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Application infrastructure can be broken down into three components:

  • Platform: Operating system, virtualization, containers, mobility.
  • Middleware: Application servers, API management, integration and process tools, developer tools
  • Supporting tools: Database, data analytics, monitoring, APM

Middleware refers to software that enables engineers by providing common software dependencies and managing communication between disparate systems alleviating the necessity to constantly re-invent the wheel during application development.

It provides the plumbing between the services. Instead of hardcoding one service to talk to one other service; middleware helps provides a common place for 20 services to talk to each other.

As organizations grow and add various applications to their software portfolio, they typically encounter the need to integrate those applications into a unified system.

Middleware provides a way to centralize and standardize common functionality so that developers don’t have to rework the same solutions for every application.

Containers offer another way of packing applications in a much lighter weight and with a much faster delivery model. They help organizations run multiple application processes on a single box, regardless of whether that box is a VM or a physical machine.

Containers also play a major role in the context of fulfilling DevOps, microservices, and cloud strategy. A big benefit of this approach is increased efficiency in hardware utilization.

Containers differ from VMs in a few simple ways. A VM, while not a physical machine, behaves just like one. It is an isolated environment that includes everything, starting with a complete (guest) operating system. On the other hand, containers are processes that share the resources on the same machine, which could be physical or virtual.

The benefit of containers is application portability. You can build on one box; and run on another box. A VM is dependent on a hypervisor which is responsible for controlling the resource and connecting it to a management system.

As a result, containers are temporary and consistent. You can rapidly move things around. And you can run them on AWS, Azure, VMs, laptops, or physical boxes because they will always remain consistent.

Infrastructure monitoring helps organizations to analyze and monitor services across their entire network. Monitoring tools help to identify abnormal situations across the organizations network, and report problems before failures happen.

API management: This type of middleware expands on the concept of a gateway server by adding monitoring capabilities, access control features, and rate limiting and billing functionality.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) simplifies the workload for developers by allowing them to focus only on the layers that deal with application code.

Application Performance Management (APM) tools have grown out of the need to troubleshoot applications with increasingly complex architectures and infrastructures.  Modern web applications often involve a web client, gateway server, application server, and database at a bare minimum.  Even in this simple four node example, tracking down performance issues can get pretty complicated. Application Performance Management tools enable teams to quickly identify where a problem is occurring all the way down to the line of source code.


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