Think Before You Develop

10:50 AM -- As part of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)'s application enablement and training strategy, it is motivating developers to start thinking about the networks they're riding on, including planning ahead for Long Term Evolution (LTE). (See AlcaLu Lures Developers With Free Tools .)

Right now, developers don't think about this at all, says Laura Merling, senior VP of AlcaLu's developer programs. They hear LTE and think, "yay, more bandwidth," but not about what it means for creating apps that are network-aware.

"They just think the network is there and we'll use it," Merling says, "not, how do we build the best app on the network?"

Instead of only addressing the issue after they crash a network, Merling says they should be seeking answers to questions like: Do I keep a connection for a long period of time, or do I open and close it? How often does my app ping the network? What are the crash points?

AlcaLu's developer liaison makes a good point. All the onus for network performance falls on the network operators, but a shoddy experience also reflects poorly on the app. Developers should, at least, be aware of the network constraints and build apps that are as friendly as possible -- even on zippier LTE networks. (See MWC 2011: Developers: Network Allies and Mu's Quadrant of Miscreant Apps.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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cnwedit 12/5/2012 | 5:06:38 PM
re: Think Before You Develop

I'm a bit surprised this is something that is just now coming to the fore - companies like Mu, Spirent, Ixia and others have been talking about it for some time. I'm guessing it reflects the degree to which the telecom industry has become app-driven and the pace at which new things now come online.

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:06:38 PM
re: Think Before You Develop

Things like Mu Dynamic's report on how apps effect the network will help developers, because I bet a lot don't realize the impact (specifics like how many times an app pings the network) except when the app doesn't work well because the network is overloaded.

Operators can help themselves by providing more education, something that AlcaLu is doing too with its program.

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:06:37 PM
re: Think Before You Develop

I think it also speaks to the disconnect between operators and developers. Apps developers just build the coolest apps they can, not thinking about how it affects the networks, and operators deal with the traffic.

If there were more communication and operators helped developers make the most of their APIs in network "friendly" ways, it'd be less of an issue.

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:06:36 PM
re: Think Before You Develop

Mobile apps' combined traffic is what causes most network problems, but building an app that doesn't account for the network can cause problems for it even without other traffic. If all these apps are going to crash the network, then don't make one that requires a constant session open and maybe you'll be spared.

And, if you're using a ton of bandwidth, consumers may not want to use the app often, because it'll increase their bill(with usage-based pricing).

The incentive will be to create apps that have a good user experience and people will use. To a certain degree, that involves understanding network constraints.

But, no, I can't say I've thought about what a Java Virtual Machine requires to operate. :)

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:06:36 PM
re: Think Before You Develop

Since the app folks get paid buy buyers not network operators, why would they care if the app loads up the network?

You can say that a misbehaving app can cause problems for lots of folks, but that is exactly the point.  If you carefully craft your app and I willy nilly wing it, you suffer as well as I do.  I saved a lot of time in development so my app made more money.

It is not an education thing at all.  It is an incentive thing.  There is this huge problem in software in general.  (picks up his walker and shakes it to start an angry rant!)  In the old days, we used to be very memory constrained, compute constrained and storage constrained.  People optimized the heck out of software.  It caused many issues with maintainability, but you could do a lot in 8K of code space.  Ever think about what a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) actually requires to operate?  If you were trying to be efficient, you would rewrite critical sections in assembly.  Ever hear of ANYBODY doing that in the application space now?  Nope, they toss more memory, more CPU and more storage at it to shorten development times.  It is a good tradeoff.  (puts down his walker).

Just remember if you need more than an 8051, 22V10 and a 555 to implement something it is way too complicated!



paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:06:35 PM
re: Think Before You Develop


I think you overestimate the incentives here.  Remember most app developers are very small shops.  Even if it is pinging things repeatedly it would be a LOT to use more bandwidth than many of my app downloads actually take.

You really have to think that it is better for the app to be out and used then still in development.  That is much more important than a much more efficient app to the developer.  One way he has the chance of making money the other way he ups his expenses.

Think of Youtube videos.  How many of them get posted with under 10 views?  Apps are the same way.  The whole point of this is a vastly dispersed community of developers.  That is what is making this work.  The model is the wireline web.  Trying to expect lots of thoughtful development in a $100K revenue model (which is an app downloaded 100K times at $0.99 each) is really odd.  You have to expect and plan to get junk all the time.  That $100K revenue app is WILDLY successful.  The multi-billion dollar network company and equipment company can not expect the $100K revenue company to protect them.




kowsik 12/5/2012 | 5:06:34 PM
re: Think Before You Develop

Thanks for the reference to the Mu App Quadrant Sarah. See this blog for more details on why the app developers typically don't care about the network. They care about their app and the consumer experience, but at the cost of the network.

Mommy, Netflix is eating my firewall

The networks used to be about packets, but in the last few years with the mobile app explosion and the cloud, networks are really about apps now. 

OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 5:06:34 PM
re: Think Before You Develop

7 is right!

The small amount of traffic from a slightly used app is usually small, usually a lot of pinging. The carriers will need to incentivize (Money or Tech Assistance) those heavily used apps to be traffic efficient.


Spent most of my yrs doing network TM.


Walker On-

I wrote SNA 56kb emulator in REAL 2k memory. Required good asembly language instruction set.

Walker Off-

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:06:32 PM
re: Think Before You Develop

Yeah, I gotta vote with seven here, too.  The app developers are the weak link -- i don't see how they would have any motivation to care what effect their apps have on the network.

WilliamofOccam 12/5/2012 | 5:06:32 PM
re: Think Before You Develop

BTW, it's not the traffic that brings the network down, but the fact that all these apps want to establish a network connection at the same time. So it does not matter (from the network stability point of view) whether the amount of data you want to send is tiny or large. 

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