|By Dave Jilk||
|December 28, 2012 03:15 PM EST||
Like an automobile, a web application needs occasional maintenance and management over its life cycle. Although it doesn't need oil changes, it will probably need version upgrades. There may not be manufacturer recalls, but sometimes servers fail or hang. An application doesn't need to be washed and detailed, but it does need to be backed up. And both cars and applications need occasional performance tuning.
This article provides a complete list of the system management functions that need to be performed on a standard architecture web application, with a particular emphasis on doing so in an Infrastructure-as-a-Service environment.
Anyone who has implemented an application without sufficient evaluation, only to realize too late that it does not solve the business problem, will understand why evaluation is part of the application lifecycle.
Evaluation is facilitated with two primary components: information about the application and a try-before-you-buy capability. Many questions about an application can be answered efficiently with basic feature and function information, and ideally a competitive comparison from several similar applications will give visibility to their strengths and weaknesses. But these are prerequisites rather than substitutes for actually trying and using the product. Ideally, a "test drive" will not require any setup or configuration, since the goal is only to determine whether it meets your needs. You want to spend your evaluation time using the software, not learning how to deploy and configure it.
Deployment is the tip of the system management iceberg - it is the most visible procedure because you cannot even get started without it.
Automating a deployment has many benefits, even if it is superficially a one-time deployment, because the automation script provides documentation and a kind of checklist to ensure that configuration details are handled properly the next time. If the upgrade is performed by re-deploying to a new server entirely, (this is much easier with virtual machines and cloud servers), then the upgrade process is just a matter of re-running the automation.
Another benefit of automating deployments is that best practices are made repeatable and documented, thereby reducing the chance of human error.
As soon as you begin to use your application, you should begin backing up the data it stores in a location that is both physically and logically separate from the primary data store.
Ideally, a backup contains the minimum unique data necessary to reproduce the state of the system. This keeps the cost of transporting and storing the backups low, which in turn encourages a higher backup frequency. However, sometimes this minimization should be traded off against the amount of time required to restore the system to working order.
Applications and servers fail or bog down unpredictably. Persistent automated monitoring, with appropriate forms of notification (email, text message) frees you from having to explicitly check on the status of the application, but still ensures that you hear about problems when they happen, rather than when they are reported by users hours later.
Importantly, applications must be monitored at the application level - by robotic access through the application itself. It is common for servers and virtual machines to seem perfectly fine while the application is unresponsive. Remember that users and customers do not care about "server uptime" - they just want to use the application or site.
Deeper monitoring can signal trends that suggest that an imminent failure before it happens. For example, by tracking memory utilization and number of web server processes, a monitoring system may be able to predict that a server is about to overload. This type of deeper monitoring can also be useful for automated scaling procedures.
5. Job Scheduling
Many applications have scheduled jobs in addition to monitoring and backups: data rollups, log file archiving, end-of-day reporting.
If the application has this requirement, there must be an easy, flexible, and reliable method of scheduling and automatically performing these jobs. It is common to use cron or Windows Task Scheduler for these procedures, and as long as these tools are accessible this is a workable solution. Even better is an off-server job scheduling mechanism, so that the status of the server and application does not affect whether the job runs and whether failure notifications can be delivered.
Most application software and its supporting technology stack are subject to occasional version upgrades and patches.
It is extremely convenient to be able to easily duplicate the entire application environment and perform the upgrade first on a copy. Running manual or automated tests to confirm that the upgrade worked can improve reliability. If the upgrade failed, because (for example) a step was left out or a configuration change conflicts with the new version, the duplicate environment can be used to check and repair these issues and the upgrade process repeated until it works properly. This best practice minimizes the downtime associated with the upgrade.
Many environments assume that backups will only rarely be used, so accessing them is expensive and possibly time-consuming. In an IaaS environment, with the right tools, it can be relatively easy to retrieve and restore backups to either a production system or to a copy.
Obviously, when a server or application does fail, the first thing to try is to restore the operation of the application in place. The next thing to try is deploying a new application environment, then restoring a backup or turning a replication slave into the master. The former will result in a loss of data based on how long ago the backup was performed. The latter will typically result in only the very last transaction being lost. DNS entries must be updated.
Sometimes, a server failure is actually a consequence of an entire data center experiencing downtime. In this case, it becomes clear why the backups must be kept offsite. The attempt to deploy a new application will fail in the original data center, so it must be performed elsewhere.
Ideally, a management system will provide the optional ability to sequence and automate all these procedures in connection with the monitoring. This can minimize downtime and avoid the need to have staff on call 24x7.
The cost of frequently changing resources to match load must be weighed against the cost of having excess resources for some time. Burst scaling is much less common and substantially more challenging to handle well.
In single server application deployments, scaling consists of redeploying the application on a server with more memory and/or compute resources. Multi-server deployments are scaled by adding or removing servers from a homogeneous horizontally scalable tier, usually a web tier and possibly a separate application server tier.
In addition to deploying fully configured web or application servers, they must be properly added to (or removed from) a load balancer queue, and this must be done in a way that does not affect active connections. Thus, whether these scale changes are initiated manually or dynamically in response to monitoring output, it is crucial that the deployment (or un-deployment) of resources be automated to avoid configuration errors and to ensure a transparent user experience on the production environment.
Sometimes application deployments can be tuned to perform better independent of resource scaling. Typically this involves changing configuration parameters and restarting the web server or rebooting the server.
If system management for the application is largely automated, any manual changes need to be reflected in the automated deployment procedures to ensure that they are reflected in later re-deployments (including restoring backups, deploy from scratch upgrades, and the like). A very sophisticated management system might actually perform tuning automatically based on load and performance characteristics of the application. However, this is unusual because it is typically very application-specific.
10. Utility Management
Many application deployments include utility software that provides, for example, security, log analysis, caching, or email delivery. These utilities are often more challenging to install even than the technology stack or the application itself, and configuring them to connect to the application is almost always tricky. Consequently, a compatibility matrix along with automated deployment procedures to allow independent installation of each utility is an enormous time-saver. Automated removal of these utilities is also crucial, as it can be even more difficult than installation.
We have seen that there are numerous system management activities to be performed in a typical web application deployment. Accomplishing these tasks manually is relatively burdensome and requires a fair amount of skill. In the Infrastructure-as-a-Service world, most of these procedures can be automated or automated with manual initiation; and, further, they can be performed in ways that are more reliable and testable than in a bare-iron data center. With an appropriate IT Process Automation system, a single-tenant application deployment in the cloud can be almost as easy as Software-as-a-Service, but without the attendant loss of control and flexibility.
For almost two decades, businesses have discovered great opportunities to engage with customers and even expand revenue through digital systems, including web and mobile applications. Yet, even now, the conversation between the business and the technologists that deliver these systems is strained, in large part due to misaligned objectives. In his session at DevOps Summit, James Urquhart, Senior Vice President of Performance Analytics at SOASTA, Inc., will discuss how measuring user outcomes –...
Oct. 3, 2015 11:00 PM EDT Reads: 263
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud wit...
Oct. 3, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 337
SYS-CON Events announced today that VividCortex, the monitoring solution for the modern data system, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The database is the heart of most applications, but it’s also the part that’s hardest to scale, monitor, and optimize even as it’s growing 50% year over year. VividCortex is the first unified suite of database monitoring tools specifically desi...
Oct. 3, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 302
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, ...
Oct. 3, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 311
“All our customers are looking at the cloud ecosystem as an important part of their overall product strategy. Some see it evolve as a multi-cloud / hybrid cloud strategy, while others are embracing all forms of cloud offerings like PaaS, IaaS and SaaS in their solutions,” noted Suhas Joshi, Vice President – Technology, at Harbinger Group, in this exclusive Q&A with Cloud Expo Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff.
Oct. 3, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 261
Interested in leveraging automation technologies and a cloud architecture to make developers more productive? Learn how PaaS can benefit your organization to help you streamline your application development, allow you to use existing infrastructure and improve operational efficiencies. Begin charting your path to PaaS with OpenShift Enterprise.
Oct. 3, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 257
SYS-CON Events announced today that Agema Systems will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Agema Systems is the leading provider of critical white-box rack solutions to data centers through the major integrators and value added distribution channels.
Oct. 3, 2015 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 544
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Raxak has been named “Media & Session Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Raxak Protect automates security compliance across private and public clouds. Using the SaaS tool or managed service, developers can deploy cloud apps quickly, cost-effectively, and without error.
Oct. 3, 2015 01:15 PM EDT Reads: 557
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the...
Oct. 3, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 595
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated a...
Oct. 3, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 360
SYS-CON Events announced today that Key Information Systems, Inc. (KeyInfo), a leading cloud and infrastructure provider offering integrated solutions to enterprises, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Key Information Systems is a leading regional systems integrator with world-class compute, storage and networking solutions and professional services for the most advanced softwa...
Oct. 3, 2015 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 219
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
Oct. 3, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 357
Learn how IoT, cloud, social networks and last but not least, humans, can be integrated into a seamless integration of cooperative organisms both cybernetic and biological. This has been enabled by recent advances in IoT device capabilities, messaging frameworks, presence and collaboration services, where devices can share information and make independent and human assisted decisions based upon social status from other entities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Heydt, founder of Seamless...
Oct. 3, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 579
In recent years, at least 40% of companies using cloud applications have experienced data loss. One of the best prevention against cloud data loss is backing up your cloud data. In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bryan Forrester, Senior Vice President of Sales at eFolder, will present how organizations can use eFolder Cloudfinder to automate backups of cloud application data. He will also demonstrate how easy it is to search and restore cloud application data using Cloudfinder.
Oct. 3, 2015 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 256
The modern software development landscape consists of best practices and tools that allow teams to deliver software in a near-continuous manner. By adopting a culture of automation, measurement and sharing, the time to ship code has been greatly reduced, allowing for shorter release cycles and quicker feedback from customers and users. Still, with all of these tools and methods, how can teams stay on top of what is taking place across their infrastructure and codebase? Hopping between services a...
Oct. 3, 2015 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 219
Docker is hot. However, as Docker container use spreads into more mature production pipelines, there can be issues about control of Docker images to ensure they are production-ready. Is a promotion-based model appropriate to control and track the flow of Docker images from development to production? In his session at DevOps Summit, Fred Simon, Co-founder and Chief Architect of JFrog, will demonstrate how to implement a promotion model for Docker images using a binary repository, and then show h...
Oct. 3, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 612
SYS-CON Events announced today that JFrog, maker of Artifactory, the popular Binary Repository Manager, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based in California, Israel and France, founded by longtime field-experts, JFrog, creator of Artifactory and Bintray, has provided the market with the first Binary Repository solution and a software distribution social platform.
Oct. 3, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 411
Cloud Foundry open Platform as a Service makes it easy to operate, scale and deploy application for your dedicated cloud environments. It enables developers and operators to be significantly more agile, writing great applications and deliver them in days instead of months. Cloud Foundry takes care of all the infrastructure and network plumbing that you need to build, run and operate your applications and can do this while patching and updating systems and services without any downtime.
Oct. 3, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 4,376
Redis is not only the fastest database, but it has become the most popular among the new wave of applications running in containers. Redis speeds up just about every data interaction between your users or operational systems. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Dave Nielsen, Developer Relations at Redis Labs, will share the functions and data structures used to solve everyday use cases that are driving Redis' popularity
Oct. 3, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 189
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
Oct. 3, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 307