The final piece in the technology puzzle is the middleware that ties everything together. Mobile middleware acts as a mediator between the device and the enterprise's information assets, performing the following main functions:
Synchronizing device and organization data
Messaging, including email
Translation between data formats, platforms, and network protocols
Security, including authentication and encryption
Perhaps the most critical middleware function is to keep the device and enterprise views of data in sync with each other. This can be one-way synchronization (for example, in which the device always updates the enterprise data) or two-way synchronization (in which changes can be made independently on the device or at the office, after which the two are reconciled).
Most middleware also includes a communications component. This usually takes the form of email integration with popular desktop programs, but may include instant messaging or integration with voice or fax services.
A less obvious, but nonetheless critical role is that of translator. The protocols and formats used in the mobile world are often different from those of the enterprise network. For example, WAP devices require a gateway to let them access Web resources.
Security is critical when accessing corporate data remotely. Enterprise mobile middleware always supports security both in the form of encryption of information and in authentication of devices and/or users.
Finally, as more employees come to depend on their mobile devices, management of these assets becomes increasingly important. Management functions include asset tracking, centralized backup, and coordinated software updates.