The development of embedded devices has become the top priority of many enterprise organizations, but it also poses a great challenge in terms of people, tools and technology. Fortunately, the development of embedded devices can be greatly accelerated by leveraging Amazon's AWS mobile initiatives. Amazon Web Services (AWS) have become well established in the web application development, testing and deployment field, so it’s not surprising that the cloud giant is addressing mobile and embedded device development as the next big market. This is an especially timely move since more and more enterprises are embracing a mobile first strategy for application development. Here’s a broad overview of where AWS is today, along with a review of some of the most recently added features and predictions for the future.
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When hiring new talent, the Amazon mobile team wants a rock star with a Top 25 app on the resume.
Jason Tee, Enterprise Software Architect
What does AWS offer mobile developers?
At the most basic level, AWS provides SDKs for bothiOS and Android in the mobile space. For Android in particular, Java developers may be interested in the AWS Toolkit for Eclipse, "a plug-in for the Eclipse Java IDE that makes it easier for developers to develop, deploy, and debug Java applications using Amazon Web Services." Sincehybrid apps with Java and HTML5 are likely to gain more traction in the foreseeable future, it’s a smart move to provide support for this developer group.
Updates enhance AWS mobile SDKs
New versions of the SDKs for Android and iOS were released in May of 2013. One of the major updates is the addition of support for web identity federation to the AWS Security Token Service. A new API allows cloud-backed mobile apps to authenticate using public identity providers including Facebook, Google, and Login with Amazon. This will provide a new way to issue temporary security credentials so developers have less administrative responsibility for maintaining backend services. The web identity federation can be combined with policy variables to tightly restrict and compartmentalize access within a developer’s account.
The Amazon Elastic Transcoder client has also been improved with tools to make it easier for developers to work with video. Now, they can encode and deliver content to a broader array of video-capable mobile devices. Since everyone from individual app developers to large enterprises are becoming more multi-media savvy and mobile device types are proliferating, this is a timely enhancement. Your video content is only as good as your ability to make it available to end users.
Community matters for mobile on AWS
AWS is working hard to communicate with the developer community via the mobile AWS blog. Perhaps more important, the company is also pushing to foster as much crosstalk as possible on its mobile developer forum. In some situations, answers to newbie questions just turn into an advertisement for AWS offerings. However, some of the advice is pretty good. For example, a recent poster asked how to force an HTTP protocol for putObject to reduce the time for a call. Fast response times are, of course, the Holy Grail for mobile apps. But that doesn’t mean security can be sacrificed.
The question received a fast response, within just a day, that gave several reasons for keeping the SDK’s default HTTPS setting in place. The responder pointed out that even if the content being uploaded was headed to a public bucket and not really sensitive, there could still be concerns surrounding the transaction type itself. The DNS could be spoofed, the data could be modified in flight, or other communications could end up being affected by changing the endpoint for the SDK. While the breakneck development pace for mobile will always be challenging, getting extra perspective may help AWS users avoid rookie mistakes while getting the lowdown on the corner-cutting tricks that really do work. One of the biggest time-savers is always finding out that someone else has already tried an approach and discovered it doesn’t work.
AWS is actively seeking to expand its expertise
Much is being made of an active job posting at AWS for a mobile software development engineer. The position is designed for someone who: "will be responsible for creating and owning world-class production applications across major mobile platforms." The company states that a commitment to team work, hustle, and strong communication skills are absolute requirements. When hiring new talent, the Amazon mobile team wants a rock star with a Top 25 app on the resume.
There’s some speculation that AWS is positioning itself for a move into the Mobile Backend as a Service space as well. The company certainly has much of the infrastructure and services in place to make this happen with its other offerings. Existing leaders in the MBaaS industry are scoffing at the idea, but they are probably afraid deep down. Amazon has a way of figuring out a way to do things bigger, better and faster. There’s just too much money in mobile development for AWS to turn a blind eye. So, if you’re trying to figure out what skills to acquire for your next big career move, hustle on over and learn more about mobile, and what Amazon is doing to accelerate mobile application development.
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