to factors that make SOA the best way -- the only way -- to support mobile. With SOA, of course, we're not talking about a specific technology, but rather, a philosophy, a way of thinking, in which applications are deconstructed into standardized, reusable, essential services. The intention of SOA is to make various functions available as services that can be run across any type of system or device. As SOA was first designed over the past decade, no one could have imagined how many applications and hos much information would be flowing through smartphones and tablets. But many SOA proponents at the time intuitively recognized that what they were doing would accommodate technologies platforms and devices that had not yet been imagined.

So it has come to pass with today's mobile scene.

Having a service-oriented back end paves the way for reliable, real-time information for business transactions. Business-to-business (B2B) mobile applications provide "access to real-time information, therefore allowing better servicing for end customers," Hamza states. "Businesses can also use mobile devices to track availability of services or inventory shipments from vendors and ensure merchandise is available for customers when needed."

In addition, he adds, real-time data enhances mobile business analytics, thus improving cross-selling capabilities. Mobile is also a competitive tool for employees, and now play a role in improving sales, customer service, scheduling and dispatch, says Hamza.

All of this would be difficult without back-end systems abstracted as services.