Developing cloud-based apps for mobile devices

Developing mobile applications for the cloud can be tricky work. Here's how to choose a platform and decide if your back-end systems are up to the task.

What's expanding at the same blistering pace 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 workers 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 port to desktops and laptops later?

Tony Iams, an analyst at Ideas International, an IT research firm, says it's important to determine what part of the application's state -- the code and/or the data itself -- is being moved up to the cloud from the mobile device. "Moving state to the cloud gives you back-end manageability benefits because you do not have to maintain that state on the mobile device," he says. In other words, all changes or application updates are made centrally.

Mobile cloud computing means that the processing of applications -- and the storage and retrieval of data -- is performed by a cloud-based infrastructure. It results in a total cost of ownership savings because IT staffers don't need to update individual devices -- the client software environment is running on a server in the cloud, and changes made there show up on every client.

From the user's point of view, there is a convenience benefit, too, because you can now get to your desktop -- a virtual desktop in the cloud -- no matter where you are, through a browser on a mobile device. "You always have the same desktop environment no matter what remote device you are using," says Iams.

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