Going cloud optional is the only option

By Max Alexander, co-founder at Ditto.

  • 2 months ago Posted in

It is not uncommon for applications to be built to rely on the cloud, but that is changing. As more businesses see that cloud-only dependency has obstacles that are hard to overcome, they are looking for new options. Especially for a deskless and remote workforce, going cloud-optional could be the only choice for organisations to be successful.  

With cloud-only applications, data is forced to travel to a remote data centre which could be based halfway across the world, only to travel all the way back to a device in the same building - this is incredibly inefficient. To make matters worse, if there are any issues with Wi-Fi or the cloud, these applications become unusable.  

Despite numerous points of failure that can impact the business in terms of monetary and reputational value, cloud applications are still heavily relied upon. This is because readily accessible resources, developer tools, and existing integrations make building cloud apps simpler to build. However, the major problems with reliability, availability, and long-term maintenance do not arise until after deployment. 

Taking a cloud-optional approach 

With the drawbacks of solely cloud-dependent applications, businesses are increasingly looking for other options. Cloud-optional development can be challenging for businesses to implement due to the lack of available tools, especially when handling a lot of quickly changing data. More organisations must turn their attention to local networks that can connect edge devices together directly, ensuring data can always be moved between devices. When implemented correctly, these networks enable key data about customers, sales, inventory, and more to sync in real-time, even without an internet or cloud connection.  

An app utilising local networks such as Bluetooth and Peer-to-peer Wi-Fi is more reliable and faster than a traditional cloud-only app. Instead of data needing to be sent to a remote server, which could be hundreds of thousands of miles away, apps like these should be able to look for changes from other devices in the network and synchronise these as needed. As such, devices should be able to discover other devices in the network and connect and sync with each other without the need for data to take a round-trip to the cloud.  

For a cloud-optional app architecture to be successful, devices must be able to join and leave the local network as needed, because of this, there cannot be a single source of truth like in a traditional cloud model, it has to be distributed. As the local network topology changes over time, it is important that these applications are flexible and do not require the complete history of a database in order to read or write the latest values. In a distributed system, each device may have a piece of the larger puzzle. Even if a device is offline and so outdated, it should still be able to read and write data and sync with other nearby devices; it may have crucial information to share! 

How can cloud-optional apps work in practice? 

Take a modern fast-food restaurant, for example, which uses a range of endpoints for customers to input their menu choices, such as handhelds in the drive-thru and kiosks or a point-of-sales terminal in the restaurant, customer choices need to be constantly shared in real-time with the kitchen to be made. Then, when the order is ready, an alert must be sent to staff to be handed to the customer. This may seem like a simple task, but it is actually a business-critical process that needs to ensure that data is synchronised in real-time, even without an internet connection.  

Further, the wide-scale applicability of cloud-optional computing is highlighted when looking at healthcare. Rural communities in developing nations vary in quality and effectiveness of connectivity, and in these situations, any issues can have truly devastating consequences. As such, leveraging a combination of distributed database software and peer-to-peer mesh networks enables these essential healthcare applications to be truly cloud-optional and ensures that they operate even without the internet or connection to the cloud. 

It is challenging for businesses to create cloud-optional applications capable of reliably synchronising data without reliance on the Internet, but this is what businesses need now to be successful. As cloud-optional capabilities become even more attractive, more organisations will demand full end-to-end solutions that use both purpose-built cloud software and peer-to-peer networks. 

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