Cloud apps mean developing in days, not months: IBM

Migrating systems to the cloud is only part of the full picture and the new development shift — creating apps in the cloud itself — is creating new challenges for businesses, according to IBM's Dan Carr.

Speaking at VMWare's vForum 2012 in Sydney today, IBM program director for Cloud Computing Client Engagements Dan Carr said that the maturity of cloud services has meant that businesses not only have traditional records-based applications to move to the cloud, but that new types of applications are being born out of the mobile and social boom that the internet is experiencing.

Carr said that customers that have come to him in the past four years have become increasingly concerned with the ability to align how they use the cloud with how fast their business is moving, saying that not only do they want to increase the efficiency of how they use the cloud, but also the ability in which they produce cloud application.

"We've seen businesses are asking, more and more, for not just a virtual machine, but a complete application," he said.

"It's really about using big data, web data, focusing on the interactions, and it's [resulted in] this new class of application that we're seeing."

According to Carr, these applications tend to exploit mobile access, social media, and collaboration (such as integrating with LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter), and then feed information, such as analytics or interactions, back into systems of records, such as customer relationship-management systems.

This shift toward applications that begin life in the cloud has changed the way that businesses need to develop, Carr said. He explained that while cloud is certainly about moving or using "systems of records" applications such as SAP, enterprise resource planning, and human resource management systems in the cloud, newer "systems of engagement" applications have a completely different application-development life cycle.

"There's a new class of tools. There's a lot of buzz about Hadoop, big data, PHP. Not what I typically see in big enterprises. Ruby, Python; these are all sort of these new scripting tooling that a new generation of developers are using to get things done."

He said that previously, a company might have a developer team of about a hundred people to produce such a product, but when looking at a system of engagement today, a small team of developers does the same.

And they're doing it faster. Previously, developers would spend months, even years, on an enterprise-grade application. Carr said that this needs to come down to days or weeks.

Similarly, he said that these heavy tools would take months to integrate into an organisation's business practices, but this model simply couldn't work with newer applications.

"We need to do this in a continuous way. We need to continuously release. We need to deploy, not only applications very quickly, but we need to be able to deploy our infrastructure very quickly."

The infrastructure itself also plays a different role in these new applications, Carr said, and that while systems of records applications rely on the underlying infrastructure for availability and reliability, that wasn't necessarily the case for newer systems of engagement.

"These things are built in to the application. We're looking for continuous availability and scalability," he said.

"There's a new model here, there's a new cloud operating environment that we need to think about."