Rich client redux
Action Engine bolsters the wireless experience by bringing Web services to mobile devices
Store-and-forward provisions enable the user to work with an application or prepare a series of forms offline, storing them locally. At the next wireless sign on, or PC docking, the device re-syncs with the server and the data is exchanged, setting a request into motion or sending an e-mail, for example.
"> Although we would have preferred to see a broader availability in OS choices and closer integration of .Net features such as C#, we found the architecture and Action Engine framework to stack up as a solid offering.
Additional provisions in the platform for features such as location-based and predictive response data further enrich the infrastructure.
Action Engine sports an average first attempt at a software development kit. With requisite development server and Pocket PC emulator, the SDK would benefit from tools, graphical or otherwise, to streamline the development process.
However, the Java API and XML syntax structure provided everything we needed to begin authoring transactional applications, manipulate XML objects, and take full advantage of client-side resources. Although setup of the extensive system requirements is an involved process, we found the resulting system architecture, with its capacity for fail-over and redundancy, a vital necessity for carrier-grade performance requirements. All told, we found the experience a straightforward one that should present no challenge to seasoned developers.
Most impressive was the solid, Web-based interface for monitoring and administering the Action Engine framework as well as the mobile device clients. Everything from application provisioning and rollout to device SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) and UID (User ID) can be configured and reported. A clean, accessible interface for functions such as customer management, device support, and provisioning makes easy work of getting help desks and new customers up to speed quickly.
Providing facilities for detailed monitoring and detailed reporting of system usage, the solid reporting engine gives carriers the opportunity to adopt a broad variety of revenue models and billing by multiple criteria.
From a customer's perspective, the available PC-based client provides alternatives to system interact, and wireless devices can be backed up wirelessly or while docked to a landline. Action Engine touts several value added utilities to augment the offering: Action Update, Backup, and Lock.
Action Update enables administrators to push applications to the client device using fully scripted installation routines that save time and ensure consistency in deployment. Action Backup offers users a flexible scheme for storing and restoring client-side files and applications either on demand or at predetermined intervals.
And, remote management is facilitated via the Action Lock utility, allowing administrators to securely manipulate devices remotely. What we found most beneficial in this utility was the capability of physically locking and erasing a device, rendering it useless and protecting the security of the data in the event of theft.
In all, three very useful utilities that can be easily leveraged to improve administration efforts and add value to the customer as well.
Although a relatively seamless and well-orchestrated solution, a roll out of Action Engine should be accompanied with expectations for lots of development elbow grease.
Beyond several basic applications incorporating Sabre travel functionality, NNTP, and database connectivity, Action Engine still lacks a large library of prefabricated plug-ins to directly adapt existing enterprise systems, such as SFA or CRM. Notably, however, Action Engine is reacting to customer needs and says it is finalizing work on several applications for Siebel Systems and SAP environments that should eventually help ease integration efforts.
In the meantime, Action Engine makes a smart choice for companies and carriers looking to capitalize on wireless apps to attract and retain customers, improve efficiency, and achieve that seemingly elusive ROI in the mobile Internet.