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Can IBM Bluemix and Microsoft Xamarin mobile cloud services coexist?

Microsoft's acquisition of Xamarin forced a change in strategy within IBM, and that turned out to be a good thing for IBM's Bluemix and Mobile cloud platforms.

When Microsoft acquired the Xamarin mobile app development platform in 2016, IBM responded by rethinking its own mobile strategy. Today, the combination of Xamarin and IBM Mobile on the IBM Bluemix platform as a service (PaaS) are a potent trio.

That's the premise behind the presentation "Mastering the Mobile Cloud Using IBM Mobile, IBM Bluemix, and Xamarin," being given by Xamarin expert Dan Hermes at the IBM InterConnect conference this week in Las Vegas. Other mobile cloud services exist, but Hermes, an IBM Business Partner certified in IBM MobileFirst, the Microsoft .NET platform and Xamarin also happens to be the author of the book Xamarin Mobile Application Development.

History moves quickly

To understand the allure of using Bluemix and Xamarin together, it's first necessary to take a brief look back, Hermes said. In February 2013, when IBM launched the MobileFirst development portfolio, it was, in Hermes' opinion, the clear head of the pack for enterprise-grade mobile-application development. "IBM MobileFirst offered a full IDE (integrated development environment), a back-end system for security, notifications, analytics, distribution and version management." Over time, IBM saw others entering the same market and opted to "pull back," focusing more on cloud, cognitive and server-side computing.

Dan Hermes, CEO, Lexicon SystemsDan Hermes

"IBM left front-end user interface development and all that goes on the mobile device largely up to the market," a strategy shift that came "within one week of Microsoft's acquisition of Xamarin," he said. "There was a significant reorganization within IBM to reflect that change," said Hermes, CEO of Lexicon Systems, a Beverly, Mass., consultancy specializing in mobile-application cloud services technology, most notably Xamarin. "This wasn't just a technical change, but a change in how IBM was thinking and selling mobile."

As mobile cloud services for applications, Xamarin among them, matured, IBM was revving up its Bluemix platform with server-side services. With that strategy shift, the choice of user interface development tools was left up to the developer or customer.

Back-end services wide open

"I'm a Xamarin guy and I see a lot of enterprises choosing Xamarin from the front end, but that is not the only option," he said. "The back end is different -- there is a whole gamut to choose from. You can write your own mobile cloud services in Java or in PHP. You can set up IBM cloud products on the back end with virtual machines or a microservices architecture and put services on them.

Within one week of Microsoft's acquisition of Xamarin, there was a significant reorganization within IBM.
Dan Hermes CEO, Lexicon Systems

If there's a shortcoming to that approach, it is that it may not be suitable for enterprise-grade development. "You don't want your developers responsible for security, coming up with ad hoc approaches for notifications, or pulling in third-party analytics or release management tools that don't integrate into your existing platform."

The platform once called IBM MobileFirst, now known simply as IBM Mobile, provides all of those capabilities and is designed as a back-end API and suite of web apps tools all designed for Bluemix. Employing a combination of PaaS with infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Bluemix, in Hermes' view, is an ideal environment for both mobile cloud services.

Ultimately, Hermes said, Xamarin enables developers to create native cross-platform apps for iOS and Android using C#, and IBM supports the Microsoft .NET ecosystem, often important to large enterprises. Shops may leverage IBM's cloud offerings without giving up Xamarin, one of the most powerful and versatile app-building tool sets in the industry. "What you wind up with is a streamlined pipeline for build, test and deployment," he said. "Put it together and I believe that the Xamarin Platform, IBM Mobile, and Bluemix are worth consideration."

Joel Shore is news writer for TechTarget's Business Applications and Architecture Media Group. Write to him at jshore@techtarget.com or follow @JshoreTT on Twitter.

Next Steps

IBM launches Bluemix runtime for Apple's Swift language

Beyond open: Microsoft makes Xamarin free

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