Verivo Software Launches New Enterprise Mobility Solution: Verivo Akula

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by Mike Jamison

Solutions Review was granted an interview with Verivo CEO Steve Levy and VP of Marketing Communications Parna Sarkar-Basu prior to the announcement today, where SR received the complete low-down on Verivo Akula, the new Enterprise Mobile Application Platform, including Akula’s application development and control features, where it came Akula, and how Verivo plans to succeed with Akula.

Steve started out by saying where Verivo came from. The company had started out over 10 years ago focusing on building mobile apps for business before anyone even knew what a mobile app was. The company was called Pyxis Mobile back then, and focused on finance apps for finance guys with Blackberries. Steve was brought on as CEO in 2010 and promptly transformed the company into Verivo Software. It wasn’t just the name that would be changing.

The requirements and context of mobility was changing as well. During the age of Pyxis, Steve said that “mobile technology was considered ‘nichy’ by the IT organizations of most business, much the way of when websites first came out.” In contrast with the web, however, mobile is becoming transaction and enterprise ready much more quickly. According to Steve, this sea-change really started in 2011, when business started buying massive quantities of iPads and handing them to sales reps. Those reps said “awesome!” and then started asking IT for apps other than a web browser on those devices. As IT scrambled, the newly minted Verivo Software was offering a mobile application development platform solution, the Verivo App Studio, allowing IT to build and deploy those new apps that sales and soon other departments wanted. Developing mobile apps running on iOS thus “went from niche to mainstream and even strategic,” with Verivo riding the wave.

That was only the start of the changes in store for Verivo, however, as the mobile marketplace matured. Steve said that in regards to Verivo’s App Studio, “basically what we’re finding is the following: it’s a really good fit when people get started in mobility… but we see our customer base continually outgrowing it.” That’s been happening because after companies get more experienced with enterprise mobility, App Studio becomes a good fit only “for certain very specific use cases” where customers are “much more concerned about functionality versus the user interface, but the number of people with that use case is shrinking; people want to use the standard technologies” available today like HTML5, while leveraging increasingly sophisticated back end capabilities to power those apps across an array of different devices and operating systems.

Enter Verivo Akula. Akula is an entirely new product and offers a different set of capabilities than App Studio. Whereas App Studio is a proprietary IDE, Akula is a completely configurable server that has no proprietary IDE and instead has been designed to integrate with other standard mobile IDEs like Sencha, PhoneGap and Appcelerator while providing significant back end capability to deploy, secure, monitor and troubleshoot those apps in today’s multi-device, multi-operating system environments. A way to put it metaphorically is that Verivo has chosen to focus on the plumbing rather than the shiny faucet. By adopting this focus, Steve said that Verivo Akula’s “functionality for addressing enterprise problems goes up.” In fact, half the demand for such “plumbing” has come from Verivo’s current App Studio customers looking to solve enterprise app challenges.

What kinds of enterprise app problems and challenges are Verivo’s customers looking to solve? Steve identified four. First, enterprise mobile apps are transaction-oriented and are heavily integrated with the rest of the enterprise. Second, those enterprise apps need to be easy to operate, in order to avoid drops in adoption and thus ROI. Third, enterprise apps need to be very secure, even when offline and out of coverage. Fourth, platform fragmentation with both external customers and internally via BYOD presents major challenges to app functionality and adoption.

Akula looks to help business overcome these challenges. One specific problem that falls under challenges one and two mentioned above is the ability to build and operate transactional business apps without the need for continuous network connectivity. That means your field rep or repair crew can still access critical functionality and data in areas with limited/spotty service. Akula will let you build and operate just that kind of app. Through server-hosted management tools, Akula will also allow your IT Help Desk to control, manage and troubleshoot field app issues beyond the usual “try turning the device off and then on again” techniques. Automated and simple data management tools will allow your app developers to develop apps, rather than spend their time managing data, which will lower application development and operation costs. Related to the third challenge, security is always top of mind with Akula. The on-site hosting capability and included tool-set enables the enterprise to control where sensitive data goes. And with the ability to integrate with a wide range of IDEs, no level of platform fragmentation can thwart your developers. The new enterprise mobile app platform has also been designed to integrate with whichever console your IT department uses currently, such as Tivoli. Some other anticipated benefits include fewer run-time problems and a more responsive app development environment, enabling you to adapt as the market changes.

Regarding Akula’s Mobile Application Management features, Steve admits that there is some overlap in terms of functionality between Akula and available MAM solutions, but Akula approaches the challenge from a different direction. Akula will change the app’s internal UI depending on the permissions that are set. With traditional MAM, you have containerization and an “external” approach to who can download what app on a specific network. Also, most MAM solutions have capabilities that aren’t included in Akula. At the same time, Steve rejects the label of Akula as an mBaaS (Mobile Back-end as a Service) because of Akula’s focus on control and oversight of the platform and data on it, its enterprise-grade magnitude of capability that he sees as lacking in most cloud-based solutions and on-site hosting option. Akula does a whole lot more than host and configure data and apps in the cloud. Cloud hosting is still of course available for those who may be less concerned over sensitive data or control leaving their enterprise.

On the other hand, Verivo has made sure that Akula’s upfront pricing model is NOT enterprise-grade. You start out with a free 30-day trial, and if you like what you get, you will move into a tiered pricing structure that starts at $5,000/year for a team developer license, $15,000 a year for a deployment pilot and then after that CPU and server based pricing starting at $60,000 a year. That ought to compare favorably to the upfront six-figure costs that other solutions will charge.

Verivo App Studio has not been completely forgotten. The IDE will still be supported and enhanced by Verivo for existing customers, but will not be marketed and Steve admitted that he expects few new sales of the old platform. They had considered integrating App Studio with Akula, but the two did not easily fit together technologically and a proprietary IDE did not fit with Akula’s emphasis on openness and integration with the mobile ecosystem.

In order to get the word out, The Verivo Marketing team will be primarily engaging with those who are interested online. The trial version easily downloadable and Verivo expects most of their lower-tier sales to close over the phone. Verivo’s support services, DevCenter product documentation and tutorials will all be available free of charge to all tiers of service as well through the web.

On a different note, if you were curious, so was I, and I had to ask: why did Verivo choose the name Akula for this platform? Steve explained that the name means “Shark” in Russian, and also represents a powerful class of Soviet/Russian Submarine. Something powerful that nevertheless runs unseen beneath the waves… makes sense to me, and apparently the current head of software development and ex-submarine commander at Verivo who Steve intimated had a hand in name-selection.

So, if you have a need to overcome some enterprise mobile app challenges and require a powerful platform hidden beneath the waves of your choice front-end solutions, Verivo wants you to try out their new big fish.

For the press release on Verivo Akula, click here.

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