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Kinvey MBaaS tool helps apps access SAP back-end systems

Enterprise developers can use a new mobile backend as a service offering to connect their applications to SAP back-end systems without as much hassle.

Enterprise developers can find it challenging to connect mobile apps to SAP back-end systems, but new MBaaS technology can help.

If a developer is unfamiliar with SAP coding, or works for a small business that can't afford SAP's own back-end offerings that are aimed at larger customers, mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) can provide a workaround. MBaaS provider Kinvey in May launched Mobile Data Connect for SAP, which offers a less complicated, less expensive and faster approach to connecting apps to SAP back-end systems, said Anu Gupta, an IT director at Bell and Howell LLC, a communications software provider in Durham, N.C.

"They are taking the complexity out of the development of business apps and the integration with SAP," said Gupta, a Kinvey and SAP customer. "You don't have to worry about how SAP will behave; you just worry about the API."

MBaaS products give developers common APIs and software developer's kits (SDKs) that connect their apps to servers, storage, databases and third-party data stores. Otherwise, a developer would have to use individual APIs from each back-end service, which can be much more complicated to deal with, Gupta said. This technology allows developers to focus on front-end app development, rather than the complex back-end infrastructure.

The new Kinvey MBaaS tool provides SDKs, so developers don't have to write code to connect their apps to SAP back-end systems. These SDKs are available across 13 different development languages and platforms, including HTML5, Xamarin, Java, AngularJS, Backbone.js, Ember.js and PhoneGap, in addition to the iOS, Android and Windows mobile operating systems.

"Mobility is forcing these apps to be available through different channels," such as native, web and cloud, said Sravish Sridhar, CEO at Kinvey, based in Boston.

Mobility is forcing these apps to be available through different channels.
Sravish SridharCEO, Kinvey

The security protocols in the new Kinvey MBaaS offering aim to ensure regulatory compliance. All data mobile devices receive and store is encrypted, and Kinvey also provides an audit log that tracks every action an app takes.

The audit log can be a helpful feature for resolving issues users are having, because it allows IT to see what actions they've taken within an app, Gupta said.

"If they don't know how to do it correctly at first, we can see what they did wrong and address it," he said.

SAP and Apple

SAP recently inked a deal with Apple through which they will offer customers an SDK to build their own iOS apps that take advantage of SAP technologies -- specifically, the HANA cloud database management system for data analytics. SAP's 2.5 million developers will also be able to build enterprise iOS apps using Apple's Swift programming language.

The companies will roll out the SDK later this year. Pricing is not yet available, but SAP's offerings will likely be expensive and complex, Gupta said.

"I've been with SAP for more than 18 years, and I've yet to see SAP do something simply," he said. "Will they come with cool tools? I have no doubt about it, but they are pricing us out. We try to implement SAP solutions ... but we are a smaller company, and they are too expensive for us."

Mobile Data Connect for SAP is easier to use and less expensive than SAP offerings, which is why Bell and Howell uses Kinvey to connect to SAP, Gupta said.

Mobile Data Connect is available as part of Kinvey's business edition, which costs $24,000 per year. The cost savings come from Kinvey building and maintaining the connections to SAP back-end systems, because most customers don't have the resources to do it themselves, Kinvey said. 

An issue with the partnership between Apple and SAP is it does not address other mobile operating systems or SAP applications, Sridhar said.

"It doesn't do a lot for existing SAP customers who use Android, Windows or don't have HANA," he said.

SAP's objective with HANA is to make it easier to integrate with other SAP back-end systems, so there is not a need for customers of any size to use third-party middleware products, an SAP spokesperson said.

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