Time for a virtual reality check


Regular readers will know my passion for end-user development (EUD), a means for giving more power to the business to create useful applications.

Line-of-business employees now have the knowledge and tools to produce their own useful applications. And while EUD might have seemed a ‘nice to have’ several months ago, it has quickly moved to a ‘business must have’.

A heady mix of limited cash, increased consumerisation of IT and fast-changing business priorities mean the trend is catching on. But despite the benefits of EUD, there is one potential downside – applications designed by end users might not work across multiple environments.

A tool that works fine on an individual’s desktop might not install successfully across the corporate network. And if an application is to help boost business efficiency, it will have to work for many users in many different circumstances.

But do not be too concerned by the potential downside, because a good EUD tool will overcome such concerns. One possible route to success is model driven architecture (MDA), a software design approach for the development of software systems.

MDA is a platform-independent model that allows end-users to separate design and architecture issues. The result should be de-coupling and the easy transference of applications across multiple environments.

Despite the promise of MDA, some concerns remain – notably that the approach relies on incomplete technical standards and that its forward-looking method is too realistic for many real-world situations.

For EUD to become de facto, technology and business teams need to know the resources to help develop applications are easily are at-hand. And virtualisation provides another method for EUD, a cost effective solution that allows your IT team and your end users to run and test multiple applications.

Virtualisation allows IT managers to partition existing resources to run multiple versions of an operating system. The approach could be your best friend during testing times.

If you’re thinking of moving to EUD, don’t be put off by the thought of needing more resources. New applications might suggest the need for new hosting environments and large scale testing programmes. But such fears are misplaced.

Rather than having to retrofit applications, IT leaders can use the easily deployed resources of virtualisation to run a potential solution across multiple end-user desktop environments.

Companies continue to look to virtualisation, despite wider cost constraints – analyst Gartner says spending will increase by 43% this year, from $US1.9bn in 2008 to $US2.7bn.

Most of you will have already seen some of the benefits of virtualisation at an infrastructure level. Now it’s time to start thinking about how the approach can be used to create useful applications in challenging times.

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