The world of software-defined everything is transforming to the point that systems are separated so fully from their hardware that applications increasingly run the show. Application-driven architectures are gaining momentum quickly as more businesses work to accelerate and streamline continuous delivery pipelines.
How application-driven architectures work
Consider a typical software-defined data center environment. The servers are heavily virtualized, hosting multiple apps, with each app optimized for the specific virtual machine it runs on. Network and storage systems are also configured for software-defined workloads, automatically routing and managing data to optimize where it resides and how it moves through the network based on real-time resource availability and operational demands.
This software-defined vision is already in stark contrast to legacy environments, but application-driven solutions take it to another level. The problem with such a deeply virtualized setup is that it dramatically increased system density, thus creating a great deal of complexity. Apps have to be optimized for each virtual machine configuration you have in place. Intelligence systems must be embedded into your network to prioritize information according to workload. These types of systems are a necessary component of modern IT systems, but containers are starting to change the situation, eliminating some of the complexity while allowing organizations to continue toward hyperscale setups.
For practical purposes, containers create a mini configuration that can exist within a virtual machine. The container hosts an app, or part of a service, and multiple containers can be combined to establish complex, cohesive ecosystems. In this situation, organizations can create containers capable of handling a wide range of application architectures and then optimize their container setups for virtual machines, effectively eliminating the need to manually optimize each app for the hardware and virtual environment it will reside in. In practice, containers build the configuration around the needs of applications, providing responsiveness and flexibility that is essential as businesses embrace digital initiatives.
Brands leading the way toward application-driven solutions
Systems built around the cloud and containers create unique operational and architectural challenges. Software companies that build foundational services to simplify the process are standing out.
We have a few businesses in our portfolio that are defining this space:
Skytap: focused on serving companies in multiple industries, Skytap provides solutions to create simulated environments. This model lets software companies quickly create virtual labs to test applications, making it easier to roll out new solutions and modernize legacy apps. In essence, Skytap is a cloud designed specifically to support the transition from traditional software models to modern, multi-cloud and application-driven architectures.
Docker is leading the charge to containerization. Likening container-based hosting models to shipping containers, the company creates solutions for application-driven environments that focus on being able to easily lift and shift workloads across environments due to the stability and flexibility offered by container-based architectures.
Mirantis: focusing on open source systems, Mirantis specializes in helping businesses identify the right IT stack for their applications, primarily using OpenStack and Spinnaker. On the whole, Mirantis works to ensure software companies don't get locked into specific vendor environments and the constraints those ecosystems can put on their application architectures.
Application-driven architectures represent significant technical disruption, but they ultimately boil down to the same goals as many of today's digital initiatives. Businesses are working to become more adaptable and responsive to customer demands. Embracing containerization and similar strategies creates the backend flexibility that organizations need to sustain continuous delivery models while minimizing complexity and risk.