Application refactoring can help companies extend the lives of outdated applications that are still essential to business operations.
Countless Windows legacy apps were written years, even decades, before mobile platforms like Apple iOS and Android came about, and so it follows that older business apps were not designed for mobile compatibility. Often, the original vendors have either gone out of business or been acquired by another company, which leaves IT to wade through the muck.
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IT pros should familiarize themselves with the concept of application refactoring, the process of taking a Windows desktop application and making it more mobile-friendly. This may sound akin to refurbishing a decade-old laptop, but app refactoring is starting to show signs of real promise.
Consider all the actions that are second nature to a mouse user but don't translate well to a mobile device with a touchscreen. On a desktop, users think nothing of clicking File or Edit on a menu, then navigating through another two or three layers underneath to find their chosen task. Display size is another recurrent challenge for legacy apps on mobile devices. A Win32 app written for a 23-inch, 1,600 pixel screen isn't easy to read or use on a device that fits in the palm of your hand -- at least not without ungainly pinching and zooming.
App refactoring vendors
Refactoring addresses these problems, using virtualization and adding code to modify the user interface (UI) of Windows legacy apps and make them more suitable for touchscreen devices. Let's take a deeper look at few of the prominent app refactoring vendors:
PowWow takes advantage of Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to modify and deliver legacy Windows and Web apps to iOS devices. It dissects the RDP stream and makes changes to specific UI components. With PowWow, admins can resize buttons to make them easier to press, replace scrollbars with touch-and-drag capabilities and add pop-up buttons in place of drop-down menus. None of this requires writing new application code or knowing the vagaries of an application program interface.
Reddo reflects the presentation layer of a legacy Windows app (Web apps aren't supported) to an HTML5 Web application, then optimizes it for mobile. Its side-by-side design screen lets IT pros with no development experience choose specific tasks and features from the Windows app (items like navigation controls, text and colors) to mobilize. The resulting application code is delivered via the Reddo Application Server to any endpoint device with an HTML5 browser. Reddo can also deploy the application as a hybrid of local and HTML5 applications with no browser.
Capriza lets organizations add mobile-specific features, such as camera access and location services, to their legacy apps. IT can deploy these modified applications, called Zapps, directly as an HTML5 Web app to any compatible browser. Capriza has specific support for SAP, Oracle and PeopleSoft applications as well as Microsoft SharePoint.
Framehawk was one of the early app refactoring pioneers. Citrix acquired the company in early 2014 and plans to incorporate Framehawk into its core HDX protocol used by XenApp and XenDesktop. Framehawk is unique in that it uses its own optimized mobile protocol, called Lightweight Framebuffer Protocol (LFP). LFP allows for the refactoring of traditional desktop apps, much like PowWow and Reddo, but it also optimizes their use over the unpredictable latency and performance that is common on the kinds of networks mobile devices use routinely.