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JavaOne interview: Appistry's private cloud info, developer tips

On the first day of JavaOne, Appistry showcased its customer Clearent LLC’s successful private-cloud implementation of a merchant payment processing application with Appistry’s CloudIQ platform. My ears perk up when I hear the words “cloud” and “user” because I’ve heard so much about cloud computing and so little about deployments of it. So, I grabbed the chance to interview Sam Charrington, vice president of product management for St. Louis-based Appistry.

In our interview, Charrington talked about private clouds versus public clouds, advised software testers and developers about what to look for in a cloud platform, compared the features of Appistry’s cloud platform to those of VMware and Microsoft and commented on Appistry’s user stories and role in cloud computing at the enterprise application level.

I asked Charrington what software testers or development teams be looking for in a cloud platform. He responded:

“We’ve found that when these kinds of teams are looking at a cloud environment to enhance the way they deliver product, the focus needs to be on three things: abstraction, automation and unification. Abstraction and automation are key because they differentiate true cloud solutions from garden variety virtualization and ensure that the teams will see the maximum acceleration possible from the cloud deployment. Unification is important because when you peel back the layers on any large-scale private cloud initiative, what you see are a number of distinct application environments working in harmony with one another: a true flow of applications and infrastructure across the cloud. Being able to manage all this in a unified way ensures that costs remain low as the environment scales.”

Responding to my questions about cloud adoption, Charrington noted that private clouds have become especially popular for enterprises seeking to enhance development/test environments.

“One of our favorite case studies is the work being done by a Fortune 500 transportation services company, a user of the Appistry CloudIQ Platform,” said Charrington. “In addition to running their production environment, this customer’s CloudIQ Platform-powered private cloud has allowed them to significantly enhance dev/test operations. The ability to effortlessly reconfigure development and test environments on the fly has allowed them to achieve a number of very specific outcomes, including the ability to create new application environments in minutes, down from weeks, and an increase in the server-to-operator ratio by a factor of 10 — as compared to traditional virtualization — resulting in a reduction of operational labor costs.”

Next I asked Charrington to offer examples of when a company should use a private clouds instead of hosted clouds, and vice versa. He replied:

“Private clouds allow enterprises to reap many of the advantages of cloud computing, without the limitations of public clouds in areas such as security, control, visibility and governance. Many enterprises see their private cloud as a starting place, and the centerpiece of an over-arching enterprise cloud strategy that also includes the use of public clouds where appropriate.”

Charrington provides more private versus public cloud comparisons in this video clip, filmed at JavaOne.

Charrington also gave me a rundown of Appristry’s flagship products, CloudIQ Manager and CloudIQ Engine. CloudIQ Manager software facilitates the creation of a private cloud and provides tools for migration to that cloud and management of the applications that live in it. CloudIQ Engine is cloud middleware that provides services and APIs for developers of new “cloud native” applications, offering management components for scaling, optimizing performance and maintaining reliability.

So, I asked, what are the key differences between a private-cloud platform VMware’s or Microsoft’s cloud platform?

“VMware is an infrastructure-focused offering; meaning, in the end, they provide the enterprise with a way to manage virtual machines. VMware and other infrastructure and virtualization technologies are complementary to CloudIQ Platform. When virtualization is present we can ride on top of it, providing abstraction, automation and the unification of disparate cloud environments, as well as much needed application-level services.

“Microsoft Azure, on the other hand, is a platform-as-a-service offering. One key difference between CloudIQ Platform and Azure is the fact that with Azure you are locked in to Microsoft’s infrastructure, while with our platform you can self-host or run on any public cloud infrastructure like Amazon EC2 or GoGrid.”

Appistry’s products support the Microsoft .NET technology stack, said Charrington. Indeed, he said, “some enterprises are starting to look to us as a private cloud version of Azure.”

We circled back to how cloud computing, whether in the private or public form, can benefit software development and testing teams. The real case for the cloud, said Charrington, is availability of resources. Software developers and tester need access to highly dynamic environments in order to be most effective. Yet, getting those resources is usually difficult.

“Anyone who has ever needed to wait days, weeks or even months before new hardware or environments were provisioned knows this problem painfully well,” said Charrington.
Making the creation and dissolution of these application environments fast and painless is a key focus area for our cloud platform.”

Here’s a quick description of Appistry’s project with Clearent LLC.

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