Software is developed, but also delivered. We talk about software application development, creation and building on a daily basis. Thanks to the fact that it’s now chic to be geek, we champion the lives of programmers and sometimes even data scientists all the time. These days, everyone it seems is starting to learn about the value of a good algorithm and the mathematics behind it.
But that’s ‘just’ development. In a world of always-on computing where web and cloud-based applications need to fight ransomware, add new services, adhere to regulatory pressures and harness Artificial Intelligence (AI) but fight AI-bias and perform an endless list of other functions, as we develop, we also need to look after the delivery infrastructure that our software applications run on. If software is going to live a functional and productive life, then we need to build with a strong and effective base layer supporting our work.
What is application delivery?
The need to provide our software with an entire set of underpinning services that also keeps application development open to enhancements leads us to talk about the rise of application delivery platforms. This is a multi-discipline area that encompasses a collection of services designed to keep a cloud-based application working. Featuring system observability controls spanning load balancing, traffic management, security controls and data management itself, application delivery shares DNA with the now popularized computing techniques that populate the platform-engineering space i.e. technologies that enable us to look after and control user’s applications from the lower kernel and architecture systems that govern them.
Application development and infrastructure software company Progress works across both the upper (development, creation and presentation layer) and lower infrastructure control spaces that serve enterprise software engineering. Now expanding what it calls its unified cloud-based application delivery platform to provide what it hopes is an appealing offering, Progress LoadMaster 360 features application analytics, application delivery issue management, license management functions (to ensure that the software is used in accordance with the terms it is sold under) and a selection of tools devoted to user usability and user experience.
This software is described as a single-pane-of-glass experience for organizations to deploy, operate and troubleshoot applications and delivery infrastructure. With a consolidated view of all data in one place. The company suggests that organizations struggle to provide IT teams with the tools they need to ensure the resilience of their application delivery infrastructure. The various apps and clouds organizations run often come with tools such as load balancing and this can create silos, resulting in missed alerts, ineffective cross-team communication and delays in addressing critical issues.
“In the world of application experience, uptime is the currency of success,” said Sundar Subramanian, EVP & general manager, infrastructure management, Progress. “Simplifying LoadMaster application delivery, we are enabling organizations to fight the risk of downtime efficiently and stay ahead in a rapidly evolving digital landscape. LoadMaster 360 is an investment in the future.”
With this release of LoadMaster 360, Progress provides current and new LoadMaster customers with a single source of information, which it says will help eliminate the risk of downtime caused by the complexity of application delivery and data disparity. The consolidated in-context insights, streamlined workflows and next-level issue management enable companies them to prevent outages, maximize their application experience and bring more value to the business.
Connecting back to front-end IT
Where all this gets us to (hopefully) is a position where we understand how much back-end infrastructure engineering is happening beneath every application and information service that we touch.
Every mobile application restaurant booking app on our smartphones (for example) will inevitably and continually rely on a set of cloud services that are load balanced – a term we have already used above that basically denotes software services smart enough to distribute ‘data traffic’ between different resources (these days a cloud server) to optimize response times, ensure security, enable scalability and perform a whole host of complex segregation and connection functions that the average user never needs to worry about. As these fundamental elements of the application delivery infrastructure quietly whirr away at the so-called computing ‘back-end’ the user is able to enjoy their front-end user experience through their favorite graphical user interface (GUI), which technologists often call the presentation layer to accommodate for all the elements that go to make up what you see on screen.
All that said then, is there a real difference between the back and the front-end of our IT services and should we think of them as two essentially separate and distinct realms?
“There really is no front-end application and data services layer without a truly functional back-end technology fabric beneath – it’s where the logic resides, where the business rules are located and where the core mechanics of our modern approach to IT exists,” said Sara Faatz, director, technology community relations at Progress, speaking to press and analysts this October 2023.
There is of course a natural gap between the two and – as Faatz puts it – a good front-end can make a bad back-end look good (like a fancy trim on an old car) and a bad front-end can make a good back-end look bad (like a shoddy car interior running on slick new engine beneath), so getting both ends right is really important. She explains that in the right place, a good User Experience (UX) front-end layer should mean that users themselves never have to think about how an application works, where to look for which on-screen buttons to click or indeed worry about how the back-end is working.
“This is why application testing forms a key part of the total application delivery proposition i.e. if users start to use an application for a different purpose than it was designed for (perhaps they might access a transport app to get weather information or to tell the time) then that’s okay, but knowing that this happens can help developers to develop new applications better suited to specific needs. While it’s important not to refactor and reengineer applications just for the sake of it (and we all remember what happened with ‘new’ Coke), developers should be given the opportunity to create new user experiences from all angles,” explained Faatz.
AI will fuse & fuel
Agreeing that this gap between the front-end development spectrum and the back-end infrastructure layer is experiencing an increasing coming-together (and full-stack developers do already exist of course), Faatz reminds us that the renaissance of AI and its new and emerging forms will only serve to fuse & fuel this process. Do people think UX is a flaky subject that they don’t always take seriously? Perhaps she agrees, but only if they don’t understand how this whole process works and how it translates to real business value or making people’s lives better – in our current state of software maturity in this cloud-native age, UX analysis and management must surely have an important role.
While most users will still remain oblivious to what’s happening at the back-end of their IT services in the application delivery infrastructure layer, that’s okay… that’s the whole point.
When C-suite managers ask why the company’s retail store app isn’t working, we could start explaining why the dependency and segregation services in the application delivery platform are out of line, but it’s probably a better use of time if IT just fixes it. Plus anyway, the technology presented here by Progress aims to make the whole process smarter, more integrated and increasingly automated in the first place.
Remember, Steve Jobs insisted that a row of chips on an Apple circuit board be more beautifully placed and positioned even though they would never be seen by any users. What’s inside matters, right?