One of the biggest challenges most IT organization face is control and management of diverse resources that rarely work together. Harnessing the power of servers, applications, and network gear without obscure or ad hoc tools and processes is almost impossible. Different languages, different protocols, and even different staff with special techniques ensure that almost every technology solution is a one-off experience.

There are many vendors that build software solutions designed to help control disparate resources throughout your IT landscape. They can do an excellent job of reducing the hassles of software performance monitoring and management. But, generally, the network is often left out of the mix as a functional contributor to overall application delivery success.

While network technology has typically been the domain of the network team and command line junkies, finally the network device offers some serious value for application developers – particularly for solving common IT challenges AND new initiatives emerging on the horizon. With the availability of a true Web services API like iControl that exposes rich network functionality for software to utilize, the network can now become a more active participant in application development and deployment.

This may sound like a bold statement but here is a particularly good reason for why IT managers should think seriously about taking advantage of an intelligent network device in their application planning: the network device is the portal through which all application traffic flows.

So, why is this such a big deal, you ask? Well, consider this scenario where the ability to control the flow of traffic can ease a serious burden that every IT department deals with.

Performing Application Updates in a Production Environment

It is no secret that application updates – particularly in J2EE environments – present serious headaches. Technology limitations in deployment software combined with the painstaking people processes for orchestrating updates between application and network teams is enough to make any IT professional’s eyes roll. The pain can be so immense that some companies wait until their slowest application usage time (usually sometime around 2am on Saturday) to roll out application updates, even if the updates were available 5 days earlier.

But, here is a thought (and frankly, the most common use of iControl today). What if application developers could enable their code management software to talk directly with a network device like BIG-IP? They could automatically start and stop traffic to a server, kick off the update process, and reintroduce it as if nothing happened. Or, imagine creating groups of servers to gracefully remove from service, update, and reintroduce to the server pool while another group is pulled down for their updates. Regardless of which servers go down, the client continues to get the best (and most up-to-date) user experience.

Imagine... your servers take their medicine, all the while presenting a smiley face to your end users. Meanwhile, the developers get to control what they would like to while the network team enforces the rules, processes, and SLAs for which they are accountable.

A big deal? Well think about it this way; if you are a network manager, how much time do you spend each week supporting the application team with server management? Multiply that time across peers in you group or other places throughout your company. Add the time you have reclaimed and you might have a better chance of getting to those nagging priorities further down your project list.

If you are an application developer, how much time passes between when you update application code and actually see it in production? Imagine how much faster you would be able find problems, correct them, and roll them out if you could distribute applications real-time?

Tell me what you think? Would this solve some of your challenges? Email me at devcentraleditor@f5.com


Stay tuned for the next part in this series – “Enabling Grid Computing with Existing Resources”.



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