New destinations for mobile

A Q&A with Gal Shachor, newly appointed Distinguished Engineer at IBM Research – Haifa.

Gal is one of the pioneering founders of WebSphere. His current work focuses on architecture and innovation for mobile computing platforms.

How did the industry – and IBM – make the move to mobile computing and how were you involved?

Gal Shachor: In 1996, contrary to the advice I got from many people, I decided to create a servlet container called "servlet express," designed to extend the capabilities of web servers that host applications. This was one of the first servlet containers in the market and later became a vital part of the WebSphere Application Server. I'm fond of this project because it was a tremendous innovation at that time – enabling connection and extension points to all the major web servers that existed.

But that was more than 15 years ago, when the Internet started to change from a technology that was helpful but on the sidelines, to a critical part of how we work and do business (and we delivered WebSphere).

Now – just in the last couple of years – we are seeing a similar change starting in the mobile arena. Similar to what happened in the late 1990s on the web, clients are now asking us for solutions that can help them manage mobile applications in the enterprise; more easily develop new applications; and provide security for all these apps.

How did you personally move to working in mobile?

GS: Before getting into mobile, I worked on form-based applications and user interfaces that make it easy for business people and analysts to build their own web applications. One after another, clients started asking what we're doing for mobile applications. With so many requests, it was clear the market was evolving and clients badly needed a way to move their processes over to mobile.

What challenges is the industry facing with the use of mobile in the workplace?

GS: With so many people now using their personal mobile devices to help with work tasks, enterprises need tighter management capabilities for the applications being used. And the IBM mobile platform provides just that.

As part of our work on the mobile platform, IBM provides a shell (software interface) that businesses can use to add capabilities that force the user to upgrade, block threats, register applications, and provide security. The IT department can add restrictions, run updates, and manage notifications. We also provide the enterprise with tools to more easily develop mobile applications that meet their new emerging business needs.

What kind of mobile opportunities exist in the enterprise space?

GS: We have two possible scenarios: business to employee (B2E) and business to consumer (B2C). For company employees accessing corporate data, their mobile devices need to be managed and applications need to be vended from a corporate app store. This is a large market, especially with new apps being developed first for mobile and then for the desktop.

The second direction is the business to consumer (B2C) opportunity. For example, an insurance company might give their customers a mobile app they can use to fill out data at the scene of a car accident. Both scenarios represent huge market opportunities due to the tremendous flood of mobile devices into our everyday lives.

Note: Gal Shachor is a Distinguished Engineer and Senior Technical Staff Member at IBM Research Haifa. He published the book JSP Tag Libraries, along with numerous patents and papers. He is also the recipient of several IBM corporate awards for his work

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