Feature Story

Meet a new breed of app developers

by Jason Deign

Thanks to intent-based technology, app developers can now create applications specifically for the network.

Thanks to intent-based technology, app developers can now create applications specifically for the network.

SnapchatUberWhatsApp. Modern life is defined by our never-ending use of a vast array of mobile apps. And the advent of apps, which had barely been heard of a decade ago, has not only changed our lives but also given rise to some of the biggest ventures of recent times. 

All of this is thanks to the smarts crammed into smartphones. But smartphones need not be the only, or even best, place to design software apps. Sure, they can connect to the mobile network and can handle sound and video. 

See also: Cisco opens the network to a whole new world of possibilities

But their number-crunching power has limits and so does the point to which they can sense what is going on around them. For a much deeper and wider view, you need to delve into the network. 

And that's the prospect facing app coders after a major news flash at this year's Cisco Live

That's where Cisco opened its Digital Network Architecture(DNA) to coders, giving them the chance to build apps not just for smartphones and tablets, but also for the networks, which serve as a platform for those gadgets.    

From now on, coders will be able to create network-aware apps with user-friendly APIs and coding support tools such as learning labsa code exchange, and a sandbox

Cisco has been working hard to bring network techies, app experts, and DevOps people into contact with each other in a free-to-join community called DevNet. It turns out there is plenty of hunger among coders to find out more about the network.
Cisco has been working hard to bring network techies, app experts, and DevOps people into contact with each other in a free-to-join community called DevNet. It turns out there is plenty of hunger among coders to find out more about the network. 

"The killer app for DevNet ended up being learning," said Susie WeeCisco DevNet Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, who set up the community. 

As it happens, Cisco has made it easy for coders to dive straight in, said Amanda Whaley, Director of Developer Experience at Cisco. "The APIs that Cisco is opening up feel like any other API that developers are used to working with," she said. 

"DevNet works with all groups to make sure we use common industry tooling," she said. "When a developer lands on it, it feels very familiar."

Having a DevOps-friendly network could have two big impacts, she said. One is to make it easy for coders to get the networks around us work more smoothly, for instance by helping a network to take care of itself in the event of a fault. 

The other is in giving app builders access to the vast amounts of data on the network, for instance to speed up the rollout of the Internet of Things (IoT). Where the IoT meets edge computing looks to be a rich seam for app builders, said Whaley. 

"Now you can just deploy your Docker container to the edge," she said. "It's a very seamless development experience. Developers are exploring use cases."

See also: What is intent-based networking

One area of focus is tapping into what the network knows about where you are to offer apps for indoor wayfinding. "We see a lot of developers wanting to get hands-on with location-based APIs," said Whaley. 

In the same way, network experts are keen to build apps that could make it simpler to manage networks or workflows. It all adds up to a massive new area for innovation, which Cisco is lending its support to through a DevNet initiative called Code Intent

This brings business owners and developers together to explore new opportunities. With more room than ever for experimentation, "it's an exciting time to be a developer," said Whaley. 

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