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How an Apprenda Customer Moved and Modernized 71 Apps in a Day

By Atos Apprenda Support

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Many Platform as a Service (PaaS) vendors have focused their energy on creating a platform that is geared solely towards greenfield application development. And with the growing importance of custom software in creating differentiation, reducing service delivery costs, and driving new revenue streams, that can be a solid strategy.

However, Apprenda’s PaaS supplements its cloud-native capabilities with support for the modernization of existing .NET and Java web applications. Such functionality helps enterprises demonstrate immediate ROI from a PaaS platform since those enterprises typically have thousands of existing apps within their portfolio, many of which are in dire need of modernization. They either need to enrich these apps with cloud attributes (such as scalability, HA, workload distribution, or multi-tenancy) or free them from the shackles of end-of-life operating systems.

One Apprenda customer is a “big four” auditing firm (which cannot be named for contractual reasons) whose apps were in need of modernization. This organization hit a large and expensive roadblock when Microsoft Windows Server 2003 went end-of-life in July 2015 and left a large number its applications–which had been written specifically for that operating system–reliant on an extended support contract from Microsoft, which is reported to cost $600 per server.

When you consider that in almost all cases, the “container” used to deploy these applications was an entire Windows Server, you can almost create a 1:1 ratio of app to server. These apps tend to also use replica servers or VMs and load balancing to achieve high availability, so in some cases it’s actually a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio. This means the extended support cost for this class of applications at this scale is potentially in the millions of dollars.

Rather than rely on Microsoft’s expensive extended support for any length of time, this enterprise decided to take action and modernize the apps using Apprenda. They saw a lot of value in the fact that the Apprenda platform abstracts the on-boarded apps away from the underlying infrastructure and future-proofs them from similar situations in the future. They didn’t want to encounter the same problem a decade from now when Windows Server 2008 or 2012 reach the same retirement milestone.

We recently heard some great news from our Client Services team about this customer. Not only have apps rapidly been hitting the Apprenda platform (at a rate of about three apps per day) for some time, but they are also being migrated through the application lifecycle at breakneck speed. Last week, in fact, 71 internal-facing applications were migrated from a Dev environment to a QA environment in a single day. This is a remarkable achievement. That’s effectively $100,000 in Windows Server 2003 support costs supplanted in one day.

In this case, our customer enforces a particularly conservative application lifecycle model (which is understandable given its industry) to ensure best-in-class security and privacy practices. Each application has to pass through six ALM cloud environments in total, before reaching production. The fact that 70+ apps can be migrated between stages of that process in such a short period magnifies the value derived. It has resulted in an extremely agile DevOps process, where development teams and the six members of the platform operations team (who are located in disparate, global locations to offer sun-never-sets support) are extremely productive.

Consider the alternative: a highly convoluted process to migrate apps from one ALM environment to another. Apprenda is therefore adding value to this particular organization’s DevOps process and, when complete, its bottom line too. It is also evidence that PaaS should not just be about greenfield projects. There are many brownfields in need of help too and that’s one area where we shine.

I look forward to reporting more milestones from this customer in the near future. It will be especially exciting when those applications hit production environments and help to consolidate Apprenda’s position as the private PaaS with the largest number of production apps at Global 2000 organizations.

Interested in viewing the infographic? Download it here.

Atos Apprenda Support

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  1. Ben VirklerFebruary 11, 2016

    Wish there were a few more details around the “how” and “modernization” that the title alluded to. It’s easy to understand *moving* that many apps with six platform operators, but how many developers were involved and what was the extent of the *modernization*?

  2. Matt AmmermanFebruary 11, 2016

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the comment.

    In this particular case, the applications were multi-tier apps (UIs and services). Where applicable, app databases were left off platform – the plan is to move these DB workloads onto Apprenda as part of a future phase. This, of course, removed a great deal of complexity from the migration approach of certain apps.

    That being said, we did this with little involvement from the app owners believe it or not. Our practice is an iterative approach beginning with assessments. We discovered through this process that out of a broader collection of apps, there were a couple hundred that were loosely coupled to the servers they were currently running on, and were written in such a way that the individual components could be reconfigured “on the fly.” This meant we could provide Apprenda with automation through Bootstrap Policies that would do the reconfiguration work for us while the apps were in flight being deployed onto Apprenda. If the process failed for some non-standard reason, we assessed the reason and made minor corrections either to the app or our automation.

    With this in place, we then built tooling outside of Apprenda to “grab” the apps in their current state, package them in Apprenda deployment format (our APIs and CLI can do that), and auto-deploy. At that point it quite literally became a command-driven exercise.

    When we say “modernization” we mean that once under Apprenda’s purview, each individual component (UIs/services) becomes an individually elastically scalable component. This is cloud-like behavior that the apps didn’t previously have. It also means that by scaling them in this way, each app inherited a high availability strategy that was previously accomplished by adding servers into a 1:n formation and manually setting up load balancing.

    In this case, we didn’t do too much more to the apps as part of the migration as the main goal was to get them off of Windows Server 2003. In other cases, we’ve done some interesting things with those Bootstrap Policies to instrument into applications things like perf mon tools, profilers, and even updating old and possibly vulnerable framework and library versions.

    I hope this gives more clarity. Again, thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. TechYogJoshFebruary 12, 2016

    Matt, this is very helpful. A few questions

    a) Which OS are the new applications running on (Win 2003 server or something else)
    b) Did this involve changing of the programming language the applications were written in?
    c) How much time did it take?

    thanks!

  4. Matt AmmermanFebruary 12, 2016

    Hi techyogjosh,

    a) New OS versions are Server 2012 R2 (effectively IIS 6 –> IIS 8/8.5). Apprenda automatically does things like reconfigure web & app config files for new configuration items and formatting. It will also recognize when an app requires Classic pipeline mode and make that happen even in the newer versions of IIS.
    b) The programming language was not changed. The .NET version was updated but breaking changes were caught and mitigated before deployment.
    c) At highest velocity, 70+ apps in one day. Average across the project – 3 apps per day consistently.

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