Business Continuity on the Apprenda Cloud Platform via Zero Downtime Upgrade and Server Health Reporting

Dan Domkowski

By Dan Domkowski

At the beginning of every semester in my undergraduate course on Cybersecurity, I begin by teaching students that all information security is based on the preservation of three tenets: Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability, otherwise known collectively as the CIA Triad. The last is often forgotten when it comes to security, but a system needs to be available to authorized users in order for it to be secure, and none would probably agree more with that fact than the victims of these attacks.

Guaranteeing the availability of a system, or as NIST defines it, “ensuring timely and reliable access to and use of information,” means defending against DoS attacks, but it also means mitigating risk posed by human error, poor configuration management, and unreliable dependencies, all of which represent the majority of causes for enterprise IT system downtime.  Without the right processes and products in place to mitigate risk and respond to incidents that could impact availability, you’re more likely to find yourself explaining “what went wrong” to shareholders, employees, or the press instead of “here’s how we responded.”

Our aim at Apprenda is to enhance your business continuity plans as you migrate applications or develop new cloud-native services on our Platform. As such, the Apprenda Cloud Platform (ACP) offers a rich feature set the can enable enterprises to ensure node and application availability during regular runtime operations and also during maintenance windows

Zero Downtime Upgrade: Operators can now upgrade the Apprenda Cloud Platform to a new version without incurring downtime on guest applications. In the demo below, I bring a Platform running both Linux and Windows guest services through the ACP upgrade process. I hit the services with requests throughout the upgrade, even if upgrades to specific nodes in the cluster don’t go as planned. As a Platform Operator, the ACP gives you the option to upgrade application nodes on an individual basis afterwards with clear and repeatable steps that you could easily hand over to your enterprise build teams.

Server Health and Availability: In addition to walking through the upgrade experience, I also simulated incidents that involve taking nodes unexpectedly offline or disconnecting them from the rest of the grid…severe, but realistic nonetheless. In either case, the Platform migrates workloads to other available servers, continues to route application traffic from end users, provides updates on node health, and gives Operators the ability to transition servers to a state that allows them to perform necessary maintenance and eventually add them back to the grid once they’re in a healthy state.

Platform Availability and the underlying Infrastructure: It’s important to note that Apprenda adds business continuity to applications without asking enterprises to run the entire stack on opinionated infrastructure. Most IT organizations today have made significant investments in systems that expedite infrastructure configuration management while also providing security controls and auditing. The ACP availability suite integrates with those systems and controls so that you don’t have to invent and manage new ones. As stated in The DevOps Handbook, you’re better able to harden your infrastructure when your environments match their already known, good configuration states.[i]

Throughout the demo, I’m performing planned Platform maintenance and simulating destruction in an effort to prove that the ACP manages to sustain availability and provides no disruption to the application end users. Apprenda has an obligation to “ensure timely and reliable access” to your business and mission drivers so that enterprise Contingency Planning strategies are enhanced when migrating and building your applications around the Apprenda Cloud Platform.

[i] Kim, Gene. Humble, Jez. Debois, Patrick & Willis, John. The DevOps Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, a& Security in Technology Organizations. IT Revolution Press (October 6, 2016).

Dan Domkowski
Dan Domkowski

Dan Domkowski is a Product Manager at Apprenda specializing in PaaS Security. Dan is also an Adjunct Professor at the University at Albany where he teaches Information Security and Assurance. Before Apprenda, Dan spent eight years in the U.S. Intelligence Community, mostly at the National Security Agency. Dan has a MS in Computer Science from The George Washington University and a BA in International Relations and Political Science from Syracuse University.

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