Coming to the Dojo a little over two months ago for my first day of work at my first (out of college) job, I was mystified by the amount of understanding and knowledge I still had to gain by using the Cloud Platform as a development and deployment environment. After the first few weeks, we started developing a brand new application for internal use. There was no existing infrastructure, but a clear idea to use a SQL database, and a web portal for the UI. I was thrilled! I worked on my fair share of web applications, so this would be a cake walk.
Great! What were the IP’s? What was the endpoint? What was the downtime for our environment on updates? What was our server technology? They said it was up to me. I began thinking of asking IT for a VM spin up our database, scripts designed to back up the data with cron jobs, registering a DNS for our website, and for a potential duplicate set for our test environment; technical aches and pains that are first steps when building a web application. I then began asking what seemed the obvious question of who to go to for the resources, and I was told we would do it all ourselves. Wait, I thought, we were supposed to deploy and maintain the VM’s set up users for the database, download the applications, and backup technology? That was easily another two or three days short term, and days of complications long term. Or so I thought.
Except…I hadn’t known that we were using Cloud Foundry, and the benefits that came from this. All of the pain points I used to face in setting up a functioning web app were moot. Instead of spending time configuring and maintaining environments, the Dojo, as a team, has put together a full-functioning web application with production environment, architecture, an extensive automated testing harness, and automated deployment. All as painlessly as we might use Github.
Removing Development Roadblocks
When I thought of the Web application, a typical structure comes to mind of the architecture for the app.
There’s plenty of steps for our team, as developers, to maintain and care about here. But with Cloud Foundry, we can remove many of these concerns.
Lets talk about Databases first. Using service brokers as provided through CF, we can simply bind a SQL service to our application. For extra sweetness, we can use a buildpack that supports that our server is connecting to a service-provided database. The buildpack will, at runtime, connect our application’s backend into a bound SQL database, no environment variables necessary.
Servers and UI? No problem. Pushing applications to Cloud Foundry takes as many commands as pushing to git. We can also update and configure the application directly through a UI included in our environment. This means changing something we forgot to put in our three-four deployment commands doesn’t warrant another deployment. As far as firewalls go, using the proper security groups to avoid exposing secretive endpoints is a few minutes behind the scenes of a UI, or a couple commands in a terminal.
Alright, so our development roadblocks are covered. What does all this mean for our Customers?
Rapid Integration and Feedback Loops
With our Test Driven Development and Continuous Integration mantras, we can rapidly iterate on our products. With Cloud Foundry, those rapid iterations allow us to take customer feedback. Using our real product on something as quick to set up and easily accessible as CF platform is, we can respond to our customer’s concerns much more efficiently.
Allowing our customers a way to directly interact with our product in this way is not only helpful for them, but for us, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, we’re able to get valuable feedback from them in a timely fashion, not when a feature has been done and untouched for two months (less old code touching, the better). Additionally, we can test what our real runtime environment will be like for our production level product, which means faster satisfaction for customers.
Finally, we don’t have to worry about maintaining servers and VMS when they may go down. Cloud Foundry can sense when an app crashes, and restart it for us. Same database, same DNS, and limited downtime. Doesn’t get much easier than that.
Using Cloud Foundry also means we can simplify our development process by having a consistent API and well-documented environment surrounding our application. When we rotate around our projects, people coming into our web application are using similar knowledge and practices they might use when deploying our Minecraft Docker Containers.
It’s for the reasons in this article, and I’m sure for many more to come, that the cloud platform and Cloud Foundry has made development easier for us. It allows us to create better products, faster. We can get immediate feedback from customers and get stories accepted faster. For most developers, that’s a no brainer.