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Why Enterprise PaaS Must Support Existing Apps, Not Just New Ones

By Sinclair Schuller

new and old buildings

The existing application portfolio is massive at nearly every Global 2000 company. Even as that’s the case, some enterprise vendors only offer sparse support for existing apps, instead focusing mostly on new ones.

In the case of Platform as a Service (PaaS), enterprises recognize existing application support matters dearly. By finding a PaaS that supports those existing applications, a customer can see immediate returns instead of waiting for five years for significant value to appear.

One of the biggest reasons enterprise vendors need existing app support is compatibility. Many vendors, including Apprenda, pitch our strengths in existing apps. But that story can sometimes undersell what really matters: being compatible. What does “compatible” mean? It means that you must work well with existing applications and existing infrastructure.

If you want to test if a vendor is actually compatible, make a checklist to see if it works both upstream (apps) and downstream (infrastructure). Do you want it on bare metal? Check. OpenStack? Check. VMware or Hyper-V? Check. Prefer Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) over Ubuntu? Check.

I speak from experience. Our large enterprise customers have invested millions on existing infrastructure. Our competitors, all of whom are monolithic legacy vendors, tell our customers they need new infrastructure or they have compatibility with – you guessed it – the infrastructure and middleware they sell.

Now, what about existing application support? Here are a few important characteristics we believe in that have resonated with our customers:

1.  Our Application Model Is a Traditional Three-Tier Model

While we support microservices constructs in a high fidelity way, our default application structure is designed as a three-tier, composite architecture. When you hand Apprenda an archive, it looks a lot like a direct export of an Eclipse Workspace or Visual Studio Solution. Our competition defines an application as a single executable (think a project in Eclipse or Visual Studio, instead of a Workspace or Solution). If you’re a developer with an existing application, you probably have a three tier application captured in a Workspace or Solution. To run it on anything but Apprenda, you’ll have to surgically separate all your projects and upload each one as an independent application and then orchestrate them together on the PaaS to run them as a single application. For an average developer, this could take days or weeks.

2.  Our Support for Relational Databases Is First Class

Most existing applications still leverage relational databases. Oracle and SQL Server likely account for 80% of all workloads. No other PaaS manages and orchestrates RDBMS workloads on platform. This means that if you have an existing application, you could use our competitors’ PaaS for the top two tiers, and either hand curate the DB tier (defeating the purpose of putting your app on a PaaS entirely) or have someone build a full blown DBaaS to support your PaaS (which would be a whole new project). With Apprenda, we understand that existing apps still use RDBMS and that leaving the data tier as an “exercise for the reader” is terrible for the customer.

3.  We Support Non-Web Components

More often than not, we find that our customers’ three-tier apps aren’t tidy, cleanly defined app architectures using HTTP only, web-server hosted components. Typically, their existing apps are composed of web services, front ends, and non-web components like Linux Daemons or Windows Services. If you’re a customer trying to package an existing app for PaaS, and your PaaS doesn’t support non-web assets, you won’t be moving existing apps over any time soon. Our competitors pretend these assets don’t exist in the wild. This “ostrich strategy” simply won’t work.

4.  We Care about All App Servers

Apprenda is the only independent PaaS on the market. We don’t have any other products or services. We care about one thing: our cloud platform. We support Tomcat, JBoss, .NET, and Websphere. Our competitors are subject to economic and political boundaries that prevent them from our Switzerland-like support.  Given that existing application portfolios are comprised of apps targeting many app servers, we’re the only platform that can credibly claim to even attempt to support the whole existing application portfolio.

Final Thoughts

There are many other tactical capabilities that make Apprenda the best choice for existing applications in PaaS, but these are a good start to the conversation. If you believe strongly in the message of compatibility, these are four characteristics you should expect from every enterprise vendor. And if they don’t support them, question them strongly as to why they don’t believe in them.

 

Sinclair Schuller

Sinclair Schuller is the CEO of Apprenda. Before Apprenda, Sinclair held positions at Morgan Stanley, Eden Communications, and consulted for the State University of New York’s (SUNY) vast IT systems. Sinclair holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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