A Whole New World
Today's business world has evolved rapidly. The needs and expectations of customers are changing, the ongoing economic uncertainty has placed a laser-sharp focus on value and return on investment, and the pace of technological change continues to accelerate.
Those organizations that want to continue to thrive in these trying times have to evolve. The most effective way for a company to manage this change is to remain true to its core tenants and capabilities, but adapt its products, services and outlook to cater to the needs of its customers.
At the heart of today's current technological evolution is the continued maturation and adoption of the cloud.
Data from analyst firm Saugatuck shows that the on-premise market for new applications is only 50 per cent of the total application market this year, highlighting how cloud based apps are growing – and will continue to rise. Hybrid applications that straddle the worlds of cloud and on-premise, comprise 40 per cent of today's application market and cloud only comprise 10 per cent. However, if you extrapolate the data out to 2020, just 10 per cent of applications will be on-premise, with a full 60 per cent in the cloud, and the remaining 30 per cent hybrid.
This is the way the market is going, and we at Progress have designed our application development platform to enable our customers to ride this wave.
With this in mind we have reinvigorated our mission and adapted our portfolio to meet the changing requirements of our customers. Simply put, Progress Software simplifies and enables the development and deployment of business applications on premise, in any cloud, on any platform and on any mobile device.
But the next generation of business applications is not just about cloud. Within this shifting landscape, we have identified five key imperatives for the next generation of business applications. These are five interconnected elements that need to be considered when looking at the next generation of application development and deployment platforms.
At the core lies the central pillar that is the cloud. As has been established, we live in an increasingly cloud-based world, but with shifting elements of on-premise and hybrid to deal with as well. As such, there are four enablers that should be part of any application development and deployment platform of the future, namely remote and mobile working, multi-tenancy, multi-programming language support and model-based development.
Firstly, remote and mobile team working means the need for developers to be able to develop and collaborate remotely – not needing to be permanently connected to a cloud. Working in a potentially disconnected fashion enables teams to work on planes, from home or at the office but then, upon connection, cloud-enabled application lifecycle management can manage complex code bases and conflicts from multiple developers.
One of the key benefits of the cloud is the elasticity and multi-tenancy that can be built into the platform from the ground up. This needs to be built into the next generation of development and deployment platforms, so that when the data load increases, the user count increases or the amount of number crunching increases, the app has a way to scale up and down seamlessly.
Developers are used to living in a multi-language world, be it Progress' ABL, Java, .net, SQL or any other of the myriad of programming languages out there today. Cloud development has to be able to cater to all of these frameworks, especially when you consider that applications are going to be composed of application 'shards' – components or services possibly written in different languages that have to be able to work together within the same cloud.
Finally, to cater to the needs of rapid modelling of new applications, it is appealing to support model-driven development on top of a multi-language environment.
As well as enabling mobile development, applications have to be developed with a 'mobile first' approach. Figures from IDC show that mobile device spend is expected to grow four times as fast as spending on PCs this year, and twice as many mobile devices compared to PCs will be shipped. Similarly, in this year alone, paid mobile applications will generate more revenue than the entire mainframe market, including hardware and software.
Apps must be able to be displayed on a range of mobile device types, from Android to iOS to Windows Phone. Often the business logic 'backend' lives in the cloud, with the front end being able to 'hop' from one device to another.
The mobile world introduces the need for highly personalised content. This content might depend on the type of device but also other changing criteria such as the location of the user. Imagine a supervisor in a manufacturing plant carrying an iPad, walking up to manufacturing devices and the iPad displaying statistics about the device. This is context and location-aware personalisation.
3. Big Data
With further figures from IDC showing that the volume of digital data is expected to reach 2.7 zettabytes (ZB) in 2012, and hit nearly 8 ZB by 2015, today's applications need to be able to handle huge volumes spanning a variety of media types.
A ZB is one billion terabytes – so 2.7 ZB equates to enough information to fill 250 unique newspapers for everyone on the earth every day this year. And the growth rate of this data means that it is not just possible to statically analyse it. This 'big data' is also in a variety of formats, and much of it is unstructured making it difficult to store and index effectively.
Businesses increasingly need to be able to harness and process big data – to spot risk patterns and other threats or to identify customer upsell or other opportunities. However, in this increasingly real-time world, with data streaming at us, the time window to do this analysis and act is decreasing all the time.
Application development platforms need to be able to support the connection these data sources – both on premise and in the cloud (where they are increasingly migrating to). These sources may include databases, applications, data feeds and sensors, amongst others. Next generation platforms need to be able to support analytics on this data to discover relevant business patterns.
Analytics may range from visual analytics, to real-time analytics that can discover opportunities and threats as they occur. Also making it easy to describe business decisions about what to do in certain circumstances – without hard-coding these decision rules in code – is a powerful capability of benefit to increasingly complex analytic applications.
4. Social Media
The next piece of the puzzle is that of social media. By the end of the year, 80 per cent of all mobile applications developed will integrate with social networks, according to IDC.
Clearly this is a trend that's here to stay, and one that's incredibly important to organisations and developers alike, both in terms of functionality and analysis.
Social media is now a powerful business tool that needs to be harnessed in many business applications, and it is important that applications interface with social media in order to support collaboration of users.
Being able to connect users, and provide analytics on social media data as part of the application platform, rather than building it all from scratch, is highly beneficial.
The final imperative is the ecosystem, and this is just as important, if not more so, than the technology.
The next generation development platform that attracts the most users will be the one that delivers an ecosystem around every stakeholder. This includes the developers, the people who deploy their applications using this platform, and the people who look at the services within this ecosystem.
A robust and complete ecosystem ensures easy collaboration and knowledge sharing, key for an increasingly mobile developer workforce and the enforcement of practice. This also ensures that there is direct and highly integrated marketplace access and that developers can make the most of existing assets, regardless of the language they are written in.
All of this is key to delivering true enablement. Joining with partners, finding new customers, these are all the things that need to be part of the ecosystem and built into the platform so it’s not just the technology.
These five imperatives are all interconnected, with overlapping aspects that come together to weave the tapestry that is making up the next-generation application development platform.
This is why we have integrated all of these five imperatives into our vision and the design of our next generation platform: a multi-tenant, multi-language platform with remote development capabilities, a scalable run-time environment, integrated database, and integrated BPM capabilities; mobile front end capabilities with location and context aware personalisation; connectivity to big data on premise and in the cloud, with visual analytics, real-time analytics and decision management capabilities built in; social media connectivity and sentiment analysis; and an ecosystem that helps to accelerate business ideas and foster collaboration.