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Prediction #2: ALM tools become the gateway drug for hooking developers on cloud and PaaS

03.04.2011
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This is a reposting from Mik Kersten's Tasktop Blog.  Look for more predictions in this series on his blog and on Agile Zone.

The productization of DOS by Microsoft in the 1980s kicked off the trend of platform vendors clamouring for developer mindshare. Apple’s App Store may only generate 1% of the company’s profit, but it drives the platform that sells Apple hardware. One of the best examples of the value of a developer platform is Microsoft’s Visual Basic (VB), which is yet to see a rival in terms of breadth and pace of adoption. In 2010, VB ranked as the 5th most popular programming language on the Tiobe index, still well ahead of iOS’s Objective-C. Microsoft’s investment in developers goes well beyond paying homage to the company’s roots, since Microsoft knows the sheer number of Windows license sales that can be attributed to each developer that they won over with VB.

Developers drive the success of platforms. Whenever a platform shift occurs, such as the shift from proprietary to open source or from desktop to mobile, interest in gaining developer mindshare is renewed. While we may all be overloaded with atmospheric-condition-related acronyms, we are in the middle of a fundamental shift in enterprise software platforms. The VMware hypervisor has replaced Dell blade server as the hot new technology. Application architectures are being transformed by REST-based services. Over the course of the year, support for multi-tenanting Java applications will result in more significant changes to the programming model that any of the incremental features coming in Java 7. The shift to cloud and Platform as a Service (PaaS) has ramifications beyond the change in the deployment model. One of the most important changes coming down the pipeline is the convergence of open source, PaaS and ALM. The continuous integration and delivery loop, becoming increasingly popular in Agile deployments, will put a new set of requirements on both ALM tools and the connection between the running application and the developer’s workbench.

ALM Deployment Disconnect

All of this is good news for developers. There will be an increase in competition, choice, and budgets which are dedicated to bringing developers to new application hosting destinations and PaaS solutions. Over the course of the year, early adopters of PaaS will help to harden these new offerings in order to get them ready for the on-premise and private cloud primetime. If you are an early adopter and running a greenfield project, you’re bound to see some cool hosting and services thrown your way. But there are a few things you will need to watch out for when migrating to the bleeding edge. Beware the snake-oil pitch that moving your Java app into the cloud will be as easy as choosing a hosting provider. When migrating existing applications, you are likely to discover that achieving a scalable and cost effective architecture will involve significant efforts such as reconsidering your data storage, implementing multi-tenancy and porting the application to new ready-made services. This migration is similar to moving from a rural homestead to a downtown condo—it will take more than just a moving truck, your lifestyle will change, and you will spend less time worrying about your plumbing.

We have transitioned from thinking about applications as static entities that we build and deploy to living entities whose evolution is punctuated by releases and sprints. Given the turnkey automation promised by PaaS, developers will demand integration between the running application and the lifecycle tools used to manage it. This will drive one of the most important developer-centric trends in ALM, the convergence of application hosting and monitoring with ALM. The core ALM services of change management and continuous integration will become the hub between the developer’s desktop and the running application, with tasks as the unit of abstraction. An application failure or problem will automatically create a defect that includes the application state that is related to the problem encountered. The product owner will schedule that defect into the appropriate sprint, and when the developer picks it up, all of the code relevant to the defect will be instantly retrieved from the SCM system and brought into focus. The commit of the fix will automatically spin up a build in a staging environment, deploy it, and then pass it on to production or Ops when tests pass. This future needs a new level or coordination between the core services of the ALM stack and PaaS offerings.

Tasktop Continuous Deployment

Vendors that tie together the programming model, frameworks, virtualization, hosting and ALM will be the winners in the battle for developer mindshare. To capture a meaningful snapshot of a hosted application, the runtime must understand the programming model. To present this to the developer, the IDE tools must be capable of be effective in displaying that information alongside the code. And at each step of the way, it’s the ALM tools that will facilitate communication between the various stakeholders in the process: monitoring by Ops identifies a problem, that problem’s state is captured in the issue tracker, the issue pops up on the developer’s desktop, and then all subsequent changes are attached and captured on the corresponding task and reported in the build that was triggered. Workflows of this sort will require significant changes from ALM stacks, which have generally ignored the details of application build and deployment to date.

ALM services will also facilitate the migration of applications to the cloud. As we saw from the $212M acquisition of Heroku, supporting developer workflow provides a great on-ramp for application hosting. In the land of enterprise Java this is considerably more complex than a Git-based push and deploy of Ruby apps. But the need to bring this kind of simplicity to the Java application lifecycle is the same, and tasks provide the link necessary to scale continuous integration and delivery to large Java applications with a broader range of stakeholders ranging from dev, to Ops and QA.

Connecting the IDE to an ALM hub and using the hosted source and builds to drive deployment will provide a convenient on-ramp to application hosting offerings, and will significantly reduce the configuration and administrative burden currently placed on developers. While it can be fun to play around with configuring deployment environments and continuous integration servers, this level of busy work gets very tedious after a few months. A new level of automation is needed to help us focus on delivering application features and business value in the face of increasing platform complexity. Source, issue tracking and continuous integration will be a welcome gateway drug to cloud and PaaS application hosting. While having an app store claim 30% of all enterprise application revenues is not something we are likely to see this year, a Steve Jobs-like focus on turnkey simplicity of deployment and lifecycle management will help win the hearts and minds of developers making the move to the cloud.

 

Mik Kersten, a good friend of DZone, gave us permission to post this series.

 

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