MobileIBM Worklight: Big Blue's Arsenal for Mobile App Developers

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I BM’s Worklight, the main ingredient in the company’s push to appeal to mobile application developers, is helping Big Blue win in the mobile space while aiding enterprises in cutting development costs.

IBM Worklight provides an open, comprehensive mobile application platform for smartphones and tablets. It is a mobile application development platform that delivers mobile application development, management and maintenance capabilities to clients across a wide range of industries, including retail, financial services, technology, travel and hospitality, and manufacturing.

With the Worklight tooling, organizations can create and run HTML5, hybrid and native applications for smartphones, and tablets with industry-standard technologies and tools. Worklight provides a complete and extensible integrated development environment (IDE), next-generation mobile middleware, management and analytics. Worklight also reduces time to market, cost and complexity. And by enabling organizations to only develop and integrate the applications once—for any platform—it frees up time, resources and skills to focus on other business opportunities.

From a development standpoint, the platform enables developers to choose the appropriate application architecture—mobile Web, hybrid or native—as well as the libraries they use to build their application. Worklight ships with the Dojo Mobile JavaScript framework and Apache Cordova, but developers can use any other Web or native libraries they need to get the job done. Furthermore, the development environment is not built on the premise of code generators or transcoders, IBM said. When using Worklight, developers retain full and direct control over the source code of the application.

Mobile applications delivered through Worklight leverage common Web technologies across multiple devices, without sacrificing the ability to tap the power of native technologies and tools, such as Objective-C, xCode or Android, said IBM IT architect Harish Shenoy. As such, native code can also be added to applications targeted to specific operating systems, if desired. “Features of specific mobile devices can be accessed by your applications using Apache Cordova or native APIs combined with the shared common code base,” he said.

The Worklight platform consists of four main components: IBM Worklight Studio, IBM Worklight Server, IBM Worklight Device Runtime Components and IBM Worklight Console. IBM Worklight Studio is an Eclipse-based IDE that enables developers to perform all the coding and integration tasks required to develop a fully operational mobile application for various mobile operating systems.

IBM Worklight Server is a Java-based server that is a gateway between applications, external services and the enterprise back-end infrastructure. It supports IBM WebSphere Application Server and Apache Tomcat runtime environments for executing Worklight applications. IBM Worklight Device Runtime Components consist of client-side run time code that embeds server functionality within the target environment of deployed applications. And the IBM Worklight Console is a Web-based administrative console that supports the ongoing monitoring and administration of the Worklight Server and its deployed applications, adapters and push notifications.

There also is a fifth component to Worklight, IBM Worklight Application Center, which is an enterprise app store that helps organizations govern the distribution of production-ready mobile apps across the enterprise. The Worklight Application Center can also be used by development teams to automate the distribution of pre-release software versions and analyze feedback by version and device, accelerating cycle time.

IBM completed its acquisition of Worklight, a privately held Israel-based provider of mobile software, in February 2012. With the acquisition, IBM’s mobile offerings grew to span mobile application development, integration, security and management, and Worklight became a key piece of IBM’s mobility strategy, offering an open platform that helps speed the delivery of existing and new mobile applications to multiple devices. It also helps enable secure connections between smartphone and tablet applications with enterprise IT systems–making it useful for bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, strategies in IT organizations.

IBM’s development and integration tools, complemented by Worklight, help developers build mobile applications and their supporting infrastructures just once for a variety of platforms—including Apple iOS and Google Android—while offering capabilities to securely connect to corporate IT systems.

Worklight also is a key component in the IBM MobileFirst family of solutions. In August, Gartner positioned IBM as a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Mobile Application Development Platforms.

“Today, with 90 percent of mobile users keeping their devices within arm’s reach 100 percent of the time, businesses need assurance that mobile apps can be deployed instantly and across a range of mobile devices, including iOS and Android phones and tablets,” said Phil Buckellew, vice president of IBM Mobile Enterprise. “This is where IBM Worklight and the IBM MobileFirst portfolio excel.”

In February 2013, IBM and AT&T announced an expanded relationship to provide software developers with a set of new tools to create and deploy next-generation mobile apps. That relationship gave AT&T API Platform users access to IBM Worklight Adapters, which enabled the more than 31,000 members of the AT&T Developer Program to create and deploy enterprise apps that improve subscriber engagement and customer loyalty. With these adapters that support AT&T’s ecosystem of APIs—including those for speech, Short Message Service (SMS), device capabilities, notary management and payment —developers can quickly and securely create rich, business-ready apps across a variety of platforms, including iOS, Android and Windows.

“AT&T is committed to the success of our rapidly growing developer community,” said Carlton Hill, vice president of developer services at AT&T. “By expanding our platform’s reach and making our API toolkit available on an expanding number of platforms, including IBM Worklight, our developers have the information, tools and resources to continue to build great things and contribute to the mobile ecosystem in meaningful new ways.”

An April 2013 Forrester research report, said, “The Worklight platform enables enterprises to create and integrate apps across multiple platforms with lower costs than doing so in a native environment.” Content maintenance becomes significantly easier on the Worklight platform, with typical savings of 80 percent, the study said.

“In terms of the design and development of the app, there are two important ways in which cost savings are created,” the Forrester report said. “First of all the majority of the coding of the app software can be reused across all the different platforms; in a native environment the scope for this is much more limited. Moreover a single multiplatform app is developed in one project on the Worklight platform, while in a native environment the project costs are replicated for each of the platforms.”


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