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The sky is the limit with PaaS [Network World]
[March 19, 2012]

The sky is the limit with PaaS [Network World]


(Network World Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Cloud-based development platform helps fuel rapid growth at Bullhorn As early as 2008. Bullhorn, a fast-growing Boston-based provider of front-office staffing and recruiting management software, was considering the cloud to help streamline development and distribution of its software-as-a-service (SaaS) products to more than 2,500 customers and 2S1OOO users in 35 countries.



But Bullhorn's early embrace of platform as a service (PaaS) had more to do with long-standing relationships than with newfangled cloud technologies.

Bullhorn was already heavily invested in Java- based application development and didn't see the cost benefit of migrating away from that language in favor of scripting languages like Ruby, Python and PHP, which are more commonly used in the development of brand-new cloud-based applications. But the company was growing by 40% to 50% year over year and the development team understood it needed to find a way to build more scalable applications.


The Bullhorn engineers were also in tight with the founders of Stax Networks, one of the very first cloud-based Java application platforms running on top of Amazon's EC2 infrastructure as a service (laaS). So when the well-funded startup CloudBees acquired Stax Networks in December 2010 as the means to accelerate the general availability of its [email protected] application runtime PaaS environment. Bullhorn was good to go.

And it went, fast.

In the last year, Bullhorn has implemented more than 60 customized applications on [email protected] According to Matthew Fischer, vice president of Bullhorn's services team, the company is working on implementing an additional 40 applications on the CloudBees PaaS.

[email protected] is the runtime side of the CloudBees PaaS story. It provides traditional application server functionality to the cloud, comprising load balancing, scalability and high availability services for web. Java and Spring applications. CloudBees customers can choose to have as their underlying IaaS any number of public cloud providers.

Applications running on [email protected] can be built using traditional Java EE development tools or using CloudBees' second PaaS offering called [email protected] [email protected] is a cloud-based development, build and test environment.

Fischer says deploying Bullhorn's existing applications on Rü[email protected] has resulted in an 80% reduction hi the time his teams - both the intemalcoire development team and the professional services team which builds customized extensions to the Bullhorn product tine . for customers - spend on resolving underlying cloud infrastructure problems like load balancing, system monitoring and technical integration issues.

"You obviously have to fully understand how the [CloudBees] platform is operating as the developers of applications running on top of it, but you dotft; have to be the ones tending to all of the DevOps details of scaling it as the company grows," Fischer says.

Some developers were hesitant togive up absolute control over the runtime environment in case of some type of outage. "But over time we've proven that PaaS is more reliable because the provider has operations folks that can do that better than we can," Fischer says.

Fischer's teams collectively clock upward of 30,000 engineering hours annually. So being able to turn the bulk of those hours into time spent improving the core product or working with customers justifies the CloudBees metered usage fees, Fischer says.

"We now focus on our core competency of building innovative code that helps us better address our customers' requirements." Fischer says. "The recent success of Bullhorn is tightly tied to the evolution of this PaaS." Crucial to the company's rapid cloud deployment success is how it has deployed the Bullhorn SDK on [email protected] which in some cases is deployed in a multi-tenant configuration and other times deployed on dedicated machines should the customer set those types of requirements.

These open Bullhorn SDKs are Javabased applications that contain a robust services layer comprising components such as Spring MVC, XML configuration tools and a set of Web services that interact with Bullhorn's APIs to facilitate communication between thè core application and the custom extensions and Web services that Bullhorn engineers or its customers have built.

The Bullhorn SDK also handles data access components and interfaces back to databases in the CloudBees PaaS and enables integration with systems residing within customers' environments.

Taking the next step Bullhorn has to date focused its efforts on getting existing Java applications up and running on [email protected] while still building new applications within its own custom development environment.

"Our priority was to make sure the applications we had in production got the benefit of being in the cloud first," Fischer says.

But Fischer says his team now is actively prototyping new applications using [email protected] The prospect is enticing for logistical reasons - Bullhorn has recently expanded its engineering team and has members ofthat team working from sites around the world. "Access [to development resources] from anywhere is emerging as an issue we need to address." Fischer says.

Fischer also likes the way [email protected] has addressed continuous development cycles. Central to the CloudBees offering is the open source Hudson-based continuous integration scheme - now called Jenkins since Oracle claimed trademark issues with the name - which enables continuous quality control as developers write code and submit the changes to the repository. Each change is tested for quality and integration issues.

"We've never had a continuous integration mechanism in place, but we certainly want it going forward because of all the potential code problems it can alleviate," Fischer says.

Finally, it's important that developers pay close attention to how their PaaS providers are establishing any third-party ecosystem around their platform, Fischer says. "Who a PaaS vendor partners with today may have a direct effect on which tools you have at your disposal tomorrow to build your next-generation product." MATTHEW FISCHER, VICE PRESIDENT, BULLHORN "WE NOW FOCUS ON OUR CORE COMPETENCY OF BUILDING INNOVATIVECODE that helps us better address our customers' requirements. The recent success of Bullhorn is tightly tied to the evolution of this PaaS." TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL PAAS ROLLOUT BY CHRISTINE BURNS Any corporate application developer hoping to make the journey to the cloud with the help of a PaaS implementation is wise to listen to those who have already ventured down that path.

Be prepared to clearly articulate where you want to go and why you want to go there to the decisionmakers in your company, advises Matthew Fischer, vice president of the engineering services team at Bullhorn, a Boston-based maker of recruiting and staffing management software.

"There are going to be folks who might not be up to speed on what PaaS has to offer and they will loathe giving up that control." says Fischer. He alleviated those tensions by explaining that the engineers at his PaaS provider, CloudBees, had more expertise setting up, running and scaling the development environment than his software engineers did.

And you need to tap into that expertise to help you understand how your new applications are working on top of the PaaS. explains Brandon Jirousek. Web content coordinator for the Quicken Arena, the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA team. Jirousek's team contracted with PaaS vendor AppFog for the purposes of deploying Web ticket sales and social networking applications in the cloua on top of Amazon's laaS.

"Yes. we no longer have to manage our own servers in terms of security, patches and troubleshooting," says Jirousek, but that didn't translate into the team not wanting to understand what was happening when they did run into performance issues. Kamesh Pemmaraju. head of marketing for Cloud Technology Partners, a Cambridge, Mass.-based cloud computing consultancy, says developers should push back on PaaS vendors' claims that coders will no longer have to worry at all about the underlying platform services.

"It's a different skill set. No, you don't have to be allocating the physical servers to make your application scale. But you do have to fully understand how your PaaS is making that happen in order to build a scalable application," says Pemmaraju.

Think about best practices. "No, I mean you really have to think about them, because this stuff is too new to have any established best practice guidelines for you to refer to," adds Raj Kushwaha, global ClO at Zimmer, a leading global manufacturer of medical products such as orthopedic reconstructive tools, spinal and trauma devices and dental implants. Zimmer worked with Salesforce.com to rapidly roll out an interactive iPad application to the company's sales team.

(c) 2012 Network World Inc.

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