bloomua - Fotolia

What IT needs to know about back-end application development

IT admins and developers must join forces to stay ahead of the curve in the mobile world. Back-end application development is another opportunity for the two to work together.

Developers build apps, IT manages them, and that's that, right? Not in the mobile world. IT administrators must be involved in mobile app development so they can properly manage and secure apps when they make it to production.

Back-end application development is another area in which app development and IT administration must interact.

Enterprise applications have limited usefulness if they can't access corporate data or interact with other IT systems. Sure, a warehouse inventory app can log the products on the shelves, but if it can't communicate with the company's order processing software, the user has no idea if he needs to restock certain items, or if any items have gone missing. And if the app generates a significant amount of new data, it could overwhelm the company's storage. Then operations may grind to a halt.

Developers must build apps that access data center infrastructure in a secure and manageable way, and they can't do that without IT's cooperation.

Build APIs into back-end applications

Developers must build apps that access data center infrastructure in a secure and manageable way, and they can't do that without IT's cooperation.

Once it's time to build the app and integrate it with the necessary systems, IT admins and developers have a few options. They could manually code every single interaction with every single aspect of every single back-end application and data repository, but this approach is not advisable. It's a lot of work, and it's not scalable. Plus, every time developers update the app, there's the potential for new code to break the existing interactions, which adds a whole new layer of complexity to the testing and deployment process.

APIs offer a simpler option. IT can build APIs into back-end applications and data repositories that significantly reduce the amount of coding necessary for apps to access these sources. But if an app needs access to a large number of back-end systems, that's still a lot of different APIs for IT and developers to work with and keep track of.

An emerging technology known as mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) looks to reduce this complexity even further. MBaaS is like middleware in that it serves as a go-between for server- and client-side applications, but it goes further by abstracting the back-end application infrastructure. It provides a common set of APIs and SDKs, so IT and developers don't have to start from scratch every time they want to integrate an app with a database, directory service or other system. Some MBaaS offerings are available as standalone products, whereas others are part of broader mobile application development platforms or platform as a service offerings.

Questions and Answers

Before work on an app begins, the development and IT teams should jointly answer these questions:

  • What types of corporate data does the app need to access?
  • How will the app access that data?
  • What other applications does the app need to interact with?
  • How will those interactions take place?
  • What are the expected effects of the app on existing storage, network and compute resources?
  • Are those existing resources sufficient to support the app?

Get to know mobile app development tools

Why IT should dive into enterprise mobile app development

The new reality

Not so long ago, in an IT department not so far away, siloes were the norm. Servers, storage and networking all had dedicated staff, and those teams kept their interactions with each other to a minimum. Then along came virtualization, which created a layer of abstraction between applications and those hardware resources. Servers, storage and networks were no longer tied to specific workloads. Instead, they were expected to function as a pool of resources that would be more efficiently made available to workloads as required. Server, storage and networking administrators began to work more closely together to create those pools, and the siloes began to come down.

The advent of cloud computing, which required those resource pools to work together seamlessly in an automated fashion, only further accelerated the shift toward having fewer specialists in the IT department.

The siloes between IT administrators and developers will be the next to fall, and enterprise mobility will be the driving force. There will be too many applications that need to run on too many devices and be updated too frequently. If admins and developers want to succeed in this new reality and keep up with its breakneck pace, they simply can't afford to not be on the same page.

Next Steps

Tools to connect back-end applications

Enterprise mobile app development tutorial

Mobile backend as a service links mobile apps with legacy infrastructure

Dig Deeper on Mobile enterprise application development