Solving Change Constraints with Cloned Environments

One of the constraints of conventional cloud infrastructure offerings is the requirement to develop within a predefined library of templates. For net-new development, this is not the set of handcuffs that it can be for migration of existing platforms to a cloud offering. However, for businesses trying to modernize atop existing product suites, this can be a real impediment.

There is a need for businesses to be able to create an exact replica of their existing architecture in the cloud platform. We can call this a “cloned environment,” i.e. offering the ability to produce an exact, functioning copy of the existing application stack in its entirety. This provides a much-needed platform to modernize an application without the risks inherent in a “big bang modernization.” Cloned environments confer all the advantages of cloud platforms (quick copies, scalability, sandboxing, disposable instances) to traditional and legacy technologies.

Skytap, by allowing uploads and ingestion of customer created and defined templates, provides an avenue for on-prem or legacy environments to benefit from the on-demand advantages of elastic cloud architecture. When the business has a perfect clone of a precisely defined application, they possess the ability to migrate to the cloud in non-disruptive iterations, while maintaining their technical investment in the existing application.

A single feature team may clone the current stable environment for developing next-gen cloud architecture features, or a larger set of developers can get many copies of a stable testing or development environment to sandbox new service ideas quickly. When cloned environments are stable, secured, and self-contained, the modernization of legacy technology can be addressed on a component level, which in turn, maintains the velocity of product development and release. The reduced risk and redevelopment costs allow for effective iterative development in the existing architecture.   

By combining the ability to upload custom templates that leverage Skytap’s robust, secure network architecture with the power to suspend entire environments as a single entity, one can enjoy a path to modernizing the already solid backbone that drives the product, without incurring the volatility and risk of a complete rebuild.  1.0 releases and rebuilds are fraught with hardship: training, ingestion, and documentation for a new product or platform are difficult for your staff and customers.  Cloned environments are a safe and fast way to migrate a product to the cloud, without getting locked into a new platform.

This workflow can be seen in the following scenario:

Company A has Ubuntu 12.04 Web Tier running IBM WebSphere against an Application Tier running on Win2003 server.   An Oracle 9i DB and ZFS-SA 8 appliance provide storage and database services.   The company wants to develop a Hadoop-based application/storage service to replace their legacy Application Tier and Storage Appliance.

Exact clones of the Web Tier and Application Tier are created in VMs, maintaining the same OS, RAM, CPU cores, Network configuration (even MAC Address).

VM images of F5 Big IP, ZFS Storage Appliance, and Oracle DB with the same OS are added to the environment with storage and compute assets scaled down to maintain the same functionality at lower costs.

The F5 Big IP and Web Tier are connected to LAN A and the Web Tier and backend services are connected to LAN B, matching the network topology found in production, providing an exact virtual clone of the production environment.

Figure 1. A legacy bare metal environment cloned to a cloud platform.  Note the cloud environment possesses the same OS, hardware, and network config as production.

An exact virtualized copy is made of the entire production environment and given to a development team to implement a Hadoop service to replace the Application and Storage Tier.

Figure 2. A virtualized production environment cloned for the development team for implementation of Hadoop replacement service.

Development shuts down Application Tier and Storage Tier and implements the Hadoop service.

An exact copy of the legacy production environment and modernized production environment is passed to the Test organization, to provide side by side deterministic feature and stability validation.

Figure 3. Both virtualized production and modernized environments are cloned for the test team to be validated against a test framework.

Skytap’s upload feature allows customers to securely upload VMWare images (Whether it’s an image of a beleaguered but critical Windows 3.1 provided service or the Windows 2016 server using ReFS) into their Skytap cloud instance.   Using SFTP and on-demand credential generation, a customer can securely push their image to their region, where they can attach it into the Skytap’s cloud feature set (multiple networks, near instantaneous copying of whole environments, published services and access controls) to build the precisely cloned environment.

Cloned environments are a powerful tool in moving business critical workhorses into the cloud. Expect to see (and perhaps download) more from us on how these systems of differentiation are cloned, shared and leveraged in software delivery over the coming year.

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