Last year was the 30th anniversary of the movie Back to the Future, and many times throughout my IT career, I’ve felt a little bit like Marty McFly–stuck in the past while waiting for the future. That’s because back before distributed processing became all the rage (and the “cloud” was just something that got in the way of a sunny day), there was a “one-stop-shop” development platform that used a dumb terminal where you had little thought of the supporting infrastructure and other “middleware.” It was as close to a pure platform-as-a-service (PaaS) as there was. Fast forward two decades. We now have cloud computing and converged systems and I’m still trying to find that perfect development platform that was as easy to use.

 

As we move into the “future” e.g. 2016, for the first time, I see an opportunity to move into a “one stop shop” environment that will enable Business Apps to stop worrying about its infrastructure.  The convergence of three trends is making this possible: First, the evolution of our IT infrastructure to a service broker approach that focuses on the delivery not of technology, but on business services. Second, the long-term stability of our IT infrastructure, which is characterized by continuous nondisruptive operations. Third, a hybrid cloud strategy that enables IT to move applications in and out of the cloud and keep control of our data.

 

When taken together, these trends are a major step toward the dream environment for Business Apps-one that’s infrastructure-agnostic and eliminates many of the bottlenecks that hamper the Business Apps team’s ability to be flexible and agile. We will be able to focus on what we do best-developing and delivering applications to help the business reach its goals without worrying about the underlying technology.

 

What does this new infrastructure-agnostic environment look like? I see these three attributes:

  • Complete elasticity and scalability in our load and test environments, followed by the same for the application development environment.
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) for delivering complete ecosystems.
  • Ability to leverage the cloud for business continuity.

Today I’ll talk about the first step, load and test, and address PaaS and business continuity in the future.

 

Load and Test Environment

Like most IT shops, we have been constrained by finite sources for integration and load performance testing. We have one shared, integrated stage (pre-production) environment for all our development activities. Sharing one environment among all projects requires diligent and precise coordination (or sumo-suits and cage fighting). The flexibility and speed with which we can complete projects is limited to how fast we can move projects through load and test.

 

The combination of a long-term stable IT infrastructure and the almost instant scalability of hybrid cloud resources would remove the bottleneck presented by a single stage environment. The infrastructure team could leverage cloud resources to create multiple load and test environments so we could test multiple projects simultaneously. We could flex projects in and out of the cloud as needed and eliminate scheduling, downtime, and other conflicts over tight resources.

 

The best part for us? We no longer need to be experts in the cloud or technology. Instead, we would depend on the infrastructure team to deliver the best option to meet our requirements in the given timeframes. We would stop caring about where the capacity is located (cloud, on-premises, or hybrid), only that it is available when we need it and that we control the data. This infrastructure-agnostic approach gives us both agility and flexibility and the ability to focus on functionality, not infrastructure.

 

The next natural step would be to apply this scalable environment to the other major bottleneck in Business Apps-application development. By utilizing elastic, scalable environments for both development and load and test, the two biggest hurdles in the Apps world would be eliminated and dramatically transform the speed of our delivery.

 

Stay tuned next week when I explore the sequel on how PaaS will change Business Apps in the future.

 

The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading storage solutions to support business goals. Want to learn more about the program? Visit www.NetAppIT.com.

MikeCapener