Lightweight scripting languages on the rise to meet enterprise mobile app demand

According to Forrester, “In 2016, 61 per cent of mobility decision-makers at enterprises expect to roll out new mobile-based products and services and 62 per cent will increase their budgets to pay for more apps.

"Laggards will begin rolling out mobile apps for customer-facing employees, while leaders will enable more employees with mobile apps that improve operational tasks.”

However, in spite of additional investment, delivery of mobile applications is expected to be an ongoing challenge for enterprises. According to Gartner, “By the end of 2017, market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than internal IT organisations' capacity to deliver them.”

App demand drives developer changes

The pressure to continuously deliver business apps, while maintaining business-critical operational IT systems, is driving changes in the culture and working processes of enterprise IT departments. Traditional monolithic app development programmes are now running alongside more agile mobile app development techniques within the same organisations.

As a result of this organisational change, I have observed a growing requirement for enterprise developers who are able to quickly bring enterprise apps into production in response to evolving business needs, often by collaborating with colleagues within and outside of the organisation. I am now seeing IT specialists working much more closely with business managers on the design and delivery of apps.

To facilitate a more nimble approach, enterprise developers are also increasingly using lightweight scripting languages that enable mobile apps to be continuously developed and delivered to the enterprise.

Early adopters of lightweight languages

Groupon, PayPal, Netflix and Walmart were among the first companies to embrace Node.js. These companies deployed Node.js into production, breaking traditional monolithic applications into microservices, enabling them to innovate quickly to solve specific business requirements.

The success of this approach has seen more and more enterprises adopting lightweight scripting languages that enable apps to be continuously delivered in response to changing business conditions.

Lightweight languages rise to the surface

As these pioneers have illustrated the success of their approach to app development, more enterprises are likely to start emulating this mobile app strategy.

The move toward more lightweight scripting languages to support mobile app delivery was apparent in an enterprise mobile maturity survey undertaken by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Red Hat in September 2015.

The survey of 200 enterprises in the U.S. and Europe found that, while the majority of respondents reported that they currently use heavyweight programming languages such as .NET (56 per cent) for app development, there is a shift toward lightweight scripting languages to support the continuous delivery of mobile apps. The proportion of respondents planning to use .NET as their main programming language in the next two years is 19 per cent.

A quarter (26 per cent) of respondents plan to primarily use Node.js within the next two years, while 19 per cent report that they will primarily use JavaScript to support their mobile app development strategies.

Linking apps to existing systems

While cultural changes are afoot to meet the demand for mobile apps, security and back-end integration are still cited as two of the greatest barriers to the implementation of mobile apps in the enterprise. Vanson Bourne found that 31 per cent of respondents to the enterprise mobile maturity survey are meeting this challenge by using Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS) to support the coding of server-facing functions that enable mobile apps to be linked to existing back-end systems.

MBaaS offers the advantage of allowing existing app code to be reused when connecting apps to different back-end systems, which helps to maximise development efficiency across multiple app projects. MBaaS can also be used to enable security functions such as developer access controls when apps are being developed collaboratively by cross-departmental teams, or a combination of outsourced and in-house teams.

Increased collaboration between business and IT

While IT expertise is critical to the functioning of businesses, the strategic importance of mobility is influencing a change in the culture of IT departments, with far greater collaboration between business units and external app developers and a correlating increase in the adoption of lightweight scripting languages to support continuous delivery of mobile apps.

More than a third (37 per cent) of survey respondents reported that they had created mobile centres of excellence to facilitate this collaboration between business units and IT departments.

Conclusion

We have observed an increase in the strategic importance of enterprise mobility over the past two years. Mobile is no longer a ‘nice to have’. It is fast becoming one of the principal ways in which customers, partners, and employees engage with organisations. Over a third (35 per cent) of the survey respondents reported that mobile apps are changing the way that they conduct business by reinventing business processes.

When Vanson Bourne spoke to enterprises about their mobile app development programmes in 2013 as part of a different survey on behalf of FeedHenry (now part of Red Hat), just 7 per cent had a fully-fledged mobile app strategy. Back then it was very much a case of developing an app for this or that. This year, 52 per cent of respondents reported that they have a fully implemented mobile app strategy and they are recognising that their mobile apps need to be integrated with their existing back-end systems.

Along with the recognition of the mobile-enabled future is an acceptance that enterprise mobile apps will use the cloud for development, back-end integration, distribution and lifecycle management. MBaaS platforms are starting to play a broader Platform-as-aService (PaaS) role to support developer agility across all enterprise application development.

Likewise, lightweight scripting languages, such as Node.js, which support web-based and mobile-based back-end integration, are rapidly establishing their position in mainstream enterprise software development and look set to remain there well into the future.”

Cathal McGloin, VP Mobile Platforms at Red Hat

Image source: Shutterstock/Lenka Horavova