Do you have enough fingers to count the number of “Systems” in your organization? These systems, lovingly called Line of Business applications, or LOBs for short, are critical for daily work. But the software and infrastructure powering them are often very complex mixtures of on-premise apps and cloud tools. And they are hard to change. When someone has a great idea on how to improve processes, how do you begin?
The cool kids — companies that started from scratch with cloud applications – have a cool way of doing it, with a cool name — “DevOps.” These web natives typically deploy continuously to their own cloud solutions, so their processes and technologies are built to handle rapid change and collaboration. This DevOps approach allows ideas to instantly be prototyped in code, then shipped to production without much concern for system-wide failure. There are many reasons this world can work this way. For one, it’s built from the ground up with the principles of ALM, ARA, and Continuous Integration. More importantly, though it’s that the end products are web applications not complex LOB systems. On the web, the only thing being released is the developers code. In the enterprise, it’s not just code, it’s code plus systems, configurations and dependencies. And those systems — OH those systems — have updates, versions, patches, and features of their own.
In systems this large and mission, there are endless areas for improvement, but the fear of failure can often stop the project before it starts. To be sure of the change, the idea goes through a serious of internal evaluations, and eventually a project is planned. This project has many people involved, competes with other projects for IT. And there are meetings, GANTT charts and tricky budgets. If it doesn’t kill the project, then 3, 4, 8, even 12 months later, there will be a solution. Hopefully, it is still relevant and helpful.
Ok. That’s enough of the scary stuff. There’s a solution. It’s technological but simple. It’s called the environment, a collection of all the machines, that hold the systems, that run the configurations, that all talk to each other. Yes, the thing you work with day in and day out. It fences in all of the sprawling complexity of LOBs, and makes them into one unit, portable, editable, and manageable. If you can snapshot a LOB environment and share whole copies of this environment, the barrier to change is drastically lowered. Anyone who has an idea can grab a snapshot of the environment at any state, mock up a prototype, and then share it with peers. They can test out code, configurations, features, without risking the system’s health. Like the cool kids, they could go from idea to POC in days, not months.
This is the power of portable Cloud environments built for Dev/Test. Line of Business Applications that are simple to build, test, share, and use. If you are interested in how this is done, well my good friends and co-workers put together this awesome white paper for you. Have a read!