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Why ops teams need software-defined application delivery

Josh Gray Chief Architect, Cedexis
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Chances are you’ve heard or seen the term “software-defined” enough now that it occupies the same part of your brain as “big data,” “artificial intelligence,” and “Internet of Things.” My own favorite tech buzzword du jour is software-defined application delivery, which I refuse to shorten to either of its acronyms, “SAD” and “SDAD.” 

The delivery of modern applications is simply too important for a bad acronym! Massive changes in technology application infrastructure and architecture landscapes have taken place recently, making the need for software-defined application delivery clearer than ever. Here's why.

Today’s applications are not monolithic

In a simpler time, maybe five or six years ago, applications were monolithic in nature, making delivery a straightforward process. That’s no longer the case since modern apps are distributed and often powered by microservices runnin as containers and cloud services. DevOps teams these days need to make sure every component of the application is performing as expected.

But that’s just the start since they also must make sure the connective tissue of these distributed apps isn’t underperforming, which could create a terrible end-user experience. SDAD (oh, dang, I used it!) allows you to decide exactly how you want your application to be experienced by the end user and easily write contingency-based code to implement those rules. Changes to your application architecture aren’t a major concern since your rules can accommodate both planned and unexpected changes.

Heterogeneous infrastructure is the norm

Like applications, modern infrastructure has changed significantly in the last several years. No longer are you using a single data center, or perhaps a data center and one content delivery network (CDN), to make sure your app gets to your customers. Multi-CDN infrastructures allow you to reroute app traffic when performance is an issue.

Multi-cloud environments are becoming more prevalent, since enterprises want to avoid vendor lock-in and gain more control over their critical shared infrastructure. And of course, the data center you purchased a few years ago isn’t just gathering dust—you paid for it, so you’re using it. The net result is a heterogeneous set of infrastructures being used to deliver your applications to customers.

Infrastructure is dynamic

Even if your infrastructure is fully built out and provisioned, it is, by the nature of the cloud, constantly changing as instances are both spun up and deprovisioned. Often, and for many reasons, this happens without you explicitly knowing about it. SDAD (okay, I’m just going with it) helps you optimize your infrastructure in its current state, again using the business rules you decide on.

This has the additional benefit of giving you a better idea of how to plan for cloud capacity and avoid overpaying, since you can automate delivery based on your reserved instances and fully utilize the capacity you paid for. Your SDAD also accounts for changes in cloud provider pricing and specific geographic needs, keeping billing surprises to a minimum.

Cloud migration ain’t easy

There aren’t any shortcuts when it comes to migrating applications to the cloud. The first step in cloud migration needs to be making sure your application can be delivered to your worldwide customers before, during, and after the migration. Do you really want to do that manually, while in the middle of a migration? SDAD systems make sure your app reaches customers at all times.

Application delivery controllers can’t keep up

Remember the monolithic app? Its best friend was the application delivery controller (ADC), also built for a different age. Often built into a blinking hardware box in a data center, old-guard ADCs had several drawbacks. They required a significant up-front expense, as opposed today’s pay-as-you-go cloud model. Monitoring was done with synthetic testing only, not the combination of real-user and synthetic monitoring many SDAD solutions provide today. Most importantly, ADC solutions were not as easily configurable and customizable as the robust SDAD, making them unusable with today’s modern application architecture.

Automate to innovate for DevOps

As more and more concerns (security, DevOps, new technologies, etc.)  are added to the Ops team’s list of things to worry about, the need for process automation becomes paramount. SDAD automation has the very practical effect of removing many common delivery issues, such as micro-outages, service degradations, and the occasional (and highly newsworthy) public cloud outage from the worry list.  Application uptime and customer experience should all be ensured by a set of routing rules you determine ahead of time. You can’t put a price on peace of mind, or not getting a million “OUR APP IS DOWN!!!!” emails.

Reliability you can count on, every time

Outages and cloud service degradation happen, so you need a plan in place for when they do. Many companies choose to utilize multiple cloud providers to ensure that their application is always available to worldwide customers, even during an outage. Taking control over changes in public cloud service offerings, pricing models, and service-level agreements is another powerful motivator for Ops teams to move to a multi-cloud architecture. SDAD allows you to seamlessly and automatically deliver applications over multiple clouds and/or CDNs, factoring in real-time availability, cost structures, and application performance.

SDAD it is!

There’s no way you can keep up with constantly changing applications, the infrastructure they’re built on, and inevitable network issues with manual processes. Software-defined application delivery allows you to implement the business rules that you know are important to the app delivery process, and do so instantly and automatically via customizable code.

End-user experience, network latency, unplanned cloud provisioning or CDN bursting, and other considerations can all be factored in as your needs change. The multiple fail-safe layers for application delivery will keep you insulated from the outages that need to be mitigated during your Netflix binges.

Give SDAD a chance as your app delivery solution, and the buzzword of the month. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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