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Today, we live in a world where not having a mobile platform for your enterprise applications is like not having a website in the dot-com heyday. Mobile has become the preferred way to access the Internet and the official gateway to enterprise applications and services. This phenomenon has resulted in a paradigm shift for traditional ERP and CRM functions. The control and transactional abilities, ranging from depositing bank checks from home to changing your flight on the way to the airport, previously only available to representatives of the company, are rapidly moving into the hands of customers.
With soaring mobility adoption rates, it has become inevitable that large enterprises must quickly move mammoth ERP and CRM applications to mobile platforms. However, mobility adoption is a particularly daunting task for them. The challenges they grapple with revolve around these fundamental questions:
Does the development of the mobility landscape imply a new development model?
Does it need a huge investment on a separate mobile platform?
What kind of programming languages, tools and technologies are needed to support varied device platforms?
These three questions keep enterprises from realizing the dream of a truly mobile ERP or CRM applications suite.
For more on Oracle mobile applications
Oracle Fusion Middleware's mobile development roadmap
Oracle's goals for the cloud -- a simpler mobile infrastructure
Mobile applications for JD Edwards
JD Edwards and Oracle Corp. have long helped enterprises answer these questions and have come a long way in their goal to address them holistically. Oracle has always adopted a two-pronged approach for its customers' mobility needs from the products, architecture and applications providers' perspective:
Off-the-shelf apps -- There is a long list of off-the-shelf Oracle mobile applications available for download, such as Business Indicators, Business Approvals for Managers, Mobile Sales Assistant, Mobile Sales Forecast and iReceipts. These apps address a customer's mobility needs for particular business functions, but they are built as native or thick-client apps primarily targeted for Apple devices and are dependent on a specific version of an Oracle back-end application. Therefore, they lack portability to other platforms.
Products and platforms -- Oracle offers many mobility-based products and modules such as Oracle E-Business Suite MSCA (Mobile Supply Chain Application), Enterprise Asset Management Workbench, Retail Mobile Point of Service, Siebel Wireless, Siebel Windows Handheld, PeopleSoft Mobile Inventory management, Oracle Fusion Tap (which is cloud based) and Oracle Fusion Expenses. These products are targeted to particular ERP or CRM systems and smartphones or rugged warehouse devices.
While this approach solves individual problems, depending upon where an organization lies on the technology and mobility adoption spectrum, the basic goal of making mobility an enterprise-wide enabler is not realized. There was, hence, a need for a strategic direction for Oracle mobility, and Oracle has set its path through its next-generation mobile application platform: Oracle ADF (Application Development Framework) Mobile.
Oracle mobile applications and Oracle ADF/J2EE technology is based on industry standards and also facilitates SOA and Web 2.0-based applications in visual, declarative and reusable development paradigms. The same framework was used to develop the next-generation Oracle Fusion platform. It has a set of built-in components through which Web-deployed user interfaces can be developed quickly for a very high level of functionality and interactivity. This framework provides three distinct options for extending an enterprise's functions onto mobile devices:
- Oracle ADF Mobile: This is an HTML5 and Java-based mobile application development framework that enables developers to build and extend enterprise applications from a single code base. Based on hybrid mobile architecture, it supports access to native device services and features and enables offline application capabilities. Oracle has also included the new lightweight JVM (Java Virtual Machine) as a container for hybrid applications on mobile devices. Since it embeds thin native framework for each supported platform (currently Apple iOS and Android), it helps protect an enterprise from further costs that become inevitable due to technology shifts. Being a hybrid platform, it supports only Web services-based integration (SOAP and REST based) with base applications.
- Oracle ADF Mobile Browser: This framework has a device-optimized look and feel for virtually all smartphone or tablet browsers through the use of specific style sheets. It is the easiest way for developing device-agnostic smartphone applications that don't need offline and device integration features. It supports both Web services-based and point-to-point integration with base applications, though the latter severely restricts the extensibility of the developed mobile application in question.
- Oracle ADF Faces (Rich Client Components): This framework is very similar to the ADF Mobile browser, but it's targeted primarily for tablets and laptop browser applications. This is, again, a browser-based application development platform and offers the fastest and simplest rollout, maintenance and portability.
Enterprises can choose from any of the above Oracle mobile application development options based on the complexity of their mobility use cases, end user type (internal versus external), target device form factors and OS platforms. For example, if you are developing an app for Oracle E-Business Suite workflow approvals for managers, Oracle ADF mobile browser will be a better option; for an app for service representatives that needs to store data on a mobile device, Oracle ADF Mobile hybrid will be optimum. Enterprises also need to make the right selection of integration adapters or middleware with back-end ERP or CRM applications based on their existing architectural compatibility.
ADF mobile provides added advantage to enterprises that have already invested in an Oracle technology stack by using the common development paradigm that complements existing Oracle architecture. It also leverages existing developer skill sets and thus helps reduce maintenance and upgrade costs. Oracle is truly helping redefine mobile app development and mobility adoption through the flexibility provided by its next-generation platform.