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In 2020, the cloud reigns supreme, containers make app deployment as easy as ever, and developers work directly with operators. Discover the evolution of information technology and how software development has benefited from it.

Table of Contents

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The Current State of IT and Software Creation

Here's what software development, deployment, and storage look like.

Development Process

Many companies use modern DevOps practices to develop apps. No longer are app developers and operators or IT separated. Now, they work more closely together, and software engineers continue working with IT over the software's lifetime. Sometimes quality assurance and security teams will join the efforts. DevOps is a continuous process that more quickly produces and updates software than previous development methodologies. The automation tools often deployed in DevOps ensure consistency and scalability, which is necessary when developing for multiple cloud environments.

Application Architecture

Modern application architecture is all about microservices. In microservice-based architecture, every app is a collection of smaller, defined services such as apps, APIs, and databases, each of which can be built on the most appropriate language or technology stack. It's easy to see the benefit of microservice application pattern. Each service can be created and maintained by a small team and be deployed and tested on its own regardless of the status of other services. Some services are coupled together but loosely so that there is flexibility than with older application architecture. Furthermore, different teams can work on various services without impacting other teams' services.

Deployment and Packaging

The evolution of software development is incredibly helpful. Developers can now create and deploy software inside containers, which contain the necessary code and libraries to run the software. Docker is one of several examples of container software. This allows software testing without impacting the rest of the environment or needing to create a virtual machine. Thanks to containers, it's never been easier to ensure that your software works in a different environment, whether that means a separate server or a new network entirely.

Application Infrastructure

Apps—and their associated data—are now often stored in the cloud. Don't let the jargon confuse you; the cloud has become much more than just a buzzword! The cloud builds on prior virtualization technology. By storing apps and data remotely, users can log in from almost anywhere in the world. Often, this is possible from a standard browser; although, specific software is sometimes needed.

Because this data and software are stored remotely, local machines may not need as much hard drive capacity, RAM, or processing power. This is illustrated well by the advent of Chromebooks. These consumer laptops are capable of completing many tasks from an operating system that is essentially an expansion of Google's Chrome web browser. Although this is just one example of the impact of the changes in application infrastructure, our move to the cloud has permanently altered the way we interact with computers and data.

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How IT Evolved To This Point

Computing hasn't always been as efficient, fast, or flexible as it is today. Just take a look at IT before we entered the modern era.

From Data Centers to Hosted Apps

Applications were deployed to hosted servers, which became possible thanks to broadband Internet that became more available in the 2000s. Users had to access specific servers to gain access to their software and data. Companies no longer used physical servers to store all of their software and data on site, which allowed them to downsize their properties and energy usage. However, this meant that the datacenters, which were now often operated by third parties, that housed the servers grew, both in size and power consumption. This trend continued as we moved to the cloud; however, data isn't saved to individual or even virtualized servers, which brings us to our next point.

Shifting to Virtualization from Physical Servers

At the same time, as hosted apps were rising in popularity, so, too, was computer virtualization for software development and packaging. Just like an operating system could be virtualized, the software itself could be virtualized and deployed to several environments with ease without impacting the rest of the server. Rather than deploying software directly to a server as had been done before, a layer is placed between the OS and the application. The app functions as though it's interfacing directly with the operating system.

Monolithic Makes Way for N-tier Architecture

Application architecture was also becoming more flexible during this time. N-tier architecture refers to splitting software into multiple tiers—typically at least three — in place of the older architecture style that consisted of a single code base with multiple modules. However, it's possible for software to incorporate more tiers when necessary. For example, an app might have the user-facing tier, the database tier, and a middle tier that facilitates moving data between those two tiers. These tiers differ from software layers because they cross the processing boundary. In some instances, the different software tiers can exist on different machines.

Agile App Development Replaces the Waterfall Method

Finally, we can understand how DevOps came to be by examining the development process that came before. Agile app development attempted to become more adaptive than previous development methods by working with software iterations. Before this, developers relied on the waterfall model that approached projects sequentially. The last step must always be fully completed before the next step could be added. In comparison, agile methods such as Kraban or Scrum allow for more simultaneously development. Cross-functional teams can focus on developing their software and take less time to bring them to the market.

As you can see, computing changes have led to shorter development time and more flexibility while increasing software capability and usefulness. This often leads to cost savings and ensures that many tasks can be completed outside of the office, an essential factor in an increasingly mobile world. Keep in mind that the definitions between these stages aren't always rigidly defined. For example, DevOps incorporates several elements of agile architecture. Furthermore, companies haven't all kept up with computing developments, and some departments may lag behind others. There are also times when companies may opt to continue using older methodologies. It may not make sense to rewrite legacy software from scratch, or a business may not have the budget to do so. Others may abide by the adage "If it isn't broken, don't fix it." Finally, a hybrid solution that incorporates both modern and legacy computing procedures. Consider how some companies use both local, remote, and cloud storage. Because storage redundancy is important in the case of data loss or another emergency, relying on legacy technology in addition to the newest advancements is beneficial.

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