A bifurcation in types of developers will become more pronounced in the years ahead as more application code moves to the network edge. As that transition continues occurring, the pressure on IT operations to be able to be able to flexibly manage different classes of applications by embracing DevOps processes will correspondingly increase.
Mike Piech, vice president and general manager of middleware for Red Hat, said applications running on internet of things (IoT) devices and smartphones present developers with a finite amount of compute resources that require them to have advanced skills. Conversely, back-end applications can now take advantage of multiple layers of abstraction, including (soon) serverless computing frameworks based on event-driven architectures that make potentially unlimited compute resources available. The availability of all those compute resources, however, encourages developers of back-end services and applications to be less disciplined when writing applications.
The good news is that it’s getting easier to right-size applications using trial and error methods versus having to commit to a specific computing architecture up front, said Piech. If something doesn’t work as well as it should, modular approaches to microservices make it possible to more easily move application code to where it should best optimally reside. Rather than focusing on the rigor of the underlying architecture, developers are free to experiment with different tools and languages more now than any time in the history of IT, he said.
In fact, Piech speculated that many graphical user interfaces will continue to run locally while accessing a wide variety of back-end services via application programming interfaces (APIs). That approach essentially creates a new form of hybrid computing wherein developers no longer need to think much about the runtime environment, he noted.
However, all that freedom tends to put a lot more pressure on the IT operations team. As the types and classes of applications continues to evolve, Piech said it’s only a matter of time before more organizations move further down the DevOps path. Adoption of DevOps processes across organizations has been somewhat uneven. But as developers experiment with different computing models, the expectation is that operating teams will be flexible enough to dynamically make the appropriate adjustments, he said.
Longer term, middleware and databases will eventually be deconstructed into sets of microservices that developers can call when needed. Today, IT operations teams make available monolithic application servers and databases. Many of those databases and application servers are starting to be encapsulated in Docker containers as part of a first step toward lifting and shifting applications into the cloud before transitioning to more agile microservices-based frameworks, Piech said.
In some cases, those services will be accessed directly via a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment or a serverless computing framework. Piech said Red Hat expects serverless computing frameworks based on event-driven architectures will be used mainly to provide bursting capabilities as a complement to long-running stateful applications that typically consume a fixed amount of IT infrastructure resources. It’s probable stateless applications that run intermittently also will find their way on to serverless computing frameworks. Red Hat has thrown its support behind the open source OpenWhisk serverless computing framework.
There clearly will be many more types of distributed applications running across the enterprise. IT operations teams may not have much control over what types of applications run where and when. But they will be expected to be able to deploy and manage them all, regardless.