Enterprise Mobile Workforce – strategic advantage for your business or just a fad (Part 1)

History

We consider Nineties to be years of computerization with advancements from the use of main-frames to PCs/ laptops, where LAN and WAN gave rise to the Internet and emergence of the ‘second generation’ mobile phone systems which used digital instead of analog transmission. The rise in mobile phone usage as a result of 2G was explosive and created a demand for data to browse the internet with greater speeds. Due to the net boom the industry began to create the next generation of technology known as 3G. Launched in 2001, 3G technology resulted in introduction of handheld devices and smartphones giving popularity to the likes of the Palm and Blackberry. Until 2006 only 64 Million smartphones were sold worldwide and Android, iOS, Windows phones were not in existence. The smartphone revolution began in 2007 when Apple introduced iPhone which was the first full platform phone. By the third quarter of 2012, one billion smartphones were in use worldwide –  65% of mobile consumers owned smartphones in the US alone. 4th generation (4G) technologies are now 10 times faster than 3G and faster Wi-Fi networks have helped drive the mass adoption of mobile phones and handheld devices in the market.

5

The Current Trend

By January 2016, smartphone adoption reached 79% of mobile consumers in the US. The latest report from the Pew Research Center found that 92% of U.S. adults own a mobile phone. In fact, mobile phones have now surpassed PCs, and the analysts have starting terming this era as the post PC era. The trend away from computers is particularly evident among adults under the age of 30 where only 78% own a laptop or desktop computer, compared to 88% in 2010. Mobile technology has reached a tipping point in businesses too and mobile adoption has reached a critical mass among their employees. Forrester, in the 2013 Mobile Workforce Adoption Trends report stated that 37% of employees work from multiple locations, 82% use multiple apps, and 53% use multiple devices.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) 6

Today, many people use tablets and smartphones in their everyday lives which has led to a number of companies, to allow their employees to bring their own devices (BYOD) to work as they perceive productivity gains and cost savings. Many businesses are finding that their employees are also willing to leverage their own devices for business applications.

 

Risks

But this practice of BYOD in Enterprises has its associated risks: 7

 

Graphic - BYOD The Issues

  • Security Concerns like end node problems, data breaches, monitoring personal devices, malware exposure, administration of large number of devices
  • Complexity of continuously keeping up with the new technology
  • Companies apprehend that usage of mobile at workspace to be more of a distraction than a benefit
  • Enterprise data privacy
  • Scalability and Capability: Many organizations today lack proper network infrastructure to handle the heavy traffic which will be generated when employees will start using different devices at the same time
  • Phone Number Problem: is a key issue of BYOD which is often overlooked where employees leaving the company, take their phone number with them, raising the question of the ownership of the phone number. Customers calling the number may be calling competitors leading to loss of business for BYOD enterprises.

 

Adoption

Earlier International research revealed that only 20% of employees have signed a BYOD policy but in the recent years (BYOD) phenomenon is rising from 31 percent in 2010 to 41 percent in 20111 Analysts suggest a variety of sectors where BYOD can improve productivity and provide easy access to required data and information anytime and anywhere. Despite the known associated risks, employers across the US are increasingly recognizing that the way we work today has changed drastically, and it is becoming evident that mobile workforces are the way of the future. The U.S. office of personnel management agrees that the anytime, anywhere work environment is here to stay, In his “Presidential Memorandum – Enhancing Workplace Flexibilities and Work-Life Program” President Obama mentioned that “To attract, empower, and retain a talented and productive workforce in the 21st century, the Federal Government must continue to make progress in enabling employees to balance their responsibilities at work and at home”2  even more stressing the need of an always connected mobile workforce. However, to realize the full potential of fully connected anytime, anywhere and on any-device (mobile) workforce with real time access to organization’s information systems, businesses need to address and mitigate the associated risks.

 

Solutions

Enterprises mitigate risks by using many of the following policies to address mobile security concerns:

 

Mobile Device Management (MDM)

primarily deals with integrating and managing mobile devices, segregation of corporate information and data, securing of emails, securing of corporate documents and enforcing corporate policies on information security. MDM controls on-device applications and content, it controls and protects the data and configures settings of all mobile devices connected to the organization’s network. It can be implemented both on-premises and on the cloud. It optimizes the functionality and security of a mobile communications network while minimizing cost and downtime and is leveraged for both company-owned (CYOD) and employee-owned (BYOD) devices across the enterprise.

 

Mobile Application Management (MAM)

is driven by the widespread adoption and use of mobile applications in business environment. Forrester forecasted in 2011 that the “mobile management services market” would reach $6.6 Billion by 2015.3 In April 2016, another research firm named markets and markets reported that the Managed Mobility Services (MMS) market is in the introductory phase where it is expected to grow from USD 4.56 Billion in 2016 to USD 19.40 Billion by 2021, at a high Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 33.6% 4 We see a rise in the usage of mobile devices in the enterprises – with rise in usage of mobile applications by the stakeholders of an enterprise including its employees, decision makers, LOBs and customers. The report also stated that organizations were broadening their “mobility strategy” beyond mobile device management to “managing a growing number of mobile applications.” When an employee brings a personal device into the business environment, MAM enables the corporate IT to download business applications on the device and control access to business data. It ensures that if the device is lost, or when an employee leaves locally cached business data can be removed from it.

 

Containerization

segregates enterprise and personal assets in the device by completely isolating personal assets from enterprise assets and the enterprise network. Users are able to use their devices for convenient and secured enterprise access. IT creates and manage ‘containers’ that are encrypted and policy enforced within each personal device providing controlled access to email, business documents and enterprise applications. Even the data is encrypted where the containers can be wiped without disturbing employee’s personal data and applications. Connections to the enterprise network can be shielded from probes, attacks, malware, and compromised devices, by conducting communications to the containers through a private communications channel that can encrypt and authenticate each connection. This eliminates use of VPNs and inbound TCP/IP connections to the enterprise network resulting in only the secure containers connecting to the enterprise network.

 

Mobile app virtualization technology

addresses compliance, security, and operations issues for organizations as it separates mobile applications from their underlying operating system using secure containers, it only virtualizes the individual application and the user session rather than the full mobile operating system. One instance of the remote OS can serve multiple users, where each user session is isolated from one other and the output of the user session is rendered remotely to the end user. It can scale up to large number of users as and hardware features cane be shared across many user sessions.

 

Mobile Information Management (MIM)

is a device-agnostic security strategy which keeps sensitive data encrypted and only allows approved applications to access or transmit it.

 

CYOD (Choose your own device) 8

is an alternative to the BYOD model, which is usually an example of the COPE (corporate-owned, personally-enabled) approach.

 

 

 

For routine access to email, documents, intranet or hybrid apps, containerization is normally sufficient to provide secure and productive mobility. However, where the job function is completely mobile or requires information access beyond email/PIM, documents and intranet apps, MDM can be used. The CYOD model can ease the administrative burden of MDM and MAM by limiting the options for device types and maintaining administrative control over device changes. Due to the use of enterprise owned devices completely managed by IT, the CYOD approach protects the organization’s data from both external and internal threats.

For many years, organizations viewed the desktop as the only way to deliver information from their enterprise applications. But now with the growth in mobile computing, users expect to be able to switch among desktops, tablets or smartphones anytime and anywhere. Organizations can derive long term competitive advantage utilizing their mobile workforce if mobile strategy becomes one of the key parts of their business strategy. Experts are now talking about the success of enterprises lying in futuristic Enterprise mobility solutions with focus on GIS, IOT and Proximity based systems, we shall discuss these in Part 2. A good SI working on cutting edge technologies can add great value to enterprises derive their strategic objectives.


References
  1. Source: The Economist, “Beyond the PC: Survey on Personal Technology,” 2011-10-08, page 11
  2. Source: obamawhitehouse.archives.gov
  3. Source: McCarthy, John C., and Pelino, Michele,’Mobile Management Takes a 180-Degree Turn,’’ Forrester Research, 2011-08-11
  4. Managed Mobility Services Market by Function (Device Management, Application Management, Security Management, and Maintenance & Support), by Organization Size (SME and Enterprise), Industry Vertical, and Region – Global Forecast to 2021
  5. Source: http://apprize.info/security/cisco_1/18.html
  6. Source: www.cybersecuritynews.co.uk
  7. Source: www.buffalo-technology.com
  8. Source: www.stotthoare.com.au

Infrastructure Monitoring Woes? Oracle Management Cloud to the Rescue

Header Image Oracle Management Cloud

Many organizations struggle staying ahead of their infrastructure and application issues for several reasons:

  • Lack of visibility to predict resource utilization – because workloads change so frequently in the cloud, the need of capacity forecasting when more server resources are needed is critical.
  • Lean methodologies and offshore accounts bring down on premise operations teams to lower costs thereby affecting human resources managing the infrastructure
  • A lot of time goes into reacting to incidents and problems, which leaves less time to focus on strategy
  • Performance monitoring is now across a wide variety of end-user tools such as mobile devices etc.

There is an increasing web of difficulty and availability of applications, managing performance and end user satisfaction. Organizations are looking for the right balance between reducing the IT budget and maintaining robust and efficient systems to support performance needs.

Can your organization relate to any of these issues?

  • Overwhelmed by the volume of the infrastructural components to monitor?
  • Is there a one-stop tool to oversee availability, performance and make appropriate decisions that benefit the company and the end user?
  • Does log management take up time and resources more than performance tuning?

The answer to all of the above is the Oracle Management Cloud.

Oracle Management Cloud provides end-to-end visibility of your business-critical applications running on private, public, and hybrid cloud environments. It caters to multiple users such as DevOps engineers, Administrators, Business Analysts, etc, and helps eliminate overlapping problem areas thereby saving resources time to identify and troubleshoot problems quickly.

Oracle Management Cloud has been specifically designed for

  • Application performance monitoring
    • Find patterns leading to issues and fix them.
    • Oversee application peak performance, generate trends and fine tune problem areas which results in a smooth end user experience.
  • Log Analytics
    • Monitor, archive, analyze logs from on premise or cloud systems.
    • Search volumes of data to trouble shoot problems.
  • IT Analytics
    • Gain in depth insight into the performance and capacity of the applications.
    • Enable business analysts and LOB users understand criticality of operations.
  • Infrastructure Monitoring
    • Monitor health status of various components in both on premise and cloud platforms.

 

 

Oracle Management Cloud runs on a Unified Big Data platform which offers real-time monitoring, alerting and analytics. Often, the importance of such tools is known to benefit Operations, so let’s take a different approach. The following are some examples of how application developers and LOB users can leverage Oracle Management Cloud in day-to-day activities and decision making.

Developer Friendly

Application developers have many tools today to build web services, enterprise applications and end users have very high expectations about the availability of these apps.

How Oracle Management Cloud perfectly fits in? Oracle Application Performance Monitoring Cloud Service gives all the information a developer needs to find and fix an issue. Developers can monitor browser performance, Ajax performance, time taken for server-side requests, use real-time log tracking etc., in development or test environments and troubleshoot issues, thereby eliminating the scenarios of discovering these in the production environment, which leads a much better end user experience.

Quick Visibility for Business

LOB users are constantly under pressure to run IT like a business and ensure performance of both applications and infrastructure. They need effective ways to monitor ever-scaling environments and make good decisions to optimize existing capacity of the infrastructure. Oracle IT Analytics Cloud service provides a complete, granular insight into the infrastructure usage, performance and the need to scale up or down depending on the usage. Users can build dashboards, publish the results periodically, and analyze the data based on various criteria depending on the business and make decisions accordingly.

Fully Secure

Oracle Management Cloud is secure, fully managed by Oracle, deploys the data on enterprise infrastructure, and runs on tablet and desktop devices.

These are just some of the key users and scenarios Oracle Management Cloud is designed for.

Check back for my future blog posts on how to implement OMC across on premise and cloud platforms.

Native vs. Hybrid – Which Approach to Use?

With the widespread use of mobile devices, mobile application development is on the rise and becoming more and more advanced. While developing a mobile application can be exciting, it can be a bit confusing if you’re trying to decide which type of application development approach – native or hybrid –  is better.

What are the differences between a native and hybrid app?

When we talk about developing native applications, it means developing an application using native platform languages like Java for Android,  Objective-C for Apple iOS, or Visual C++ for Microsoft Windows.

The main advantage of native applications is that they offer their own standardized SDK, development tools and interface elements which make them fast, reliable and user-friendly. These apps give the best performance when compiled into machine code (Dalvik Bytecode under Android –the basic language that mobile OS understands). Also, native applications offer a variety of functionalities that include multi-touch support, full access to phone hardware, fast and fluid animations, and the latest APIs.

In sum, the native applications approach helps develop an application that is customizable.

Hybrid applications can best be described as web applications (or web pages) that are hosted inside the native application browser, such as WebView in Android and UIWebView in iOS.

Hybrid apps are developed using cross-compatible web technologies such as HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript, then wrapped in a native application using a framework like Apache Cordova.  Apache Cordova provides built-in plugins that allow you build an application for more than one platform by just adding a small native code. The native code lets you use the functionality of device hardware such as the camera, Bluetooth, GPS and more.

Hybrid application development is faster, simpler, and more rapid. These applications are easier to maintain and the platforms can be changed anytime.

Native and Hybrid App differentiators

So what is the answer?

Native and hybrid application frameworks fulfill developer and user needs and preferences, though none of them can be thought of as a perfect solution.

Native applications provide many options for each platform (Android or iOS) has their own unique classes and functions. While designing something as simple as a header you can go through hundreds of changes which increase user interaction with the application. The native application offers fast, reliable and responsive experience.

While developing a hybrid application is just like developing a web page. You only have to create HTML pages, design with CSS, script local files using JavaScript, wrap them in a native web view with Cordova and finally test them in your browser.  Now this simple, effective, user-friendly, and secure hybrid application is ready.

Choice generally depends on budget, timescale, and requirements.

At Sofbang, we prefer the hybrid application development approach because the native application development can be time-consuming. For each platform, the same code has to be rewritten and cannot be shared easily. This process can be relatively long for complex applications. On the other hand, you can customize and add functionality from time to time and all these changes will automatically reflect on every platform, hybrid applications are built on one single base.

PaaS for IoT

Internet of things concept image with technology icons and copyspace

Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming mainstream in business practices. Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a key technology for the movement since it offers several advantages when working with IoT. Gartner says that by 2020, more than half of new applications developed on PaaS will be IoT-centric. Some of the PaaS features that offer advantages for use with IoT-centric business applications are related to the following:

  • Storage – Keep the data in the Cloud for low cost storage
  • Filter – Use PaaS to filter out unnecessary data and anomaly detection
  • Integration – Control interfaces between IoT systems and Critical Applications
  • Security – Isolate IoT systems for critical applications with PaaS security

iot-pic-for-ap-blog

Storage: As more and more information is pulled from the internet and smart sensors/devices are deployed that connect to the internet, they are creating  an explosion of data being generated. This data is being captured in databases for use with business applications. The sheer volume of data from these IoT resources is increasing the storage requirements exponentially. PaaS technology provides an economically sound solution for storing this data and can also readily expand as the data storage requirements expand without having to invest in new infrastructure.

Filter: Usually with IoT, more data than what is actually needed at the time is captured through the interfaces. Using the PaaS technology, filters can be created to sort out the data based on business parameters so that only the required information at the desired frequency of time is captured. This can minimize the data storage requirements and facilitate quicker analysis of the data being consumed by decision making applications. In addition, PaaS technology can be used to perform more intelligent filtering using anomaly detection where data is monitored and quickly analyzed at the IoT system level. By doing this, anomalies can be quickly detected and raised as alerts to higher level applications while passing on a limited set of data related to the anomaly minimizing Internet traffic.

Integration: The use of PaaS technology is an effective way to interface and integrate the IoT systems with the business critical applications. It’s at the integration layer that diverse interfaces can be managed to exchange data between the IoT system and those critical business applications. The PaaS technology can be utilized to normalize the format of the data from one type of format to another as data is share between various applications.

Security: One of the most critical features performed by the PaaS technology is that of security. More often than not, the IoT systems are external to the direct control of the end user. Devices such as smart sensors and IoT systems that run on their original equipment code often use embedded code with limited thought to security and could be readily compromised. Since the main transfer of data from these IoT systems is through the use of the Internet the security of the IoT system may introduce some vulnerabilities to the receiving business network allowing for intrusion by hackers. Using the PaaS technology to manage that security interface and provide a buffer between the IoT and critical applications is a major feature. Oracle PaaS technology has world class security technology that can manage such vulnerabilities to protect the critical applications.

The Oracle PaaS technology also offers other features that can be advantageous to an effective IoT strategy for any business. Some of these other features such as IoT system monitoring, simple work flows, and dashboard presentation of IoT data and is worth considering as a part of your future strategy for your business.

“IoT adoption will drive additional use of PaaS to implement IoT-centric business applications built around event-driven architecture and IoT data, instead of business applications built around traditional master data,” said Benoit Lheureux, research vice president at Gartner. “New IoT-centric business applications will drive a transformation in application design practices that focus on real-time contextually rich decisions, event-analysis, lightweight workflow, and broad access to Web-scale data.”

As an Oracle Platinum Partner Sofbang has a strong focus on Oracle’s PaaS technology. To learn more or for assistance with your IoT PaaS strategy, contact our team of experts at info@sofbang.com, www.sofbang.com

Sofbang Tech Team Tips Series: How Oracle POS Communicates with a Centralized Balance System

What is POS?

A point-of-sale (POS) system is a computerized replacement for a cash register. Much more complex than the cash registers of even just a few years ago, the POS system can include the ability to record and track customer orders, process credit and debit cards, connect to other systems in a network, and manage inventory.

Oracle Retail POS Suite

An important part of the in-store experience, for both the customer and the store associate, is the delivery of the retailer’s brand. Designed with the highest degree of flexibility on the market, Oracle Retail Point-of-Service provides retailers with a user interface that can be easily modified to reflect an individual brands look and feel. Oracle Retail Point-of-Service can be configured to present a retailers branding, from the colour schemes, icons and text of the global and local navigation buttons, to the orientation of the prompt, response and status regions, the use of images, logos and colour schemes in the work area, though the support of technology such as touch screen. This same flexibility allows overall solution to support multiple brands

Today I am going to share my experience that how I integrated the Oracle POS with a client’s outdated Legacy Balance System.

Legacy Balance System

It was the centralized system to calculate the data about sold items for a brand/store in a day. It was a file based system with XML format (Extensible Markup Language) as well as maintained physical directories for each store with a dedicated Store ID to consume the incoming/transformed files from middleware side.

In the solution, three Oracle products were leveraged.  I have listed below what was used to provide the solution for integration between Oracle POS and Legacy Balance System:

  • Oracle SOA Suite
  • Oracle Service Bus
  • Oracle Data Integrator

Let’s begin with the roles of the Oracle Products that were used to deliver the solution and then take a deeper dive to technical architecture.

Oracle Service Bus

This product was majorly used for pickup and delivery of files to third party/remote locations which we call FTP (File Transfer Protocol) in technical term. It was also used for data transformation and data merging of small size files using XQuery.

Oracle SOA Suite

The reason behind using this Oracle Product was dealing with complex transformation rules which can be implemented in XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation). XSLT is a language for transforming the XML documents to other XML document or other formats such as plain text.

Oracle Data Integrator

This tool covers all of the data integration requirement even if we talk about high volume data, high-performance batch loads, event-driven and communicating with SOA Services. The reason behind using this tool was to deal with transformation of big volume data.

 

POS Integration Architecture

capture1

Business Use Case

Stores get opened up and sell their goods for whole day using Oracle POS system on each register. At the end of the day, when stores get closed and perform end of the day activity by closing each register. The data about the sold items get collected/wrapped up in the form of RTLog (Retail Transaction Log) and pushed to JMS Topic which is configured on Middleware’s WebLogic Server.

 

capture2

Oracle SOA Service consumes the message from JMS Topic, extract the jar file and write the data in file on local box (WebLogic System) as per Store Id which is sent in JMS Message’s Header. Once RTLog file gets written by SOA Service then ODI Service will be called to transform the RTlog’s data and prepare file as per required for Target system (Legacy Balance System).

capture3

Once the transformation part is done in ODI, the ODI Service sends a message to the OSB Service with required parameters saying that transformation is complete and file is ready to move to client’s box (FTP Location). In OSB, we get parameters with the values of file name and location of written file. OSB would perform FTP operation and move file to Legacy System’s directory as per Store ID.

capture4

The integration took place for a popular clothing brand with more than 1800 stores in the United States and Canada.

This was just one cycle of the integration that was performed from Oracle POS to Legacy Balance System. There are are several others that I look forward to discussing in future blog posts.