As cloud and DevOps have heated up, enterprise need for cloud portability and deeper DevOps integration have become pretty clear. The need for portability to avoid cloud lock-in has been a desire of enterprise cloud users from day one. A variety of people are attempting to address this need, but the market is still very much evolving.
In the area of DevOps integration, the two topics currently causing struggles are security and networking. Continuous deployment inevitably requires both to be part of the DevOps package, and those are the newest additions to the field, so it is still maturing.
appOrbit recently came out of stealth mode with an overarching architecture to enable hypercloud and extend the DevOps process across the entirety of the dev/test/deploy ecosystem. The idea is to offer a platform that doesn’t care what languages or deployment tools you use, or even what databases you’ve tossed data into, and covers the process from first line of code to management and monitoring post-deployment.
That’s a big claim, so I got on the phone with appOrbit to poke around a bit. Better would be to take the time and use the toolset, but I’ll settle for our questions about the traditional weak spaces in the process, and about how they achieve some of the company’s claims. For now.
My first impression was that this was application release automation/application release management (ARA/ARM), and Rahul Ravulur, CEO of appOrbit told me I wasn’t far off; I just wasn’t thinking big enough. A large part of the process is ARA, but additionally, appOrbit worries about networking, security policy and long-term monitoring and management, all while offering deployment portability.
Finally, the End Game is in Sight
From the beginnings of the Ops side of the DevOps movement (what I like to call devOPS), the end goal was pretty obvious: to improve the entirety of the process. It was clearly going to take time—good network engineers are wizards that can make a network do astounding things—and we had to figure out how to make that more repeatable. On the DEVops side, repeatable was relatively painless: We already did a predefined sequence of steps over and over; the point was to break them into smaller iterations and automate what was ripe for automation. Much of Ops was the same, but networking and security had many more variables to take into account, and less history of “here’s a prescribed sequence, do it.”
If appOrbit can do as it claims—and its customer list includes some customers I’ve worked with that probably wouldn’t be there if the product was vaporware—then we’re seeing the culmination start. The culmination will include limitless portability, sort of a “we don’t care where you deploy, just tell us and we’ll do it”; it will include development tool agnosticism—“We don’t care what tools you used, we’ll deploy it”; and it will include complete solutions—“We’ll move your data, we’ll move your app, we’ll configure the target network, we’ll run the security checks relevant to the target platform.” It sounds like appOrbit has traveled quite far down that path already.
What, Exactly, Did You Intend?
One interesting bit appOrbit talked to me about and I’d like to take out for a spin is the idea of adding “intents” to security and networking. Tell it what you’re after, and through a combination of built-in functionality and plug-ins it will deploy your application as you intended. For things like opening a port, this seems pretty straightforward, but security and networking are complex topics. What is/isn’t covered by security policies/intents? What if my intent is for the system to create a VPN, lock down all the ports, then open just a few and connect the VPN back into the data center over an encrypted port? Who manages certs? Where does it get the credentials to get back into the data center? What happens if I take this whole VPN-based deployment and decide to put it inside the data center after all? Do I have to rework the networking intents to remove the VPN? The questions are endless.
But assume this is the beginning of a road that truly can end up with “deploy anywhere, and deploy as you intended.” That’s what we’ve been waiting for, and it’s inevitable, so I for one am glad to see us set off meaningfully down the path.
Improvement Makes Movement
The mere act of someone talking about having pulled all this together will be good for customers. Ravulur’s stress that “a lot of what we do is ARA” will no doubt make ARA vendors step up their attempts to be as inclusive as appOrbit is, and the market will move forward. appOrbit’s use case of “legacy app migration” without changing the app alone offers an avenue for enterprises to begin to move to new platforms. That in and of itself will be a help to the huge number of enterprises that want to move to a more modern environment but aren’t ready or able to rewrite entire systems. And again, it will spur on competitors—in this case in the application provisioning space, most likely—to try and implement similar functionality in a relatively short time frame.
In a nutshell, I hope that appOrbit can do all that it claims, but even if it falls short in some areas (I honestly have only touched on a few of the areas it has pulled together; there’s a lot here), it is a step forward, and I think the company will drive the market more toward the end goal of application portability from both the Dev and deployment sides, while automating a more complete solution.
To me, that’s all good. Not everyone is pure cloud, and a far fewer number want to be pure public cloud brand X. The automation tools I’ve been knee-deep in all have been massively complex under the covers, and no doubt this one is, too; simplifying automation so it is easy to adapt to a given environment is a huge part of the task these tools perform. Figuring out the weaknesses is what we customers have to do, but in the end, we’re moving forward.
I, for one, will look for a chance to play with appOrbit’s toys, validate some of its claims, and see how well it suits enterprise needs. But I don’t have a timeline, so if you’re interested, you should check them out yourself.