Cloud Computing Should Drive More Custom Application Development

Michael Vizard

One of the things that held back application development in the enterprise has been the cost of setting up and managing the infrastructure for the development and testing environment.


But with recent advances in virtualization and cloud computing services, the cost of developing custom applications has dropped significantly. Virtualization allows IT organizations to quickly provision servers to develop and test applications without having to actually set up physical servers. Cloud computing is now taking that one step forward by letting developers create development and testing environments in the cloud.


To that end, Microsoft will soon deliver tools to help manage the application development process on virtual platforms. In so doing, Microsoft will be catching up with offerings from VMware and VMLogix, which has an OEM relationship with Citrix. As these management platforms evolve, it's becoming clear that a hybrid application development model is going to evolve where parts of the application are developed locally, while other elements are developed on a cloud computing service.


What all this should mean is that as it becomes simpler and less costly to develop custom applications, more businesses should be looking for software to provide competitive differentiation. After all, one of the arguments brought forth in the book "IT Doesn't Matter" by Nicholas Carr is that one of the biggest issues that business people have with IT is the lack of competitive differentiation once everybody adopts the same technology. The only way to maintain a competitive edge is to create some form of a custom applications or extension to an existing application that rivals don't have.


Unfortunately, budget constraints have been a limiting factor when it comes to building custom applications. So the question now is: As the cost of developing custom applications drops, will your organization become a lot more interested in building them?



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Sep 11, 2009 10:15 AM Richard Rabins Richard Rabins  says:

Michael,

Not sure I entirely agree with premise here.The argument seems to be that technology and related costs drive business requirements.It's the other way around.

What will drive more custom development is not cloud computing or better management tools or finding a way (or better ways) to use VMs as part of the appdev process.That's putting the cart before the horse.

What will drive more custom app development are easier ways to build custom apps.Until the tools industry makes it easier for business of ALL sizes to quickly meet business requirements with Web-based apps, all the management tools in to the world will be for naught.

I'm also not convinced that hybrid apps or hybrid development is the future, certainly not in the near term.We've been marketing one of the top database application development platforms since the DOS era.We've watched things change from DOS to 16-bit Windows to 32-bit to the Web and now cloud computing.We've had to respond to remain relevant to our developer base, and for them to remain relevant to their businesses and clients.The overriding trend I see among the (literally) millions of developers in our global base is that they and the organizations and users they serve overwhelmingly want Web-based apps.

When it comes to custom apps, as soon as you give your developers a way to easily build pure Web applications, demand for desktop apps dies.The only thing holding back a wholesale move to the Web among customer development is the fact that the tools and languages are not evolved enough to for IT development teams and consultants that build for businesses to rapidly build Web apps.

We made the decision in 2007 to invest in our RAD technology for Web apps.In 2008 we made the decision to invest in AJAX RAD for the cloud.The result has been a onrush of new developers to our platform, all targeting custom app development.Very few developers are knocking on our door asking for new desktop or hybrid features, even though our platform remains fully capable of producing them.

While we continue to invest in desktop capabilities, even our desktop features are now driven by our "codeless Ajax" technology.That's what developers want, because that's what their businesses want, because that's what their employees and customers want.And every time you make it easier for developers to meet certain requirements, you reduce the cost of meeting those requirements and speed time to market of their ultimate business solution.

Developers and business have for years understood that the way to cut custom appdev cost is to make it easier for development teams to meet business requirements faster.The faster apps can be built, the faster they're tested, the faster they're deployed, the faster they're upgraded to align to new requirements.Everything else comes later.

I also don't buy the notion that the technology itself is a company's competitive differentiation.Even if all of your competitors are using the same technology, it's how you implement a solution that is the differentiating factor.Show me ten cloud-based apps for ten insurance companies, and I'll show you nine horrible workflows that make users nauseous, and one that gets it right.

There's no shortage of Web-based custom corporate apps that use latest whiz-bang technology, yet people hate to use them thanks to bad workflows and awful designs. Reply

Sep 11, 2009 10:15 AM Richard Rabins Richard Rabins  says:
Conversely, there are simple desktop apps or early Web apps that people just love to use.I know some businesses that consider legacy DOS and Windows 3.x apps mission critical, because they just work.Still delivering ROI after 10 or 20 years in the field.I know that's not politically correct, but it's the reality of the custom apps business.

The competitive edge will always be in the application design, not the technology it uses.It's all 1s and 0s in the end.

I'd also like to see the numbers that support the assertion (I'm assuming it's from Microsoft) that advances in virtualization and cloud computing have reduced the cost of appdev.I suspect a counter argument could be made that they are actually increasing development and testing costs, but lowering deployment (including updates), management, and business continuity (backup/recovery) costs.It might well be a net savings in the end, but I think the savings are post-development, hence the need for these new management tools.

Reply
Jul 14, 2010 3:25 AM Custom Application Development Custom Application Development  says:

With the introduction of cloud platforms like Google App Engine and Amazon Web Services, enterprises can significantly reduce time-to-market, while building vastly more scalable, flexible and modern applications. This is possible because cloud platforms enable developers to focus on the business issues by abstracting away many aspects of middleware/infrastructure management and scaling. The proposition is even more compelling for enterprises.

However, taking full advantage of cloud platforms requires specialized skills, new processes and new ways of thinking about application architecture and scaling:

Specialized skills: new technologies like Apex, Visualforce, Python, etc.

New processes: agile application development and quality control.

New architectures: non-relational data, multi-tenant kernels.

Reply
Dec 18, 2013 3:34 AM cwstechnology cwstechnology  says:
But with recent advances in virtualization and cloud computing services, the cost of developing custom applications has dropped significantly. Virtualization allows IT organizations to quickly provision servers to develop and test applications without having to actually set up physical servers. Cloud computing is now taking that one step forward by letting developers create development and testing environments in the cloud. Reply

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