The Apple/IBM Partnership: Security and Access to Mainframe Data

Apple and IBM announced in July that they were preparing to develop more than 100 business software programs for Apple’s iOS operating environment. These programs are being designed for a wide range of industries including financial services, health care, retail and telecommunications. What IBM and Apple are trying to do is build a set of mobile device decision support tools (data and business analytics tools) that will provide access to backend data residing within secure enterprise cloud environments.

At IBM’s Systems and Technology Group (STG) analyst briefing last week in Greenwich, Connecticut, IBM executives told Clabby Analytics that:

  • Apple initially approached IBM with a goal of finding ways to make smart phone/iPad interactions with backend data more secure (this was well before the highly publicized break-in to celebrity data held in the Apple cloud);
  • A major part of Apple’s focus is securing interactions between its products and backend mainframe databases; and,
  • Clients need packaged lifecycle services (procurement, configuration, deployment, management, help desk and financial services) for integrated Apple/IBM environments. As one IBM executive put it: “An enterprise client can now procure, get configured, have access to integrated applications that can be provisioned with the right information – and can also receive the right level of care. Enterprises can buy Apple devices and obtain full life cycle management from IBM.” (Note: IBM is working on an exclusive agreement with Apple to provide these services.)

Why Did Apple Decide to Do This?

Why did Apple seek out IBM’s help on this mobile/security/cloud initiative? We believe there are three major reasons:

  1. A huge portion of the world’s transactional data resides on IBM mainframes (every second 1.1 million high-volume customer transactions occur on mainframes worldwide);
  2. IBM has an extremely comprehensive set of tools designed to secure mobile devices and manage backend data in a secure fashion. We see no other software maker with a mainframe security/fraud prevention/mobile computing/services portfolio as broad and deep as IBM’s portfolio; and,
  3. Apple wants to expand its reach into the enterprise and knows that it must be perceived as a safe environment, or IT executives will resist Apple access to backend data.

Based upon our own market analysis, we think that Apple had little choice other than to select IBM for this security/analytics partnership. The biggest reason is that IBM makes mainframe architecture – and with so much of the world’s data residing in mainframe databases, Apple had few options but to partner with IBM. But we also note that three other elements (IBM’s strong reputation in security, its mobile DevOps tools and its broad/deep portfolio of analytics software) probably heavily influenced Apple’s decision:

  1. Securing databases from fraud and security violations is a complex task. In a June 2014 Clabby Analytics report we showed that securing a computing environment can involve security processes, data management software, entity/predictive/behavioral/context/content/geospatial analytics, social network analysis, forensic analysis, case and content management, middleware and more. IBM has been able to build a comprehensive, integrated fraud prevention environment designed to detect, discover, investigate and respond to fraud activities in real-time. Further, IBM has augmented this environment (known as IBM Counter Fraud Management) with additional security and deployment services.
  2. The mainframe offers a broad suite of integrated mobile/DevOps tools and utilities that make mobile application development simpler and more straightforward. This mainframe DevOps environment consists of 1) IBM’s Worklight mobile application platform; and 2) IBM’s Rational Test Workbench (for automating the testing of mobile applications).

    In a November 2013 report published by Clabby Analytics, we described how Worklight “enables application developers to build, run and manage mobile applications. It supports multiple mobile operating environments and devices; it makes it easy to connect and synchronize mobile applications with enterprise data, applications and cloud services; it helps safeguard mobile devices at the device, application and network layers; and it enables mobile applications to be managed and governed from one central interface. Further, Worklight enables developers to write one mobile application that can be deployed to many mobile platforms and operating systems. In short, IBM Worklight is a collaborative development environment that supports a process of continuous delivery.” Further, we described how IBM’s Rational Test Workbench (which is a test/automation for complex and highly integrated applications) helps developers perform comprehensive functional, regression, load and integration testing.

  3. IBM has made major investments in analytics ($24 billion spent on analytics-related programs and the acquisition of 30 analytics companies), and now has the broadest and deepest analytics portfolio in the industry.

Summary Observations

Apple recognized a major growth opportunity for itself if it could find a way to better integrate its client devices with backend data. But Apple also recognized that it did not have the deep backend infrastructure skills needed to access data held in large, secure mainframe databases around the world. Accordingly, Apple approached IBM with a proposal that would better integrate Apple clients with mainframe databases. And IBM, a company that is strong in client integration, jumped at the opportunity to more tightly couple its database and analytics products with frontend Apple clients.

The Apple/IBM alliance is a good deal for both companies. And it’s a great deal for each company’s customers because they get the best of both worlds: a smooth Apple client mobile interface to protected, secure backend databases as well as access to sophisticated analytics tools. In the end, all parties concerned win when it comes to this deal.

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