The Enterprise software industry has grown up around the standard three tier-architecture for web applications, which was pioneered circa 1995. This architecture is ideal for web browsers, which have become the universal client of the Enterprise.
With the introduction of Enterprise mobile applications, we are seeing new avenues for innovation, new user experiences and increased convenience. In some ways, however, we are rolling back the clock.
Allow me to clarify: If we accept the premise that native mobile applications deliver the best functionality on disparate mobile platforms, we are at the cusp of re-introducing “thick client” applications back into the enterprise. Native mobile applications are rich in their design and functionality but behave like monolithic applications: They provide their own persistence tier, slick user-interfaces, natively compiled code, require upgrades and updates on the client device, and utilize a mix of synchronous and asynchronous communication. Sure they use REST for communication, but is this due to historical accident?
Other than the physical platform itself (which is a smartphone or tablet), native mobile applications may have more in common with old “Win32 client/server apps” that existed before the browser revolution. Are we moving forwards or backwards?
Further, what about web mobile applications that run in the browser on the mobile device? How do they factor in? How do new technologies like HTML5 affect these types of applications? How do REST APIs affect the mobile architecture?
Is the Enterprise ready for mobile? How does the standard three tier architecture fare in light of these trends?
I try to get a handle on these issues in our new whitepaper, A Unified Mobile Architecture for the Modern Data Center