App development in the cloud gets speedy, gains traction

With existing frameworks in the cloud, app developers can now quickly revise software, allowing for fast response to business needs.

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But he says that's a small concern in light of the benefits of cloud-based development, which include a faster pace of development, real-time collaboration and the absence of infrastructure -- which means there's nothing to maintain.

"The way I see it, the benefits of using a cloud development tool outweigh by far the disadvantages and getting across the small learning curve," Fournier says, adding that the cloud offers "a great return on investment of your time and money."

A Few Hitches

Other IT leaders, however, say there are some valid concerns to think about before moving development to a cloud environment. Some say they worry about their ability to comply with regulatory mandates and fulfill their obligations related to privacy and security when data is in cloud environments outside of their control.

And some IT shops, including those with lots of older on-premises applications, face significant barriers, Jacobsen says. Using a cloud environment to develop updates or add new functions for these older applications, or maintaining two distinct app development environments, can be complicated.

IT departments that have invested in data centers and development tools customized to their business needs might also resist a move to cloud-based app development.

"People aren't eager to walk away from those," Jacobsen says, but adds that all CIOs should realize that their developers are likely experimenting with work in the cloud even if it's not officially sanctioned.

Duncan DeVore, vice president of software engineering at Viridity Energy, a Philadelphia company that helps organizations manage their energy assets, is a cloud proponent. He moved his company's application development work to the cloud in mid-2013 using a platform from CloudBees.

"You can deploy an entire environment -- that we used to do manually -- in a matter of seconds versus a couple of hours," he says.

DeVore says the traditional development environment was costly for the six-year-old company because it required an investment in hardware and manual maintenance and deployment of the development-and-test infrastructure. That maintenance also wasted time, because developers had to shift from their primary jobs to focus on tasks like provisioning and networking.

A shift to the cloud for development work pays off with a more efficient, quicker and cheaper process, says DeVore, noting that one Viridity developer who was nearly always working on nondevelopment tasks was freed from those and able to return to just writing code.

Noting that the improvements have allowed his team to respond faster, and more often, to user requests for new features and functionalities, DeVore says, "It now allows our developers to focus on what they're paid to do, which is to design and solve business problems."

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. Contact her at

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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