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Intel Expressway API Manager and The Rise of Mobile Middleware

I just returned from an exhilarating trip to the Gartner AADI show in Las Vegas last week. There are a lot of exciting things happening at Intel in the Data-center Software Division (DSD), especially with respect to the Expressway Product Line.

First, we had our first live demo of the integrated solution that showcases Intel(R) Expressway API Manager and the Mashery API Management Portal. This is a true best of breed match between what we think is one of the best security gateways in the market and the de-facto market leader in API management, bringing the best possible product set to our end customers.

Second, we did multiple workshops with Gartner visionary Appcelerator. They make a slick cross-platform mobile development environment that produces native code for mobile applications, and the cool part is that the developer only has to write their code in JavaScript. So you can think of their tool as a cross-compiler that churns out native code optimized for Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows devices but  only requires the developer to have a working knowledge of JavaScript.

The combination of Appcelerator Titanium and Intel(R) Expressway API Manager is a killer best of breed architecture for jumpstarting an Enterprise ready native mobile application. In fact, we showed a live proof of concept that went from a non RESTful back-end to a native application running on an iPhone with Enterprise grade data level security controls in 15 minutes.

Enterprises and Native Mobile Applications

Let’s walk through the scenario. Suppose you are a large Enterprise and you want to get a mobile project going at your enterprise. Furthermore, you don’t really want to compromise with HTML5 – native applications typically provide the best performance and device integration. Here are some of the hurdles – first you will likely have fragmentation in your data-center. You probably have:

  • Disparate middleware and database technologies
  • Disparate identity management silos
  • Disparate programming languages, with different levels of expertise
  • Current architecture optimized for web browsers, e.g. n-tier designed for a thin/dumb client
  • Vertical integration prohibits cloud outsourcing
  • Inconsistent security model across domains

And now, on top of these challenges you want:

  • BYOD with enterprise native mobile applications
  • Low development costs
  • Fast time to market
  • Robust security for Enterprise data

API Enabling Your Existing Architecture

Mobile applications have tremendous value for a mobile sales force. The example we took was a sales manager who is on the road and wishes to access enterprise data securely, directly from the mobile device. We took two examples of data – localized revenue information and the protection of personally identifiable information. In the first example this is a revenue report of local retail stores, which might be accessed by a manager on the road using the location of the tablet or smartphone.

In the second example we can take that same manager and assume he is hiring new employees and has to enter sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) such as a social security number, name, address, date of birth or maybe a driver’s license number.

Here is what the architecture looks like:

 

 

 

On the right hand side we have the Enterprise and the existing architecture. In this example we assumed the Enterprise has a RESTful service for handling new hire information and a SOAP web service for querying revenue information. Further, we assumed the Enterprise currently uses Active Directory for its identities.

Using the Intel(R) Expressway API Manager as a mobile middleware we can put a RESTful facade in front of these disparate systems and expose two simple endpoints for the mobile device. Further, the gateway performs important functions, including:

  • The termination and acceleration of SSL (remember, with mobile, you may easily scale to hundreds of thousands of individual “apps”, all hitting the back-end infrastrcture)
  • Perimeter security for content based threats, such as SQL injection
  • Delegated authentication to the Enterprise LDAP based on an API key in the request
  • Throttling of requests, including denial of service protection (remember, again, with mobile devices there could be thousands)
  • Optimization of content sent back to the device. In our example we showed the transformation of XML to JSON, which is optimized for the mobile phone
  • Data protection, including format preserving encryption, a special mode of AES that prefers the length and character set of data-types. This is especially useful for handling the new hire information, such as the social security number
  • Routing and composition of data accessed form multiple databases. Mobile applications may need to aggregate data from multiple databases, combine it into a single response before it is sent to the mobile device

The best part about the Intel(R) Expressway API Manager is that this entire flow can all be designed in Eclipse using drag-and-drop actions. No coding is required. If you are looking for a quick way to jump-start a native mobile application at your enterprise with minimal back-end changes, give us a shout. We may be able to help!

-Blake

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