In Part 1 I wrote about the dual revolutions going on in web applications: HTML5 and devices on the front end, and cloud computing on the back end—how they influence each other and are together changing the design of modern web applications. In Part 2 we looked at the shared attribute of elasticity. In this third post we’ll discuss another aspect both worlds share: location (specifically, freedom of location).
Location in HTML5: Run Anywhere
Today’s active web users are on the move! They take the web with them wherever they go and whatever they are doing, even en route between destinations. That’s become possible because of devices, the increasing ubiquity of high speed Internet and wireless networking, and high availabilty and scale of online services . Users are no longer tethered to the home or office in order to use the web. In fact, web surfing on phones and tablets is expected to surpass PC web surfing by 2015.
It’s less and less common for an individual to only use one computer or device to get at the web. Depending on what needs to be done and where someone is, a user might reach out to a nearby PC, a tablet, or a phone. They might even use a device that doesn’t belong to them, such as a public web kiosk at an airport or a borrowed mobile device (“can I borrow your phone for moment?”). More and more, modern web apps can adapt expertly to different screen form factors and support touch, mouse, and keyboard equally well. This can be accomplished with HTML5 features such as media queries combined with fluid layout and responsive web design.
Applications and services that use location have become pervasive. When’s the last time you scrutinized a printed map and figured out a route yourself? Navigation systems and online map services such as Bing Maps, Google Maps, and Mapquest are now essential to everyday life for many of us. Finding a nearby Starbucks, ATM, restaurant, or hotel—along with reviews—couldn’t be easier. With user permission, HTML5 web applications can get geolocation information from the browser and device they are running on and put it to good use.
In an HTML5 world, we are free to go where we want and use any convenient device to get at our online world. Not only is location not a barrier, it’s an asset: something web applications can use to serve us better.
Location in Cloud Computing: Run Everywhere
A change in location is the first thing about cloud computing that jumps out at you: you’re putting your application and your data “up there” in a cloud data center. Why are you putting them there? Usually it’s for one or more of these reasons: reduced cost, high availability & reliability, elastic scale, fast time to market, automated management, or the flexiblity of not having to commit to a specific term of use. These are all compelling reasons to use cloud computing, but there’s another one to add to the list: location. Putting your assets out in the cloud makes them very accessible—universally accessible, limited only by the security you put in place.
Access is a big deal these days. So many employees now work out in the field or from home, and they’d prefer to avoid the limitations of VPN connections. Your customers want to use your online services wherever they happen to be, even if travelling. When you use the cloud, you’re spared from having to put your own infrastructure in place to support all that. Access to your online services anywhere, anytime is now a common expectation. The easy way to meet that expectation is to leverage the cloud.
If you need to support users across a large geography or have a wordwide presence, cloud computing makes that straightforward. You can deploy to multiple data centers. With the Windows Azure platform, for example, there are 6 worldwide data centers you can deploy applications to (2 in North America, 2 in Europe, and 2 in Asia). To direct user traffic intelligently to the nearest data center you can make use of the Windows Azure Traffic Manager service. At this level of use your application is truly global.
In the era of cloud computing, universal access and efficient serving to any locale is a reality. As our IT assets become virtualized, specific physical machines become unimportant: like caterpillars become butterflies, our software can now soar over a worldwide elastic infrastructure.
Write Once, Run Anywhere (and Everywhere)
Unless you’re young, you no doubt recall the “write once, run anywhere” promise that stirred up immense interest in Java when it was new. Businesspeople as well as technology fans were captivated by the idea of creating something once and then deploying and using it across many different platforms.
Today, HTML5 and cloud computing are delivering even more strongly on this promise for web applications. Together they allow us to run our web applications anywhere and everywhere. Location has never matter more. Or less.
Next: When Worlds Collide #4: HTML5 + Cloud = Personal Cloud