Over the past 20 plus years, the enterprise application ecosystem has comprised heavily of Windows applications. But, with the shipment of the first iPhones and iPads in 2007, this began to change. Today, we are moving to a mobile first world, which is impacting almost every aspect of enterprise IT, not the least being the delivery of enterprise applications to mobile workers. These workers are demanding the productivity that only comes with a first class user experience that is optimized for mobility.

A typical large enterprise will have an application portfolio that consists of thousands of individual applications. Some will have been developed in house such as a custom CRM or ERP app, while others will have been sourced off the shelf from a third-party application provider, such as the Microsoft Office suite. When considering how to mobilize these apps, the demarcation between third-party versus in-house is significant. Specifically what matters here is access to the application source code, the raw material that software engineers work with to create the applications we often take for granted. Typically, the enterprise will not have access to the source code for third party applications whereas it will have access to source code for the applications developed in-house. Having access to the source code gives the enterprise a far greater choice when it comes to a mobile application strategy.

Thankfully, Citrix has a technology-stack that addresses the challenges associated with mobilizing applications. Here are four strategies/technologies that will help organizations turn each of their applications into a mobile productivity tool:

    • Make no change to the app with the Citrix Mobility Pack. The Citrix Mobility pack provides an enhanced mobile experience for Windows apps without the need to modify any code. Windows apps and desktops are taken without any change and mobilized in a low risk, low effort way to enhance the productivity of mobile users. The Mobility Pack runs on a standard XenApp or XenDesktop deployment. It provides an auto pop-up on screen keyboard when the user touches into a text entry field and auto scrolling to ensure the text entry field is visible to the user and not covered up by the on-screen keyboard. Additional mobile UI features are introduced like auto zoom to make the local device picker controls and list boxes easier to use in Windows applications. And finally, for users who access their desktop from a tablet device, the desktop UI objects have been expanded to make them more usable, reduce the error rate, user frustration and ultimately the time taken to complete a task.

With the use of the Citrix Mobility pack, Windows Applications and Desktops become more usable and no source code changes are required. This makes it a low effort, low risk approach, however there are limits to the improvements that can achieved. This is where it can be beneficial to refactor the existing application.

See screenshots below.

    • Refactor the app with the Citrix Mobile Application SDK. The Citrix Mobile Application SDK allows existing in-house Windows LOB applications (for which the enterprise has control of the source code) to have their user interface refactored for touch-based tablets and smartphones. The SDK provides developers access to the device capabilities such as GPS location services, camera and messaging to add additional capability to their applications. Developers can even write a new Windows app, virtualize it on Citrix and deliver it cross-platform with a device native experience.

Using the SDK, existing LOB applications can be mobilized without touching the backend business logic. All the development work is undertaken within a Windows eco-system and then delivered virtually using XenApp/XenDesktop in the datacenter to any device with Citrix Receiver. This combination of reuse and virtualization, allows enterprise apps to be mobilized while maintaining security and control and leveraging existing enterprise app investments.

    • Transpose the app using Citrix HTML5 Mobile Applications. HTML5 is being used as a technology for mobile applications – Facebook and LinkedIn are two significant examples. One of HTML5′s chief advantages is platform independence, which reduces application development and test costs. Unfortunately developing HTML5 mobile applications typically requires software engineers with web development skills, which can be problematic when the available enterprise skills are steeped in Windows development.

This is where Citrix, with the help of our partner Gizmox and their Visual WebGUI tools, can help. Currently available for customer pilots, we are innovating with a future HTML5 Mobile Application solution that allows customers to use their existing Windows developers to migrate existing Windows desktop and client/server apps to mobile apps (WinForm and VB6 applications make ideal candidates). The applications are transposed in a largely automated fashion and the workloads migrated to a web based ASP.NET infrastructure. In this environment, the user interface can then be modified to suit touch-enabled tablets and smartphones and the new virtualized mobile application delivered to any HTML5 compliant endpoint.

Once the application is available on the mobile device it can be further enhanced to take advantage of the local device capabilities using the same API provided by the Citrix Mobile Application SDK. This means that the newly transposed mobile app can take advantage of device properties, button information, keyboard, camera, device sensors such as location and accelerometer, messaging, telephony and push events. This will enable enterprise developers to provide a consumer-like experience for enterprise apps.

    • Add new apps with Citrix CloudGateway. As mobility initiatives grow, organizations are opting to add new native mobile applications to their portfolios. In some cases, this means rewriting an application as a native app for the device and in others it is as simple as procuring the app in this new form. The advantage to this strategy is that mobile users get a true native experience when using their apps – the disadvantage is that apps must be procured or rewritten for every mobile OS supported, i.e. a specific app for iOS and another one for Android devices.

Citrix CloudGateway offers mobile application management capabilities for organizations with native mobile applications. CloudGateway with MDX technologies enables IT to wrap any iOS or Android application for delivery to mobile devices via CloudGateway. These corporate apps will then reside in a secure container, completely separated from personal apps on the user’s mobile device. IT has comprehensive policy-based controls over the usage of corporate apps within the secure container, including the ability to remote lock and wipe.

With the transition to a mobile first world, enabling employees to be productive when mobile is a critical IT requirement. A significant part of this is having access to the right enterprise applications on the right device. Above, you read about a number of Citrix technologies available for mobilizing new and existing enterprise applications to provide the best user experience for the application being delivered. These solutions run on top of existing Citrix products like XenDesktop, CloudGateway and Receiver and provide a means for enterprises to mobilize all of their applications while preserving their existing investments in the applications that keep their business running.

As a side note, my colleagues Bruce Franson and Steve Parry are presenting on this topic at Synergy Barcelona next month – check out their session here.

Question to you: which mechanism for mobilizing your applications do you think you will try first? For those of you using any of these technologies today, tell us about your experience. We love to hear from you

A special thanks to Simon Farrugia for his help on this blog!