The future of application development

As cloud adoption continues to increase , most organisations are making important decisions in executing their cloud strategies

Last year, cloud was one of the new trends to watch — creating new opportunities and risks through a service-oriented architecture (SOA).

This year, cloud adoption continues to increase and most organisations are making important decisions in executing their cloud strategies.

Not all new applications are intended for a cloud deployment, but as organisations build up their private cloud environments (adopting private platform as a service in their datacentres), they will look to migrate their applications to the cloud.

Furthermore deploying an application that is not cloud-enabled over a private or public PaaS can easily defeat all the "cloudiness" implemented in the cloud application infrastructure below the application.

Another hot issue is the explosion of the mobile device market, which brings with it the need to support mobile and social applications together with rapid growth in the volume, variety and velocity of data.

Nexus of forces. Source: Gartner 

Increasing demand for mobile and multichannel means that a rapidly increasing number of organisations need to develop an internal mobile AD (application development) capability. But productivity challenges will drive businesses towards partnering with external organisations to deliver solutions in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Gartner predicts that by 2015, mobile AD projects targeting smartphones and tablets will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4:1. However, while mobile AD becomes a large percentage of total AD work and mobile application development platforms rapidly mature, we witness that mobile development practices lack common agreement on best practices and broad skills availability.

Gartner categorises the combination of information, cloud,  social and mobile computing as a Nexus of Forces (see graph above), which CIOs should consider as part of their strategy. While it is important to act swiftly to forge a competitive advantage from these trends, it's also vital that choices made in application architecture and development are the right ones — because they set an organisation on its path for the future. Tomorrow's successful organisations will be defined by their choices today.

In the era of the Nexus, it is important that AD leaders integrate the past into their plans; with the past comes much experience, much value and also much baggage. To move forward, organisations must not only integrate legacy offerings and assets, but also do so in a way that reduces complexity and minimises their dependence on legacy thinking. At the same time, organisations must take advantage of new, disruptive innovations in technology without creating chaos in existing applications portfolios. With more functionality and integration added to an organisation's major applications, it is vital that application governance is given the attention it deserves. An application strategy that can adapt to the necessary increase in the pace of change will be a core characteristic of successful businesses in the years to come.

Finally, with budget a big concern, organisations must use this period of change to modernise their applications portfolios, review the real cost and business value of cloud, SOA and agile, and take meaningful action on choosing the right providers and negotiating the best terms and conditions from them.

David Mitchell Smith is a vice president and Gartner fellow. He will be speaking at Gartner’s Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit 2013 which is taking place on 16-17 May in London >>

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