Not Quite a Drive-Thru, But Apps Built to Go

One of the barriers small enterprises face in building out applications is the availability of skilled developers.

But a new offering currently being tested by IBM  is aiming to overcome that issue by making it possible for anyone with or without development skills to build basic applications online, with the help of an AJAX-driven browser interface.

The formal name for the offering is IBM Development Engagement Service, but it’s also being referred to as DevEngage. If it catches on, it could help disrupt the traditional model of hiring developers to build simple applications.

“DevEngage is an ideal tool for SMBs because it allows someone to create their own application and to solve their own problem without having to send a request or create a mockup of what it is they are looking for,” Cynthya Peranandam, emerging technology strategist for IBM alphaWorks, told “The request or mockup might take longer than it does to just go in and build an application with this tool.”

Peranandam explained that DevEngage is a browser-based AJAX  tool that is driven by user selected forms. The user selects fields and compiles them on a canvas, which then builds the application on the back end of the service. The DevEngage service then provides users with an address where the application lives, and where they can start using the application.

At this stage, DevEngage is just a simple single form. But Peranandam noted that IBM’s development team is expanding the service further with database and Web Services functionality.

It is not clear whether DevEngage will become a full IBM product. The service is now part of IBM’s alphaWorks services effort, which launched in September of last year. The alphaWorks services site is IBM’s initiative to take its alphaWorks developer effort into the software-as-a-service arena and offer developers hosted applications to try out.

It’s the trying out of DevEngage that is the most valuable part of the alphaWorks services process for Peranandam. She explained that the service will grow and expand, based on what users tell IBM they need and or want.

DevEngage is now in the exploratory phase. Depending on user feedback and demand, it could move from alphaWorks to another spot in the IBM hierarchy.

“There is a graduation process where based on feedback it can become a product or part on existing product,” Peranandam said.

There are other avenues of graduation for DevEngage beyond IBM “productization.” Peranandam said that one option could be licensing the technology while another avenue could be to open source it.

“There is no set time though. It’s out there and based on demand, it’ll move forward.”

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