One of the most frequently requested features in software-as-a-service computing these days is the ability to work offline. Just ask Google, which is regularly hounded with requests to make its Apps work offline.
Offline access isn’t easy to construct, particularly for multiple types of applications, as Web application platform provider Etelos can attest.
Roughly a year after it first talked about offline access, Etelos April 21 delivered a beta of AOP (Apps on a Plane), a technology that lets users work on applications offline.
Etelos is part of a crop of newer software makers breaking from the traditional packaged software practice, including Salesforce.com, Google and Amazon Web Services, to use the Web as the launching pad for applications and services to help companies conduct business. The San Mateo, Calif., company built its products using the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Python/Perl) open-source stack.
Etelos, which like Salesforce.com offers a platform to enable programmers to build Web applications and share them in an online marketplace, said AOP lets applications from the Etelos Marketplace exchange data with any application that is AOP-ready.
This means users will be able to make changes to fully functioning versions of their application. When users reconnect to the Web, the changes they make offline will sync up online. The data is safe because it is stored in a local database and mirrored in the application in the cloud. Etelos App Sync manages applications when synchronizing.
For example, users traveling via flights can view client records and take notes or update proposal information and more. Etelos’ App Sync utility picks up the data and makes sure it is shared.
Programmers working on an existing application can enable that application to exchange data with any other AOP-enabled application and run offline or online without having to change the software code. By not having to rewrite an application, both developers can be more productive.
App Portability Is Becoming Table Stakes
Users install AOP locally on their computers. Using a configuration file with an initial synchronization with the server, AOP retrieves the information and settings to work offline and sync when the user is back online. The time it takes to sync varies with the speed of the Web connection and the amount of information users exchange with the server.
Etelos will be demonstrating AOP and App Sync at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco beginning April 22. There users can expect to see SugarCRM, MediaWiki, WordPress and other LAMP-based applications running online and offline and synchronized on Etelos Exchange.
This kind of application portability is increasingly table stakes for the Web application market, according to Danny Kolke, founder and CTO of Etelos, which is duking it out with Salesforce.com in the SMB (small and midsize business) end of the Web application platform market. Salesforce.com also offers an offline edition of its application suite.
“In order for mainstream adoption to happen, one of two things needs to happen: You need to always be online no matter where you are or you need to be able to access and work with your Web-based application while offline,” he said.
Kolke told eWEEK one of the main differences between Etelos and Saleforce.com is that Etelos leverages LAMP while Salesforce.com uses its own proprietary code. For instance, companies don’t have to use Etelos’ CRM application to use its Marketplace as a service for a distribution mechanism, Kolke said.