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Accelerating Mobility

Accelerating Mobility

Welcome to the 2005 Mobility Focus issue of the .NET Developer's Journal. Long-time readers know that mobility is an area of special interest to me. In 2001, I wrote the first book about .NET mobility - Mobile .NET. From 2001 to 2004, I was chief technology evangelist for the world's first mobile IT management software company, Expand Beyond. Then, last year, I was named one of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professionals for the .NET Compact Framework - a dream fulfilled!

So, What Have I Done for You Lately?

For the last six months, I have been a principal consultant for Magenic Technologies, a premier software development company 100% focused on Microsoft technologies. One of Magenic's "big things" is our unique blend of technical frameworks/accelerators and methodologies that we call the Magenic Foundation. Those of you who have read any of Rocky Lhotka's books are already familiar with one of the key pieces of Foundation - CSLA, Rocky's component-based, scalable, logical architecture that supports object-oriented application development in .NET. (In Magenic Foundation this is known as the Foundation Business Objects Accelerator - or FBOA, for short.)

The lack of mobile-specific functionality in the Magenic Foundation has frankly been a carbuncle on my gluteus maximus (conveys a heck of a mental image, doesn't it?) for the last several months. So, following the adage that if you want something done right - or done at all, for that matter - you should do it yourself, I began the process of building the Magenic Mobile Accelerator.

By the time you read this, version one of the Accelerator will be complete and available. From the midway point of the development tunnel (is that light ahead the sun or an oncoming train?) it'simpossible to predict with complete accuracy what the final form of the finished product will be. There are four key features on which we're focusing development, however.

  • Automatic deployment
  • "Smart client" data synchronization
  • FBOA (CSLA) variant for the Compact Framework
  • Warehousing-and-logistics vertical support
Wanting to keep client applications up-to-date in the field is a familiar theme in our industry. The problem is compounded in the mobile space by the nature of device-based installations: remote locations, unreliable connections, etc., etc. We knew from the outset that the Magenic Foundation Mobile Accelerator had to provide seamless functionality to keep applications on devices in the field up-to-date with no additional programming.

The data on which the software is supposed to work must also be kept as fresh as possible. At this point, CSLA provides numerous mechanisms on the desktop, but has never been available for mobile devices before. For the Magenic Foundation Mobile Accelerator, we're porting the relevant bits of CSLA and replacing some of the less relevant data access bits with a new Web Services-based architecture that will follow a synchronization scheme for remote data access similar to that used by Outlook 2003 and other "smart clients" on the Windows desktop.

And, finally, when we began thinking about a Mobile Accelerator, it was immediately clear to us that there were a number of verticals - warehousing, retail, the medical industry, - where mobility seemed particularly relevant. Because my current client needs mobile functionality for its warehouses, I'm building deep support for warehousing operations - both on the device and the back-end - into version 1 of the Magenic Foundation Mobile Accelerator.

As with all modern software, the Mobile Accelerator is a work in progress. The current plan calls for it to be unveiled at the Microsoft Mobile & Embedded DevCon 2005. However, I'd like to hear your thoughts on additional features and capabilities that you think should be added in future versions. As always, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected].

More Stories By Derek Ferguson

Derek Ferguson, founding editor and editor-in-chief of .Net Developer's Journal, is a noted technology expert and former Microsoft MVP.

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