Agile-based PaaS and SOA: The Rising Rapid Application Development Platform

As companies grapple with the cloud, virtualization, and the challenge of creating or extending enterprise and mobile apps, many are turning to Agile software development.

According to the 2010 application performance management (APM) survey “Apps on the Move” –conducted by APM vendor AppDynamics — more companies will adopt Agile software development practices and service-oriented architecture (SOA) initiatives in 2011.

Forty-nine percent of respondents said they expect to ramp up Agile development, and 66 percent said they expect to leverage additional SOA initiatives for mission-critical apps. Most respondents (85 percent) said they perform multiple Agile releases on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis. At the same time, 74 percent of respondents characterized their existing architectures as distributed or SOA.

“Most respondents said they’re past the point where Agile and SOA represent a future destination for their companies,” said Jyoti Bansal, CEO of AppDynamics. “Agile and SOA have become the ‘new normal.'”

The widespread use of the Web and competitive market forces mean companies often have to produce tested and cost-effective apps very quickly, in days sometimes. Without the right platform, companies cannot respond nimbly enough.

For many companies, the right platform is an Agile-based one such as the Mendix Agile Business Platform, a Platform as a Service (PaaS) that enables businesses of all sizes to optimize business and IT collaboration, either in the cloud or behind a corporate firewall. The platform uses a visual modeling technology to rapidly build and manage applications that smoothly integrate with existing systems.

“Our technology provides developers with the ALM tools they need to plan, develop, and manage their software projects, while it gives CIOs the freedom to innovate without losing control of projects,” said Paul Campaniello, vice president of global marketing at Mendix.

As more businesses and organizations begin to adopt Agile software development methodologies to improve customer responsiveness and rapidly develop applications, it would seem that software tools have to be Agile-ready, said Derek Cheng, director of marketing, LongJump, a Sunnyvale, California-based provider of software that powers PaaS.

To date, most of the focus on those Agile tools has been on the project management and delivery lifecycle phases, with less attention paid to the actual development of applications.

In the past, it was virtually impossible to build custom, enterprise-grade applications for every department, added Cheng.

“The primary response from IT organizations has been to decouple the information from the application,” said Cheng. “Such is the nature of SOA/XML. That’s fine for the IT developer, but completely unusable from a departmental end-user standpoint — the people who have to use the data and face the information management challenges on a daily basis. “

They still have to rely on an in-house development resource or highly paid consultant to get to that data in a meaningful way that integrates with their work processes.

PaaS can be the ideal solution to solve that problem, said Cheng, noting that PaaS makes it extremely easy to design, develop, adapt and service Web-based applications, while leveraging a comprehensive enterprise-class service environment.

“It is so easy to build apps that a significant amount of development and changes can be realized in a single meeting or overnight,” he said.

Open Source PaaS

Going forward, PaaS may have more of an open-source flavor, if VMware can leverage its weight and influence.

Just this month, VMware unveiled Cloud Foundry, which the vendor calls the industry’s first open PaaS implementation.

Cloud Foundry provides a PaaS implementation that offers developers what they need: choice, noted Steve Herrod, VMware’s CTO, in his blog, Cloud Foundry — Delivering on VMware’s “Open PaaS” Strategy .

Herrod said choice consists of:

  • choice of developer frameworks
  • choice of application infrastructure services
  • choice of clouds to which to deploy applications

“By offering an open architecture in all three dimensions, Cloud Foundry overcomes major limitations found in today’s PaaS solutions,” he said. “Nascent industry PaaS offerings are held back by limited or non-standard framework support, lack of variety of application services and especially the inability to deploy applications across both public and private clouds.”

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