Sunday, October 16, 2011

Modernizing Applications? Client devices may hold some keys!

Questions have been raised in discussion groups; opinions have been tossed about freely; vendors continue to stay close to their customers. All the same there’s no denying that changes underway with how users interact with systems continue to impact all applications including those deployed on NonStop!

There have been multiple posts to this blog talking about modernization and a number of them have looked at the types of client devices proving popular. For many readers, it’s their iPad that they prize above all else, while for others it’s one of the many smartphones that now run Google’s Android OS. Whatever is our preference, the question doesn’t change: how will these devices find their way into business life, and when will we see them supported by NonStop server? When will the time come when our answers to our business colleagues will be as simple as Yes, we have an app for that!

In a recent pilot interview in the United Airlines in-flight magazine much was made of the heavy bags pilots carry with them on every flight. Back in the late 1970s I even bought one of those distinctively “squar-ish” pilot bags, so I could carry reels of tape with me as I went from one data center to another installing operating systems. But not anymore! It will only be a short time before all United Airlines pilots will be carrying iPads, as they have now been approved by the FAA as a suitable replacement to all the heavy charts and procedure documents that pilots have relied upon for years.

iPads are beginning to make an appearance in classrooms. Our daughter was not all that keen on them, but as a teacher she did participate in an Apple-supported update program and came away more impressed than she had ben. Yes, they will make a contribution and yes, she will take another look. Pilots! Teachers! Even auto manufacturers! There are now so many avenues where tablets and smart phones are making an appearance.

For the NonStop community this is a particularly important trend to watch as any movement within the tablet and smart phone markets will likely affect the way information is distributed, as the NonStop Server will likely be in the middle of much of this. As smart phones became micro payments processors – yes, I now pay for car service to a company that simply swipes my card through their Square Card Reader and my receipt arrives in my email inbox! What we have viewed as client devices is undergoing dramatic change and none of this is lost on those who are part of the NonStop community.

In a recent email exchange with comForte CTO, Thomas Burg, I asked him about the progress that had been made and of the interest levels in supporting applications on tablet and smart phone devices. A few months back, Thomas had given me a cool demo on my own iPad and I could see the potential for even more “apps” to follow. “We have been looking in this area and in fact we have a beta running which uses HTML5,” Burg responded this week. “The beauty of this it that it will run on just about ANY device, including iPad, Android tabs etc. You can even see a screenshot today at:

The technology doesn’t seem to be all that difficult to work with and providing products not difficult at all. However, in working with early interested parties, the business considerations remain “up for discussion” according to Burg. After all, it’s the support of the NonStop that is at the heart of providing solutions in support of tablets and smart phones and this is not a trivial undertaking in terms of staying current with HP’s roadmaps and ensuring traditional (and expected) reliability is preserved. But equally as important at this very early stage is to understand what is the best use of such solutions – is it in mobile payments? Is it in support of IT staff on the move co that they have access to the data center? Or is it even more basic than that and whether small NonStop servers become network front-ends routing messages to any mix of private and public clouds where pertinent information may reside?

Wherever this leads and the subsequent discussions, there’s no escaping the reality that when it comes to discussions on modernizing application, it’s hard to separate them from what client devices will be involved. Only this week Facebook has finally succumbed to sizable user pressure and unveiled an app for the iPad that will let its users chat with friends worldwide in full-screen mode! Yes, the humble laptop is looking more and more likely to be a tool very much of the past, and future will be all about modern client devices featuring the latest in always-on technology!

And perhaps Burg summed it up best when he intimated recently of how “major platforms including the NonStop Server will eventually provide support for these devices but the trick, in terms of further embracing modernization, is to fully and correctly understand the business requirements!” Yes, there will be bandwidth issues just as there will be concerns about security and possible corruption of the information on a server but no discussion about modernization can ignore the impact tablets and smart phones are having on those responsible for supporting clients whether internal users, business partners or customers!

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