AppScale Systems has announced the release of the App Inventor Cloud Appliance, which the company refers to as a private cloud in a box.
The makers of the AppScale Cloud Platform, an open source runtime system for Web applications and mobile application back ends, announced the appliance at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's App Inventor Summit.
"App Inventor is designed to make Android app development accessible to everyone," Hal Abelson, professor of computer science at MIT and creator of the App Inventor Project at the MIT Center for Mobile Learning, said in a statement. "Combined with the AppScale appliance, even those who do not have reliable access to the Internet can become mobile developers using state-of-the-art cloud technology."
App Inventor is a popular Web application that simplifies the process of creating and deploying Android apps for novice and expert developers alike. Instead of writing code, developers combine graphical blocks via a drag-and-drop interface to construct mobile apps that App Inventor automatically deploys to Android devices. App Inventor is a widely used technology targeting developers at all skill levels. It is also heavily used by educators around the world to bring mobile computing technologies and software innovation to a new generation of aspiring developers of all ages.
AppScale provides portability, migration and failover for public cloud services. With an initial focus on Google App Engine, AppScale mirrors all of the App Engine services in open source. This enables any one of more than 3 million App Engine applications, including App Inventor, to execute on Google's resources or over AppScale everywhere else, with zero code rewrite.
The App Inventor Cloud Appliance consists of a server and wireless tower that, on power up, automatically runs a self-contained AppScale cloud, deploys App Inventor and sets up a private wireless network. The AppScale appliance automates deployment, configuration and collaboration so that students without an Internet connection or behind a firewall can use App Inventor with their laptops and cellular phones to innovate together.
"With the AppScale plus App Inventor cloud appliance, we make it even easier for a broad audience to innovate everywhere," said AppScale CEO Woody Rollins in a statement. "We bring App Inventor—and Google App Engine—to those who otherwise would not have access to it, such as those in remote areas with limited or no Internet connectivity."
Moreover, the AppScale appliance leverages Eucalyptus for its infrastructure and production quality open-source technologies for its services. The App Inventor Appliance can be purchased fully configured and tested directly from AppScale and "do-it-yourself-ers" can build their own.
"App Inventor makes it easy for anyone to create Android applications," said Marten Mickos, CEO of Eucalyptus Systems, in a statement. "With this cloud appliance, AppScale is removing the complications of deployment. This is an innovative initiative which may revolutionize how mobile applications are developed and deployed."
The ease of use afforded by App Inventor enabled a team of girls from East Palo Alto, Calif., to place high in a global mobile-app competition called the Technovation Challenge. The team, known as the EPA Chica Squad, used App Inventor to create an app to help clean up trash and graffiti in their community. Their Android app, "Tag It," enabled users to take a photo of graffiti or trash in their neighborhood, identify its location and then help get it cleaned up.
AppScale's Rollins said he and his staff were swarmed by students and teachers alike at the MIT event who were looking for ways to help students and teachers develop mobile apps no matter where they are with the AppScale Inventor Cloud Appliance. However, as Mickos stated, the App Inventor technology makes it easy for anyone to create Android apps.
Google invented App Inventor for Android and publicly releasing it in December 2010. However, App Inventor got caught up in the mid-2011 shutdown of Google Labs, described in this "More wood behind fewer arrows" post. Google terminated App Inventor on Dec. 31, 2011, open-sourcing the technology. The MIT Center for Mobile Learning took over the project and is now supporting it under the name "MIT App Inventor."
Meanwhile, AppScale provides commercial products that plug into its AppScale Cloud Platform, as well as professional services and technical support for the platform. AppScale is used by small and medium-size businesses as well as enterprise companies to provide automatic failover and migration of cloud applications and data running on popular public cloud platforms. The AppScale Cloud Platform and its plug-in products simplify cloud application development, deployment, scaling and migration so that developers can focus on their innovation, the company said. AppScale Systems is a Google Cloud Technology Partner.