Image Blog Why Business Needs Mobile Application Gateway
September 9, 2019

What Is a Mobile Gateway? And Why You Need It

API Gateways
API Lifecycle Management

If you're building mobile applications, you need a mobile gateway. But what is a mobile gateway? And why should you use it? 

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What Is a Mobile Gateway?

A mobile gateway is an API gateway that provides secure communication between a mobile application and backend resources. A mobile gateway is also known as a mobile secure gateway, mobile API gateway, and mobile application gateway

The purpose of a mobile gateway is simple. It secures mobile APIs, protects the data and applications behind the APIs, and enables you to ensure compliance with regulations. For example, using a mobile gateway can help you with PCI compliance

Why Do You Need a Mobile API Gateway? 

A mobile API gateway is essential for today's businesses. That's because mobile is now a mainstream channel for doing business. Businesses need to keep up to capitalize on mobile opportunities. But that creates challenges for IT. 

There's additional strain on enterprise IT to serve existing channels and this new channel with significantly different user interaction characteristics and demands.

This growing demand for mobile apps has hidden consequences for enterprise IT. These consequences include:

  • A spike in backend activities/transactions.
  • The resulting need to rearchitect how firms handle security, data, and middleware.
  • The reworking of backend systems and processes.

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Two Ways to Deliver Mobile Applications

There are two ways that enterprise IT delivers mobile applications.

1. Mobile Application Development Platforms

You can use mobile application development platforms (MADP) to build native or hybrid mobile apps. This recreates the web application with a mobile façade.

This means:

  • Consuming the same interfaces and security standards that were designed for web applications.
  • Making the necessary transformations in the mobile device.

MADP providers include support for consuming various message formats and a variety of security and data protection protocols.

2. RESTful API Infrastructure

You can create a parallel RESTful API infrastructure to connect applications directly to mobile devices. RESTful APIs offer a lightweight format that is simpler to document and consume within mobile apps. However, this creates a parallel or sometimes redundant infrastructure to existing middleware or microservices deployments.

Challenges in Delivering Mobile Applications

Both of these approaches have their merits, but neither constitutes a complete solution for addressing the demands of an enterprise mobile architecture. Organizations that took the MADP only approach are finding that it results in; heavy and sluggish mobile apps that compromise the mobile user experience, apps that are difficult to port to other devices, and apps that require frequent updates every time a back-end application or service changes. Creating point to point APIs creates a redundant infrastructure to the SOA and ESB infrastructure in place at most large enterprise. To address the chattiness and atomic nature of mobile transactions, some services providers have been pushing to create a completely new infrastructure to address mobility demands.

A Better Way to Do It: The Mobile Application Gateway

There is a “hybrid” medium between private datacenter and cloud only infrastructures. And you do not need to rearchitect all of your backend applications and middleware to adapt to mobile.

There is no need to start a demolition project, or stand up a parallel infrastructure just to support mobile apps.

The ideal middle ground is setting up an intermediary between your existing applications/services and your mobile applications. This intermediary does all the transformation and mediation. And it applies security polices.

We at Akana have been quietly building just such a solution. Enter the mobile application gateway.

The mobile application gateway is a solution that addresses the limitations of the above approaches. It does not replace the need for MADP. But it does enable native and hybrid mobile apps to communicate securely with enterprise applications and services — whether they are running on-premises or in the cloud.

How a Mobile Application Gateway Works

Here's how a mobile application gateway works. 

1. Provide REST APIs

MADP platforms provide a platform for building engaging apps that can be provisioned to multiple devices/platforms through multiple app stores. Some MADP providers or newly minted mBaaS platforms also provide a set of services that are commonly required for building mobile applications.

Abstracting out enterprise backend applications and services makes it more efficient for app developers. It frees them up to concentrate on the mobile user experience and functionality. They no longer get bogged down in the details of the various different messaging formats, styles, and protocols — or the corresponding nuances in the way each of these handle security.

A mobile application gateway provides:

  • REST API façade for mobile developers.
  • API documentation
  • An easy way to test these APIs, license them from respective API providers, and apply standard security mechanisms. 

By using a mobile application gateway, you can accelerate development. And you can relegate complex message and security processing to the mobile application gateway.

2. Transform, Mediate, and Integrate With Other Applications and Services

Most enterprises have a large deployment of existing applications and services. They use an array of different messaging formats and protocol. These can range from SOAP/XML to JMS — or even native platform specific protocols like Net.TCP.

The APIs that are published to developers need to be simple and elegant. But they need not expose the API architectural complexity that is often required behind the scenes. Some of the best-designed APIs aggregate and orchestrate between multiple backend applications and middleware infrastructure.

A mobile application gateway can help achieve this without replacing existing middleware. It adds a valuable API proxy that can be deployed in the DMZ (or cloud). That's where it can perform the necessary transformation, mediation, security token exchange, and orchestration at the edge of the enterprise.

3. Manage the Lifecycle of APIs and Services

Enterprises have spent millions of dollars on their applications, middleware, and security infrastructure. This infrastructure is constantly being updated and upgraded due to business requirements. Examples of these include new features etc., or technological requirements like version upgrades or patch updates.

It is quite difficult to keep track of:

  • The relationships between the various applications and services.
  • Their respective versions.
  • Their complex interdependencies.

This complexity increases when these applications and services are published externally as APIs to a vast army of mobile developers and partners. Any change to an internal application or service might have ripple effects on APIs. We are all aware of the frequent updates to either mobile apps themselves. Or, even worse, we're aware of the loss of capabilities in these apps when a backend service is changed.

This calls for a more strict and holistic approach to how businesses manage the lifecycle of their APIs — from business API requirements, design, development, testing, production and retirement. Enterprises need to adopt tools that allow them to manage their API lifecycle, beyond simple API versioning. They need to link lifecycle management back to the underlying services and applications — and to the evolving business and technology requirements that initiate these changes.

The mobile application gateway is an integral part of the enterprise API management solution. The gateway takes its configuration and policy directly from audited decisions made during the planning and development stages of the lifecycle.

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Get Started With a Mobile Gateway

If you're building a mobile application, you need the best mobile gateway. And that's what you get with the Akana API gateway, a key component of the Akana API platform

The Akana gateway acts as an intermediary between mobile applications and backend services. And Akana protects your data and applications by securing APIs with the gateway. 

By using the Akana API gateway, you can accelerate time-to-market and drive a competitive advantage in mobile channels. At the same time, you'll relieve stress on IT by eliminating the complexity of delivering mobile applications.

That's because Akana: 

  • Manages REST APIs.
  • Transforms, mediates, and integrates with other applications and services. 
  • Manages the full lifecycle of APIs. 

See for yourself why the Akana API gateway and API platform are the best options for your business. Get started with a free 30-day trial today. 

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