"The era of multi-platform mobile enablement is dead" is unfortunately not what I am able to say right now following the release of the next generation of SAP's mobile enablement platform - The SAP Mobility Platform 2.3 (formerly the Sybase Unwired Platform or SUP). However it's not all bad - far from it. There is a lot to this platform we can be happy about and to be quite honest, I'm more excited about the direction the platform is heading in rather than what this new release offers specifically.
For those starting out on the road of mobile enablement, the SAP Mobility Platform 2.3 brings quite a lot to the table - a stable platform that allows for mobile innovation through the use of a common architecture, enhanced security and better control...to name but 3. However that being said, I'm not sure there is enough in here to warrant an upgrade for any Sybase Unwired Platform 2.2 users - the changes we see in 2.3 are good but not game changing.
Enterprises currently using Syclo Agentry should look seriously at the 2.3 option as a next move. Moving to the SAP Mobility Platform 2.3 would bring a whole new set of tools that can work in harmony with an existing Agenty landscape and enable a world of potential innovations through other aspects of the platform.
Anybody using any version of 2.1 or earlier should look seriously at 2.3 (or even 2.2 SP02 as a start) as this would be a very wise upgrade to ensure that new developments/innovations are completed on technology that is current and being maintained.
So what brings me to these conclusions and what has changed in the platform that we can see?
SAP Mobile Server (enter Agentry)
First, let's talk about the middleware itself. The "Sybase Unwired server" as we know it today is now our "SAP Mobile Server" but it's not just the former renamed - far from it. SAP is actively working to create a single mobile enabling platform that can fulfil all needs and the first step in this journey is to integrate the Agentry platform.
In April 2012 SAP acquired Syclo which specialised in mobile asset management and field service solutions through its Agentry platform. It is this component that has been built into the new "SAP Mobile Server". Now rather than having a seperate Syco Agentry server we see a combined platform that brings the unique offering from Agentry together with the already powerful options we expect from the Sybase Unwired Platform.
From a developer's perspective it seems that, for the moment, the tooling will remain as it is today using the Syclo Eclipse based toolset separate to the SAP Mobile SDK but the runtime will exist on the SAP Mobile Server rather than a dedicated Agentry box. The integration looks to be in it's infancy with administration resorting (at times) to .ini file editing rather than being controlled through the web based control centre but this is a good start and I would hope the integration would improve with time.
SAP Control Centre
Helpfully we can still refer to it as the SCC but rather than meaning the "Sybase Control Centre" we are now of course talking about the "SAP Control Centre". This naming strikes me as missing the mark a bit. With the alphabet soup that customers already have to deal with, naming a product the "SAP Control Centre" sounds like something that should hook into and control every single SAP product but lets not just judge this book by its cover (or name as the case may be).
The SAP Control Centre still resembles the SCC of old giving us pretty good control over nearly all aspects of the server. I've been using the SCC in its various forms for a few years now and I have to say it gets better with every iteration. Recent releases have seen a very nice consolidation of the configuration of the server into a single configuration node, which has aided greatly during new installations. However that is not to say that the SCC is without fault. It still relies on flash to actually run in your browser - it always amuses me when I tell system administrators "yes, the next step for your production server installation is to install flash...." - lets just say the reception is never very warm!
It was quite a disappointment for me when I realised that there has not been much change on the list of supported devices for SMP 2.3. There still seems to be no love for Android 4.2 or Blackberry 10 in a native setting (and say goodbye to your iPhone 3Gs). There are of course alternatives (REST) however it would be nice to see these platforms added to that list in the future.
On a better note or rather a SAP note which technically is included in SUP 2.2 SP02 (the previous release) there has been some great news in the form of a long awaited enhancement for native applications. In previous versions of the platform there has always been a problem writing to the local on-device database while it was in the middle of a synchronisation, in fact that ability was disabled full stop, meaning that if you were offline for a while and needed to synchronise a significant amount of data or were just using an underpowered device then that device became unusable for the duration of that sync. There were of course ways around this by using innovative queuing methods and caching solutions however these were cumbersome to write and difficult to maintain. With the release of SAP note 1768885 it appears we are now well on the way to this problem becoming a thing of the past - simultaneous read and write support. I look forward to trying this note out for myself!
I could go on and on listing every little change in the SAP Mobility Platform 2.3 but suffice to say that SMP 2.3 is a step in the right direction for SAP Mobility. There is still quite a bit of work to do in this area with amazing potential to improve on the development tools, cloud offering, change management and some more movement to integrate the complete suite of SAP mobile offerings into the platform.
In conclusion, the SAP Mobility Platform 2.3 is a good evolution of SAP's mobile platform offering. Definately a step in the right direction however there are a few more things on my wishlist that I hope to see in the next release. Any business looking to build a mobility roadmap should seriously consider this platform not just for what we see now, but also for the potential that the platform brings in the future.