Supporting Developers in Embedding Network into Apps: Faster, Better, Smarter

By Arti Loftus, Special Correspondent  |  October 16, 2019

DevOps continues to grow as more enterprises and organizations are transforming how they collaborate, create new services, and operate more efficiently with their own software applications, or by building on existing applications by adding new features and integrations.

The movement towards developing applications “in house” has grown steadily over the last five years, and today DevOps has gone mainstream and is poised for continual growth. IDC (News - Alert), for example, predicts the worldwide DevOps software market will reach $8 billion by 2022, up from $3.9 billion in 2017. Grand View Research estimates the global DevOps market will hit nearly $13 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 18.6 percent.

Galeal Zino, founder, and CEO of NetFoundry, sees DevOps teams as key to digital transformation and the success of cloud-native software solutions, and earlier this month spoke with us about the role of secure and flexible connectivity across the life cycle of software development, from concept to creation to testing and scaling, especially for distributed solutions supporting multiple locations globally.

“The availability of cloud has been a cornerstone of software development,” Zino said, “as it provides developers tools, testbeds, and a huge array of open source code to work with. Today’s developers are building cloud-native applications, leveraging public clouds more than ever given the natural benefits of spinning up a virtual machine rather than having to buy, set up, own and manage machines and the related computing infrastructure.”

“Developers of cloud-native applications are at the core of modern digital businesses and are increasingly implementing DevOps precepts in order to best deliver applications,” Zino wrote in a recent blog, also saying, “DevOps methodologies of Continuous Integration (CI), Continuous Development (CD) and Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) promise to enable unprecedented levels of speed and agility in the end-to-end process of reliably developing and delivering quality software to meet business needs.”

Zino and his team chose to focus on meeting the needs of DevOps teams and the developers those teams serve, given the growing importance of software development as part of the broader mandate towards digital transformation.

“Development projects are never completely finished,” Zino said, “as the most successful solutions can always be refined, improved, and updated to meet internal or customer needs. We’re still early in the evolution of DevOps, and seeing the leaders designing standards for development, including CI, CD, and SRE. Those leaders are the ones who have identified the next big challenge: the network.”

Zino explained that the NetFoundry team, which has grown substantially since the company was founded a few years ago given demand for their software defined, secure network services, continue to help the most progressive DevOps teams support the most active and successful developers by making it as easy for them to “spin up a network” as it is for them to spin up a virtual machine.

“Cloud native applications require cloud native networking solutions,” Zino said. “It’s very simple to DevOps to empower developers to create their own network instances through our web-based admin console and connect their workstations to cloud-hosted development and production environments. Rather than having to endure traditional methods of having to request private, secure and performant network services, and wait for those to be provisioned, developers can use point-and-click self-service or can ask DevOps to spin up a network for them, depending on each organization’s policy and internal budgeting approaches.”

The popularity of NetFoundry’s solution is primarily due to the simplicity of use, and the automation built into the methodology, allowing their customers to design networks, without having to engineer them.

“We make so much more sense to developers and DevOps teams, because what we bring to the table are automated, distributed, portable (virtualized, containerized) networking solutions which mimic their automated, distributed and portable software solutions,” Zino said. “Legacy MPLS and VPN solutions were designed to connect monolithic apps in centralized sites including private data center to a small set of sites, and boxes and wires models worked well for legacy centralized, static application topology. Legacy no longer works, given how complex, expensive, and error-prone it is. In an increasingly massively distributed world, there are new challenges at the edge and an array of problems that occur in multicloud environments. The days of boxes and wires have given in to programmability, automation, and agility.”

Zino says the new world is one where boxes and wires are replaced with software and APIs.  “The application needs to control networking, rather than networking controlling the application, and it is this inside-out world view that has informed how we’ve rolled out our global network and made it available to developers, who are increasingly aware of the role of SRE, especially as they scale their solutions in different regions.”

NetFoundry is based on agility, security, simplicity, and performance, according to Zino, who says applications are now able to programmatically control the network, with what he calls “Application Specific Networking in Connectivity-as-Code.” Development can spin up on-demand connectivity across any set of edges, clouds and service meshes, and embed the connectivity into their application with SDKs and APIs so that the connectivity goes with the app.

“Secure-by-Design is a requirement to automate and scale DevOps and SRE practices, Zino explained, saying, “Separate security is insecurity.  Security needs to be embedded in each layer of the stack in a loosely coupled but coherent, automated, and repeatable manner.  In Application Specific Networking, the developer gains the ability to enforce Zero Trust, Software Defined Perimeter and Least Privileged Access methodologies across any Internet connection.”

Simplicity is critical to attracting developers who have no patience for slow, complicated and expensive network provisioning and management. “When we abstract the developer from the underlying networks in the same manner that Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) has abstracted development teams from underlying compute, we win.  This requires APIs and SDKs to expose cloud-native networking resources to developers in a simple manner, with the underlying infrastructure often managed in a Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) type model,” Zino wrote.

Performance demands are growing as applications become smarter and require consistent availability and compute power as edge, and cloud-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) functionality becomes more prevalent. “We are seeing great success in bringing programmable Internet overlays to our customers, which reduces costs, especially for geographically distributed applications,  leveraging the public Internet – the largest and most resilient network in the world – made better through overlay functions to optimize performance based on policy set by the apps For example, a voice app must minimize latency and jitter, while a video app may require maximized throughput.”

Zino sees SRE as a significant trend in the coming years. SRE is a discipline within DevOps that applies software engineering aspects to infrastructure and operations challenges. According to Ben Treynor, founder of Google (News - Alert)'s Site Reliability Team, SRE is "what happens when a software engineer is tasked with what used to be called operations."

SRE and DevOps work together to support the successful prototyping through production cycles of developers. Site reliability engineers are developers themselves, with a singular focus on ensuring development and operations efforts are orchestrated efficiently and that applications run optimally, regardless of the location of the end user.

“The unifying factor across those four areas in the ability for the app to programmatically control the network,” Zino said. “Only when the developer is given the keys to the network, and abstracted from the underlying network infrastructure, can the developer control end-to-end application delivery in an automated, agile manner.”

“NetFoundry is built to connect apps. NetFoundry vision is about reinventing networking -transforming business networking from a telco-controlled barrier to an innovation enabler.”

NetFoundry will be making a significant announcement for the DevOps community at KubeCon November 18 – 21, San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California -   #KubeCon #CloudNativeCon

You can read more from Zino and DevOps here

Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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