What is Application Orchestration and why does it help DevOps?

Developers in a DevOps environment are always looking for vendor solutions to help them hand off the management of their deployed applications. One type of software is particularly suited to provide this functionality and it is known as Application Performance Management. APMs can not only start and stop processes in a timely manner, but they can ensure processes are restarted when they fail. While most APMs are based on managing newer languages only on contemporary platforms like Windows and linux, these script based solutions do provide a valuable infrastructure to help companies manage and deploy new applications faster. Many DevOps vendors provide this type of solution completely with their own proprietary scripts which require a significant investment of time to get it right.These scripts do a variety of detailed functions like setting up the file system structure, copying files and creating VMs to host the new application. While much of this is very useful, it does not solve the biggest DevOps problem of fixing application deployment run time issues. That is where APMs come in and specifically a type of solution that is a hybrid of Application Performance Management systems known as Application Orchestration – it augments the APM functionality with a unique approach:

  • capture the developer knowledge with rules in a configuration file
  • provide GUI controls needed to make DevOps much easier
  • Visualize applications with easy to understand displays
  • Enable scalability of applications by operations with performance groups

This paper will outline these enhancements to the APM model and show how AO helps the DevOps engineer understand and modify the application infrastructure, which is essential to managing enterprise applications where the problems can be complex and timely response is critical. Commercial DevOps tools like Puppet Labs and attempt to solve this issue with scripts which provide the ability to set up and deploy an application to the enterprise, but fail to manage them effectively. This is because they are script based that are inherently:

  •    Developer written and maintained
  •    Statically written, but may require frequent changes
  •    Designed to interpret the effects of problems with constant polling, and
  •    Execute complex logic to determine the appropriate actions to remediate

Using the Application Orchestration approach, the application infrastructure intelligence is captured in a configuration file so the retry logic, timing, dependencies and relationships within the application can be used to resolve issues. In many cases this knowledge can predict where problems will occur and resolves the cause of the problem before the application user sees the failure. By managing the application through a configuration file which captures the infrastructure, the intelligence is built into each module, making it easier to replicate for scalability and facilitates its display in a GUI. Component dependencies are captured for each module so the effects of problems are automatically propagated to each affected component, making it easier to display accurate status and predict problems before they surface to the application users. The GUI which displays the configuration also gives the DevOps engineer the confidence that the application is running smoothly and that they will be notified proactively should potential issues occur. This approach differs from the dependence on scripts that look at the effect of a problem and then execute copious logic to find where it originated so it can determine how to fix it.

In our next blog, we will itemize the features and the benefits Application Orchestration can provide for DevOps.



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