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In this article by Mitesh Desai, author of BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5 Implementation Guide, we will have a look at the MDS (Mobile Data Service) runtime applications that can be deployed to the BlackBerry Smartphone. MDS enables the BlackBerry to truly become a Smartphone by allowing administrators to deploy critical applications to the Smartphone. This article will show you how to distribute an MDS application to a BlackBerry device. We will also custom develop applications to run on the BlackBerries or use third-party applications to push on to the devices. Finally, we will further secure the application usage on the device by using IT policies.
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(For more resources on BES, see here.)
MDS (Mobile Data Service) runtime applications are custom applications that are developed for your organizational needs. MDS runtime applications are created using BlackBerry MDS Studio or Microsoft Visual Studio—a BlackBerry plugin. In general, these applications are form-based applications that users can use on their device to access databases or web services based inside your organization's firewall—the corporate LAN.
For the purpose of this article you can download a sample MDS application from the BlackBerry website under the development section, current link is: http://us.blackberry.com/developers/javaappdev/devtools.jsp. This application is an Expenses Tracker, which an employee can populate in real time from his device as business expenses occur during a trip. Once the trip is complete, the application e-mails your finance department and attaches an Excel spreadsheet outlining the employee's business trip expenses.
Understanding and setting up our MDS environment
The MDS has two component services:
- MDS Connection Service: This service provides access to content on the Internet, intranet, and access to the organization's application servers
- MDS Integration Service: This service facilitates installation and management of applications and allows access to the server system in your corporate LAN via database connections or web services.
Firstly, we need to set up our MDS environment. This includes the following:
- Ensure that the BlackBerry MDS integration Service is installed and running on our BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
- This service should have been selected during the initial installation of the BES; if it was not selected we can run the setup and install the MDS Sservices. If the MDS service is already installed, you will see the services running in the Windows server.
- Send the BlackBerry MDS Runtime platform to devices in our BlackBerry domain
- This can be achieved by using Software Configuration policies, as shown next:
- Publish the BlackBerry MDS application
- This will be done using the MDS console that is installed during the installation of MDS services
- Configure our IT policy and any application control policies for the MDS application
- Using IT policies and application policies we can lock down our MDS application
- Install the MDS application on the devices
- Using the MDS console and the application repository for MDS applications, we can deploy and install the MDS applications on the devices
Each of the preceding sections will now be looked at in greater detail.
Running MDS services
During the installation of our BlackBerry Enterprise Server we can chose to install the MDS components. We need to ensure that the MDS service is running in our environment. This can be checked by going to services on the server that hosts the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and ensuring that the BlackBerry MDS Connection Service and BlackBerry MDS Integration Service are started, as shown in the following screenshot:
Installing MDS runtime platform
For MDS runtime applications to work, we need to ensure that the MDS runtime platform is installed on to devices in our corporate network. The version of MDS runtime platform that you need to install on to the devices will depend on the following:
- Model of the device
- BlackBerry software version on the device
So, depending on the different devices and the different BlackBerry device software running on the devices, you might need to create several MDS runtime software configuration packages to cover the different models and device software within your corporate environment.
We can use a software configuration to deploy the MDS runtime platform that is needed on the devices. For the purpose of this article, we are going to assume all our devices are the same make and have the same device software: BlackBerries 8900.
Creating a software configuration to deploy the MDS runtime platform to devices
- Download the appropriate MDS runtime platform for your device from the BlackBerry website-the current link is: https://www.blackberry.com/Downloads/entry.do?code=F9BE311E65D81A9AD8150A60844BB94C. For our example, we are going to download the MDS runtime package for a BlackBerry 8900 device, which is entitled BlackBerry MDS runtime v126.96.36.199
- Extract the contents to a shared folder on the BES server.
- Log in to the BlackBerry Administration Service.
- Under BlackBerry solution management expand Software then Applications and click on Add or update applications.
- Browse to the ZIP files for the MDS runtime application, and once selected click Next.
- Select to publish the application
- To ensure the correct packages were created browse to the BSC share (code downlosd, ch:5) and ensure the following files are present:
- We now need to create our software configuration (since the preceding steps have just added the MDS runtime application to the application repository only). Select Create a software configuration.
- Enter the name Runtime, and leave the other settings as default.
- Click on Manage software configurations and select Runtime.
- Select the Applications tab and click on Edit software configuration, as shown in the following screenshot:
- Click on Add applications to software configuration.
- Click on Search or fill in the search criteria to display the Runtime packages. Select the Runtime applications (in some cases two applications may have been created; select both, one is the default launcher and one is the runtime platform, this is dependant on the device). In our example, we need both the MDS Runtime and the MDS Default Launcher, so we need to place a tick in both to show additional configuration steps, as shown in the following screenshot:
- Select Wireless as the Deployment method and the Standard Required for the Application control policy, and Required for the Disposition setting.
- Once added, click on Save all.
- We now need to assign this software configuration to the devices in our BES environment. For the purpose of this article, we are going to assign it to the Sales Group.
Please bear in mind that—as mentioned before—if you have different devices or same devices but with different device software operating on them then you will need to download the right MDS runtime platform for each scenario and configure the appropriate number of software configurations.
- Click on Manage groups.
- Select the Sales Team.
- Click on Edit group.
- Select the Software configuration tab. In the Available software configurations list, click on Runtime and select Add, as shown in the following screenshot:
- Click on Save all.
Now that our devices are ready to run MDS applications we need to add our MDS application to the MDS application repository. The MDS application repository is installed by default during the initial installation of the BES as long as we choose to install all default components of MDS. The MDS application console is a web-based administration tool, like the BlackBerry Administration Service, which is used to control, install, manage, and update MDS applications
Please note that you use the BlackBerry Administration Service to control Java-based applications and you use the MDS console to administer MDS applications.
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(For more resources on BES, see here.)
Logging in to the MDS console
We can log in to it using the details we specified during installation.
- Open up an Internet Browser.
- Type the FQDN of the server that hosts the BlackBerry Administration Service followed by the subdirectories listed next. For example,
- In the MDS-IS Host drop-down list, select our MDS-IS instance, and type in the user name and password created during the installation process.
Now that we have logged into our MDS console, we can add the MDS application to the MDS application repository.
If you get an error while logging in stating "unable to connect to MDS services", ensure that your internal DNS has an A host record pointing to the MDS-IS service. In our example, we would need an A record created in internal DNS that points mds to the ip address of our BES server. Then restart the MDS-IS service.
Adding an MDS application (Expense Tracker) to the MDS repository
- Within the MDS console under the
- In the Upload application bundle section, browse to the Expense Tracker ZIP file (the one downloaded from the link in the introduction of this article.
- Click on Upload application bundle and then click on the Update application bundle link again.
We have now added the Expense Tracker to the MDS application repository using the MDS console. Please note that the MDS sample application that we downloaded was already primed for publication. If you are developing your own MDS application, please make sure that you have taken the appropriate steps to make the application publishable
We now need to look at sending this MDS application to our users' devices.
Sending the Expense Tracker MDS application to BlackBerry devices
We can send the MDS application to BlackBerry devices over the air. Users will then use the BlackBerry MDS control centre on their BlackBerry device to search the MDS application repository and find the Expense Tracker application. This will enable them to then go ahead and install the application. The MDS control centre is available on the BlackBerry device once the MDS runtime platform has been installed and activated on the device.
- Log into the MDS console.
- On the MDS Application management menu, click Application Directory
- Browse for the Expense Tracker application.
- Click on the install icon. We now have the following options:
- We can install the application based on groups, and using the drop-down we can select an existing group that we want to install the MDS application to.
- We can install the application based on BlackBerry PIN numbers. Select the PINs option and we can import a list of PINs from the BlackBerry Administration Service or we can type the PINs in separating each PIN by a semi colon (;).
- We can install the application on BlackBerry devices based on usernames. Select the users option, and as mentioned earlier we can either export the users or type them individually.
- We are going to use the group option and select the Sales Group.
- We can then choose some scheduling options:
- We can specify the date and time we want the application to be installed.
- We can specify how many devices at one time the application install request will be sent to the default setting; the default setting is 10 at a time and is configured under the group setting.
- The push interval allows us to set the interval at which the MDS Integration Service tries to send the application to devices; the default value is 5 minutes.
- Click Install to proceed.
We can check to see if the process was completed successfully by viewing the scheduled job status in the MDS console under the MDS Application management.
So using the MDS console, we have successfully deployed the MDS Expense Tracker application to all the devices within the Sales Group.
You should now be able to go to a device that belongs to the Sales Group and see the MDS Expense Tracker application functioning on their device.
Configuring IT policies with respect to MDS applications
We have settings available in our IT policy with regards to MDS applications; these can be configured to provide tighter control of the applications.
As with Java-based software, we can apply application control policies to our MDS applications. This feature is outside the scope of this article but further information can be found at http://www.blackberry.com/developers/.
In this aricle we saw how the MDS applications that can be deployed to the BlackBerry Smartphone. It also showed how to custom develop applications to run on the BlackBerries or use third-party applications to push on to the devices.
We were able to carry out the above tasks by using the MDS console, and downloading the appropriate MDS runtime packages for our devices.
- BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5: Activating Devices and Users [Article]
- BlackBerry: BES Architecture and Implementation Planning [Article]
- Creating your First BlackBerry Project [Article]
- IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide [Book]
- Interfacing with Personal Information Management (PIM) Applications in BlackBerry [Article]
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About the Author :
Mitesh Desai is a 29 year-old IT Consultant from London, UK. He has completed Blackberry projects for numerous clients in many different network infrastructures. He also operates an IT consultant company IT-Problems He enjoys a busy lifestyle supporting many prestigious companies in the heart of Central London, but makes time to enjoy sports and writing music. He is also at hand on IT-Problems to help budding Blackberry technicians.