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David P. Butler
David is a director of product marketing at Docker, focused on distributed application development and governance and developer tools. Prior to Docker, he has led the product marketing strategy and marketing teams with leading data science, digital experience, analytics and cloud application platform software companies.
Most organizations have by now realized to at least some degree how businesses across industries now define their offerings by software. Delivered via applications, the feature set of this software must iterate rapidly to keep up with the ever-evolving landscape of user needs. The speed of those iterations is fast becoming a competitive necessity. If a business can’t respond rapidly to change, it simply won’t survive.
The reality for developers who design and architect modern applications is that these applications are not driven by technology; they are driven by the user’s journey. Gracefully handling needs and changes throughout the journey is a critical mandate with modern applications.
So, what makes an application modern? To answer this question, we must first ask what the application’s “desired state” looks like. For most business services, this includes global reach to a dispersed user base via a variety of endpoint devices, mobile and fixed edge.
Reliably predicting growth and demand or even the journey is difficult, but translating such needs into a governed and adaptable application architecture is even harder, especially if its scale characteristics are rigid or limited to early assumptions.
The ability to handle variances in demand, responsively and cost-effectively, makes elasticity of footprint a first-order architectural requirement. As the business criticality of an application grows, it’s quite possible that the degree of its service level requirements will also change proportionally over time.
If we agree that change is continuous and essential, for the modern application that must iterate to the pace of change, there is no definitive end state to its architecture or physical footprint. Both evolve continually, as business-driven needs call for additional capabilities that enable new business services to be defined and delivered in software.
Desired state, then, is not reaching a fixed delivery point for a finite set of features. Desired state is the ability to deliver new capabilities continually, with minimal to no interruption to the business and user.
Automated Application Development Lifecycle
The pragmatic approach to application development is to start small, with a few capabilities, delivered as software services that can be built, governed and managed independently — but collaborate together at runtime to execute the application. Over time, those services can be leveraged with subsequent services to meet new business-driven needs.
Engineering this at scale calls for an automated application lifecycle, where features can be developed and delivered as a continuous pipeline via current and new services. For applications composed of microservices running as containers, the benefits of an automated lifecycle are plentiful. As the scope of the application grows with new services being added to the footprint, developers need an automated process to build, test and deliver each of those services independently.
Modern Application Development Tips
Applications are constantly evolving, leaving organizations with the ultimatum of either adapting or falling by the wayside. The spectrum of applications is only expanding — from legacy and brownfield to cloud native and microservices — and as this expands, resources are becoming increasingly distributed. It’s these distributed applications that will power the future of business. But first, companies have to become familiar with how to build, govern and secure these applications in a unified and repeatable way, whether on-prem, hybrid, multicloud or at the edge.
Here are three tips that can help guide the development process:
- Modernize Your Applications — A quick way to start the process of modernization is to containerize your applications. Containers help to realize microservices by making it easier to take independent functions of an application and use them as building blocks. By containerizing brownfield or greenfield applications, developers pave the way to a microservices architecture and create an easier way to build, share and run distributed multiservice applications. Containerization is fundamentally meant to confer the benefits of portability, scalability and shareability to applications.
- Instill Greater Collaboration — As microservices become a common practice within enterprises, it’s no longer the case where one team is responsible for a given application. A single application now often requires collaboration across a number of different development teams — and these teams need a clear, unified workflow to speed up development and delivery while ensuring security throughout. A unified end-to-end platform improves collaboration, providing greater control and ensuring security across the entire application lifecycle.
- Simplify the Development Process — Enterprises have an immediate appetite for solutions that can abstract the complexity that’s tied to modern applications. Developers need a way to easily bundle distributed services and resources that make up these modern applications — consisting of multiple containers and different configuration formats and operational parameters — so that they can be easily shared, installed and run anywhere.
A Path Forward
Getting a handle on modern application development is no easy task. It’s not uncommon for companies to house thousands of applications and these application portfolios are not only growing in sheer quantity, but also in complexity. Combine that with the need to extract more value from existing applications while being in a position to embrace future technologies (such as serverless platforms, service meshes or other newer alternatives ) and the challenge only becomes more daunting. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be as arduous as it may initially appear. With containerization, collaboration and simplification, there is a path forward for companies that are developing modern applications and need to lower complexity and handle continuous change.
Feature image via Pixabay.
InApps Technology is a wholly owned subsidiary of Insight Partners, an investor in the following companies mentioned in this article: Docker.
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