I am sitting here cursing because my local coffee shop in Seattle has a spotty wifi router. Two weeks ago I was in Mexico where the Internet was a precious commodity. The villa owner ‘forgot’ to pay the Internet bill so wifi was shut off for part of the trip. Other times, the electricity would go down in town, so the Internet was simply gone.

This reality pushed me back to ask myself a question.

When will DevOps and IT developers be comfortable with a 100% Web based (or Cloud hosted)  UIs?

What does this mean? One of three things:

  • No more Rich Clients i.e. the world shifts to all HTML v5 UIs
  • You remote desktop in for rich clients
  • You use application virtualization for rich clients

In order to answer this question, you have to think about the requirements. For the sake of simplicity I am going to boil it down into two requirements:

  • Always On
  • Rich dev environment

Does Always On require Universal Connectivity?

Always on really means that no matter where you go, you can access your development environment and be productive. Wasting 15 minutes rebooting the computer or the router or both won’t fly. It has to be seamless. I turn my computer on, it connects to the internet. The iPhone has set the precedence. GPRS is the connection. You have data all day as long as you paid your cell bill and are within a service coverage area.

The sad reality is, the promise of Universal Connectivity has simply not happened. The only country I know of that has leveraged the power of ‘Free’ universal access is Singapore. And I dare say, they will have a competitive edge in the world as a result.

The CTO of the US, Steven Van Roekel, just told me that “Free and universal access will likely be driven by the FCC, the marketplace, and anchor institutions.”  As a part of the marketplace, perhaps Google is the only company interested in free internet. The recently announced they are offering free Wifi in NY City. The question is, will Google only do this for hubs where it has offices e.g. they already built a network in Mountain View, or will they grow the free network?  More connectivity, means more googling. The economics may be there… Meanwhile, the same week, AT&T announced more pay for Wifi hotspots.  Unfortunately , the larger marketplace will generally want to profit from access, and the anchor institutions – whoever they may be –  may not understand the potential positive boom for our economy and education acceleration with universal access.  But I digress…

It seems in 2013 we will continue  to see a proliferation of WiFi cells and Wimax networks by Telcos and ISPs.

In general, this means more networks will exist; however, it won’t be universal, and there won’t be single sign-on. So the tedious nature of connecting will continue to exist.

But… most developers are not mobile. Most developers are in an office ideally with reliable high speed networks or at home. So are their requirements for Always on are met?

This leads to the second requirement…

A Rich Dev Environment

Developers use a plethora of tools from the most basic command lines (DOS Shell, KSH, BASH, etc.) to some of the most complicated UIs that exist e.g. Eclipse, Visual Studio, XCode. Then there are tools that are more in the middle like VCenter Orchestrator.

HTML 5 has changed the Web based UI landscape considerably making a very rich web based UI experience. Adobe is busy working on HW acceleration technologies to keep Flash relevant. And even Microsoft has acknowledged that HTML 5 is the future when they announced their change of strategy related to Silverlight aka Silverlight is dead.

Even with all the excitement and focus on HTML 5, we see that it has some limitations.

But HTML 5 isn’t the only option for a Cloud dev environments. For those that want to stream their RichClients to any terminal… Application Virtualization hasn’t really hit mainstream. And there is always remote desktop to a cloud server. But some developers would complain about the speed.  And developers like flexibility and control. They don’t really like giving things up unless it really means less administration overhead.  App Virtualization hasn’t really hit the level of robustness that would meet a Developers expectaction levels.

It’s clear that the world is shifting to the cloud. But I still question if developers can/will tolerate a UI that is 100% web based today?  But if not today, when? What mountains have to be crossed to make developers happy coding in the cloud?

What are your thoughts on this?  Different types of UIs matter too.