Sunday, March 1, 2015

Working on the cloud

Recently I've had the opportunity to work with cloud environments. Cloud environments bring benefits but also some new issues or challenges that have to be taken into account.

Benefits


One of the greatest benefits of cloud environments is the scalability i.e. with a single command one instance can be spawned to two, three or twenty instances that are behind some load balancer service of the cloud provider appearing as a single instance to the outside world.

With the simplicity that cloud environments provide the developers can start deploying software as soon as there's something to deploy and keep deploying all the time. In the best case scenario test and production environments can be up and running since day one. Some services also provide a nice feature of roll backing quickly to previous versions if the latest version has introduced a bug that didn't exist previously.

Challenges


As a developer I've set up various development and testing environments but not that often a production environment. With production environments come things that don't necessarily concern other environments, Database connections, logging services, connections to other services, possible firewall openings between environments, domain names etc.
The second to last, firewall openings, is something that I came across the other day when a service providers system accepts connections through a firewall only from predefined ip addresses. This seemed like a real problem because services in the cloud can have what ever ip address or addresses.

Firewall solution


Services in the cloud run dynamically in what ever ip address so all the connections to the protected server have to be redirected through some proxy that accepts connections from our services and has a static ip address. Thankfully there's ready to buy solutions. Also as a cloud service :)
I guess someone else has also faced this issue in the past.

Benefits come with responsibilities


Depending on the development team and the organisation behind the team the cloud environment might be operated by dedicated personnel or if the team consists only of developers the environments might also fall under developers responsibility.

When developers have all the keys to the kingdom it means that the developers also have to take the responsibility of setting up the environments. Something that was previously done by the administrators.
As a developer I like that I have the possibility to maintain the running environments but I don't like that the full responsibility is put to the developers. This is where I'd like to have dedicated people who are the experts in setting up and maintaining environments and have experience on the subject, more in the way of the devops approach.

Cloud environments to the next level


I've seen from the side lines the next level of cloud services, micro services. I don't know much about working with micro services but it seems based on hearsay that they come with some new benefits and with a whole new set of challenges.

Summary


Deploying services to the cloud comes with benefits and it comes with a set of new challenges. Cloud as a platform solves some issues and it's a step forward. Deploying to cloud or using cloud services still needs people with expertise on servers and services though a bit modified from what they're used to in the self hosted servers and in no circumstances should it be expected that a software developer could do the job of the two.