The year 2012 buzzed with cloud and mobile applications, making waves in the field of information technology. Looking forward, what are the technologies and products that are going to be game-changers in the coming months?

Let’s begin with e-commerce. Websites that allow you to turn the Internet into a virtual shopping centre has not taken off in the Indian market so far. Given the extent of Internet penetration, access to credit cards or online access to banks, this is still a slowly evolving market. But, Indian companies tweaked this concept by offering cash on delivery, which has enabled a lot of Indians to shop online. FlipKart is one such example. And other sites have followed suit, indicating that this trend is only going to catch on more in the coming months.

Mobile applications supporting e-commerce are also going to fly high. Mobile phone penetration in India is much more than computers; this is a well-known fact. Now, with smartphones getting more affordable, it is possible to write sophisticated applications that will work on most mobile phones.

Mobile applications are also becoming very common in education-related, content delivery applications. Another notable trend is that a lot of universities and private institutions are delivering educational content online, even offering courses and conducting examinations.

For instance, the online education site coursera.org has grown in popularity over the last year. Such sites allow students to take a complete course here, offered by various universities.

Technically, if you notice, all these are Web applications. These applications may run in some data centre or may be hosted in the cloud. Wherever they are hosted, these applications involve a database such as MySQL, Web development language like Python, PHP and HTML/Javascript combination to programme the user interface.

Popular content management systems such as Drupal, education application such as Moodle are developed in PHP. Python is also gaining popularity fast. Model-View-Controller, an architecture paradigm, is supported by frameworks such as CodeIgniter for PHP, DJango for Python, etc., which are very helpful for developers in implementing Web applications.

The front-end

In the front-end, that is the browser, user interface of the application has HTML/Javascript. Sophisticated user interface does a lot with Javascript.

Currently, there is no other choice but Javascript for developers to handle Document Object Model (DOM) objects. HTML5 with Javascript may build beautiful user interfaces. However, it is unfortunate that developers cannot select from a spectrum of languages to implement user interfaces, compared to the wide choices that are available when it comes to back-end programming.

Handling data

With more and more data going online, data handling needs are going up. Researchers and statistical analysts always encounter limitations in handling data. Research areas such as meteorology or genomics face huge data handling needs.

These data handling requirements are beyond the capacity of current database applications. Industry answers this with big data.

What is big data about? Companies have their regulated data in their database. Beyond this, information comes in the form of email, white papers, documents, etc., which may be crucial in making important decisions, and may form a good knowledge base of any organisation. But, how does one organise, store and extract information from these different types of data — most of which may not be in any particular format or structure. This is where this emerging field becomes crucial.

Big data includes the ability to handle data sets and formats beyond the ability of commonly available software. MIKE (Methodology for an Integrated Management Environment) sees big data as anything which includes high degree of complexity within the data sets and needs to be analysed. Though size is the primary definition of big data, the answer lies in independent data sources.

Apache Hadoop

With different sources of data, it takes a lot of computing power to map data and analyse it to get some meaningful information. Software that supports big data should be able to run in multiple machines in order to get this job done. Apache Hadoop is one such application that is being widely used by corporations nowadays.

NoSQL database applications — which are meant to handle huge data that does not fall in any particular structure and, hence, cannot apply any SQL to it — are also becoming important in the IT industry where big data manipulations are needed.

Unlike in many fields where proprietary solutions are followed by Free Software equivalents, the trend is more or less reversed in big data. Free Software such as Apache Hadoop and NoSQL applications such as MangoDB are already very popular, and have made their mark in this emerging field.

BALAJI KUTTY

(The author is chief technology officer, MobiSir Technologies.)

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