So, What is IBM MobileFirst?

I’m still “the new guy” on the MobileFirst team here at IBM, and right away I’ve been asked by peers outside of IBM: “So, what exactly is MobileFirst/Worklight?  Is it just for hybrid apps?”

In this post I’ll try to shed some light on IBM MobileFirst, and for starters, it is a lot more than just hybrid apps.


IBM MobileFirst Platform is a suite of products that enable you to efficiently build and deliver mobile applications for your enterprise, and is composed of three parts:

IBM MobileFirst Platform Foundation

IBM MobileFirst Platform Foundation (formerly known as Worklight Foundation) is a platform for building mobile applications for the enterprise.  It is a suite of tools and services available either on-premise or in the cloud, which enable you to rapidly build, administer, and monitor secure applications.

The MobileFirst Platform Foundation consists of:

  1. MobileFirst Server – the middleware tier that provides a gateway between back-end systems and services and the mobile client applications.  The server enables application authentication, data endpoints/services, data optimization and transformation, push notification management (streamlined API for all platforms), consolidated logging, and app/services analytics. For development purposes, the MobileFirst server is available as either part of the MobileFirst Studio (discussed below), or as command line tools.

  2. MobileFirst API – both client and server-side APIs for developing and managing your enterprise mobile applications.
    • The server-side API enables you to expose data adapters to your mobile applications – these adapters could be consuming data from SQL databases, REST or SOAP Services, or JMS data sources. The Server side API also provides a built-in security framework, unified push notifications (across multiple platforms), and data translation/transformation services. You can leverage the server-side API in JavaScript, or dig deeper and use the Java implementation.
    • The client-side API is available for native iOS (Objective-C), native Android (Java), J2ME, C# native Windows Phone (C#), and JavaScript for cross-platform hybrid OR mobile-web applications. For the native implementations, this includes user authentication, encrypted storage, push notifications, logging, geo-notifications, data access, and more.  For hybrid applications, it includes everything from the native API, plus cross-platform native UI components and platform specific application skinning.  With the hybrid development approach, you can even push updates to your applications that are live, out on devices, without having to push an update through an app store.  Does the hybrid approach leverage Apache Cordova?  YES.

  3. MobileFirst Studio – an optional all-inclusive development environment for developing enterprise apps on the MobileFirst platform.  This is based on the Eclipse platform, and includes an integrated server, development environment, facilities to create and test all data adapters/services, a browser-based hybrid app simulator, and the ability to generate platform-specific applications for deployment.  However, using the studio is not required! Try to convince a native iOS (Xcode) developer that they have to use Eclipse, and tell me how that goes for you… 🙂  If you don’t want to use the all-inclusive studio, no problem.  You can use the command line tools (CLI).  The CLI provides a command line interface for managing the MobileFirst server, creating data adapters, creating the encrypted JSON store, and more.

  4. MobileFirst Console – the console provides a dashboard and management portal for everything happening within your MobileFirst applications.  You can view which APIs and adapters have been deployed, set app notifications, manage or disable your apps, report on connected devices and platforms, monitor push notifications, view analytics information for all services and adapters exposed through the MobileFirst server, and manage remote collection of client app logs.  All together, an extremely powerful set of features for monitoring and managing your applications.

  5. MobileFirst Application Center – a tool to make sharing mobile apps easier within an organization.  Basically, it’s an app store for your enterprise.

MobileFirst Platform Application Scanning

MobileFirst Platform Application Scanning is set of tools that can scan your JavaScript, HTML, Objective-C, or Java code for security vulnerabilities and coding best practices.  Think of it as a security layer in your software development lifecycle.

MobileFirst Quality Assurance

MobileFirst Quality Assurance is a set of tools and features to help provide quality assurance to your mobile applications.  It includes automated crash analytics, user feedback and sentiment analysis, in-app bug reporting, over-the-air build distribution to testers, test/bug prioritization, and more.

So, is MobileFirst/Worklight just for hybrid (HTML/JS) apps? You tell me… if you need clarification more information, please re-read this post and follow all the links.  😉


  • Samuel

    Hello Andrew,

    Thanks, very nice and clear. Is all of this tool are free?

    • Andrew Trice

      Hi Samuel, The MobileFirst Platform Foundation is free for evaluation, but a license is required to go into production. MF QA and MF App Scan are licensed products.

      • Samuel


  • Eusebiu Marcu

    “is MobileFirst/Worklight just for hybrid (HTML/JS) apps?” – no, one can easily create/develop native apps using IBM MobileFirst Platform Foundation (formerly known as Worklight).

    • Andrew Trice

      Correct, and the links to the native SDK docs are in my post above.

  • Aleksandr Albert

    After watching almost all resources available on MF, I still didn’t know what MF was supposed to do (other than the usual rhetoric of it helps you build mobile apps…well yes but how? Is it server side, is it client side, what is it?). This blog is the first time someone actually explained what it does, thanks. IBM needs to make this more clear.

    • Andrew Trice

      Thanks Aleksandr. Happy to help! Feel free to reach out with any questions, and I will pass this feedback along to others within IBM.

  • Sannith

    By Using MobileFirst/Worklight just we can develop only hybrid Applications

    • Andrew Trice

      Clearly you did not read the article. I reccommend re-reading everything I wrote above. MobileFirst Platform is much more than hybrid apps.

  • Sannith

    Iam new to Worklight It would be Very helpful to me. If you provide a Demo for Native app….

    Iam not getting what exact is Native app..By using Hybrid app we can develop Platform Independent Apps

    Thanks, For the Information What you have Provided

  • Francesco

    Do Mobile First apps need to be deployed with the Enterprise Application Center or is it possible to use public stores (like Google Play or App Store) to deploy public applications?

    • Andrew Trice

      There are no restrictions on how you can distribute MobileFirst apps. You are free to use the public markets (Google Play, Apple App Store, Amazon App Store, etc…) or you can use enterprise distribution. In enterprise distribution, you can use the MobileFirst Application Center, use some other existing enterprise app store, or simply share the application binaries on a web server/URL.

  • Alexandre Lordelo

    Hello Andrew, thanks for the post. There is not much info on mobile first and your was very clarifying.

    I am entrepreneur (not developer) who is planning for developing an iOS business app.

    Do you know if IBM will have a small business backend erp (like quick books or xero) to integrate this apps?
    As it wouldn’t make sense to develop an app to live on its own, without backend integration…

  • Kellen

    Thanks for posting this! Trying to research what exactly IBM MobileFirst is has been difficult because IBM’s site is really just a “sell, sell, sell” site without actual descriptions of the product.

  • Badru


  • Jim Daly

    Hi Andrew, is MobileFirst only for “enterprise” ie BIG Business? What about small business that wants a hybrid app with access to a cloud database?

  • Sam Issa

    Hi Andrew,
    I want to be expert in MF. What will be the best approach I should follow

  • B Roopa

    Very nice article. Thanks.

  • Gian Marco Mercado

    Hi Andrew, thank you for the information you shared. Does it have resources for UI designers?