Mobile Applications for IBM i

IBM i contains so much of the world’s transactional data that it only makes sense that we will see demand increase for mobile applications to access this data. We even hear of this need with network monitoring and operations automation software. The challenge is building apps that are usable; I love checking my fantasy team on my Samsung and making player trades, but can I reliably modify a job or change a rule through an application on my mobile phone?

Mobile is an inescapable trend across all segments of business. For those running data and business applications on IBM i, this trend cannot be ignored. Recently, IT Jungle contributor Dan Burger explored how building mobile business applications on IBM i is a necessity in today’s increasingly competitive global business environment.

In fact, mobile is important to address regardless of the operating system being used. Lionel White shared some key statistics about mobility in his article for MarketingLand. The Interactive Advertising Bureau reported that in just the first half of 2013 alone, advertisers in the United States spent roughly $3 billion on mobile advertising, which is $1.2 billion more than the previous year. White also noted that nearly half of the world’s population uses mobile devices as their primary means for accessing the Web. While these figures are primarily related to retail and purchasing, it highlights how the world is becoming increasingly mobile, and this trend has permeated business as well.

Mobile Development for IBM i

As more organizations develop mobile applications driven by the influence of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and increased mobile use by consumers, it’s essential to understand the IT environment that is supporting operations. For IBM i users, Burger noted a few benefits and some things that should be considered.

“If you don’t have slick-running business apps for a mobile device, you have a problem,” Burger wrote. “Real-time access to information for your mobile workforce is a revenue-boosting tool that is too powerful to ignore. But there’s still a decision to be made: Do you want apps running native on the mobile device or do you tweak Web apps for mobile uses?”

According to Burger, the preference used to be focused on developing standard Web applications that could be rendered on many different mobile devices. Many organizations work in Web development, so this approach was a natural progression. However, due in part to the explosion of mobile, today there are many software vendors emerging that offer frameworks to make native application development easier. Independent consultant Bill Gravelle stressed the need for more sophisticated tools to make it possible to deliver applications more quickly that are capable of making more of a difference when it comes to improving the abilities of mobile workers.

“The difference-maker in our competitive world is the choice of tooling/platforms,” Gravelle said. “It’s my belief that continuing the traditional coding approach is counter-productive for enterprise mobile solutions—the issue of Java versus Objective-C versus HTML5/CSS3 is really not the major one.” Gravelle later continued, “As we in the IBM i world have known for years, building business solutions on top of comprehensive, productive, integrated, and innovative platforms actually delivers a tremendous competitive advantage for the enterprise.”