Immediately after Hurricane Sandy tore through New York City in October 2012, city officials needed a quick way to show the damage that had been done to streets and infrastructure.
They needed an app -- and they needed it immediately.
For a quick turnaround, Cordell Schachter, chief technology officer at New York City's Department of Transportation, asked his crew to stop work being done on what was eventually to be a street excavation permit app and had programmers repurpose it to show street damage instead.
And because they were doing their app dev on the cloud, they were able to get the application quickly built, tested and in use on the city's storm-damaged streets, according to Schachter, who said using the cloud was "much faster" than traditional app-dev methods.
"We had sand and water in the roads, damaged street signs," he told Computerworld. "We had inspectors all over the city taking pictures with their iPads. And when the commissioner, who had to justify why we needed restoration money, had to show pictures of damage to state and federal officials, he could call it up on his iPad. We needed to be mobile."
Schachter said he had known before Hurricane Sandy hit that they needed the cloud, but the storm and the ensuing need for quick and efficient application development drove that home.
Why cloud development works for mobile
New York is in good company. Mobile apps have become increasingly dependent on the cloud, with data storage and processing happening inside the cloud, instead of on a mobile device or on an enterprise's own server banks.
The cloud also can handle peak app traffic, meaning enterprises aren't burdened by crushing loads or by paying the costs of unused servers when traffic is slow.
Now, though, there's an increasing push behind enterprises using the cloud to accelerate and ease mobile app development.
Application development tools that are native to the cloud can give users and enterprises faster app delivery, better performance and more stable uptime.
Developers, often being pushed to work at breakneck speeds on new apps, can set up and launch their own development and test environments without going begging up the IT hierarchy.
Developers no longer have to wait for new servers to be provisioned and they don't need to spin up a bunch of servers to test their apps.
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