Mobile Needs A Four-Tier Engagement Platform

Michael Facemire, John McCarthy, and I recently published a clarion call to the technology industry: It's time for a new architecture! The aging Web isn't designed to handle mobile apps or sites. And it certainly can't handle the real-time demands of connected products.

Here's how we summarize it:

Mobile is pushing aging web architectures to the brink. The three-tier architecture built for a browser-led PC world can't flex, scale, or respond to the needs of a good mobile experience or the emerging requirements for connected products. Mobile's volatility and velocity of change require a distributed four-tier architecture that we call an "engagement platform." The engagement platform separates technical capabilities into four parts: client, delivery, aggregation, and services. The new requirements of modern apps will force content distribution networks, application server vendors, mobile middleware vendors, platform-as-a-service suppliers, a myriad of startups, and enterprises to coalesce around this four-tier architecture. CIOs need to start planning immediately for the migration from three tiers to four.

It's time to throw out the old notion of a three-tier architecture -- presentation, application, data -- and replace it with a four-tier engagement platform that can handle the new demands:

An engagement platform suppports a distributed, four-tier architecture natively engineered to deliver compelling experiences, excellent performance, and modular integration on any device over any network at Internet scale.

 

Figure 1 The Four-Tier Engagement Platform Makes Delivery Its Own Tier

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Plugging The Mobile App Gap

What if you wanted an app on your phone or tablet and it wasn't available?
 
Sounds ludicrous given the million apps available in the app stores. But it's not ludicrous. It's commonplace. The world has 188 million active public Web sites and probably at least that many internal sites. And each one of those sites has (I'm betting) five or maybe 25 different tasks buried in it (each one of which could be an app). Let's do the math real conservative like:
 
(188 million public Web sites + 188 million internal Web sites) x 5 tasks per Web site = 1.9 billion potential smartphone and tablet apps
 
And we have 1 million apps today, a ratio of almost 2,000:1. We have a humongous app gap, defined as:
 
When people want applications on a mobile device but find those apps aren't available.

 

Entrepreneurs do their best to plug the app gap when established companies can't or won't see the opportunity. That's what's driving apps like Evernote, Dropbox, Flipboard, Uber, RoamBI, TripIt, and Expensify.

At home, the app gap might lead to a disruption in your market. If you're not serving your customer on a mobile device, maybe a digital disrupter will. (Yes, I know many Web designers are busily adapting some of the almost 400 million sites to work great on mobile devices. It hasn't plugged the app gap yet.)

In business, the app gap is challenging because employees are happy to plug the app gap at work themselves. That's why they bring their own apps. Here's what it looks like:

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