For as long as anybody can remember, the target platform for just about all enterprise applications has been the server running some type of operating system.
But an interesting trend that could radically alter the way we think about building and deploying enterprise applications is starting to take hold at the network level. The first incarnation of this trend was a move by Cisco to deploy what amounted to be an application server inside the network. Since then, Cisco has signed up a number of partners to support this initiative, the most recent of which was Compuware.
Now this week we witnessed the launch of JunOS Space from Juniper Networks, which similarly creates an application server at the network layer. JunOS Space comes with an open set of APIs and, sometime in the first half of 2010, a software development kit.
Thus far, these types of application development environments have been primarily used to create applications that are pretty specific to the managing of the network. But as time goes on, it's becoming clear that some form of intelligence about the network is going to have to be embedded inside just about every application. That means that the next logical development will be the inclusion of support for application servers from vendors such as Cisco and Juniper inside integrated development environments. This doesn't mean application servers in the network are going to replace application servers running on Windows, Linux or any other operating system. But it does mean that enterprise developers will soon have to take a federated approach that spans application servers both at the server and the network level.
Of course, this will never happen if developers actually have to know anything about the network itself. But more than likely, the companies that make IDEs will incorporate support for the application servers created by the networking vendors. This should create a high enough abstraction to allows developers to remain blissfully unaware of the network layer.
Once this all happens, we should start to see enterprise applications that incorporate more awareness of time and location derived from invoking APIs at the network layer, which when you think about it could add a whole new dimension to enterprise application development.