App refactoring might be a bridge technology, but Citrix and VMware should both make acquisitions

It's been nearly a year since my first exposure to app refactoring, and I'm still excited about it as a concept. The biggest question I have, though, is whether or not it's a bridge technology that exists just to get us by until we come up with something better, or a more permanent technology that will exist for many years to come.

It’s been nearly a year since my first exposure to app refactoring, and I’m still excited about it as a concept. The biggest question I have, though, is whether or not it’s a bridge technology that exists just to get us by until we come up with something better, or a more permanent technology that will exist for many years to come.

The strongest argument can be made for it being a bridge technology that is only needed until organizations find native mobile alternatives. Reddo Mobilty, for instance, has a strong tie to SAP, even going so far as to have special tweaks that it makes specifically for converting the Windows client to a mobile device. While this may seem like a permanent solution to a problem, SAP has recently put a lot of investment behind it’s “Fiori” user experience, which is intended to create a consistent look and feel across devices and platforms. Reddo is great if you’re not using Fiori, but if you are, do you need Reddo?

The same can be said of just about any application, frankly. Does anybody really WANT to refactor a Windows or browser-based application? No. We’d rather have a proper native application (or native-behaving web app) than add in the extra steps required to re-factor it. So it seems to me that these products have limited life spans.

On the other hand, there are use cases where you might consider it a permanent technology. If there are Windows applications that you have no intention of moving away from that still need to be delivered for occasional mobile use, you might think of app refactoring as permanent. And let’s face it, even if it is a bridge technology, we’re dealing with Windows apps. We’re not talking about a goldfish lifespan, we’re talking about a lifespan closer to that old cat that you had as a child that is still inexplicably laying in the corner licking something twenty years later. Windows apps aren’t going away, so the need to access them from a mobile interface won’t be leaving anytime soon, either.

Because of the long projected lifespan, I think it won’t be long until Citrix or VMware acquires one of these companies. VMware already has a partnership with Capriza, so they have the early advantage. The issue with Capriza is that they only re-factor web apps, and since the argument for the longevity of app refactoring is around Windows apps, that still leaves room for them to acquire either Powwow or Reddo.

Citrix has been doing app refactoring for a long time, actually, with their Mobility SDK and project Golden Gate (which re-factors Outlook for use on mobile devices via XenApp). Those products have proven to be useful, but only if the app being re-factored was built in-house and the company had access to the source code. Neither Reddo nor Powwow requires access to the source code to re-factor an app.

App Refactoring Fantasy Draft

So there’s three products on the market and two companies that could benefit from them. I mean, there are more, but there are two companies that stand to gain something from adding this kind of functionality. Plus, let’s face it, if one does it, the other probably will, too. So who goes where?

Round 1

Based on the fact that Powwow leverages the RDP protocol for much of it’s transformations (there’s also a server-side component that contributes), they seem like a better fit for Citrix. That makes sense, too, since adding a feature like this that leverages XenApp expands the use case for XenApp, as if it needed one. Powwow also has the ability to do web applications (though not in the same way as Capriza), so that kills two birds with one stone.

Round 2

That leaves Reddo and Capriza for VMware. Since VMware already has that partnership with Capriza, it’s easy to see that evolving into an acquisition. If that were to happen, though, that would leave a gap when it comes to transforming Windows applications. That’s where Reddo comes in, and since Reddo doesn’t do web apps, the two products combined make for a complete solution.

Ahh, but this is all speculation. Maybe nothing will happen, but it seems to me the world has been waiting for this kind of technology for a while. With Citrix and VMware so focused on mobility and Windows applications, it seems like a logical next step. Tying in app refactoring with the centralized management and policies that companies already have in place seems like a win to me.

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@Gabe I wonder who is supposed to do the refactoring? If I give this to my dev teams they will not use it as they want to budget to built new apps and see this as a distraction that just keep the old tools and guard in place. They want to do new stuff. So I say niche tech.


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I've only asked that of one vendor (though I can't remember which one off the top of my head), and the answer was that the refactoring was intended to be done by the "application owner", so not necessarily IT people, and certainly not developers.


From what I've seen from Powwow, Reddo, and Capriza, the process to transform an app seems simple enough that an "application owner" could do it with a little hand-holding from IT. Even if it was 100% done by IT, I haven't seen anything that would require a developer.


In fact, I could see a particularly savvy department transforming their own application without IT knowing it. I wouldn't tell anyone to shift marketing dollars to that segment (rogue departments are hardly numerous), but it's conceivable.


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At Reddo, our experience has been that application owners (e.g. super users, business analysts, etc.) are best positioned to “mobilize” and existing desktop application.  They understand the workflows, the mobile environment, and the user base.  


The Reddo platform provides built in “suggestions” that help business users make decisions related to translating desktop application screens/layouts/controls to mobile devices.  This no-code approach has the benefit of decreasing the time to iterate on changes or publish new mobile apps.  Business users can build and publish new apps using our drag and drop environment in less time it would take to write specifications for a developer.  We see customers wanting to define multiple “micro-apps” that support specific use cases as opposed to a mobilizing an entire application suite.


With respect to Gabe’s broader question of whether app refactoring is just a “bridge technology”, I’d make 2 points:


1. It is a really long bridge.  That is, most enterprises have huge inventories of mission critical applications that were built on platforms that make it difficult to mobilize.  In many cases, there are no near term plans to sunset the applications.


2.  It can also be seen as an on-ramp to achieving a new level of enterprise application agility.    Business users are constantly evolving their processes and workflows.  The concept of “disposable mobile apps” gets at this idea.  We see “refactoring” (or user experience virtualization as we prefer) as an approach that lets business users rapidly define their own UIs that are optimized for their workflows BUT are based on proven application infrastructure built in a formal development process.  This is a need that goes beyond legacy Windows applications – it applies to modern enterprise applications as well.


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