Why you need to know about vendors like Apperian, even if you’re not building custom mobile apps yet

It's been a little while since we last checked in on mobile app management vendor Apperian. If you're not familiar with them, they provide a platform for app wrapping, app lifecycle management, and enterprise app stores.

It’s been a little while since we last checked in on mobile app management vendor Apperian. If you’re not familiar with them, they provide a platform for app wrapping, app lifecycle management, and enterprise app stores. They also have a lot going on that’s interesting even if you don’t happen to be developing any mobile apps right now. To understand why, let’s take a step back and look at some of the larger trends within enterprise mobility—in particular, how mobile app management has been changing.

The changing face of MAM

A few years ago—before the term “enterprise mobility management” was in use—we were having lots of discussions about how to handle BYOD and whether mobile device management (MDM) or mobile app management (MAM) was the best way to deal with mobile devices in the enterprise. But now things have evolved quite a bit—we know that MDM and MAM each have their place, and in general, EMM use cases have become much more defined.

One of the main use cases of EMM is simply dealing with the flood of non-Windows and non-BlackBerry devices, and for this have MDM as well as MAM in the form of email clients, file syncing apps, VPN-connected browsers, and other basic apps.

One of the other main use cases is dealing with all the other employee-facing mobile apps our users need. This includes apps from public app stores as well “home grown” (internally-developed) mobile apps. Managing these apps often involves techniques like SDKs, app wrapping, life cycle management, enterprise app stores, and ecosystems of MAM platform-compatible apps.

That said, most of our mobility coverage on BrianMadden.com has leaned towards the former category—managing devices, BYOD, and the just the basic apps. But I also want to keep my eye on the latter use case and pay attention to anything that involves custom and in-house enterprise mobile apps, including app transformation, mobile app development platforms, hybrid apps, etc. (For some examples, see here and here as well as Jason Conger and Warren Simondson’s BriForum session.)

Watching this “custom mobile app” space is why we pay attention to vendors like Apperian.

Apperian

There are several different components that make up Apperian’s solution.

First, since Apperian is fundamentally a mobile app management company, we have to talk about the actual mobile apps and app management policies. Apperian generally doesn’t make most of the apps they manage. (Though they did have an app business in the past). Instead, they provide an app wrapping tool that can add MAM features to existing app binaries.

Some features like encryption, VPN configuration, authentication features, and copy/paste control are hard-coded directly into the app wrapper when an app is deployed. Other things can be done later on using Apperian’s policy engine—for example location masking, geofencing, jailbreak detection, app expiration, app wiping, analytics reporting, and updates. And all this can be conditional, too, based on location, the status of the device, the user’s role, and so on.

The next component of Apperian’s solution is their enterprise app store. While you might be tempted to think an app store is just a fancy way of displaying a bunch of links, it’s actually more than that. For example, sometimes finding apps in the public app stores can be a huge pain. (Don’t you hate it when you type in the exact name of an app and Apple still can’t find it!?) So if you want to deliver a more than just a few apps (regardless of whether they’re in-house or public apps), you can see how having an customized enterprise app store is helpful. Apperian told me that many of their customers see a marked increase in the usage of recommended and in-house when users can find them more easily.

Another thing that Apperian addresses is the lifecycle process around building custom apps. They can automate the work that’s involved with publishing, signing, getting certificate renewals from Apple, and updating apps. Apperian integrates with several different mobile app development platforms, so you can publish and wrap apps directly from the consoles of these other products.

Apperian rounds out their offering with features like remote control technology for iOS, instant publishing of hybrid apps, and most recently, a fully open API for the entire Apperian platform.

The use case

At this point you might be thinking, “Fine, but we’re not developing our own mobile apps, so why should I care about Apperian?” Or, “we don’t recommend that many apps, so why do we need this?”

Obviously what Apperian does is more important for larger companies that are developing and deploying lots of internal mobile apps. But even if you’re in a mid sized or smaller company and not thinking about mobility much yet, you should still keep these concepts in mind:

First of all, the need to manage and develop apps will trickle down no matter what.

Second, there’s still a lot you can do around app management short of bringing hard core iOS and Android developers on to your team:

  • You could be use a mobile app development platform—some of which allow non-coders to build real mobile apps based on web languages, or even build apps using drag and drop tools for completely for completely codeless app design.
  • You might just have a lot of apps to recommend and deliver anyway, even if you aren’t actually creating your own. An enterprise app store helps get these in front of your users.
  • You can package existing internal or external web apps into “real” mobile apps, complete with their own set of management policies (app-level VPN, geolocation, authentication, remote wiping, etc). This can be way easier than using MDM to set up policies on a device, provision VPN credentials, and make a web shortcut.

So you can see that once you get to more than just a small handful of apps to deal with—even if you didn’t build them on their own—there are benefits to a solution like Apperian.

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Policies seem to be very powerful and automation of lifecycle process is another kool feature.


How about XenMobile? It also offers to wrap custom applications using their SDK that you can get after signing a digital certificate that Citrix sends you once you are registered as a third party vendor or application developer?


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