Chances are your organization has already moved some of its applications to the cloud. There, storage and computing capacity are provided as services, and everybody in your enterprise can access the apps and related data via the internet.
As we all know, the cloud enables organizations to scale up or down quickly according to their needs, while giving them tremendous flexibility in maintaining their computing environment. One advantage for using the cloud is that it helps reduce time-to-market and removes the need for upfront investments in infrastructure.
To help you simplify the process of moving apps, you should consider using an Application Release Automation (ARA) tool from a reputable vendor with experience in the cloud space.
Moving to the Cloud Involves Research and Difficult Decisions
The first decision is perhaps the hardest: determining which variant of the cloud is best for your apps and your organization. Private or public cloud? Factors you should consider are: data security, privacy, legal compliance, network latency, whether the organization has the in-house resources to create and maintain a private cloud, and which cloud flavor provides the best combination of flexibility, compliance and cost-effectiveness.
Then, you have to weigh up the pros and cons of using the different cloud flavors, principally these:
• Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)
• Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
• Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
After the big decisions come the technical issues of how you are going to move your applications. Moving apps can be very difficult as many apps are complex and tied closely to the infrastructure landscape where they are deployed. Moving to a new landscape, such as the cloud, can be fraught with risks and challenges.
What are ARA Tools?
ARA tools focus on the modeling and deployment of custom application software releases and their associated configurations, often for Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) and .NET applications. These tools, according to Gartner, offer versioning to enable best practices in moving related artifacts, applications, configurations and data together across the application life cycle. ARA tools support continuous release deployment. They often include workflow engines to assist in automating and tracking human activities.
Core activities include:
• Packaging — creating a collection of multiple configuration items that must be deployed at the same time
• Dependency Mapping — modeling full application dependencies between components of the application
• Software Deployment — using package contents to install applications and configure their operating environments
• Promotion — delivery of tested packages to an environment of higher criticality
• Compliance — documenting adherence to processes and validating deployed application configurations
At its simplest, an ARA tool helps developers to map application components and configurations to targets, such as binary code, connection configuration, database updates, queue definitions, and web service end-points. This helps to remove the coupling between the application and its host infrastructure.
First Step in Using an ARA Tool to Move Apps to the Cloud
Using a sophisticated ARA tool, you can install applications in a cloud environment automatically. Nearly all ARA tools will enable you to define the application in the tool, ideally specifying a package for each version of each application. Each package will contain all of the components to make an application run, as well as links to the environments where you want to deploy.
If you use a model-based ARA tool, you will be able to eliminate much of your ‘how’ issues as the tool will automate most of the steps involved.
Next, you must decide whether you want to move an app all at once or piecemeal. To err on the side of caution, you would be better off taking baby steps so you can learn and document as you go. Ideally, you might start by just moving some specific aspects such as static web content and front-end web servers. A model-based ARA tool will help you move forward quite effortlessly, whether your targets are in an on-premise or cloud environment.
Interacting with your targets is easy, via SSH, WinRM, REST — in fact, you can choose pretty much any connection protocol. You won’t even need to define new workflows or steps for this, as the tool will take care of the changes and determine the new deployment plan. Of course, if you want to move the entire app to the cloud, ARA tools give you that option, too.
In general, ARA tools will enable you and your team to move apps to the cloud quickly and safely, with full audit trails.
Software deployment is often one of the sorest headache-inducing problems of moving operations to the cloud. However, if you use ARA tools, your problems should diminish if not disappear. Best of all: if you use a model-based ARA tool, you will be able to eliminate much of your ‘how’ issues as the tool will automate most of the steps involved.
About the Author/Tom Batchelor
Tom Batchelor is a sales engineer for XebiaLabs, a leading provider of automation software for DevOps and Continuous Delivery, helping companies to accelerate the delivery of new software.