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Mobile oriented architecture: Making the case

Mobile oriented architecture (MOA) has the potential to enhance mobile device interactions with back-office applications while easing the burden of deploying applications with existing mobile middleware.

Mobile oriented architecture (MOA) has the potential to enhance mobile device interactions with back-office applications while easing the burden of deploying corporate applications with existing mobile middleware.

Much has been said about service oriented architectures (SOAs) in the past couple of years. Indeed, many of the major architecture/platform vendors (IBM, Oracle, SAP) have moved in that direction, defining new capabilities based on SOA that enable companies to build their applications in a componentized approach, driven primarily by Internet and "Web 2.0" related technologies. However, SOA has a number of challenges to overcome, despite early market gains.

Companies are deploying SOA as a way to connect disparate applications, allowing interactions among the various components built on Web-based standards that enable communications and data exchange (e.g., XML, HTTP, SOAP). Built on middleware and a standards-based interface, data can be presented in a number of ways and via a number of easily constructed user interfaces. Standards such as XML, SOAP, WSDL, JavaBeans, AJAX and so on allow applications built for a specific purpose -- SFA, CRM, dispatch/delivery, service, invoicing -- to reuse and retrieve information from existing databases, repositories and application data warehouses.

One major challenge awaiting SOA is full deployment to mobile devices, which are rapidly gaining in importance in the enterprise -- and eventually in the consumer space as well. SOA can potentially be used to create new clients and methodologies for deployment into the mobile realm. High-end smart devices employ fairly capable browsers (the key delivery platform for most SOA apps), but they nevertheless do not generally have the same level of capability as a full-featured PC-based browser (e.g., MSFT Internet Explorer, Firefox). Indeed, support for increasingly important SOA tools, such as AJAX, is not yet available from currently installed smartphone browsers (although within two years, we expect high-end devices to support such capability as processing power and other resources increase). It is particularly important for smart devices to deploy such off-line capability because significant power is expended in supporting real-time back-and-forth communications of large amounts of data, dramatically reducing battery life between charges.

We believe a new initiative is required that focuses on the best features of SOA but is architected to meet the needs of wireless smartphone devices currently deployed, as well as those that will be deployed in the next two to three years. This mobile oriented architecture (MOA) is closely related to current SOA initiatives but optimized for wireless smart devices, with their unique requirements (e.g., smaller screens, limited compute resources, less functional browsers, limited OS support). Further, we believe that a real effort by vendors to promote MOA would go a long way toward enhancing mobile device interactions with back-office applications and would ease the burden of deploying corporate applications with existing, mostly proprietary, mobile middleware. Indeed, with interoperability enhanced, and with the ability to "plug and play" with a variety of already installed platforms, the uptake on mobile applications due to MOA would accelerate dramatically.

Bottom Line: We see some preliminary steps being taken in this direction by some specialized mobile middleware players (e.g., Dexterra, Antenna SW) and a few of the bigger players, but we believe more needs to be done. The major players (MSFT, Oracle, SAP, Sybase/iAnywhere, RIM, Good, Nokia) need to be more proactive in making MOA a reality across the industry. We expect that increasing momentum in mobile application interoperability will force the issue over the next one to two years, and MOA will become a standardized approach to mobile deployment within the next three to four years, although we do not expect proprietary mobile middleware to disappear altogether.

About the author: Jack Gold is founder and principal analyst at J.Gold Associates, an industry analyst firm, located in Northborough, Mass., which focuses on wireless and mobile issues. He can be reached at

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