Android in the Cloud

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On Wednesday May 31st I attended the San Francisco Android User Group meeting. These meetings equate to public presentations of corporate products. This meeting’s topic was “When Android Mobile met Cloud.” (By the way, I’m sure there are oil & gas talks like this in Calgary but nothing tech.) The presenter Sandeep Bhanot showed us how his company SalesForce, a large 7000-employee operation, was able to provide PaaS (Platform as a service) to Android mobile clients.

We first have to define a cloud. Sandeep defines cloud as web services that encapsulate the logic of servers and databases in a data centre so the end client doesn’t have to configure or scale it. Three classes of cloud services exist: SaaS (software as a service), PaaS (platform as a service), and IaaS (infrastructure as a service). The most notable cloud service is Amazon’s IaaS, which exposes virtual machines and data storage directly to the end user. PaaS products such as SalesForce, Microsoft Azure, Google AppEngine, and StackMob add additional logic to the backend for their respective user groups.

The actual product produced by SalesForce has gone a long way since its inception as a CRM (customer relation management system), though services provided on SalesForce are tailored to this group. Services such as authentication, secure database storage, REST APIs for endpoints, and mobile SDKs are provided by SalesForce. Given the technical knowledge (or lack thereof) of the user group, database customization and configuration of these cloud services are provided through graphical user interfaces instead of SQL scripts and shell commands, thus lowering the barrier to use of business people. SalesForce’s new technology overlaps with StackMob, Urban Airship, and parse. They are complemented by PhoneGap, Appcelerator, and titanium.

In terms of product, they use SQL cipher to have local read-only access to cloud data, though writing is not available. They prefer using REST operations and JSON responses.

I personally thought that this was an interesting overview of the current technologies, but more expert audience members have heard this already. This goes to show how much I did not keep up with since 2007 when Microsoft was pushing out SOAP and WSDL, which I presume are obscenely more complex than JSON.