Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Take a deep dive with Embarcadero on how enterprise app stores help drive productivity

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Embarcadero Technologies.

The popularity of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets has energized users on the one hand, but on the other hand it’s caused IT and business leaders to scramble to adjust to new models of applications delivery.

That's why enterprise app stores are quickly creating productivity and speed-to-value benefits for PC users and IT departments alike as they grapple with the new models around consumerization of IT. The author of a recent Ovum white paper on why app stores says they are increasingly important for enterprises as they consider ways to better track, manage, and distribute all of their applications.

The popularity of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, on one hand, has energized users, but on the other hand, it’s caused IT and business leaders to scramble to adjust to new models of applications delivery.

Join this podcast discussion then as we examine the steps businesses can now take to build and develop their own enterprise app stores. We'll further see what rapid and easy access to self-service apps on PCs and notebook computers through such app stores is doing for businesses.

And we’ll learn how app stores are part of the equation for improved work and process success on and off the job. Furthermore, we uncover how Embarcadero’s AppWave solution brings the mobile apps experience to millions of PC users in their workplace in the enterprise.

The panel consists of Tony Baer, Principal Analyst at Ovum; Michael Swindell, Senior Vice President of Products and Marketing at Embarcadero Technologies, and Richard Copland, Principal Innovation Consultant at Logica. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: Embarcadero is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:
Gardner: Richard, in your looking over the landscape for IT innovations, is there something about the app store model that you think will encourage users to adopt new technologies and new applications faster?

Copland: Undoubtedly. The whole socialization and the social trend which I see as probably the biggest driver behind this is for the way in which people use software and the way in which people comment on a software.

The organization will cluster around the toolkits for which the feedback from the users is positive. I can think of one large global financial organization here that has 5,000 apps within their world. They would look to simplify their landscape by over 60 percent, because they recognize that they've got so many kinds of individual pockets of activity going on in the organization.

And you need to support those individual pockets of activity that, in terms of your users in the tail effect, they’ll be the mainstream enterprise apps, such as Windows-based or Office-based, which the majority will use. But if you could tap into an environment, in which you are giving the people what they want, then the return on investment (ROI) from that is going to be a lot faster.

My role as a Principal Innovation Consultant is effectively twofold. It's to find new things and introduce new things to our clients. Something innovative to me is something that's new to you and provides a benefit. This can be cash, people, or green ideas. I spend my day looking at cool new stuff, which means ways of working, technologies, partners, and even wacky research coming out of the various universities here in Europe.
At Logica, we're a business and technology service company. We provide business consulting, system integration, and outsourcing to our clients around the world including many of Europe’s largest businesses.

Generation Next

For me, these app stores are also the whole Generation Next piece which is about a whole new generation that is educated and tech-savvy. They're multitasking all the time. They work as consumers. They're purchasing products and customize them to their needs in terms of their lifestyles. So they’re regularly sharing insight and comment on things which are good for them.

That’s playing out in terms of lifestyle and that's being brought into the business scenario, whereby the formal and informal hierarchies of organizations are blurring.

Gardner: Tony, this sounds like it’s something quite new.

Baer: From the end-user standpoint, there certainly is quite a new win to this. But we also have to look at the fact that this is going to change the way IT serves the organization. At least this aspect of it is really going to become more of a service provider. And there are a lot of implications for that.

From the end-user standpoint, there certainly is quite a win to this. But we also have to look at the fact that this is going to change the way IT serves the organization.

For one thing, IT has to be more responsive but they also have to work on more of a shorter fuse, almost like a just-in-time type of model.

... I was a little bit surprised because there is certainly a concept leap from a $1.99 little applet that you pull down from the iPhone app store or from the Android marketplace to a full-blown enterprise desktop application.

That being said, it’s not surprising, given that there’s been a huge demand from the bottom-up, from the people in the workplace. So it’s a phenomenon that’s probably better known as the consumerization of IT -- "I have these sophisticated mobile devices and tablets. Why can’t I get that easy to use experience on my regular machine for my day job?"

Therefore, the demand for the comfort and convenience of that was inevitably bound to spread into the enterprise environment. You've seen that manifested in a number of ways. For example, companies have basically embraced more social collaboration. And you’re also starting to see some use of many of these new form factors.

So again, what Embarcadero has been starting to introduce is symbolic in a way that’s really not surprising.

But there's no free lunch in all this, it still requires management. For example, we still need to worry about dealing with security governance, managing consumption, and also making sure that you lock down, or secure the licensing issues. As I said, there’s no free lunch, but compare that to the overhead of the traditional application distribution and deployment process.

So again, from the end user standpoint, it should be a win-win, but from the IT standpoint, it's going to mean a number of changes. Also, this is breaking new ground with a number of the vendors. What they need to do is check on things such as licensing issues, because what you're really talking about is a more flexible deployment policy.

Gardner: Michael Swindell, tell me a little bit about AppWave and what it takes for an IT organization to make the transition from that long process that Tony outlined to a more streamlined app-store approach.

Swindell: The best way to describe AppWave is that it’s just a pretty simple three-step process. The first step is taking traditional software, which is traditionally complex for end users and for organizations to manage. This includes things like installations, un-installations, considerations about applications, of how they affect the users’ environment.

Then, converting those traditional software applications into the concept of apps where they are self-contained, don’t require installation, can be streamed and run to a user anywhere they are, and really delivering the mobile-like experience of mobile software to the more complex traditional desktop PC software.

AppWave has tooling that allows users to take their applications and convert them into apps. And that’s any type of application- commercial application or internally developed.

AppWave has tooling that allows users to take their applications and convert them into apps. And that’s any type of application -- commercial application or internally developed.

That's the first step. The second is to centralize those apps in an app store, where users can get to them, and where organizations can have visibility into their usage, manage access to them, etc. So the second step is simply centralizing those apps.

The third is the user experience. One of the key drivers behind the success of apps in the mobile space has been the visibility that users have into application availability. It’s very easy for users to search and find an app as they need it.

Think about how a user uses a mobile phone to come up with an app. Maybe they’re walking down the street, they see a business, and they have an idea, or they want directions to something. They can simply search in an app store on their mobile device and immediately get an app to solve that problem.

If you look in the business space and inside the workplace, when a user has a problem, they don’t really have a mechanism to sit down and search to solve a problem and then get an application to solve it immediately.

As we talked about earlier, and Tony really well-described that the process, once they identify an application to solve a problem, that can take weeks or months to roll out. so you don’t have that instant feedback.

Instantaneous experience

The user experience has to be instantaneous. An area that we focused on very heavily with AppWave is to provide the users an ability to search, find apps based on the problems that they’re trying to solve, and instantly run those apps, rather than having to go through a long process.

Gardner: Can we perhaps make the association that app stores can fundamentally change the way workers behave in an innovation sense?

Copland: Absolutely. You’re on the money. We talked a little bit about looking at the mobile aspects of it and moving to this on-demand usage and the challenges for the organization to do that.

Certainly, the components within the AppWave solution give you the opportunity to move to more of what I would describe as smart working or remote working, by which the user doesn't necessarily have to come into the office to access the tools, which are traditionally being provided to them at their desk in their environment.

If you start remote working or are given a broader range of remote access, then you can be operating a much stronger work-life balance. So if you're in a situation where you’ve got a young family and you need to take the kids to school, you can come on and go off the company network and use the tools which are provided to you in a much more user-friendly flexible environment. That would be certainly from the user's perspective.

If you start remote working or are given a broader range of remote access, then you can be operating a much stronger work-life balance.

From the business’s perspective, I start moving to a scenario where I don't necessarily need to maintain a real estate where if I’ve got 5,000 users, I need to have 5,000 desks. That certainly becomes quite empowering across the rest of the organization, and other stakeholders -- the facility’s officers, business managers -- start taking real notice of those types of savings and the nature of how work is achieved.

Gardner: How far can the app store model be taken in terms of legacy, the installed base of apps?

Swindell: Our vision is any type of application in the organization will eventually be supported by AppWave. The initial support is for PC apps in organizations, which is the vast majority of productivity applications that end users need. It also is where the largest problem set is, both from an end-user perspective and from an organization's perspective.

So we're tackling the hardest problem first and then our plan is to roll in other type of apps, web apps, and applications that you might be using in an organization, using other types of delivery technologies.

But the idea is to take any type of these applications and present them as an app inside the AppWave ecosystem. So a user can have a centralized way to search for any type of app whether it’s a corporate HR, a web application, a hosted software as a service (SaaS ) application, or a PC application. Certainly, mobile would be an obvious direction as well.

The idea is to take any type of these applications and present them as an app inside the AppWave ecosystem.

There are really two sides to the benefit of using the app store methodology. There's an organizational side of understanding application usage, as you said maybe sunsetting applications, understanding how applications are used within their organization, so that they can make good decisions.

Then we have the user side, where users have a lot more information that they can provide that’s very useful for both the organization and other users.

The app store metaphor works very well in sharing that type of information. It gives the organization usage information and statistics, and the demand information that's valuable for the organization to plan and understand their application usage. It also provides information to other users on the applicability of applications for certain scenarios, whether applications are good or bad for a particular scenario.

This has worked well in the mobile space with public app stores, and we see that there's a lot of applicability inside the firewall, inside organizations, to be able to use this information and create more value out of their applications and to help users get more value and understanding about their applications.

One of the things that AppWave and the app store concept can do is to help create a centralized app view of the different types of applications and even the different types of services in your organization, and to be able to understand what’s available.

Common presentation

There are also opportunities for the same types of socialization and sharing of information and knowledge about services using the app store concept, as there is with apps.

The important thing is to take these different types of applications and present them in a common way in the same place, so that it really doesn’t matter whether the app is a web app or it’s a PC app. Users can find them, run them, and share information about them at the same place.

Gardner: Tony, back to your Ovum white paper, what do you see as the efficiency aspects to this?

Baer: Compare this model to the traditional application deployment model ... Number one, it's a much more of a long-fused process. There is elaborate planning of the rollout. You're trying to figure out all the different client targets that you're trying to address. Even if you do have locked-down machines, you're still going to have issues. Then, package the release,. Then, regression test it to death. Then distribution, and you actually get the thing installed. Hopefully, it's up during some off hour, let's say, at 3 a.m. Then, you prepare for all the support calls.

That's a pretty involved process. That consumes a lot of time both for the end user, who is waiting for the functionality that he or she may want -- or not. And it's also, of course, a considerable overhead in the IT organization.

If you take that all away into a more modular model, more like a radio broadcast model, essentially it becomes a lot more efficient. You lose all this lead time, and as Michael was talking about, you then get all the visibility for all these apps being consumed. End users have more sway. As long as they are authorized to use these apps, they have this choice.

So it's not that all of a sudden they have a whole number of apps that are loaded on their machine, whether they like it or not. We haven't done anything to quantify this, because trying to quantify productivity is like asking “what's the cost of downtime?” And in a lot of sectors that can be a very subjective number. But intuitively, this model, if it scales out, should basically provide a much lower cost of ownership and much greater satisfaction.

This model, if it scales out, should basically provide a much lower cost of ownership and much greater satisfaction.

Gardner: Richard Copland, as someone who is out there hunting down innovations that they can bring to their user organization and their clients, was there anything about AppWave or app stores in general for enterprise use that was interesting and attractive to you that we perhaps haven’t hit on yet?

Copland: In AppWave and the Embarcadero team, we have a global innovation venture partner program. They were our recent winner. They went up against competition from around the world. We believe that the app store concept has got so much within it in terms of the user experience, the socialization aspects, and the collaboration aspects of it.

Bridging point

The area which we haven't touched on so much is that it's a bridging point between your legacy systems and your more visionary cloud-type solutions where you really are SaaS, on-demand and pay-per-click.

The thing that will kill innovation is just operating slowly. One of the biggest blockers that organizations face with regard to innovation is the nature of how that sets out and the speed at which they react to what are their internal ideas.

Swindell: You can look at this as being in a way a cultural preparation for transition to the cloud, if indeed the cloud is suitable for specific parts of your application portfolio.

... Having an on-premise private app store that runs within your organization that is on site really addresses a lot of those concerns and uses the cloud simply to deliver new applications and apps from ISVs and from other vendors.

Once they are inside your organization, they're operating within your security and governance environment. So you don't really have to worry about those concerns, but it still delivers a lot of the benefits of the user experience of cloud and the on-demand nature.

Gardner: I know this is going a little bit out further into the future and perhaps into the hypothetical. It sounds as if you can effectively use this app store model and technology and approach like AppWave to be a gateway for your internal PC apps, but that same gateway might then be applicable for all these other services.

Driven by demand

Swindell: The foundation is there, and I think it will be demand driven by users. Every time we talk to a customer with AppWave, the list of possibilities and where customers want to use and take the environment is exciting, and the list continues to grow on how they can use it in the long-term.

So we're building facilities today to connect the private AppWaves into our cloud infrastructure, so that we can deliver certainly apps but there could be other types of services that connect into that as well.

Gardner: Okay, and just to be clear. AppWave is available now. I believe we have a 30-day free trial, is that correct?

Swindell: Yes, there is a free trial, and we also offer free version of AppWave that organizations can download and use today with free apps. There's an entire catalog of free apps that are included and are streamed down from our cloud.

So you can get set up and started with AppWave, using free apps in your organization. What can be added then is your own internal custom apps or commercial licenses that organizations have. So if you've hundreds of commercial licenses, you can add those in or add your own internally developed apps. You can go to www.embarcadero.com/appwave and try it for free.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Embarcadero Technologies.

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