Xamarin joins forces to launch new enterprise App standards group

DevToolsGuy / Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cast your mind back to your first mobile phone. Or more specifically the phone charger that the vendor had packaged with it. If you ever tried to charge your handset at a friend’s house or at the office, you may have encountered the irritation of an incompatible phone charger. However, think more recently about the last phone you purchased and the chances are that you’ll not have experienced this inconvenience. 

Why not? Probably due to the standardization of mobile phone chargers, which has been agreed upon by a number of telecommunications companies. The issues of having complicated, vendor specific nuances and the conveniences offered by standardization is what we’ll be discussing in this blog post. Specifically, we’ll be looking at the development of an application standards group that wants to make positive changes to how applications are developed. This movement is being headed up by Xamarin. These guys (alongside others) are trying to become the standard bearer for cross device development, so this development is both a positive step forward for them and the wider industry.   


We think that’s ACE!

Xamarin and several other vendors (including Box, Cisco, VMware and Workday) recently outlined the plans to move away from an SDK based application development towards something more universal at the March 2015 Mobile World Congress (in Barcelona). The name of this enterprise level application group seems to be quite fitting; it’s called is ACE (App Configuration for Enterprise), and ace it is.

ACE is a standard intended to promote several aims, with a lot of changes being given to rolling up security and management features into applications. These changes can be summarized as follows:

  • Allowing vendors and developers to automate the first-time setup experience with enhanced application configuration capabilities
  • Enforcing application secure app connectivity to corporate networks with app specific tunnels
  • Providing a single sign-on apparatus with a view of avoiding separate user login requirements on an app by app basis
  • Allowing access to native apps only on secure, compliant devices with access control
  • Preventing data leakage with a flexible set of security policies including open in and copy/paste controls
  • Wiping corporate data remotely from lost or stolen devices

The current approach to readying Enterprise level applications has always been a very fragmented experience. As ACE is the first industry-wide solution that can alleviate this problem regardless of its intended usage, it should be viewed positively. Mobile applications are, if we’re being candid, what make mobility programs successful. As such, ACE is an important and powerful catalyst in enabling empowerment for a greater number of firms with the updated, enterprise-ready apps they need regardless of their deployment structure.

Simplification for developers

As an app developer, the first port of call for developing an application is normally a software development kit (SDK). In many instances, this is no bad thing. An SDK includes literature examples and many other general details for getting started.  This may lead to you wanting to ask what’s the need of having them replaced?

We’d answer that an SDK is only vendor specific, so the line of thinking from ACE is a valid one.  They offer this by using a standard framework and plugging into application programming interfaces (APIs) from Android and Apple's iOS so that mobility management tools will be easier to integrate. With ACE, developers will also be able to cut time and costs when they develop enterprise apps as they’ll not need to create multiple versions of the same tool using different SDKs.

Simplification for administrators

The last three items on the bullet point list above can also contribute to how effectively IT administrators are doing their work. Firstly, knowing that there is a maintainable list of authorized devices that connect to applications on terms laid out by IT security’s access controls should be reassuring to all stakeholders. 

Secondly, having this feature being backed up by standardized security policies and the ability to remotely wipe devices in a fashion that which is universal regardless of who made the device ensures a quicker response time to any data loss. It also means that administrators will have less work to do in familiarizing themselves with various devices and their configurations, as ACE will give them a platform for tackling any issues they’ll potentially face.

A more unified future for the industry

We think that the development of ACE can only be a good thing. Standardization and streamlined processes will help application development mature to levels that can only be beneficial, not just for IT staff but to the end user.  For these efforts, Xamarin and their peer companies should be applauded.