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What Is IBM MobileFirst?

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Demystifying IBM’s mobile application development offering.

IBM MobileFirst (formerly IBM WorkLight) is an enterprise-grade suite of tools which help you build mobile applications. I want to give you a little insight of how MobileFirst is structured, in terms of a high level technical infrastructure overview and your pricing options.

MobileFirst is made up of three primary components:

MobileFirst Platform Foundation

MobileFirst Platform Foundation (again, formerly WorkLight Platform Foundation) is a enterprise-grade mobile application development platform, which includes application development and security tools that assist in application life cycle management. It’s available both on-premises and as a cloud offering.

There are number of distinct components of Platform Foundation:

  • MobileFirst Server—Acts as middleware between back-end business data and mobile applications.
  • MobileFirst API—Sets of both client- and server-side Application Programming Interfaces (API).
  • MobileFirst Studio—An Eclipse-based development environment that includes an integrated server and hybrid app simulator. MobileFirst Studio is optional, which means you don’t need it to manage MobileFirst Server or create your data adaptors. Instead, you can do this by way of a command line.
  • MobileFirst Platform Operations Console—A web-based user interface used to monitor and administrate deployed applications, adapters, and push notifications. Console also allows access to logs, analytics, device profiling, and more.

MobileFirst Platform Application Scanning

Platform Application Scanning is probably the most obvious IBM product title I’ve seen in a while. It does exactly what it says it does: It integrates security testing and identifies application source code vulnerabilities as part of the software development life cycle so they can be fixed before deployment.

It touts the following features:

  • Stronger and more complete software security through integration with IBM Security AppScan
  • Improved intelligence through integration with existing tools and processes, such as application development, build integration, and security monitoring
  • Security best practices through optional management and enforcement of security policies
  • Governance and compliance assurance that address security requirements and best practices

MobileFirst Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance connects directly with both end users and developers when testing applications. Its main features are:

  • User feedback and sentiment analysis deliver user input from within the app and mined from public app stores.
  • Automated crash analytics provide context-rich crash logs from beta and released apps automatically.
  • In-app bug reporting allows defects to be submitted in seconds while using the app from your mobile device.
  • Over-the-air app build distribution provides the latest information and builds to testers.
  • Evidence-based prioritization enables business and IT professionals to collaborate on mobile strategy and user experience.

As far as platform support for MobileFirst goes, for Power Systems you’re looking at three options: Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) Server 7, Ubuntu 14.04, and AIX 7.1/7.2. Sorry, no IBM i. It also runs Windows Server 2012 on x86-64 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 12 on z Systems. I’ll digress and say you’ll see your SUSE options be limited in the future as Red Hat appears to be the Linux distribution standard du jour for IBM as of late.

Now, will you ever see MobileFirst running on IBM i? Probably not. That doesn’t mean it can’t interface with your IBM i systems of record. Quite the opposite. The value with MobileFirst is that it can tap into just about any back-end database, no matter the operating system.

The thing you need to know about MobileFirst is that it’s not cheap. The only product I could find on Passport Advantage was Platform Application Scanning, and depending on the license (fixed/floating user, etc.), it was anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000 per seat. I’ve read that MobileFirst Foundation starts at $36,000 per seat, but I haven’t confirmed it. This is an enterprise tool and is priced as such. That’s probably why you can’t find anything online regarding price either. The sticker shock is probably a full-fledged chest-grabber to the average SMB account.

If you’re an SMB shop that wants to investigate MobileFirst, the cloud offering is where you should start.

The Bluemix pricing options are as follows:

  • Developer—Use one or more instances of Mobile Foundation server free for 365 hours each month for development and testing activities only. Not valid for production. Price: $0.0069 USD/GB-hour.
  • Developer Pro—Use Mobile Foundation for team-based development and testing of any number of mobile applications. Get 375 GB-hours free per account per month. Not suitable for production. Price: $0.15 USD/GB-hour.
  • Professional Per Capacity—Use Mobile Foundation in production for any number of mobile applications. Get 375 GB-hours free per account per month. Price: $0.30 USD/GB-hour.
  • Professional 1 Application—The Mobile Foundation server that is provisioned can host a single mobile application in production, with unlimited mobile users. Price: $5,000 per instance.

How does IBM come up with its GB-hour value? Each application has a total number of instances, each taking up space in GB. You multiply the number of hours your instance is running by the total GB in application instances. For example, let’s say you have two applications taking up 2 GB each (a total of 4 GB) running for 24 hours under Professional Per Capacity. Multiply 4 by 24 and you have 96 GB-hours. Multiply that by $0.30 and you have a grand total of $28.80 spent on one day of production for two applications taking up a total of 4 GB space. For a full year, that will run you $10,512. You can have as many applications as you like. Just know you’re charged by the GB rather than the app. In this instance, the Professional 1 Application service for two applications would save you $500 USD for the year. You have to weigh the pros and cons. A couple of applications that only take up 0.5 GB would make the Professional Per Capacity the best option. For a single, heavy application in terms of storage, the Professional 1 Application is your best bet.

If you’re just kicking the tires and want to test, a $0.0069 price point can’t be beat for a couple weeks of testing and a small application.

It isn’t too shabby on the surface. Mind you, I’ve not dug in too deep. This is just to show you the cloud costs on the surface. It’s possible your IBM Business Partner could help make the cost more attractive.

Here’s where you can go to get started.

Steve Pitcher
Steve Pitcher is a specialist in IBM i and IBM Lotus Domino solutions since 2001. Visit Steve's website, follow his Twitter account, or contact him directly at steven.carl.pitcher@gmail.com.

Website: blog.itechsol.com 
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