One of the problems facing developers using low-code tools to develop business applications is how to handle offline situations.
Alpha Software announced today the release of their latest version of Alpha Anywhere 3.0 that now addresses the issue of creating apps that can handle situations when the user is not connected.
According to their press release, the Alpha Anywhere 3.0 application development and deployment environment now offers built-in offline support.
This built-in capability, which allows a transactional business app to operate effectively while disconnected from a network, solves what Forrester Research identified in its September 2014 report, The Offline Mobile Challenge, as "often the most important and difficult mobile feature" for business today and "a consideration for nearly every future modern application."
We had the chance to speak with Richard Rabins, Alpha Software’s CEO about the issues of building offline support into applications, and he pointed out that there are numerous reasons why business application developers have struggled with this.
“We had a client who was using a mobile application in a warehouse setting and the first day everything worked fine – he had no disruption of services. But the next day, nothing worked. He could no longer get a clear connection. It turned out that workers had rearranged the palates in the warehouse and that was enough to hinder connections to the Internet,” said Rabins. “And there are many situations where there are weak, intermittent or completely non-existent signals.”
Many businesses are turning to low-code solutions when developing applications, particularly mobile apps. Low-code solutions offer a number of attractive features such as reduced cost, speed of development and built-in features such as security, certification and authentication components. And there is the issue of expertise.
“Traditional enterprise development teams don’t necessarily have the staff on hand with the expertise to develop mobile applications,” said Mr. Rabins. “and it’s difficult to find expert mobile programmers who are both knowledgeable of the business processes and requirements and who are also willing to work on traditional business applications. They would rather be writing games or more ‘exciting’ applications than working on things like order-entry processing applications.”
The new version of Alpha Anywhere offers four key offline features; fine-grained control of write conflicts, beyond a simple "last-in" wins approach; data persistence when the business app is closed or the battery dies, including data not saved to the server; built-in support for converting SQL data into hierarchical JSON data sets - e.g. customers, their orders, and the order details and 'offline capable' applications with no additional development time.
You can learn more about Alpha Software on their website here.
It may be some time before low-code solutions are robust enough and flexible enough to be used in every situation, but solving the offline part of the puzzle is at least one more step in that direction.