Developing apps for the mobile cloud: What you need to know

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There are a lot of moving pieces; here's how to be prepared.

What's expanding at the same blistering rate as your company's mobile workforce? How about the demands those users are making for a software experience that rivals the one they get on a desktop?

For many companies, a private cloud is the answer. But if you decide to power your mobile workforce centrally with a private cloud, your mobile applications need to be developed with that infrastructure in mind.

Several factors are in play here, especially if you want applications that can work on all mobile devices, desktops and notebooks. What is required to get existing applications to work with mobile devices when the apps are running remotely on a cloud? How do you resolve the problem of fitting data from an application designed for the desktop onto the smaller mobile device screen? Should you develop for mobile devices first, and only then port to notebooks and laptops?

Other development techniques

Mobile apps come in one of two forms: those native to a specific device, and those accessed through a browser (also known as mobile Web apps). A mobile Web app is usually built with HTML (today this would be with HTML5), CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and JavaScript. Style sheets provide the look and formatting for documents written in a markup language such as HTML5.

A native mobile app is built specifically for a particular device and its operating system. It can take advantage of built-in location features including GPS, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope and others. Mobile Web apps running on servers in mobile clouds are not always able to take advantage of these kinds of location features and when they do, need to emulate them.

The goal is not to approach this as, "I need to build a custom extension for the iPad," Golden says. "The iPad is just one device. There will be dozens, so you need application APIs and components that are portable."

API-as-a-service vendors -- including Layer 7 Technologies, Apigee and Apiary -- can help here, with their respective API management tools. These tools can be implemented in the mobile cloud.

Some customers have novel approaches to this issue. Mohawk Fine Papers, for instance, is using the cloud itself as an integration platform.

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