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Microsoft's Windows Azure Mobile Services Targets Back End Systems

Microsoft is making a concerted effort to convince developers to use its Windows Azure service to build mobile apps that tie together with various back-end services. A number of sessions at last week's Visual Studio Live! Chicago conference described how developers can use Microsoft's new Windows Azure Mobile Services to remove the headache of writing code designed to link to server-side processes.

Windows Azure Mobile Services fits into a category known as mobile backend and a service (mBaaS). A report released last month by Gartner said 40 percent of mobile app development projects will tie to cloud-based back-end services in the next three years. Like platform as a service (PaaS) mBaaS provides application middleware to various back-end services but the latter is aimed specifically at letting developers add services to mobile apps such as push notifications, storage and integration with back-end systems and social networks.

"There are a number of over the air testing tools, deployment, provisioning tools that support different mobile platforms, but when it comes time you need storage, creating push notification or you need to federate across different identity providers, you end up writing a ton of code to integrate with different systems behind the scenes," said Jesus Rodriguez, who gave a talk on Windows Azure Mobile Services at Visual Studio Live! Thursday. Rodriguez is CEO of KidoZen, which offers a cloud-based platform designed to provide enterprise apps targeted at mobile devices.

Rodriguez worked closely with Microsoft on Windows Azure Mobile Services and said it's joining a market heated by a bunch of startups such StackMob, Kinvey and Parse, which was acquired last month by Facebook. As a result of Facebook's acquisition of Parse, Microsoft will be competing with the social network, Rodriguez said, adding Salesforce.com also just launched a new mBaaS platform.

Craig Kitterman, a senior technical product manager for Windows Azure at Microsoft, talked up Windows Azure Mobile Services in his Wednesday keynote. "Windows Azure Mobile Services is a quick and easy way for a developer build rich mobile client applications to add great cloud based back end capabilities," Kitterman said following the session. "Those applications typically need to authenticate users, they need to store different types of data and they need push notifications and updates that come down from the cloud when things happen. So Windows Azure Mobile Services gives developers a simple API they can use on either Windows Phone, Android or IOS to implement all of those capabilities with their app without having to be a database expert or a back end developer."

Many of these cloud mobile back-end services allow developers to deploy server side code using Javascript. "Cloud mobile back-end services stand to become a key component of the application development ecosystem," said Gartner analyst and research director Gordon Van Huizen, in a statement. "As a result, a given organization may begin using them without first developing the requisite understanding of the issues and risks associated with employing cloud services for application infrastructure. What's needed, then, is something of a crash course in the fundamental concerns of deploying application functionality in the cloud."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/20/2013 at 1:16 PM


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