Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ask Your Developer: Is this a Web or Cloud App?

When a customer asks, should we go Cloud vs Web, my response is frequently, what's the difference? Then, I try to illuminate with the following. These days cloud applications are all the rage… but what’s the difference between a cloud app and a web app, if they both run in your browser? And are mobile apps cloud-only? Confused? Don’t be. Here’s a quick primer on the differences (and similarities).

Let’s start with web applications — software accessed over a network such as the internet or an intranet via a web browser such as Safari or Chrome. Such tools are built with= a browser-based language (e.g. JavaScript), displayed with HTML and accessed with a common web browser. In web apps, the software as well as the database resides on a central server. This saves software developers from building and maintaining multiple client versions for a specific operating systems.

Cloud apps are hosted by cloud providers (Amazon, Google, others) and are accessed over the Internet. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider owns the software while the customers “rent the app” in a pay per use model. As web apps, they are used through a web browser so nothing needs to be installed locally. Cloud apps are generally architected to support multi-tenancy — enabling multiple customers (tenants) to be aggregated into the same application). Pricing is based on actual usage or per-user.

They seem similar, don’t they? Both types of apps are stored on a server and delivered through a browser interface over the internet. Cloud apps should have high availability (through mirrored installations in multiple locations) as a feature, while many web apps are limited in ability to support a fixed number of users. Cloud apps may offer extra security and integration with other systems via web services. Administrators of cloud apps can easily configure workload and traffic patterns in order to utilize the exact amount of infrastructure offered. Web applications are usually developed for a given platform, limiting scalability.

Mobile apps that access the same back-end over the internet would be considered cloud apps if the architecture and supporting infrastructure are cloud-based.

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