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Simplified automated cloud deployment with Bitnami's Stacksmith

Looking to do automated cloud deployment, or even help with security updates to your apps running in Docker containers? Bitnami's recently released Stacksmith promises to do just that.

Bitnami is known as the company that simplified the packaging of sophisticated software stacks and made them available as virtual machines, AWS images or Docker containers. Now Bitnami wants to take that ease of use philosophy to automated cloud deployment with its new Stacksmith SaaS product.

If you've got a Node.js or Java EE-based application and want to move it to any of a dozen different cloud targets, Stacksmith will make the automated cloud deployment of that app happen. That's a pretty bold promise, and probably one that's been made by other vendors in the past.

"One of the biggest fears in moving existing applications to the cloud is the risk of breaking something that already works," said Sal Pece, a software architect at Xennial Consulting. "If organizations can mitigate against that risk, they can start moving apps to Amazon or Azure, start taking advantage of the cloud and reduce their dependency on local data centers."

But Bitnami does have a successful track record with assembly and deployment of software stacks that might include MySQL, an Apache web server and WildFly as the Java EE engine. Is there a big difference between making an open source Selenium app ready for a Docker container and doing the same thing for a WAR or EAR file?

Simon Bennett, Bitnami's VP of productSimon Bennett

"You'd be surprised by how similar the two are," said Simon Bennett, Bitnami's VP of product. "Bitnami has a long history of configuring complex application stacks and packaging them in VMs or containers." And Bitnami doesn't just package up a software stack once and leave it on the shelf. The software images Bitnami produces are constantly updated with new versions, feature packs and security and compliance fixes, which is exactly the same thing enterprises do with in-house applications hosted on local servers.

But there can be a big difference between packaging a Tomcat stack and a typical enterprise application, Pece said. "A typical enterprise app is going to have a number of external dependencies, which will need to be resolved when an app moves to the cloud," Pece added. For example, any calls to a SharePoint server or internal REST API will need to be accessible from the app once it move to the cloud. That might mean opening up firewalls or setting up VPNs between the cloud-hosted app and locally hosted resources. "That's not to say people should give up on porting their apps to the cloud. These types of connectivity issues are addressed all the time," Pece said. "But it can make the lift-and-shift process a bit more involved."

A history in automated cloud deployment

You don't need to have consumed the 12-factor app Kool-Aid in order to move applications into the cloud with Stacksmith.
Simon BennettVP of product, Bitnami

Over the years, Bitnami has developed its own internal systems to automate the process of packaging and deploying applications into the cloud, onto containers or simply as virtual machines. Their Stacksmith offering simply makes the internal system that Bitnami has developed, which manages over 120 software stacks that can be deployed to a dozen different cloud targets or packed in multiple formats, and makes it available as a SaaS to enterprises.

Migrating existing apps to the cloud

With Stacksmith, organizations can work with Bitnami's knowledge of the cloud and containers, enabling them to quickly lift and shift their existing applications, even if those applications haven't been created using cloud-native design best practices.

"You don't need to have consumed the 12-factor app Kool-Aid in order to move applications into the cloud with Stacksmith," Bennett said. With Stacksmith, an existing application can be moved quickly onto an AWS or Azure platform, and organizations can start taking advantage of a variety of cloud features. An app might not be able to scale infinitely if it doesn't adhere to certain tenets of cloud-native computing, but organizations can slowly enhance their applications over time.

Tom McCafferty, Bitnami's VP of marketingTom McCafferty

"Incremental improvement is really what it's all about,” said Tom McCafferty, Bitnami's VP of marketing. "Once an application is moved to the cloud, enterprises can begin incrementally improving it and gradually enhancing it in a way that allows it to take advantage of things like elastic scaling."

Stacksmith is a SaaS-based solution, with pricing starting at $129 per month for the management of 10 applications. Using the service is as simple as providing a WAR or EAR file, perhaps a Chef or Puppet script that describes some of the unique configuration semantics of the app, and the choice of the automated cloud deployment target, be it a cluster of containers managed by Kubernetes, or a cloud platform such as AWS or Azure. VMware is a valid option as well. The Stacksmith SaaS service then creates an image in the appropriate format which can then be deployed to the target of choice.

"This is a natural extension of our core business of packaging and maintaining applications," McCafferty said. "We're simply bringing the automation we use on a grand scale to enterprises so they can leverage it to package and maintain their own in-house custom applications for the cloud."

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What DevOps tools do you use to help with the automated deployment of applications to the cloud?