In many ways, the following is the complement of the previous blog entry, where TIBCO’s CTO, Matt Quinn, discussed the coming changes in cloud infrastructure. For this is about the changes in applications development—and the move towards continuous delivery of applications. It also demonstrates the increasingly interconnected nature of all the developments now occurring in and around everything that could be labelled as cloud.
It first appeared in Cloud Services World a couple of months ago but I feel it is still a coming trend, rather than part of the mainstream. I had gone to meet up with San Francisco-based Raw Engineering’s CEO, Neha Sampat, and COO, Matthew Baier at Cloud World Forum, with the objective of finding out what its primary product, Built.io, did for businesses. The first issue, therefore, was to try and pin down just what it is.
After some time spent brain-storming that subject, the best we got to was: "a business focused, policy-driven, analogue of Visual Basic".
For any business people who have no idea what Visual Basic is, it is an applications development modelling tool with which developers can visualise the process flow of the application they have in mind, and build that visualisation on-screen by connecting together blocks of process functionality.
Built.io follows that concept, but is now targeting the tech-savvy business users as well as developers. It also advances the concept a good deal, in that those applications processes are far more rich and complex, especially when it comes to building business applications that integrate with mobile applications and services.
This, therefore is getting ever-closer to the situation where, as part of that need for continuous delivery of developments—and here developments are often small tweaks to the code to improve an app’s operations, or perhaps a temporary adjustment to meet the needs of a specific short-lifecycle project—where those tech-savvy business users really can start doing it for themselves.
It also makes it a development environment that seems tailor-made for use by third-party channel and integrator partners. These businesses are ideally placed to exploit the need for continuous delivery, for they are more likely to have a detailed understanding of specific market sectors and their business processes. Baier indicated that this is now the direction the company is heading.
“The company started as a consultancy, specialising in mobile applications,” said Sampat, “and we soon found that with every project we were building the same back end stack. So now we have made it a product that others can build applications on. It is like Visual Basic for big users, and we see it as the democratisation of innovation.”
The system currently works for apps development with Apple’s iOS and Android and, according to Baier, there are no technical issues about producing a version that works with Microsoft Windows 8. “It can be done easily once there is demand for it. We are just starting to see that happening,” he said.
The company has also just formed a partnership with AppGyver which takes this Visual Basic analogy even further. AppGyver is a provider of innovative front-end development tools, aimed at bringing rapid visual mobile app development to the enterprise. Using it, companies can now create sophisticated enterprise mobile applications in minutes, instead of weeks or even months.
In partnership, Raw Engineering get a richer apps development front end for Built.io, while AppGyver gets a persistent backend for applications designed using AppGyver’s Composer tools, plus a data store with enterprise-grade security model and fine-grained access controls and direct connection between Composer’s UI components and built.io’s database for application scalability and persistence.
“There’s a huge need for our services in the enterprise,” said Marko Lehtimaki, founder and CEO at AppGyver. “We’ve been working closely with Built.io to more broadly address enterprise requirements with things like extended security, so businesses of all sizes can take full advantage of our app development tools.”
This combination maps even more closely onto the growing DevOps trend now sweeping across enterprise applications development as businesses realise the old development cycles, where an application could take a year—and often more—to reach production status, are no longer workable. With enterprises requiring much greater business agility, development cycles need to be brought down from years to days. It is now increasingly the case that the lifecycle of an application—from conception to final termination—is measured in months or weeks rather than the decades that were common in the time of legacy on-premise applications.
“Built.io has been developed with these shorter development and lifecycles in mind,” Sampat said. “It has been used a lot to develop management and information handling applications for exhibitions and conferences like this one where the lifecycle for some parts the applications really are just the two days of the event itself.
“The fastest applications development cycle we have seen with Built.io has so far been just four days, but the typical improvement we find with customers is that an application which would have taken 12 months can now be completed in one month,” she added. “This is because they are working with ready-made components.”