The advancement of mobile computing, cloud computing and Internet of Things has made IT professionals rethink how IT services are delivered and recapture the old centralized processing concepts found in mainframe operations. In a distributed, or client/server, environment, both the front-end (the client) and the back-end (the server) had equal participation in the computing process. The client may process a request independently from the server and only when ready to share, was the server involved. In the mainframe world, the server does the majority of the process, while the client, or dumb terminal, was a simple input/output device. If technology is moving back centralizing processing, shouldn’t the back-end be strong and why?
When looking at front-end and back-end operations, some confusion may exist because those operations are not clearly defined or they differ for one group or organization over another. Considering a typical website or web application, the front-end refers to what the user sees and interacts with. For a website, a backend may not exist. In this case, the website is considered static and is only updated when the creator manually does so. Most websites are considered dynamic: that is, they are continuously changing based on the information inputted over time. The key component of a dynamic website is a database where data provided by the user is stored and compared against more information provided by the company. Web applications are dynamic. Blogs are dynamic.
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A simple back-end consists of a server, an application, and a database. In an organization, the back-end may be responsible for retrieving information from multiple systems and gathering that information into a single database for access in the future. In this case, the application can be seen in two parts: the interface with the user or the workhorse retrieving and compiling the data. The interface is the front-end. Its value is based on the user’s ability to interact with the interface such that the user gets the information they need. The back-end is where all the work is performed and manages workflow, process compliance, processing, and communication.
The purpose of DevOps has always been to encourage collaboration between operations and software development. A strong back-end is vital to DevOps for:
Consider current devices, particularly mobile devices. They are designed to perform very little processing and will process little storage capacity compared to other devices. Few are customizable at the hardware level. Rather, mobile devices act as an interface to an operation controlled by an application. Though there are security measures for the device, security priorities are focused on the back-end, as well as user management, update deployment and a myriad of other tasks. Minimally, the user expects to enter some input or make some query and a response is received. Retrieving that input, performing analysis, storing in the database, conducting and calculating results and communicating the response back to the customer are functions of the backend. When the back-end is unstable or broken, the user does not obtain the correct response in a timely manner. In the corporate world, the user could be the CEO, a manager, a field worker, and even the actually customer: each with different needs and expectations. A strong backend ensures those needs and expectations are met quickly and without delay.
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