Why Services are Essential to Your Platform as a Service

January 27, 2015 Abby Kearns

For most organizations, there is a constant battle between the need to rapidly develop and deploy software while effectively managing the environment and deployment process. As a developer, you struggle with the ability to move new applications to production, and regular provisioning of support services can take weeks, if not months. IT operations, on the other hand, is balancing the backlog of new services requests with the need to keep all the existing (growing) services up and patched. Each side is challenged with meeting the needs of an ever-changing business.

What are Services?

Service is defined as “an act of helpful activity; help, aid.” A Service should make your life easier. Pivotal believes that Platform as a Service (PaaS) should make administrator’s and developer’s lives easier, not harder. Services available through the Pivotal Cloud Foundry platform allow resources to be easily provisioned on-demand. These services are typically middleware, frameworks, and other “components” used by developers when creating their applications.

Services extend a PaaS to become a flexible platform for all types of applications. Services can be as unique as an organization or an application requires. They can bind applications to databases or allow the integration of continuous delivery tools into a platform. Services, especially user-provided services, can also wrap other applications, like a company’s ERP back-end or a package tracking API. The accessibility of Services through a single platform ensures developers and IT operators can truly be agile.

Extensibility Through a Services-Enabled Platform

The availability of Services within the platform are one of the most powerful and extensible features of Pivotal Cloud Foundry. A broad ecosystem of software can run and be managed from within the Pivotal Cloud Foundry platform, and this ensures that enterprises get the functionality they need.

Robust functionality from a single source reduces the time spent on configuration and monitoring. It also has the added benefit of improving scalability and time-to-production. Services allow administrators to provide pre-defined database and middleware services, and this gives developers the ability to rapidly deploy a software product from a menu of options without the typical slow and manual provisioning process. This is also done in a consistent and supportable way.

Managed Services Ensure Simple Provisioning

One of the features that sets Pivotal Cloud Foundry apart from other platforms is the extent of the integration of Managed Services. These Services are managed and operated ‘as a Service,’ and this means they are automatically configured upon request. The provisioning process also incorporates full lifecycle management support, like software updates and patching.

Automation removes the overhead from developers, who are often saddled with service configuration responsibility. It makes administrators’ lives easier and addresses security risks by standardizing how services are configured and used—no more one-off weirdness in configuration. The result is true self-provisioning.

A few of the Pivotal Services, like RabbitMQ, are provided in a highly available capacity. This means that when the Service is provisioned it is automatically clustered to provide high availability. This relieves much of the administrative overhead of deploying and managing database and middleware Services, as well as the significant effort of correctly configuring a cluster.

Broad Accessibility With User-Provided Services

In addition to the integrated and Managed Services, Pivotal Cloud Foundry supports a broad range of User-Provided Services. User-Provided Services are services that are currently not available through the Services Marketplace, meaning the Services are managed externally from the platform, but are still accessible by the applications.

The User-Provided Services are completely accessible by the application, but are created outside of the platform. This Service extension enables database Services, like Oracle and DB2 Mainframe, to be easily bound to an application, guaranteeing access to all the Services needed by applications.

Flexible Integration Model

Access to all services, both managed and user-provided, is handled via the Service Broker API within the Pivotal Cloud Foundry platform. This module provides a flexible, RESTful API and allows service authors (those that create the services) to provide self-provisioning services to developers.

The Service Broker is not opinionated. It can be crafted to suit the unique needs of the environment and organization. The Service Broker functionality ensures the extensibility of the platform and also allows administrators to create a framework that developers can operate within, supporting agile deployments. This framework provides consistency and reproducibility within the platform. It also has the added benefit of limiting code changes required by applications as they move through the development lifecycle.

As an example of the customization capabilities, a customer created a Service Broker that not only adjusts the network topology when an application is deployed to an environment, it also adjusts the security attributes. An application could have fairly open access to an organization’s raw market material, but access to a core billing system would be limited and privileged.

Security Integrated into Each Service

The Service Broker gives administrators the ability to define access control of services. Service-level access control ensures developers and applications only have access to the environment and service necessary. When a Service is fully managed, credentials are encapsulated in the Service Broker. The result is that passwords no longer need to be passed across different teams and resources, but instead are managed by a single administrator.

Finally, the Service Broker provides full auditing of all services. Auditing simply keeps track of what Services have been created or changed, all through the API. This type of audit trail is great if you are an administrator and trying to figure out who last made changes to a critical database service.

Self-Service for the Masses

Managed Services are available for download from Pivotal Network, and are added by an administrator to the platform. All Services available within the platform are accessible to developers via the Marketplace. The Marketplace allows self-provisioning of software as it is needed by developers and applications.

Services from Pivotal like RabbitMQ, Redis, and Pivotal Tracker, as well as popular third-party software, like Jenkins Enterprise by CloudBees and Datastax Enterprise Cassandra, are available immediately. The Marketplace provides a complete self-service catalog, speeding up the development cycle.

Services

Services View in Pivotal Network

The breadth and availability of Services ensures that operators provide development teams access to the resources that they need, when they need them. A developer, who is writing a new application that requires a MySQL database, can easily select and provision MySQL from the Marketplace. The platform then creates the unique credentials for the database and applies those to the application.

Rapid Time to Market with Mobile Services

The expansive Services catalog extends to the Pivotal Mobile Services, announced in August 2014. These mobile backend services allow organizations to rapidly develop and deploy mobile applications. The accessibility of mobile backend services through the Pivotal Cloud Foundry platform ensures that developers are able to easily build new mobile applications leveraging capabilities such as push notifications and data sync.

Essentials of a Services-Enabled Platform

Developers want to quickly deploy a database or middleware service, without a slow and manual provisioning process. IT operators want to be able to quickly meet the growing requests for new services, while also securely managing a complex environment. Provisioning Services through a PaaS is the natural solution to balancing the needs of the developers and IT operators, all while meeting the needs of the business.

A PaaS should provide simple access to full lifecycle management for services—from click-through provisioning to patch management and high availability. At Pivotal we have seen tremendous success with the release of services based on CloudBees and DataStax. The Pivotal Services ecosystem continues to grow, as does the growing capabilities of the Service Broker. This growth ensures the Pivotal Cloud Foundry platform will continue to meet the needs of organizations.

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About the Author

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