Enterprise organizations face the daily challenge of ever-growing needs with their traditional applications. Not only are these needs growing, but they are constantly changing as well, forcing companies to adapt by changing not only their tools but also their systems. Today, I’m talking with Austin Convention Center Database Administrator Jeff Moore about his role in the Centers consideration of and adoption of Apple iPads and Mobile-first applications.
Joshua: HI Jeff, our readers would find it helpful to know a little about your day to day responsibilities at the Austin Convention Center, can you share some of your background?
Jeff: Officially I work for the City of Austin and I’m a database administrator. But in that role, I do a lot of different things. I do maintain database servers; primarily our FileMaker servers and I have a SQL server. But I also do a lot of development, which includes requirements gathering. Now that is the software piece, but I am also involved more broadly with systems.
Three years ago I arrived at the Center having worked in publishing industry for about 15 years. I’ve used a Macintosh for many years, so I had both a Microsoft Windows (Windows) and an Apple Macintosh (Mac). I always had a preference for the Mac.
When I first arrived at the Center I was met with words of caution regarding the City’s use of Macs. However, we had a graphic artist that had a Mac. Using that foundation, I was able to acquire a Mac. From that point, more and more people within IT have been asking for Mac.
Based on the growth, I also started a little group within the City that I just call the City of Austin [employee] Mac special interest group. We meet on a periodic basis to discuss what is happening, the state of Mac in the City, etc.
So, I told you that to say, when the iPad came around, it was consider an Apple product, like Mac. I was asked to take over the evaluation of the iPad systems based on my involvement Mac, at least for our department [Austin Convention Center].
By chance, right around that time the City was getting a lot of requests from different departments for iPads. The City asked departments to put a hold on requests until iPads could be tested and evaluated with the overall infrastructure. So I was part of the team that was now at the City level, not just the Center level.
So my responsibility is as a database administrator, application developer, and an Apple hardware point person, as well as the overall management and integration of those things. So I have three hats if you will.
Joshua: Can you expound on the most critical issues regarding the overall integration and management?
Jeff: Yes, part of making the iPad useful and acceptable within an IT infrastructure is the Mobile Device Management (MDM) piece. Basically, job-one is being able to do all those management things you might do with a Mac or Windows system. For example, remoting in to an iPad, pushing out profiles to an iPad, enforcing policy, getting software inventory, etc. As a team we evaluated multiple products and settled on product and solutions from Air Watch.
Joshua: Did you or anyone else consider using other technologies to resolve the data sharing that you’re doing? For example, did you consider cloud application storage or managed file transfer like box or Dropbox?
Jeff: Well we have tested — the City has tested box kind of — like an organization would purchase from Google or from any other software company. One of our requirements is that we have more control over it and the way that it is licensed for our end users. So as I was saying, we have tested box at a City level.
I’m not really clear where we [and the City] are with the testing, but my manager, Joe Gonzales, and I have informed the City that we’ll be rolling out 100+ iPads by the end of 2012. Because of that, we will need some way of transferring files. So we’d use box if the City had it available.
Looking back, the Center had for a long time wanted to automate what we were doing on paper with our exhibitor services orders. And so as part of that software solution, the iPad was the deployment mechanism for that software solution. I’d like to point out one key item, it didn’t happen that someone happened to have to have an iPad and so we will or did deploy an app to it.
Our vision was always, we have FileMaker in house. Second, we’ve done a lot of development with FileMaker. Thirdly, our current exhibitor services system is based on FileMaker and ultimately generates our work orders. So it was a natural progression for us to take paper to the next level and use an iPad.
Joshua: So, why didn’t you choose a laptop, HTML5 or even an Android device?
Jeff: We could have developed a web application that is accessible by multiple mobile operating systems, but we eliminated that and any consideration for Android devices. Because for us, FileMaker Go made it a very sweet thing to be able to get in and quickly re-purpose sections of our applications as mobile apps. We wanted to stay with FileMaker and as a result we’ve stayed with Apple iPads as our primary means of delivery.
In the next blog entry with Mr. Moore, he will explain his views on the consideration of additional mobile applications, e.g. those for participants of Center events, security concerns driving FileMaker infrastructure and how cloud application storage can act as a receiver of data sourced from FileMaker databases.