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Traditionally when it comes to SAP Mobility you would think of Sybase, Syclo Agentry or Gateway to name but three in a world packed with mobile enterprise application platforms. With the upcoming GA (in a few months) of the new SAP Mobility Platform 2.3 (or SMP 2.3 for short) I thought it would be good to talk about what has changed (if anything), what it means and of course, should we be looking to run with the platform?

I have spent a considerable amount of time working with various versions of the Sybase Unwired Platform and in a nutshell the SAP Mobility Platform is the next major release of the product with some eyebrow raising changes (not just the name) to keep us amused and guessing.

What is new?

SAP Mobile Server (enter Agentry)

First, lets talk about the middleware itself. The “Sybase Unwired server” as we know it today is now our “SAP Mobile Server” but its not just the former renamed - far from it. SAP are 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.

Back in April 2012 SAP acquired Syclo who specialised in mobile asset management and field service solutions through their Agentry platform and this is the 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 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 still strikes me as funny 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!

Device Support

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.

Should I upgrade?

From a business perspective the SAP Mobility Platform 2.3 strikes me as a good option for anybody starting out on the road of mobile enablement as it brings quite a lot to the table for any enterprise needs. 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. By moving to the SAP Mobility Platform 2.3 you would be bringing a whole new set of tools that can work in harmony with your existing Agenty landscape and enable a world or 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 are completed on technology that is current and being maintained.

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.

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