Appdome is a new vendor on the scene that wants to ease the pain of building SDKs into mobile apps using a process that’s somewhat—though not completely—similar to app wrapping. This could have an important effect on the mobile app management space, and today Appdome is launching a refined version of their cloud platform, so it’s the perfect time to take a look.
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As with any conversation about SDKs, app wrapping, and MAM, we have to first step back and look at the context.
Despite all the MAM features that now come built into iOS, Android for Work, and Samsung Knox, for a variety of significant reasons and use cases, we also need to build MAM features directly into apps. (This is the type of MAM I’ll be talking about exclusively in this article.) These MAM features can be added manually during the app development process using an SDK, or by using some sort of process to modify apps after they’ve been compiled (typically this is known as app wrapping).
For several years there was confusion around app wrapping, with some people working in a disputed grey area and using it to modify apps from public app stores. However, this practice essentially ended when the Apple developer guidelines that came out with iOS 9 forbade it.
Today, even though you can’t wrap public apps, app wrapping is still a useful technique, and many EMM vendors provide both app wrapping tools and SDKs for mobile app management.
Another important market dynamic to note is that since MAM SDKs are proprietary to different EMM vendors, ISVs have to spend a lot of extra time incorporating multiple SDKs, or create multiple versions of their apps. Furthermore, many developers incorporate addition SDKs for VPNs, identity, security, and analytics.
This is where Appdome comes in.
For some background, they were founded in Tel Aviv about three years ago by Avi Yehuda. (He formerly worked at Neocleus, which many BrianMadden.com readers will remember as a client hypervisor vendor.) Now Appdome is growing their presence in the US. Recently I spoke to Tom Tovar, CEO, and Stephen Philip, VP of market; and earlier this year I met with Alan Bavosa, VP of products.
Appdome’s AppFusion Platform is a cloud-based service that automatically integrates SDKs into iOS and Android apps, through what they call the “fusion” process. It works with app binaries that are already compiled, so there’s no need for manual coding, just like app wrapping. Appdome doesn’t actually use that term, though, because they say their technology is different from other app wrapping products. As they described the process to me, instead of proxying everything the app does, their technology performs intermittent command substitutions, and communicates with operating system APIs at the POSIX level. (There are a few more details in this white paper (PDF).)
The other main differentiator is that AppFusion can incorporate multiple SDKs from different sources into a single app at the same time.
The idea is that ISVs, EMM vendors, app development platforms, and enterprise IT customers could all use the AppFusion Platform as their single tool for incorporating various types of SDKs.
This sounds like a big promise, but Appdome already has several partners, including BlackBerry. Under this partnership, AppFusion can be used to automatically integrate the Good Dynamics SDKs into apps (as an alternative to manual integration or using Good’s own app wrapping capabilities).
I asked John Herrema from BlackBerry about AppFusion. (John lead the products at Good Technology for years, and now he leads the combined EMM products at BlackBerry.) He told me that since the Good Dynamics SDKs cover a broad range of functions compared to other MAM solutions, they spent a lot of time doing mutual testing to make sure everything worked, with the explicit goal of covering all of the core SDK functions and capabilities. He said that customers have been very pleased so far.
Here’s what the AppFusion process is like for customers:
- Customers upload their compiled app binaries to the web-based AppFusion admin console.
- They then select SDKs to be incorporated in their apps. Besides Good, Appdome is offering the Pulse Secure SDK; they’re currently testing the AirWatch and Citrix SDKs and they plan to include other major ones. (Customer-uploaded SDKs are on the product roadmap, and Appdome noted that many SDKs are freely-available from vendors.)
- Besides SDK integration, Appdome also offers an array of their own MAM and security features that can be included in apps as well. (As of today, these features are available in a freemium model.)
- After the options are selected, the fusion process runs. The platform can then help sign apps, and customers can download and distribute them as desired.
As an independent vendor that can automatically incorporate multiple SDKs into an app, Appdome has the potential to ease the burden of ISVs that want to work with multiple EMM partners. This could help make app-level mobile app management easier for the entire industry—so I’m excited about Appdome AppFusion and I want this to get traction. And besides, it seems like a useful tool for anybody that’s developing and deploying apps.
I’m curious to see where this goes, and I’ll be eagerly watching to see what happens.