The profound effects of the Consumerization of IT (CoIT) is blurring the lines between consumers and the enterprise. The fact that virtually every type of mobile device is now a candidate to make employees productive means that cross-platform, enabling technologies are a must. Luckily, Microsoft has brought the power to synchronize data with either SQL Server on-premise or SQL Azure in the cloud to the world of mobility. If you’ve ever synched the music on your iPhone with iTunes, the calendar on your Android device with Gmail, or the Outlook email on your Windows Phone with Exchange, then you understand the importance of sync. In my experience architecting and building enterprise mobile apps for the world’s largest organizations over the last decade, data sync has always been a critical ingredient.
The new Sync Framework Toolkit found on MSDN builds on the existing Sync Framework 2.1’s ability to create disconnected applications, making it easier to expose data for synchronization to apps running on any client platform. Where Sync Framework 2.1 required clients to be based on Windows, this free toolkit allows other Microsoft platforms to be used for offline clients such as Silverlight, Windows Phone 7, Windows Mobile, Windows Embedded Handheld, and new Windows Slates. Additionally, non-Microsoft platforms such as iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, Blackberries and browsers supporting HTML5 are all first-class sync citizens. The secret is that we no longer require the installation of the Sync Framework runtime on client devices. When coupled with use of an open protocol like OData for data transport, no platform or programming language is prevented from synchronizing data with our on-premise and cloud databases. When the data arrives on your device, you can serialize it as JSON, or insert it into SQL Server Compact or SQLite depending on your platform preferences.
The Sync Framework Toolkit provides all the features enabled by theSync Framework 4.0 October 2010 CTP. We are releasing the toolkit as source code samples on MSDN with the source code utilizing Sync Framework 2.1. Source code provides the flexibility to customize or extend the capabilities we have provided to suit your specific requirements. The client-side source code in the package is released under the Apache 2.0 license and the server-side source code under the MS-LPL license. The Sync Framework 2.1 is fully supported by Microsoft and the mobile-enabling source code is yours to use, build upon, and support for the apps you create.
Now some of you might be wondering why you would use a sync technology to move data rather than SOAP or REST web services. The reason has to do with performance and bandwidth efficiency. Using SOA, one would retrieve all the data needed to the device in order to see what has changed in SQL Server. The same goes for uploading data. Using the Sync Framework Toolkit, only the changes, or deltas, are transmitted over the air. The boosts performance and reduces bandwidth usage which saves time and money in a world of congested mobile data networks with capped mobile data plans. You also get a feature called batching, which breaks up the data sent over wireless networks into manageable pieces. This not only prevents you from blowing out your limited bandwidth, but it also keeps you from using too much RAM memory both on the server and your memory-constrained mobile device. When combined with conflict resolution and advanced filtering, I’m sold!
I think you’ll find the Sync Framework Toolkit to be an immensely valuable component of your MEAP solutions for the enterprise as well as the ones you build for consumers.