MEAPs Face Cloud Disruption in the Enterprise

All evidence points to a gathering tsunami of enterprise activity around new mobile applications. But while purveyors of mobile enterprise application platforms (MEAPs) like Antenna Software and Verivo took an early lead, new cloud-based mobile backend-as-a-service (BaaS) providers are now poised to unseat them in enterprise hearts, minds and budgets. Chris Marsh, Principal Analyst at the Yankee Group and member of the Enterprise Mobility Exchange Advisory Council explains.

For a long time (in mobility years at least), MEAPs worked to help companies not only develop, but deploy and manage much of the life cycle of their applications. They handled the heavy lifting, visualizing the myriad use cases for mobile apps, providing tools, catering to security and compliance considerations, and most importantly, helping companies envision new mobilised processes to transform business operations.

Today, however, a new category of backend-as-a-service (BaaS) providers is emerging to abstract much of the complexity in server-side app development and integration into the cloud. These BaaS providers, including companies like Kinvey, Appcelerator, Stackmob, Parse (recently acquired by Facebook), FeedHenry, Kii Corp. and AnyPresence, among others, pose three major threats to MEAPs:

  • They cleave the MEAP value prop in two: By disconnecting the backend and front ends in the development process, they elevate both front-end tool providers (where there is a plethora of cross-platform and native specific SDKs) and the BaaS model for the backend (where there is a growing number of providers), but do nothing for platforms whose value proposition depends on offering both.
  • They further commoditise MEAP management tools: Beyond the ability to develop apps, MEAPs also touted their ability to apply granular device and application management policies to apps in the field. With much of this capability becoming commoditied, it's now more of a business than a technology challenge for cloud platform providers to integrate other third-party mobility management capabilities into applications built using their platform.
  • They make MEAPs' app life cycle approach passÄ©: Perhaps most strongly disruptive is the idea that a vertically integrated single-solution application lifecycle encompassing development, distribution, deployment and management is the be all and end all. In the past, companies faced an either/or choice between technical/business agility and enterprise-grade services. Now, cloud services address data security, user management, reporting, backend business system integration and reporting in a compliant fashion. Crucially, they also allow companies to develop and continuously integrate their applications, and in the process gain a stronger ROI.

The upshot: MEAPs are not out of the game yet. Just as cloud vendors learned from what came before, so too must MEAPs adapt to the new mobile cloud reality. They should:

  • Highlight their EMM capabilities: Some market-leading MEAPs such as Antenna Software, Kony and SAP's Mobility Platform also offer more mobility management-wide features. Mobile device and application management, security and connectivity are all key parts of the chain, and the need for such services hasn't changed with the new cloud paradigm. MEAPs should leverage this expertise.
  • Play the experience card: Many cloud challengers have tens or fewer enterprise customers, while many MEAPs have hundreds. MEAPs' aggregated experience, both in use cases and enterprises' internal and customer mobilization strategies, is a key differentiator.
  • Continue to focus on innovation: MEAPs have an innovation track record and should not be counted out in terms of their ability to iterate a more flexible cloud-delivered platform solution with the kind of agility, speed to market and efficiencies cloud challengers are marketing.

It won't be easy, but with a tsunami of opportunities on its way, the pain of adjusting will be infinitely less than the pain of losing out entirely.

By Chris Marsh, Prinicpal Analyst, Yankee Group

Categories: MEAPs. Mobile Enterprise Appliation Platforms, Chris Marsh, Yankee Group, Cloud, Disruption, Enterprise Mobility Exchange, Baas Providers, MEAP management tools, innovation