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Apprendan Q&A – Talking 5.0 with Tim Carter, Senior Software Engineer

Ryan Quackenbush

By Ryan Quackenbush1.30.14

Hear from  the “Apprendans” who worked hard on Apprenda 5.0 on what they learned, what they think is important, and how they made it through our most aggressive release schedule ever. Our 5.0 release has been our biggest and most ambitious to date; we’ve learned so much from our customers and we’re proud to know we’re building the best PaaS for the Enterprise, with the Enterprise.

Fun Fact: Self-described “not very fun person.” Office opinion: untrue.

Ryan: What, for you, is most exciting about 5.0?
Tim: There are a few things. Certainly, our enhanced Java capabilities and Oracle support are two big headline-esque features.  We’ve brought the same quality and depth of support to the table as we offer for .NET. I feel that’s important to make clear. We’re giving our customers the same application features across both languages: whether that’s multitenancy, security, or what-have-you. It’s not just that we checked a box along the way. We hit very close to the parity mark, so that you can have the same architectural enhancements regardless.

Additionally, and I’m sure some of the others have talked to you about this, but the bootstrap policies should be a huge deal, and a big
GoogleCover_v1win, for our customers in the future. It allows them to extend the platform with and without us, solving problems and enabling features that we haven’t thought of yet without having to provide us direct feedback and wait for the next release to access the feature that does the thing they want. Instead of waiting for however long it would take for this desired feature to become our top priority (so that we create it for them), it allows them to extend and enhance the platform to meet their organization’s needs and requirements at that particular time.

Ryan: Can you expand a bit on what you mean by “extend the platform with and without us?”
Tim: A bootstrap policy, through the tagging of applications, allows the operator of an Apprenda platform instance to enhance the deployments of certain applications with additional information and / or capabilities. It’s a very powerful feature for many of our enterprise customers as it enables them to enhance their Apprenda instances with concerns that are germane to their environments.

A large enterprise will have spent a lot of money on monitoring software and now they can come up with their own bootstrap policy to inject additional information that needs to be there for the monitoring software to work. It will let them solve problems that we might not have thought of yet.

Ryan: Do our customers’ needs prescribe what we work on?
Tim: In large part, of course. Customers drove much of what we’ve done with this release.  I think, to get very specific, in working with JPMorgan Chase, bootstrapping is now being used for a bunch of features that are specific to their concerns, but it’s allowing us to provide first-class support to JPMorgan Chase devs without Apprenda having to develop its own first-class feature to cover it.

Ryan: What was challenging for you regarding this release? What did you learn from it?
Tim: A lot of it is (as we’ve grown our teams so much) integrating our processes and work across tech stacks. There are challenges in dealing with those integration points, where .NET is a very Microsoft-centric world, and there tends to be one solution for everything that Microsoft provides. This is versus Java, which has a much vaster ecosystem. You have different flavors and spins on just about anything you want to do, and there are six options instead of one. There’s been a challenge there: picking and choosing our battles. It was definitely a challenge to learn all of this as we progressed, addressing the differences between the two worlds and building internal integration so that we could provide a smoother surface for our customers. We deal with the headache associated with communicating from Windows to Linux, so that their apps can run on either and be fine doing so and not need to care that somewhere there’s a Windows process that did stuff to make it happen.

Ryan: What’s it been like having your team and department expand so rapidly?
Tim: It’s a good problem to have, certainly. Growing is hard, but good. It’s been interesting to blend these two cultures together: from the Java / Linux world you have a different culture than the Microsoft / .NET world. Having more smart people working on our product is the best thing for us. We come from different backgrounds, but we find ways to head toward the same goals.

Ryan: With your development process, do you approach .NET and Java in different ways?
Tim: From a dev process, no. One of the things we decided early on was that we wanted them both in the same code repository so that we didn’t build a culture where it’s two teams pushing against each other. We wanted a culture where we’re ultimately together building Apprenda…not “we’re building .NET Apprenda and you’re building Apprenda Java.” There are a lot of things we did intentionally to avoid that when we started down this path way back when. While there are two different specialties, there’s only one team. Tensions within a team will surely surface within the product and that’s obviously not a desirable outcome.

Ryan: So there’s no second class devs or second class teams. By extension, there is no second class language?
Tim: Right.

Ryan: Okay, we’ve talked about Java and .NET. Where does Oracle fall in?
Tim: Most database providers come with a very different spin on just what it means to be a database provider. At their core, obviously, there’s SQL, but as you layer up from there, things tend to deviate greatly. With that said, we’re very excited to add Oracle support to the support we’ve had for SQL Server. There were challenges in doing this, to be sure. There were a number of ways in which we had to approach Oracle support from a slightly different angle than we did for SQL Server. But in the end, we’ve enabled developers of applications on Apprenda to have their choice of databases: to use whichever suits their needs and requirements best.

Ryan: Is there any message you can pass along to a first-time Apprenda customer?
Tim: Beyond everything I just said, there’s a lot in Apprenda that can help you. Don’t be afraid to dive in.

Check out the other interviews in this series!

 

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Ryan Quackenbush
Ryan Quackenbush

Ryan Quackenbush is a corporate communications specialist at Apprenda whose roles include elements of writing, sales, marketing and research. His cooking is renowned, his record collection and library are extensive and, when not at Apprenda, he can usually be found rooting for the Mets or playing live music. You can follow him on Twitter at @RSQuackenbush.

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