Making easy work of mobile apps

The mobile world has become highly fragmented, with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) challenging IT departments to create order from chaos.

As well as managing these devices, IT departments have to deliver mobile-enabled business apps that work on any device. But they can’t afford to keep on paying fancy fees to outside developers, particularly when things are changing so fast.

Even if they are developing in-house, it’s costly to support every device in the business, and operate the backend servers and databases, not to mention investing in the endless app-dev cycle, plus the team of specialised developers who know their SOAP from their JSON.

Enter Back-end-as-a-Service (BaaS). More than a dozen firms have launched a BaaS offering this year, and analysts are now starting to predict that BaaS will become as ubiquitous as web hosting.

The thing about BaaS is that it helps IT teams to write mobile apps in hours, rather than days. BaaS platforms use a web-based approach that guides the user through the steps required to set up the organisation’s mobile back-end services.

And just like web hosting, with its hosted web servers, BaaS makes running on-premise mobile app servers redundant.

Companies can still choose to run on-premise servers and databases. But going forward, it will make more sense to use hosted developer services, and swap the traditional server-side stack for a robust and feature-rich managed option, that can power your mobile and web apps for you.

According to one app developer firm, BaaS cuts out the worst part of building mobile and web apps: integration. From the mobile apps’ perspective, BaaS is just another RESTful API with which it interacts.

Another of BaaS’ strengths is that, like cloud services, it offers the latest technology and features. So, for example, the current crop of BaaS service providers are incorporating things like user registration and management, custom data storage, optimised access to data, role management, event tracking, geolocation, analytics, and social integration.

BaaS is maturing fast. That said, there are other alternatives for IT departments that don't need the full BaaS experience to get enterprise functionality from their mobile apps. Powerful tools, such as Tiggzi or Cloud Extend Mobile, can mobile-enable a business process or line-of-business application quickly.

Vendors are also pushing into this area: Intel for example launched two software development suites as an alternative to BaaS. These can help improve app performance on its latest processors and its recently-launched, touch-enabled UltraBook portable.

Meanwhile, offerings such as the UltraBook, Apple’s iPhone 5, and Nokia’s Lumia, continue to feed people’s appetites for slim and fast mobile devices, preparing the ground for even more business-enabled apps.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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