Let me ask you a question: How many websites and applications do you think the average medium to large-sized organization runs? Dozens? Hundreds? How about thousands? You’re almost there.
Way back in 2015, Forrester Research interviewed digital leaders at enterprise organizations and found that, on average, they were maintaining 268 customer-facing sites, which at the time felt like a huge number.
Well, five years have passed, and enterprise organizations are now managing thousands of apps, with some corporations running tens of thousands of domains at once and others running hundreds of apps for thousands of clients.
Public-facing sites and applications have proliferated across organizations, from global CPG and life-sciences companies to colleges and universities, agencies, and software companies.
These applications range from critical anchor properties — like corporate or brand .coms and .edus — to campaign microsites with limited lifespans and department, or project sites that proliferate at universities.
That’s thousands of potential instances of resource waste and thousands of potential points of risk, all of which have to be maintained and secured. And as any DevOps professional knows, each one of these websites may have vastly different requirements, like how they’re hosted (or even where they’re hosted) or what development stack they need.
To put it bluntly, you’ve got the task of making potentially thousands of different applications all run properly, all the time. Simple, right?
That’s why I want you to start thinking about FleetOps — running a fleet of hundreds (or thousands!) of websites and applications across your organization: Securely, with predictable costs, and across different teams and departments throughout an organization.
It’s Gestalt DevOps, planning and executing a platform-based strategy on both on a per-website and per-fleet basis, without needing a gigantic IT team to run it. And if you’ve had to scale a large amount of applications and sites, you know the many challenges of fleet management in DevOps already. A FleetOps strategy will help.
Taking a PaaS
The reason that this is a relatively new concept is that we’ve only in the last few years reached a point where Platform as a Service was fully capable of taking on these gargantuan tasks.
Platform as a Service is a genre of technology where a specialist organization takes on the overhead of building and supporting the platform and all the components, freeing up developers and architects to focus on developing their applications.
In the case of a FleetOps platform, this means that the PaaS takes care of the management and maintenance of an application or website’s entire infrastructure (hosting, continuous integration/delivery, security, updates, support, etc.).
What this also means on an organizational level is that you’re eliminating several core timesinks:
- Developing, testing, and deploying apps/websites manually
- Managing and tooling DevOps
- Consistently managing and budgeting the running of different technology stacks and infrastructure, such as AWS or in container orchestration frameworks like Kubernetes
While I’ve discussed a lot of the challenges that FleetOps can solve, I also want to present the opportunity to move your fleet into containers, something that the right FleetOps strategy will make realistic and effective.
Containers can be a huge benefit to the speed at which your developers can execute, but without a FleetOps strategy and platform, they’re a huge timesink.
An application and its services run in a container, and Kubernetes can be used to build a platform that then allows containers to be operated, deployed, moved, and scaled to maintain the desired state of the application and end service.
The application itself runs on a distributed system of cloud and physical servers, using orchestration to ensure the resources are available and used optimally for the whole system, balancing and adjusting according to the needs of the applications.
While this is obviously incredibly useful, it’s also incredibly complex to manage. To build a platform around Kubernetes, an organization needs not only to evaluate, license, and support numerous tools and technologies, but also to take it upon themselves to maintain, license, and support those components and their interactions.
While containers make it easier for developers to build applications faster, much of that software can contain vulnerabilities when developers end up relying on outdated components that haven’t been updated/patched or are unsupported.
Essentially, a FleetOps strategy allows development teams to scale an organization’s digital presence rapidly while actually saving money.
A FleetOps platform is actively built to be technology- and vendor-agnostic, focusing more on deploying the right technology for the task, rather than forcing use of the same web technology across every application .FleetOps rapidly increases an organization’s ability to deliver great software in a stable, secure, and fast way.
With the right platform strategy and tools, a FleetOps strategy can help organizations create a win/win solution for both digital teams focused on building great customer experiences and IT organizations charged with keeping all those sites and apps secure and performant (not to mention cost efficient!).
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