Just last week IBM announced IBM MobileFirst, a multi-product initiative to pull together a comprehensive mobile computing platform. There was nothing in the announcement specific to the zEnterprise, but IBM has been telegraphing System z involvement in mobile for over a year.
In November of last year DancingDinosaur wrote of the z and all other platforms going mobile. Over a year earlier, DancingDinosaur was writing about using the z with smartphones. With SOA, Java, Linux, WebSphere, and Lotus running on the z and with data that mobile apps and users want residing on the machine, the zEnterprise should become over time a prime player in enterprise mobile business.
Doug Balog, general manager of IBM’s System z mainframe business, might have had MobileFirst in mind when he said in Computerworld that the next steps IBM is considering include making it easier for customers to run mobile and social networking applications on mainframes. Such an approach would, for example, benefit banks that want to offer mobile apps but still want the power and resilience of a mainframe behind those apps.
The first mobile workload you see on the zEnterprise, however, will not be Foursquare or some other funky mobile app. More likely, it will be an operational analytics app dissecting mobile banking transaction data or analyzing the behavior of anyone making purchases through their smartphone.
MobileFirst boasts what IBM describes as the broadest portfolio of mobile offerings covering platform, management, security, and analytics. In terms of platform, for instance, it currently offers streamlined deployment for private clouds on the PureApplication System. It provides single sign-on across multiple apps on a device, and supports all four of the latest mobile operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows, and BlackBerry). It can handle native, web, or hybrid app development, promises easy connectivity to existing data and services for mobile usage, and can be deployed on premise or through managed service delivery.
In terms of management and security MobileFirst offers unified management across all devices, making it suitable for BYOD. Similarly, it can secure sensitive data regardless of the device, including the option to remotely wipe corporate data. It also supports DOD-grade encryption and FIPS 140-2 compliance and will grant or deny email access based on device compliance. It also provides context-aware risk-based access control through IBM Worklight. More security is delivered through IBM Security Access Manager for Mobile and Cloud and IBM AppScan.
As for analytics, MobileFirst will automatically detect customer issues through user and mobile device data. It offers user behavior drill down through high fidelity replay and reporting to analyze the user experience. Finally, it correlates customer behavior with network and application data to determine conversion and retention rates and quantify business impact. It also can capture all activity on a device and link it to backend resources. Recently acquired Tealeaf will play a key role for user analytics and behavior.
As you would expect, in addition to acquisitions IBM is rapidly assembling an ecosystem of mobile players, carriers, and ISVs to build out a complete MobileFirst offering starting with players like AT&T, IBM as a surprising Apple VAR (US only), working with Nokia Siemens Networks to develop the IBM WebSphere Application Service Platform for Networks to run IT apps at the mobile network edge, and a slew of resources for developers. There even is an IBM Academic Initiative for Mobile patterned after the System z Academic Initiative to increase the availability of skilled mobile developers. IBM also is jump starting Mobile First with about 200 of its own applications; mainly old favorites like Cognos and its key middleware.
But MobileFirst isn’t IBM’s only initiative with a mobile component. IBM Connections has had a mobile component since August 2011. Similarly, Lotus Notes Traveler supports Notes mobile users on all the major smartphones through IBM Lotus Domino or Lotus Domino Express deployments, and in the IBM cloud with IBM SmartCloud Notes. Although they weren’t specifically called out in the MobileFirst briefing IBM assures DancingDinosaur they are included as part of the initiative’s application layer.
From the standpoint of a zEnterprise data center or any enterprise-class data center MobileFirst shouldn’t present a problem. Yes, it will increase the number and frequency of users accessing data handled through the data center and the number of devices they are using. And you’ll be running more data analytics more often. But IBM clearly has put effort into thinking through the critical security challenges of mobile and is providing a broad set of tools to begin addressing them. Sure, there is no RACF for mobile, at least not yet, but if it is needed you can bet there will be.