Content By Devops .com
For quite a while now, all the cool kids have been going on and on about “full stack development,” “API first,” and a ton of similar methodologies/practices. And yet, a huge swath of applications are still targeted at a single system to do a specific job. There are fat clients, there are internal servers, there are standalone apps. All are still in development, and the hype machine doesn’t account for them much, though they’re pretty pervasive.
We still have to maintain them, or write yet another. They’re not going anywhere, because there are some problems for which they are the right solution. So let’s talk about them.
For clarity, I’m defining traditional as, “Targets a specific OS/hardware platform, and is not primarily web-based.” We’ll exclude mainframe, because the toolsets and integration with DevOps are still different enough to warrant their own blog.
Online forums are full of people trying to re-target traditional apps (perceived Windows 10 issues caused many to want to move from Windows, and the growing Linux trend of making distros into beta – or even alpha – testers has many wanting to move from Linux), while others are just trying to keep them running as the world changes underneath their feet.
While these dev tools are the ones that Agile grew up around, that makes them well-integrated into Agile and DevOps. The feeds to/from compilers and various build tools are the same as other spaces we’re looking at (or, more precisely, the others are the same as traditional), so integration of AppDev is generally not an issue. Integration of Ops is harder, but exists. The various DevOps tools with an emphasis on operations (I like to call it devOPS as opposed to DEVops) are available to traditional development, and you can certainly deploy through them, but they’re like the second cousin to “full stack.” Good Enough rules the day, and a little work will be required. Thankfully, tools like Ansible and Puppet smooth the way a bit for deployment, not caring much if you’re deploying a traditional app or a web service, as long as you tell them what to do to successfully deploy.
You got to move it, move it…
Portability is increasingly becoming an issue. The rise and fall of “preferred” Linux distros, the costs of being a Microsoft shop … there are a lot of reasons to want to move your app around. The best first step to this (and the only step some will need, IMO) is containerization. Put it in a container, and your underlying hardware can run on whatever OS the corporation settles on, while your apps will run in containers on the OS they need. For most organizations, this will only be a stop-gap; a way to quickly move servers away from one OS and onto another, but the apps will have to move fully to the new OS, eventually. Microsoft has Windows Subsystem for Linux, which can help move from Linux to Windows, and Linux has Wine to help run Windows apps on Linux. Both have come a long way toward interoperability, but neither is perfect – or even easy. It will take a bit of work, but far less than rewriting for the target OS top-down. Tools like Cygwin are also available to get your Linux app running on Windows if you don’t want to use Microsoft’s solution. In the end, you are going to have to modify code, but you are porting an application, so no surprises there.
Consider the future
A place I worked in the late 90s/early 2000s had an OS/2 machine that was critical infrastructure. We were not allowed to touch the box. I think if the admins had their way, we wouldn’t have been allowed to look at the physical box. Of course, we virtualized it just as soon as we could in a step similar to my “containerize” advice above. Now is a good time to consider writing your apps with an eye toward portability, so you can remove this type of system from the equation. That RHEL 5, or Windows XP app should really be modernized or eliminated at this point. The tools for cross-platform development are out there, from Mono to Java to Xojo; platform-dependent bits can be isolated for rapid retargeting. It’s up-front work that pays off in spades when the time comes to change the targeted platform.
Whatever your language of choice, in the end, it will likely be your build tool that links it to DevOps. Your biggest concern for DevOps will probably be portability in the near future. Meanwhile, keep rocking it. You’re doing the work that needs doing, even if it isn’t the part of DevOps everyone is currently buzzing about.