IBM MobileFirst Platform goes modular

Enterprises can pick and choose which parts of IBM's mobile development and management platform they want to buy and deploy.

LAS VEGAS -- The retooled IBM MobileFirst Platform aims to make it easier for enterprises to buy its various mobile development and management products.

IBM will make MobileFirst available as four different product sets, from which customers can pick and choose to meet their needs.

"It's really well-designed for people to take components and use it for a large variety of line-of-business apps," said Eric Klein, senior analyst at VDC Research in Natick, Mass., at the IBM InterConnect conference here.

The four modules are:

Continuously Improve, for in-app usage analytics and management of application refresh cycles;

Secure, which includes the enterprise mobility management product formerly known as Fiberlink MaaS360, plus a productivity suite, identity management, threat management, document sharing and a secure gateway; 

Contextualize and Personalize, which allows developers to build location- and context-aware mobile apps;

Enrich with Data, an integration with IBM's Cloudant database as a service, for developers to connect mobile apps to a wide variety of internal and external data sources.

The modules are available to deploy on-premises, in the cloud or in hybrid scenarios. IBM did not disclose pricing details, but a spokesperson said customers can pay as they go or  buy monthly or perpetual licenses.

This new go-to-market approach could simplify the buying process, said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates in Northborough, Mass.

"IBM has always had lots of tech," he said. "What they've never been really good at is putting it together into an easy-to-digest solution."

Large enterprise customers typically rely on IBM services to implement and integrate multiple products.

"Those folks are more willing to put up with those services and write those big checks," Gold said. "But what about the mid-size [companies]?"

MobileFirst features missing

The lack of major new MobileFirst features also left some IBM InterConnect attendees wanting more this week.

"It's a little quieter on the mobile front than I would've expected," Klein said.

One new feature that did pique attendees' interest was MobileFirst's support for existing enterprise applications. Previously, the platform only handled apps built in MobileFirst.

"We wanted to be able to make sure that people didn't feel like they had to start from scratch and build everything brand new in order to get the benefits of the portfolio," said Phil Buckellew, vice president of IBM MobileFirst.

IBM will also release an iOS-specific version of the MobileFirst Platform as part of its partnership with Apple.

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I think the in-app usage analytics are still inadequate for mid-size companies.  I do think the platform makes it easier to complete payroll oriented tasks.
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