It’s more than just a buzzword now – It’s the cloud. The invisible hand of the cloud has begun shaping the future of apps and software as we know it.
In yesterday’s Cloud Computing Talk and Panel at GMIC SV, Dave Nielsen talked with Reynaldo Gil (ReyLabs), Tim Anglade (Apigee), and Fred Radford (NinjaMyApp) about this growing force in our software and what some of the implications are for developers and users.
The core takeaway of the cloud’s effect is that moving the “center of gravity” of the code from the device to the cloud enables new possibilities. Real time A/B testing, updating without a release, and downloadable assets are all potential perks of using the cloud. Moving the heavy lifting to the cloud can be called “Back-end as a service”, where the front-end of the code can be a native shell around a backend which does the real number crunching.
During the panel, Reynaldo spoke to how there is a large green market for phones which could really utilize back-end as a service. This is because there is significantly more code reuse by doing all of the processing in the cloud and letting the device handle the presentation. My own Campus Maps addition, TwoTapTextbooks is a perfect example. By having one universal MySQL database to store all transactions, with a PHP layer to return nicely formatted JSON, TwoTapTextbooks can be served as a website, Facebook app, iPhone app, and Android app which can query the thin PHP layer to get the data they need. The best perk? iPhone, Android, website, and Facebook users will all be able to sell their books to each other.
TwoTapTextbooks is currently in closed alpha with an open beta coming in December 2012. This too is another point of strength for back-end as a service – I can roll out TwoTapTextbooks as a website, then an iPhone app, then the Android and Facebook apps, testing each independently. Supporting additional platforms requires minimal effort with the back-end written and tested thoroughly.
Creating a back-end isn’t easy however. Tim found several humorous symptoms typical of undertaking such an effort:
*Acute Apache Anxiety
*Going to PHP Frequently
*Chronic Hipster Dysplasia
*MongoDB – “Sometimes you wake up and it’s in the middle of your stack, someone installed MongoDB”
While Tim took a comedic approach in describing the headaches involved, creating a back-end is no laughing matter. Apigee is centered in this arena, specializing in scalable API’s for developer and enterprise solutions.
Finally, Fred shared some fascinating concepts for bringing the cloud to the table. Real-time A/B testing becomes feasible when the back-end monitors the results, as does real-time tweaking and updating without having to release a full app update. Downloadable assets also allow apps to stop worrying about the app store size limit, which currently forces users to install apps over 50mb (formerly 20mb!) over wifi. A thin native client can pull data from the server upon launch, reducing size in the app store and allowing for large apps to be downloaded anywhere.
Cloud computing is shaping current and future products, and as a result changing our lives. How many times will you interact with the cloud today?