Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS) Blog

Introducing an Enterprise Mobile Reference Architecture

Earlier this year, I attended a dinner where a group of Boston CEOs building kinvey-mobile-architecturemobile-related startups were invited to get together, eat, drink, network and learn from each other.  The attendees included mobile stalwarts like Jennifer Lum (co-founder of Adelphic) and David Patrick (CEO of Apperian).  Halfway through dinner, I started to talk to them about Kinvey’s plans to launch an enterprise platform. David made an insightful point to the group. He said that most enterprises still find it challenging to design a comprehensive, future-proof architecture for their mobile strategy.  There are too many new vendors and (moving) parts of the stack in the enterprise mobile space.

I went home that night, kissed my wife good night (I was in big trouble for getting home late) and decided, since I was in trouble already, to spend a few more hours working.  I searched for phrases such as “Mobile Reference Architecture” and “Enterprise Mobile Architecture” on the web, and to my amazement, I found nothing useful.  There were a few high-level presentations, PDFs and blog posts, but none were really useful.  Nobody had attempted to publish an actionable reference architecture that enterprises could use to build out their mobile strategy, while helping the architect by listing some of the top technology vendors that provide software and services for each part of the stack.

As you might’ve guessed by now, this led to the creation of Kinvey’s Mobile Cloud Reference Architecture.

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To start the process, I reached out to our enterprise customers, partners and industry analysts to get their take on what the architecture should cover.  The main pieces of feedback included:

  • Mobile is driving the adoption of cloud in the enterprise, so make sure the architecture accounts for cloud-based data delivery, with the flexibility to run on public and private clouds.
  • Enable agility with security:  Enterprise mobile developers need to build and launch apps quickly, while IT still needs the solution to be compliant with their governance needs.  At Kinvey, we call this blend of agility and security the “developerization” of IT.
  • Need to mobilize legacy enterprise data and authentication systems: Securely connect mobile apps with on-premise systems that sit inside enterprise firewalls.
  • Ensure secure, compliant app use: To reduce risk and adhere to strict IT policies, a mobile architecture needs to monitor data on the network, ensure only authorized users have access to the app, every transaction is recorded for audit, and apps, users and data can be de-provisioned on-demand.
  • Hardware / Platform flexibility:  Enterprises need to support new platforms all the time because their employees use all kinds of devices and OS platforms (BYOD trend).  Apps need to run on all those platforms, and therefore, the mobile developer needs the freedom and choice to use the best SDK that fits the app experience required. Don’t lock them in.

Finally, at Kinvey, we believe that for a mobile developer, it’s not about APIs, it’s about libraries.  Developers need the flexibility to focus on and use the abstraction provided by native iOS, Android or JavaScript libraries to connect to various backend systems.  These libraries take care of various client-side features including data access, online/offline data caching, data security, user management and network management.  The mobile library is the new API for the mobile developer.

Taking all this feedback into account, here is version 1 of Kinvey’s Mobile Cloud Reference Architecture for Enterprises. Note: We’ve published this reference architecture under a Creative Commons license.  So feel free to share and use it, and if you’d like a copy of the original to make changes and make it your own, email us at support@kinvey.com or click here to download a pdf of the graphic.  We’d love to help.

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