Public cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services EC2, are already frequently used as a testing site for new software. Test servers can be commissioned, configured to match a production environment and then dismantled when testing is done. In addition, platforms as a service, such as Heroku, bring sophisticated services to developers on Amazon to speed application development.
SavvisDirect is creating an alternative to the public cloud setting. It's inviting enterprise developers to adopt AppGrid as an off-premises cloud service that is nonetheless an unshared, single tenant environment where sensitive code can be produced, tested and deployed behind secure barriers.
For one thing, AppGrid starts with bare metal servers assigned to one customer that can be accessed only with credentials issued by SavvisDirect. The credentials can adhere to different privilege levels within a development team. Someone on the team must be granted root access to the servers but many companies don't want every developer having the ability to manipulate the basic operating characteristics of the server.
[ Want to learn more about how CA Technologies acquired AppLogic, the basis of AppGrid, in 2010? See CA's 3Tera AppLogic Graphically Deploys Stacks To Data Centers. ]
In the multi-tenant cloud, it's not possible to grant root access to a set of physical servers, since that would allow one tenant to access and tamper with the virtual servers of another customer. As a private cloud operation, AppGrid sets up a two-tiered control system, with access limited via a secure VPN, said Martin Capurro, senior director of product management for cloud products.
There's still interest in private cloud services because some customers want heightened security and predictable performance for their applications. If there are no other tenants on the server, the customer's application won't be plagued with "noisy neighbor" I/O issues or other performance inhibitors, Capurro said in an interview.
The AppGrid service is based on CA Technologies AppLogic product, which allows a SavvisDirect customer to be assigned a cluster of servers and provision the types of virtual servers he wishes to run on the cluster. The AppGrid management application overlays the cluster so that the customer can do a number of application lifecycle management functions on it.
A browser-based control panel lets an AppGrid customer create software stacks as virtual appliances that can be cloned and used over again. An appliance might be based on a set of Xen virtual machines that include an application, an operating system geared to the application, an application server and a Web server.
Capurro said the appliances can be rigged to closely mimic a customer's production environment without creating the possible exposures that might result from duplicating a production environment in the public cloud.
The AppGrid control panel lets an operations manager deploy an application by drawing lines between a named appliance and a load balancer, which "creates the network that connects them," said Capurro.
"You can think of the GUI as WYSIWYG for the data center," wrote Bert Armijo, VP of product management for AppLogic at CA in a Feb. 5 blog.
Likewise, an AppGrid customer could foresee increased traffic for a particular application for a few days following a major promotion, and go into the control panel to change the limits on the application's auto-scaling so that more servers would be added as needed.
The goal, said Capurro, "is to give people the flexibility they want when they also want to own the system, to run it in their own sandbox."