If there is one thing that gets enterprise folks riled up, it’s those sitting in the gallery talking about cloud bursting and application portability in general. To the excited blog posts announcing the latest solution to the application portability problem come howls of derision claiming that it’s all a pipe dream and applications sit on their siloes infrastructure stacks for eternity. The theory goes that applications have so many specific dependencies and unique requirements that it is wholly unrealistic to expect true application portability to occur.
Given that fact, it’s always interesting to talk to vendors who genuinely believe that portability is more than just unicorns, rainbows and pundits concepts, but is in fact eminently doable at the coal face. The latest vendor I had the pleasure to talk about this stuff to was AppZero
AppZero is in the application migration and portability space but it takes a different approach to solving the problem. According to CEO Greg O’Connor, the failing with other application portability solutions is that they’re either fundamentally based on a virtual machine migration or on manual scripting. As O’Connor explained to me, the problems with these approaches are either economic or technical. Manual scripting is error-prone and expensive, while the reality is that different stacks offer customers different levels of abstraction. While AWS, for example, has responsibility for the VM shared between the vendor and the customer, with higher level stacks (Windows Azure for example) the VM is wrapped up as part of the cloud offering – this difference makes a VM-based application portability less than optimal.
O’Connor believes that there are several fundamental approaches to application portability:
- Manual installation/scripting which is labor intensive and hence expensive
- Virtual Machines – which create OS and hypervisor conflicts alongside limitations of VM size and time impacts
- Automation products and scripting solutions like Chef and Puppet
- The AppZero approach (of course)
The AppZero approach is to make the application independent of the operational stack upon which it sits – AppZero creates a virtual application appliance (the VAA) which is analogous to a zip file. The AppZero platform analyses the application and works out the dependencies and packages that need to be bundled up within the VAA, packages them all up together and allows the entire application to be run on any Windows OS cloud. The “extraction” of an application from one cloud stack and migration to another is fairly simple – the source machine is accessed via network share while on the target machine the Zapp migration installed and the machine is tethered to the source machine. After that all that remains is for the application to be started and it is automatically “pages” from the source to the target – the application files, registry, configuration, data and environment.
It’s not all perfect however – AppZero only works with Windows to Windows migrations, alongside that moving shared databases will move all of the databases. It also doesn’t support LDAP network services, SharePoint or Exchange and security agents introduce some stumbling blocks into the process. For windows to windows migrations however, the AppZero approach of wrapping the application and its dependencies makes sense. And, if nothing else, it’s providing another topic of argument for the peanut gallery!