What has changed so dramatically with application deployments - for businesses that deploy SaaS for their employees and/or their customers - is that they are no longer exclusive to one service provider. There may be any number of public clouds involved in the process, in addition to the enterprise's own data center. But the automation tools businesses have been using for app deployments, quite simply, don't automate this.
"Everything in IT is a custom-build shop. You have all of the different components, nothing is standardized," explains VMware's director of product marketing for management tools, Rob Smoot, speaking with RWW. "You have to move IT to a mass producer with a production line. You may be deploying an app to five different service providers, and you need to abstract the deployment from the infrastructure that it's running on.
This morning, VMware announced major expansions to its vSphere services, including an entirely new Applications Management suite. Therein, admins will find a completely reconsidered virtual application management tool called vFabric AppDirector.
"What AppDirector does," Smoot explains, "is take all the components you need to assemble an application, and in a very simple way, pull those components together out of standardized libraries; put them into deployment profiles that, again, are standardized; and then take all of the associated orchestration and workflow, simplify it, package it all together and deploy applications to any cloud."
Modern applications are developed on frameworks, Smoot points out, especially if they're intended to run on tablets as well as desktops and notebooks. Thus, automation tools that are geared toward operating systems instead of frameworks fail to account for the possible pre-existence of the framework's many libraries. In addition, more modern business apps are being developed with the full awareness that they'll be deployed on virtual environments, and thus are taking new abstractions into account such as disconnecting their dependencies on one operating system's resources - the most prominent example being the Windows System Registry.
AppDirector, Smoot tells RWW, enables applications servers to auto-scale in case of capacity constraints. In addition, it lets developers endow their apps with virtualization awareness, so that they "know" to take advantage of such features as auto-scaling for themselves.
"The net of this is it compresses the application lifecycle. As you know, within the new app frameworks and models, the pace at which you iterate on an application and release is not what it used to be," explains Smoot, "where it would take weeks and months to go through a cycle." Now adjustments can be made and deployed transparently on even a daily basis. What enables this acceleration is a kind of standardization of service level, where apps are deployed to profiles rather than discrete devices.
As Smoot goes on, "What we want to accomplish is to standardize the various deployment profiles that exist for an application and then standardize the way those applications are deployed. With vCloud Director, instead of having a hundred different variables, you deploy to three or four different levels of service for the infrastructure - platinum, gold, silver. This mass standardization needs to happen so that IT can get out of this unsustainable operating model for the velocity of change that's happening with cloud, in terms of the speed at which an application needs to be provisioned, and the degree of change that's happening beyond the initial provisioning."
One of the additions to vCenter's Operations Management Suite speaks to this degree of standardization Smoot's referring to. The new Application Awareness feature of vCenter Infrastructure Navigator discovers and reports the dependencies and relationships behind each deployed application. This becomes useful, he describes, in conjunction with existing features such as Site Recovery Manager (SRM) for disaster recovery. That tool defines certain protection groups. VCenter IN would let you, as the admin, confirm that all the virtual machines to which a deployed application belongs - app server, Web server, database tier - are protected by SRM.
Smoot goes on to describe the nature of this change in terms of the job function of IT itself. In the cloud era, where some or all of certain services may be provisioned outside the boundaries of an organization, no longer is the IT department the source of all information services in that company. Rather, it's becoming more of a broker of these services, and as such, it literally begins "trading" in these services like on a commodities exchange.
"IT is no longer providing the full stack. So management needs to map to that new environment, to give IT more visibility and control of services, costs and the vendors that are providing those services across the portfolio."
Edits were made to this article in order to accurately align the new products and features with their respective SKUs.