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The Cloud and Your Mobile Apps: Modern-Day Metaphors for Thick/Thin Client Architectures

Over the past eight weeks or so, several clients have asked for my input regarding how best to sort through and select a cloud service provider. At the same time, students in a class I was leading fell into a lively conversation about how cloud computing architectures are the moral equivalents to those at the heart of the old thick- vs. thin-client designs. And do you know what? The two threads not only intersected but interwove when it came to the question of mobile apps.

For what is a mobile app if not a thin client? In both cases, most of the presentation layer logic runs on the user’s device, while most of the information processing runs on the organization’s server.

And what is the debate about whether ’tis nobler to build a native app or a Web app than a discussion about how thick or thin a client should be? Both are all about parsing the load to ensure a quality user experience, and if there’s one great difference (aside from the revolution in user-side devices), it probably has to do with the capacity and speed of the network that connects the front and back ends.

Minding this metaphor is enormously useful for cutting through the hype of both the cloud and mobility, for it underscores – yet again – how there is really nothing very new under the sun. Yes, the tools certainly change, but the basic technical constructs remain the same. Understanding this should help you tune out the background noise and maintain a focus on the only thing that truly matters: how best to support your users as they strive to get their work done.

What say you? Is logically connecting the cloud, mobile apps, and thick/thin clients like relating apples, dairy cows, and shoelaces? What metaphors or historical precedents would you use? Please let us know by leaving a comment or via the social media links below!

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