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Enterprise Software Installations: Evolution of Full Automation

Sam Lucido

Thu, 23 Jul 2020 18:21:01 -0000

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by Sam Lucido

July 23, 2020


Is there an evolution underway that is changing Enterprise Software and how it’s provisioned? I think so. Enterprise applications have traditionally been difficult to install and provision. There were pre-requisites, configuration requirements, post-requisites and other steps that took days to figure out. In many situations it required a team of administrators or consultants to complete the installation. Both options were expensive and time consuming.  

Virtualization, including automation and orchestration, has advanced installations and provisioning through the use of templates. A virtual machine template is the main image of a virtual machine with all the components and configuration settings necessary to easily create a copy of that VM. Virtual Machine templates provide a means to provision copies of a virtualized application quickly and efficiently. This approach streamlined how applications could be quickly provisioned in the company. Next, application storefront web portals further transformed application provisioning into self-service operations for end users, reducing the burden on IT even more.

To further examine the deployment of VM templates, let’s take a look at Day 0, 1, and 2 of the deployment process:

  • Day 0: Installation of the application in a virtual machine. The goal is to create a validated VM template of an application that can be reliably provisioned, on-demand. Depending on the complexity of the application there could be a significant upfront investment in developing the VM template.
  • Day 1: A copy of the VM template is deployed with all the corresponding infrastructure: server resources, network, storage, and initial configuration. There is a substantial time savings by the supporting IT teams as the entire process has been automated.  In addition to the savings, reliability of deploying applications has been improved by using a VM template and an automated provisioning process.
  • Day 2: Any customizations or support activities are part of day 2 activities.

Using VM templates to automate the business accelerated application provisioning and consistently delivered a reliable outcome. VM templates advanced the way in which applications were provisioned. Although virtualization with its automation and orchestration solved many challenges, a few important challenges remained:

  • The initial dependency of the enterprise software installation was still required. For example, a highly experienced professional is needed for databases, because an understanding of all the dependencies and configuration tasks is essential for successfully installing databases and similar applications.
  • The layer of automation and orchestration must be maintained, too. For most applications, the rules for automation and orchestration must be tested, validated, and supported throughout the life of the application.
  • As the number of applications available in a self-service portal increases, the demand on the supporting teams also increases. This challenge of scale in supporting more applications can require teams to prioritize what new applications and updates of existing applications are available on the self-service portal.

Now what if companies that created the enterprise application moved to an approach in which there were no installations required? Consider the capability to deliver the application as an image that can be opened and used, remarkably like a VM template.  Linux Containers are different from virtual machines in several important ways:

  • Virtual Machines: A hypervisor is used to abstract the underlying server hardware and present the CPU, memory, storage, and networking resources to the virtual machine. Each virtual machine has a guest operating system with libraries and binaries to run the application.
  • Linux Containers: The guest operating system is used to abstract the underlying server hardware and present the servers resources to the Containers. Because Containers use the shared libraries of the guest operating system, they are exceptionally light. For example, Containers avoid the overhead of the hypervisor and the need for a guest OS for each virtual machine.

Popular public Container registries like Red Hat Quay and Docker Hub enable the business to download application images. These images can then be placed into a local private registry for the company, enabling them to quickly deploy the application over the local area network. Let’s look at how the use of Container images can change the Day 0, 1, and 2 activities:

  • Day 0: Download the application image from a public registry and place into the local private registry, with no installation necessary. The application image can be customized to meet business requirements but the complexity of installation is eliminated.
  • Day 1: A copy of the application image is deployed with all the corresponding infrastructure: server resources, network, storage, and initial configuration.  There is a substantial time savings for the supporting IT teams as the entire process has been automated.  In addition to the time savings, reliability of deploying applications is improved by using an application image and automated provisioning process.
  • Day 2: Any customizations or support activities are part of day 2 activities.

Shifting responsibility for the installation from an IT professional to the company that developed the software transforms Day 0 activities. The complexity of software installation is replaced by downloading the image. The company that developed the software takes responsibility for creating a reliable application image, so Day 0 activities become lighter weight.

The challenge of scaling a self-service portal can also become more manageable. New application images and updates to existing images can be downloaded, tested, and placed in the local private company registry. Prioritization may still be necessary but the capability to quickly make new or updated applications available is facilitated by the company that developed the software.

This is another evolutionary jump as the complexity of installation shifts to the company that developed the software. The primary benefit is a substantial time savings as the company using the application doesn’t have to invest in installing the software. Dell EMC provides these white papers that show how you can start taking advantage of Containers:

Oracle in Docker Containers on Linux with Oracle 12c and 19c

This solution shows how the use of Oracle Database in containers, Kubernetes, and the Container Storage Interface (CSI) Driver for the Dell EMC PowerFlex family (previously known as Dell EMC VxFlex family) transforms the development process. Using orchestration and automation, developers can self-provision an Oracle database, thereby increasing flexibility and productivity while saving substantial time in creating a production copy for development and testing environments. 

Microsoft SQL Server 2019 Big Data Cluster on Dell EMC VxRail

This solution highlights the power of implementing SQL Server 2019 Big Data Cluster technology hosted on Dell EMC VxRail hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). In the solution use case, we integrate SQL Server 2019 RDBMS, SQL Server Big Data Cluster, MongoDB, and Oracle RDBMS to create a unified data analytics platform. SQL Server 2019 scale-out storage and compute clusters, and new data virtualization techniques are the enabling technologies. This SQL Server 2019 Big Data Cluster solution also benefits from the simplicity of a complete, yet flexible, validated Dell EMC VxRail HCI platform with Kubernetes management and storage integration. 

Microsoft SQL Server 2019 Big Data Clusters: A Big Data Solution Using Dell EMC Infrastructure

In this white paper, we designed our use case to parallel the steps that customers take to deploy a SQL Server Big Data Cluster. Throughout the use case discussion, we describe important steps, design considerations, and outcomes. The discussion is not intended to outline step-by-step deployment actions but, instead, to provide guidance to make your Big Data Cluster solution successful.

Designing and configuring a resilient VxFlex architecture was our initial step. Because Big Data Clusters are business-critical, we designed a VxFlex architecture with multiple controller nodes and hyperconverged nodes so that there was no single point of failure. Performance was not a key consideration because VxFlex enables massive scale-out with the addition of nodes. One of the many advantages of VxFlex nodes is that customers can choose between using a bare-metal infrastructure or implementing virtualization. In this use case, we used VMware vSphere virtualization to increase manageability and security.

SQL Server 2019 Containers on Linux

This solution shows how the use of SQL Server containers, Kubernetes, and the Dell EMC XtremIO X2 Container Storage Interface (CSI) plug-in transforms the development process. Using orchestration and automation, developers can self-provision a SQL Server database, increasing productivity and saving substantial time.

Additionally, Dell EMC provides an entire section on the Info Hub dedicated to Containers, featuring technical papers on these topics:

  • Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform
  • SUSE Containers as a Service
  • Canonical Kubernetes
  • Google Cloud’s Anthos on VxFlex family

 

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