What Kubernetes is, what it isn’t, and How Can It Benefit Me?

So just what is Kubernetes?  Well first off, Kubernetes has to do with containers.  The official Kubernetes website defines it as Kubernetes (K8s) is an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Containers have been a buzzword for a while now as many companies have transformed into a container-centric infrastructure to host their applications.  By doing so, it leaves behind the dependency on an underlying OS that adds complexity to virtualized host environments.  Segregated within its container, the application operates under the illusion that it is getting its own dedicated OS instance.  It’s also isolated from other applications hosted on the same server host.  Containers offer more than just application segregation.  Because container-based applications are independent of their host environment, you can distribute their self contained ecospheres around the world quickly and easily.  Containerization is based on a three-part strategy:

  • Transform an idea into a software application and package it
  • Distribute it where you want in a scalable fashion
  • Run it in its own isolated playground so it doesn’t interfere with other applications

Kubernetes is not a replacement for Docker

So let’s start out by saying what Kubernetes isn’t.  Kubernetes is not a replacement for Docker.  Kubernetes doesn’t create the actual containers themselves.  It provides a platform to manage them.   You don’t implement Kubernetes to create a container-centric infrastructure presence as Kubernetes is not a container hosting solution.  That’s what Docker does.  Docker is an open-source technology that makes it possible to run many applications on the same servers.  It also makes it easy to package and ship applications.  Millions of applications today reside within containers across the world and Docker has become the default container format.  Like Docker, Kubernetes is a portable, extensible, open-source platform.  What it does is make Docker better.  Because they operate in tandem, the two often become incorrectly infused together.  Kubernetes is a collaborative solution that you implement along with Docker.  It is important to note that Kubernetes will work with any containerization technology, but we will use Docker as the de facto example.  

Kubernetes is an Orchestrator


So how does Kubernetes make Docker better?  Well, a key difference between the two is that Docker is a containerizing technology that makes applications easily shippable.  It provides a container based foundation for your application environment.  Kubernetes provides added features that are necessary in more complex multi-node environments.   

Kubernetes is an orchestrator in the same way that software defined networking or virtual server farms need a cluster to operate.  In fact, the name Kubernetes originates from Greek, meaning helmsman or pilot.  A big part of its orchestration is resource management.  Operating under a common resource management model, the components that makeup Kubernetes can work in conjunction to ensure that resources are neither underutilized nor oversubscribed.  The Kubernetes orchestrator also ensures proper load balancing in order to uniformly spread the application load across multiple cluster nodes.  

Who Needs Containerization?

If you have a stand-alone container environment with stable traffic, you may not have a need for Kubernetes.  If however, you have a large enterprise with mission-critical apps residing on multi-node clusters, then Kubernetes can help you overcome challenges that inevitably occur in any complex application enterprise environment.  For instance, let’s say one of your nodes goes down within your cluster.  Suddenly you need to failover containers in order to avoid workload disruption.  This is where Kubernetes takes over and saves the day.  Kubernetes can help you multiple ways including:

  • automate container provisioning
  • ensure optimized load balancing
  • automate failover and recovery
  • ensure efficient scalability within large enterprises

Kubernetes Vocabulary


To better understand Kubernetes, let’s review some of the primary components that make up the vocabulary and architecture of it.

  • Pod – this is the smallest unit and serves as the basic building block of Kubernetes, which represents a running process on your cluster.  A pod encapsulates one or more application containers along with its storage resources, IP address, and whatever options that it needs in order to function in your environment.  It represents a single instance of an application.
  • Worker Node – this can be either a virtual machine or a bare metal server.  Worker nodes host the pods.
  • Master Node – this is the managing node.  The master node assigns pods to worker nodes.

The master node serves as the orchestrator that runs control plane components of the Kubernetes cluster.  It makes global decisions concerning cluster operations and responds to cluster events.   If suddenly you need many more containers fired up to satisfy an unexpected surge in demand for your hosted application, the master node takes charge of this.  Not only does it spin up new containers, but assigns pods to containers in a way that maximizes efficiency and resources.  In other words, it doesn’t just place containers, it places them in the ideal spot to ensure your application runs optimally.  The same level of intelligence-based automation holds true if a node goes down.  The master node also manages the scheduling of pods.  By default, it schedules pods on nodes in a random fashion as resources are available.  Kubernetes can take care of all of these governing functions far more effectively than human intervention.  This makes your application infrastructure far more robust, able to overcome any possible disruption so that it doesn’t actually become one.  

Summary


Kubernetes works very well within Azure application environments.  In fact, all of the major cloud service providers support Kubernetes.  At Xcelacore, we have years of experience working with container-based applications.  Whether it’s creating software to be run in the most complex of environments or conducting extensive QA testing for multi-node container-based applications, we have the experience and expertise to ensure your applications achieve the performance and value that you expect. 

Why RPA is Ideal for Today’s Remote Workforce

It seems that a multitude of people are writing blogs about how their company has a solution to help you implement a remote work program. Remote work has undoubtedly been one of the top buzzwords for businesses over the past three months. Another buzzword that we hear with increasing frequency is densification. Not only is the maximum capacity of your favorite restaurant or cruise ship likely to be reduced for the foreseeable future, but densification analysis is being discussed throughout corporate boardrooms. That is because businesses cannot afford another disruption of this magnitude and scale. No longer will all employees be clustered in dense capacity within any given location. Companies are beginning to look at incorporating resilient architectures into their personnel workflows in the same way they created redundant computer networks. While some employees will return to their assigned office at some point later this year, many will not, thanks to the advanced technologies of today. So here is a possible solution, Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

RPA is the New Buzzword

You may not be as familiar with the concept of RPA as the concept of remote work, but the interest in RPA was growing long before COVID-19. According to Gartner, the RPA software market grew by 63 percent in 2018, making it the fastest-growing segment of the global enterprise software market. AT that time, Gartner expected for RPA software revenue to reach $1.3 billion in 2019. According to Forrester, that figure will rise to $2.9 billion by 2021.  

All of these stats and figures, however, were made before the remote work movement that the recent pandemic environment fast-tracked overnight. As a result, the interest in RPA is surging at an accelerated pace as well. That’s because RPA enhances the feasibility of remote work. RPA technology makes it easier and more effective for even highly essential employees to operate from remote workspaces.

What is Remote Process Automation?

We have written about RPA in past blogs. RPA is a technology that allows you to configure computer software, or software bot, to perform mundane digital tasks traditionally performed by humans that are required to execute a given business process. RPA tools can emulate and mimic the way that humans interact with software. For instance, no one enjoys the task of logging into an application and moving files and folders or performing endless copy/paste rituals on the computer. If you watched the software interaction taking place on the monitor itself, you would conclude a human was conducting the session. The automation of tedious manual tasks as well as rule-based business processes not only enhances the involved processes but also enriches the work experience of human workers, enabling them to dedicate their time and talents on more value-added projects. RPA can also interpret events and data to trigger responses as well as communicate with other systems.

How RPA Enhances the Remote Work Experience

While many of your employees might be working from home, there usually has to be someone in the back office attending to business processes that must be performed onsite. Also, many remote workers are required to come back to the office at some point to perform some trivial tasks that cannot be performed from the safety and convenience of home. With software bots attending to such matters back at the home office, employees can remain undaunted at their remote site. RPA tools can integrate with your collaboration software to streamline meetings and keep team members informed and up to date. Software bots can check the calendar updates of teammates and issue emails summarizing daily meetings. Take an example of a new employee who is unfamiliar with the company’s CRM software or other complex application. Rather than acquiring assistance from another employee for help, an RPA enabled bot can perform all of the necessary mouse clicks and keystrokes to navigate to where they need to be within the application.  

Other Benefits

As stated earlier, the value of robotic process automation was recognized long before the recent remote work paradigm. That’s because RPA brings a lot of value regardless of whether employees work in or out of the office. Productivity is the most significant advantage of RPA. RPA enabled bots never have to sleep or take breaks so that work can be performed on a 24/7 basis without simple interruptions. Tasks are performed with perfection and precision every time. Just think about how often a user types in the wrong password by accident. All of those little errors add up over time, and time is money. RPA results in greater reliability and reduced risk for your given processes as well. Plus, employee turnover is a thing of the past when you have bots working for you.

Xcelacore Can Help

The dawning of remote work is here, making companies even more reliant on technology. At Xcelacore, we believe that technology is the doorway to endless possibilities. We invite you to speak with our technology subject matter experts to show you how RPA and other technologies can augment and solidify your remote work strategy.  

If you tune in to your favorite news outlet today, chances are you are going to hear about some impending risk. Maybe it is a 50-year storm, a pandemic, a recession, or environmental disaster. Sometimes it is easy to identify risk. Sometimes not. There is an old saying that a receding sea may not be the lucky offer of extra beachfront, but the warning sign of an upcoming tsunami.  

Risk is inherent in all aspects of our lives. A business takes on risk with a new product launch. An adult takes on risk getting behind the wheel. Fortunately, we have learned how to mitigate risk, whether it is through purchasing insurance or washing our hands.

Mitigating Risk in Software Code

We introduce this topic because it shows us the importance of mitigating risks as early as possible. Risk mitigation is the case in software creation as well. It was nearly nine years ago that Marc Andreesen famously said that “Software is eating the world.” Since then, software has become embedded in our everyday lives. From the simple apps, we operate on our smartphones, to the operation of highly complex systems utilized in the financial world, we depend on millions of lines of code to work correctly. That is a tough order.

Every snippet of code that is introduced into a software application also adds an element of risk. As stated by the author, Nancy Leveson, flexibility is software’s miracle and its curse. Because it can be changed cheaply, software is continuously improved. A program that is thousand times more complex than another one takes up the same actual space. The more code you write, the more potential the risk.  

The Risk of Bad Code

The inherent risk of writing code is genuine. In an article from the magazine, The Atlantic, dated September 26, 2017, the vivid picture illustrating the extent to which software is fallible was witnessed on a single summer day in 2015 when the following incidents occurred within 24 hours:

  • United Airlines grounded its fleet because of a problem with its departure-management system
  • Trading suspended on the New York Stock Exchange after a software upgrade
  • The website of The Wall Street Journal crashed
  • Seattle’s 011 system went down due to a software code glitch running on a server in Colorado

We tend to take the software that runs our lives for granted, but we shouldn’t. In the end, code is created by people, which means that imperfections are bound to occur, not on purpose, but as a part of life.  

The Importance of QA Testing

Whether you are introducing a new software platform, or simply deploying a feature update to an existing application, you need to mitigate the risk of newly created code. This is where QA testing comes into play. By using an Agile approach to software creation, you break these potential millions of coding lines into manageable units. An Agile methodology incrementally recuses risk with every iteration and release. Developing code in sprints ensures a short time between project investment and proof that the product works.

But the incorporation of incremental code creation is not enough. Automated Quality Assurance testing plays a vital role in risk mitigation. If inherent software bugs are a disease, then QA testing is the cure. QA testing can eliminate software risks. At the worst, it can reduce a potential pandemic glitch to that of the common cold. Automated QA testing can be implemented repetitively round the clock, testing and analyzing every newly introduced series of code. In the same manner that software code consumes the same amount of physical space regardless, the cost of continual QA automation is inconsequential. As is true of life so often, the cost of curing a problem down the road far exceeds the price of doing so in the beginning. 

Xcelacore as your QA Provider

Most of us have a healthcare provider and hold some type of insurance policy to reduce our risk exposure. At Xcelacore, we want to be your QA provider and insurance policy, finding, diagnosing, and curing the potential software bugs and glitches that can plague your software code. We would love the opportunity to show you how our automated QA solutions can be an insurance policy for your code creation and add value to the application, reducing the risks of costly delays, support costs, and customer discontent. At Xcelacore, we aren’t just about technology innovation, we are about risk mitigation as well. 

Appreciating The Role Of QA On Valentine’s Day

It is Valentine’s Day this week. It is that time when we reflect, appreciate, and celebrate the one we love. While Valentine’s Day is often associated with relationships that are romantic in nature, the holiday incorporates other relationships nonplatonic in nature as well. Children give valentines to their teachers and classmates. Many people send gifts and cards of appreciation and love for parents or grandparents. There is even a growing trend for ladies to celebrate “Galentines” Day in which ladies celebrate their friendships with their nearest and dearest gals.

At Xcelacore, we love business-driven technologies, especially software development, DevOps, and quality assurance testing. Our infatuation with these got us thinking about how these technologies depend on the associated relationships with one another. Although these components certainly don’t experience romantic or even platonic love, they do depend on one another. So, we wanted to take a look at the close relationship between DEV, QA, and DevOps in honor of Valentine’s Day.

 

QA Helps Complete Dev and DevOps

In the iconic movie from the 1990s, Jerry Maguire cites the infamous line to Dorothy, “I love you. You complete me.” We all want to feel complete, and software is no different. Without QA, a software application may never come to its completed fruition thanks to bugs. QA completes the development process by eliminating mistakes and bugs, thus improving the quality of the code.

 

QA makes Dev and DevOps better

It is a beautiful thing to fall in love with someone who makes you a better person. QA makes your code better. Better code brings higher value for the business that uses it. That value then touches the lives of multiple stakeholders, improving their lives in little ways along the way.

 

QA and Dev work towards long term goals

Couples are always making dreams together; the dream vacation one day, the house they plan to build, the children they plan to raise. Companies and developers have long term goals, as well. They dream of creating software that will solve problems, generate greater efficiencies, and create recognized value. QA walks side by side with the developer, working towards the goal of seeing their software creation released to the world.

 

QA and DevOps share incremental victories

While successful marriages share common long term goals, it is the shared intricacies of daily life that bring them closer together. They work together to get the kids through school, make date nights, and help one another through sickness and worry. QA plays an integral role in the culture of DevOps. Whether it is creating code for a new application feature or merely modifying a navigation button, QA and DevOps work hand in hand to ensure that every incremental release is the best that it can be.

 

QA helps challenge development

Many people, both women, and men want a partner who will challenge them, for it is when you are challenged, that you grow. You may have the most exceptional team of developers on the planet, but they aren’t perfect. QA serves as that second set of discerning eyes to examine all of their written code for bugs and inefficiencies. This will make your developers better, which leads to better code and better results.

 

The sum is more significant than its parts

A great couple is defined by two people who work cohesively as a team. They both have a role in the relationship, yet they accomplish more united together. QA is the ideal teammate for development and DevOps. They both have a different purpose, yet those two roles merge seamlessly together. In fact, the boundaries of QA and developer can become blurred in a DevOps environment. All parties on the team are dedicated to making the highest quality code possible in the quickest amount of time. In that way, the end product is better because of the collective effort of both parties.

 

The pairing of strengths and weaknesses

A healthy marriage is one in which each partner’s shortcomings are canceled out by the other’s strengths. There are not many programmers out there who enjoy testing code consistently, and that is ok. Your developers don’t have to when they are paired with a QA partner. All QA does is test code, and it is very good at it. This removes the burden of testing off the shoulders of your developers, allowing them to focus on what they do best- create great code.

 

Xcelacore plays Matchmaker

There are many ways to meet your soulmate. Some prefer online dating sites, while others prefer the traditional organic way of finding someone. This Valentine’s Day, think of Xcelacore as a matchmaker. In fact, think of us as Cupid. If your developing efforts require the introduction of that perfect partner, then we have the match. Our automated QA solutions are the ideal fit for your current development team. Xcelacore automated QA solutions can bring increased efficiency, improved accuracy and reliability, faster validation, and greater consistency to your coding projects. Quality assurance may not be the first thing you think of on Valentine’s Day, but providing QA solutions to our clients is something we think about every day of the year.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

Appreciating QA

It is that time of year again in which we look back and reflect upon what we learned from the previous year, and look forward to what awaits us in the coming twelve months.  Whichever direction you choose, it translates into the creation of some type of list, for example, the top ten movies of 2019 or the ten most anticipated movies of 2020. At Xcelacore, we tend to look towards the future rather than dwell on the past, so we took the initiative and listed what we think will be eight technologies that will have the biggest impact on companies in 2020.  

More Emphasis on Edge Computing 

While some people may enjoy living on the edge, the day is coming in which the majority of your data will be created on the edge as well.  While 10 percent of enterprise-generated data was created and processed outside of a traditional centralized data center or cloud, this figure will reach 75 percent by 2022 according to Gartner.  As real-time data will drive more of the decision process, there will be no time to send all data to the cloud by default.  Rather than sending data across the internet to be batch processed at a central store, it will instead make the short hop to servers that reside locally and can analyze it quickly.  This is especially important for distributed IoT systems. Edge computing not only reduces latency but also creates a secure environment that enables greater autonomy at the edge.

5G finally comes to Fruition

The concept of 5G continues to be heralded as the next-generation cellular standard that will totally transform the world and how it stays connected.  We have heard that for a while now, but 2020 may be the year that we finally see it implemented on a scale that truly impacts our lives. What makes 5G so anticipated is the promise of significant boosts in speed, coverage and responsiveness.  5G will bring us next-generation connectivity that will be 10 to 100 times faster than typical cellular connections today, with download/uploads speeds in the milliseconds. As a result, companies will be able to take full advantage of other data-driven technologies and will serve as the backbone for the smart city of tomorrow.  Qualcomm, the largest smartphone chip vendor, expects some 200 million 5G smartphones to be shipped in the coming year. This will accentuate the demand for 5G across the country.

Expansion of AI

There is nothing new about AI and we certainly witnessed its presence in 2019.  However, we have only just begun to witness the power of AI. Retailers will turn to AI as a primary source of marketing insights that they can use to make decisions concerning just about anything, including inventory capacity, pricing and merchandising.  We will see AI integrated at a massive scale in the form of AI-based chatbots and virtual assistants that will streamline business transactions and enhance customer experiences. Voice-enabled AI will continue to explode as well. Until now, the implementation of voice-enabled AI devices such as Alexa and Google Assistant have been just slightly more than gimmicky.  The next stage, however, will be in 2020 in which voice queries will become a principle way to interact with AI. AI will also move beyond the stage of simply mimicking human abilities and will be directed to help solve meaningful problems that until now have proved elusive to human capabilities.      

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Those of you who read our company blog are familiar with RPA as it is a technology highly promoted by Xcelacore.  RPA is all about automating repetitive tasks traditionally performed by humans. Often this means using the same interface that humans do.   For instance, you may associate an action such as logging onto an authenticated website as something only a human can do, but think again. An RPA software robot can do it too and never type in an incorrect password.  It also never takes a break or sleeps so it can work 24/7. It also costs a fraction of what humans cost. What can they do once they are logged on? Just about anything including copy and paste data, move folders, retrieve log files and scrape browsers.  In other words, they do tedious sorts of things so that your creative human workers can then focus on utilizing the data accessed, created and analyzed by these software robots. RPA is not about replacing human capital; it is about expanding the utilization of human potential.  

Hyper Automation

If you not yet familiar with this technology, you need to.  Gartner identifies Hyper Automation as the #1 technology trend of 2020.  Think of packaged software, AI, machine learning and RPA as all subsets of hyper-automation.   Gartner defines hyper-automation as a combination of these and other automation tools to deliver work.  While no single one of these included technologies can replace human capability by itself, the synergy of all of them working collectively will take automation to the next level.  Eventually, this will mean taking over the complete decision process, involving itself in not only the data collection and analytical processes, but sharing the discovered insights across the organization. Think of this technology as the coming age of human enhancement.

Happy New Year from Xcelacore

We hope that 2020 proves a year of expanded opportunity for you and that we at Xcelacore can help you achieve your objectives for the coming year.  Xcelacore continues to be at the forefront of leading technology solutions and we will always strive to incorporate new technologies that we think can add real value to our clients.    Let us help show you the doorway to endless possibilities in 2020. Happy New Year.

How Software Development has changed in the Past Decade

When we consider the dramatic ways technology has improved over the past decade, our first inclination is to think of hardware or the Internet. However, software development has changed just as dramatically as all other aspects of technology. The fact is that we approach software development much differently than we did a decade ago. That is because the world has dramatically changed since a decade ago.

Software development is a highly complex process and requires a team to build it correctly. A programmer doesn’t just sit down and write code to create an envisioned application. For many years, the creation of a software application was approached, much like the manufacturing of an automobile. The project phases traditionally were planning, design, architecture, development, testing, and release. Once launched, the support and maintenance phases started as application developers then repeated the entire process to create version 2.X and so forth. It was typical for the period between planning and product launch to exceed a year or more. This elongated process is outdated today in a world of digital transformation that demands total agility and responsiveness.

Below we have outlined some of the significant changes witnessed in software development over the past decade. It is essential to realize these changes and understand why the traditional approach to development is no longer applicable today.

 

Faster Deployments through Virtualization and Containers

It is hard to believe that a decade ago, many organizations still relied on physical servers to host applications. Each physical server hosted a single app. Physical servers proved extremely costly due to inefficient resource utilization. Then to compound the problems of a single point of failure, there were expensive hardware redundancy architecture, time-consuming upgrades. As you can tell, let’s just say it was far from an ideal situation.

Then, came virtualization and the software development world suddenly sped up. A single server can now host a multitude of virtual machines, thus maximizing resource utilization. Virtual machines are then members of large server farms that enforce automated redundancy. Virtualization began reducing server deployment from months to minutes. Reducing the implementation time for application host structure reduces software deployment time as well. This lead to the natural transition to containers and microservices. The introduction of containers further isolated applications from their hosted environments. Each container hosts all of the external dependencies required by its contained application. This dramatically increases flexibility as containers can be migrated amongst different hosting platforms and sites. It also simplifies API development for programmers in a platform-neutral environment.

 

The Expansion of Audiences and Platforms 

Fifteen years go, the majority of applications were business or productivity based. In the past decade, we have witnessed the prominent rise of the consumer app. Follow that by the proliferation of mobile devices that launched an insatiable appetite for these new apps. Applications are not just for desktops anymore, and the client-server application model no longer restricted to only PCs. The app is now the communicative epicenter that companies use to interact with their customers. In order to satisfy this need, applications are now released to accommodate a multitude of computing device platforms.

 

The Scalability and Flexibility of the Cloud

The demand for browser-based and mobile apps has skyrocketed in the past decade due to the consumerization of IT. This has stimulated expanded distribution channels in which consumers can access app stores to download apps on-demand in real-time. This scope of scalability is only available in the cloud. The cloud certainly was the gamechanger that launched the app revolution. What’s more, containers and virtual machines can be easily migrated to demand between on-premise and cloud environments. The availability of cloud services has completely changed the way that developers provision, build, and deploy applications and the external dependencies they require.

 

DevOps and Agile Methodology Impact on Software Development

The culmination of the velocity of deployment, the high demand for new apps, and a seemingly limitless audience and distribution network demanded a new approach to software development. Innovation can no longer wait for the traditional waterfall approach to software development in which each subsequent phase of the development process must wait for its predecessor. Instead, a new holistic approach was necessary to encourage communication, collaboration amongst software operators and developers. A new agile development process was adapted greatly accelerated the development pace to accommodate faster releases and improve the quality of code releases. A new DevOps method was incorporated, in which qualitative assurance was incorporated as automated progressions into the entire development process. Thanks to DevOps and Agile management practices, speed and quality are now amalgamated into a single expectation level.

 

Third-Party Software Developers

In the same way that developers utilize third-party software components to increase the speed and quality of development, companies are turning to third-party development teams for the same reasons. It is challenging to retain the high-level talent required to create multi-platform applications at the velocity required today. Technology drives innovation today. Bringing in third-party developers that have a wide array of technical skills and experience can bring much-needed expertise and innovation. That can not only overcome impending challenges but inject added value as well. Our other recent blog talks about the importance of injecting third-party developers to your team. 

Let Xcelacore show you how we continue to assist companies in adapting and excelling to not only the change witnessed over the previous decade but the impending breakthroughs of tomorrow as well.

 

At Xcelacore, we are passionate about software development. Completing a technology project for a customer that adds value to their business is what makes us cheer. However, we realize that writing and testing code is not as exciting to most people. This time of year, a lot more people are excited about the start of football season including us. We want to use America’s most popular sport as an analogy as to why your business should consider a third-party development team for your pending software projects.

 

The right players and developers can get you across the goal line

Like just about anything, the game of football has transformed itself over the years.  While the offense still consists of 11 players on the field, multiple players rotate those positions depending on the circumstances of the game.  Football team rosters consist of specialized roles today on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Some defensive backs only enter the field on running plays, others for passing situations or third-down situations.  The offensive players utilized on one’s own 20-yard line may be different from the ones you bring in when in the red zone. When a team is first and goal on the 4-yard line, the coach sends in a designated running back supported by the right lineman that can together punch the ball across the goal line for the touchdown.

Software development has become specialized too.  Your company or business unit has a great idea, but how do you execute on the idea and see it to its competition?  Does your development team have the experience and foresight to make the idea a reality? One advantage of using a third-party development team is the wide variety of projects they have worked on.  Such projects involve different industries, customer bases, application types, and programming languages. Just as veteran football players with experience serving on multiple teams can make the less experienced players better, the injection of developers with a broad spectrum of experience can bring new insight to your application development project.

 

Lost opportunities can lose the game or your competitiveness

Scoring a field goal after being first and goal is not a victory.  It is a lost opportunity. Any coach knows that constantly settling for field goals will come back to haunt you later in the game.  It takes touchdowns to win consistently. Similarly, unexecuted ideas are lost opportunities as well. It may be that your internal developers are already committed to another project.  But what if your new idea holds greater potential value than the one already committed to? You have three options:

 

  • Abandon your new idea
  • Hire more developers within your company
  • Hire a third-party development team

A football team only gets so many opportunities in the game to score.  In today’s hyper-competitive market place, the windows of opportunity are brief for value-driven ideas.  Outsourcing your developing to accommodate dynamic workloads can bring greater agility and flexibility to your business, allowing it to take advantage of ideas that can generate value or competitive advantages.  The addition of third-party developers brings greater capacity when needed.

 

Football teams and businesses constantly need new talent

Professional football teams spend millions on scouting.  College teams spend huge amounts of money on recruiting. That’s because the most talented team on the field usually wins in the long run.  The same is true in the age of digital transformation. The company with the best development talent will be better able to serve its customers, thus winning market share and larger revenues.  But while both professional and college football teams have the entire offseason to find new talent, companies don’t. That is because there is no offseason in the business world. Hiring takes time.  It requires energy and resources that can instead be directed towards executing value-driven ideas. Another irony is that while growing economies create the most opportunities for your business, the same is true for developer talent.

When times are good, they are in demand, which makes traditional hiring challenging. Contracting with a third-party development firm can give you faster access to top talent and give you a competitive edge over your competitors.

 

The game is won by a few key plays

The teams are so evenly matched in professional football that games are won by a few key plays.  Those teams that can execute when the game is on the line usually win. The same is true in software development.  All companies have similar applications. Customers choose software based on a few select features that create value for them.  Having access to developers bring creativity and experience into play in order to produce innovative features and add-ons can be that extra something that wins the game.

 

Bringing in unbiased coaches or developers is necessary sometimes

A football team may have the best talent on the field, but if they do not play as a team, they will not go all the way.  Sometimes a team needs a new set of coaches to discern its talent or create better game plans that accommodates the roster at hand.  Similarly, businesses sometimes need unbiased code reviews or security audits of their applications in production. Once again, acquiring outside talent that has experience in a great variety of projects and situations can better discern what is needed to get the application at hand to the production level.

 

A winning team

At Xcelacore, we have a team that is highly experienced and competitive.  Our team doesn’t score touchdowns. Instead, we help businesses implement technology that drives innovation down the field to score wins for both them and their customers.  We specialize in cloud development, web , and mobile application development and quality assurance (QA) testing and automation. All of this may not be as exciting as throwing the winning touchdown pass, but it is the expertise that helps our clients maximize their technology and innovation.

 

Team Work

Let’s start out by saying that it’s good to have a choice because many companies are strictly limited to purchasing third party software.  You’re in a prodigious position if you’re weighing whether to finance a customized software solution or purchase one off-the-shelf. There are advantages and drawbacks to either approach.  Oftentimes the debate involves determining the right balance between control versus cost and immediate needs versus long-term opportunities. 

Easy Considerations

If you fall into one of the following scenarios, then the choice is already made for you.

  • The software you need doesn’t yet exist

Its perfectly feasible that the particular solution you need is not yet available on the market.  If this is the case, then you need to build it.

  • You need the software ASAP

If you need a software solution implemented in less than thirty days, then you can stop reading and find a vendor that produces something close to what you need.

  • Your industry or organization is in a highly regulated field

Industries such as financial services are required to use software solutions that have been rigorously tested and vetted in order to meet compliance regulations.  Unless you are a large corporation, chances are you will be better off purchasing.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of buying an existing solution. 

Advantages of Buying Software

The primary advantage of purchasing Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) software is that it is a known factor.  Whether it’s a fixed or variable cost, the initial price is known or can be calculated up front.  Implementation and deployment is much faster than building.  In addition to the software, your purchase usually entitles you to product guidance, expertise and support from the vendor as well.  This is an important consideration particularly when things go wrong or you need access to a knowledge base for advice.  Finally, bugs are discovered early and often because the software is continually being tested by the other customers.  Bugs are found before they affect your own organization. 

Disadvantages of Buying Software

Innovation

It may sound like an oxymoron, but one big disadvantage to buying software off-the-shelf is the uncertainty of the future.  While the purchased software may satisfy your requirements today, your needs will undoubtedly change in the future.  As a result, you may outgrow your software.  There are also some important questions to ponder. How certain are you that this particular software vendor will be around in five years?  How reliable is the company that you are purchasing from? Will the company continue to innovate and upgrade the software with new technology and features or will they go out of business?  After all, 96 percent of businesses fail within 10 years.  These are key questions to ask because switching between software solutions is an expensive proposition. 

Security

Security is another major consideration as third and fourth-party data breaches have dominated the headlines over the years.  Third-party data breaches over a 12-month period increased from 34 percent to 45 percent in 2018 according to a report by The Ponemon Institute.

Feature Mismatch

While buying is nearly always cheaper up front, you will undoubtedly be paying for features that are not relevant to your particular industry or company.  Similarly, the software is likely to be lacking in capabilities that you wish you had.

Now let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of creating your own customized software solution.

Advantages of Building Custom Software

Feature Match

The primary advantage of building your own software is that it ensures that you get what you want because you are in charge.  Think of the difference between having your next home custom built from the ground up vs. buying a resale.  The development team creating your software will do so based upon your specific requirements. This ensures your software solution delivers all of the features you want and need

Innovation

What’s more, the innovation process never has to end when you’re building.  Custom software can be modified in real-time, and new features and capabilities can be introduced as needed. As your business changes, so too can the software. You won’t have to wait for a vendor to develop specific feature sets to suit your business requirements – you can develop and implement them as you go. 

Scale

Another advantage to building custom software is that it can grow alongside the growth of your organization and at your own pace.

Competitive Advantage

Custom software can also offer a competitive advantage over your competitors by leveraging the technology that is better suited for your company and your customers. This advantage is even more pronounced if your competitors are operating canned off-the-shelf software. 

Disadvantages of Building Custom Software

Time

The primary disadvantages are time and cost.  Obviously, implementation takes much longer and unanticipated delays can prolong the process even further.  

Cost

While some organizations may have an internal development staff, chances are you will have to hire an outside development team to partner with.  Knowing an exact upfront price for a custom software build project is highly difficult.  The only thing to be certain of is that it will most likely cost more than purchasing COTS software.  While the initial cost may be greater however, custom software can prove less costly in the long run due to the negated risk of switching software solutions as well as the appreciated gains of greater productivity and efficiency. 

The Final Choice is Up to You

There is no clear right or wrong answer when it comes to the question of buy versus build. It depends on your business, your requirements and your resources. Your best option is to choose based upon your particular situation and needs.  A simple equation to remember is that more control equates to greater cost; and lower upfront costs will garner you less control. No matter which path you decide upon, be sure to do your research in order to find a vendor or development team that can provide the solution that best fits with your organization’s requirements.   

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It’s not exactly Shakespeare, but it is a question many companies are asking today.  It’s a question that is particularly relevant to organizations that are currently mapping out their digital transformation as they attempt to both maximize their existing technology frameworks and monetize their technology investments.  The question applies especially to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).  ERP is the lifeline for many businesses today.  As such, it is the collective depository of shared databases that support multiple functions that are used by business units across the organization.  It provides the backend magic that powers so many business processes such as orders processing, pricing, billing, inventory and reporting. 

The Pros and Cons for Coupling the Two

The Advantages of Joining ERP & Web Platforms

The primary advantage of coupling your ERP and web platforms together is the apparent simplicity of consolidating them into one package.  That means one purchase decision, one implementation and one vendor to support it all.  Sounds nice, right? This approach has been popular since the early years of IT as IT centers focus on building large monolithic systems.  In fact, the practice of consolidating different component types is in vogue today as large networks are reducing their datacenter footprint and turning to hyper-converged infrastructure solutions.  HCI (Human Computer Interaction) consolidates the compute, storage and networking components of the datacenter into a single box, allowing admins to manage all components through a single pane of glass.  This manner of coupling different technologies is highly popular today as companies strive to simplify their network architectures. But coupling ERP and web platforms isn’t all rainbows and roses.

The Disadvantages of Joining ERP & Web Platforms

Consolidation has definite disadvantages. If you are old enough to remember the single-console entertainment systems of the early 90’s (the ones which combined TV, DVD and VCR) or the all-in-one boom boxes – it is easy to see the primary shortcoming of consolidation. No individual component can be upgraded without purchasing an entirely new console.  While coupling platforms through HCI has great benefits, it’s able to do so by commoditizing the technology of each component. 

ERP, however, is not commoditized.  It is a highly complex business process management system with proprietary elements and intricate dependencies.  Coupling it with a web platform simply adds to this complexity, greatly restricting the ability to scale out.  Changing web technologies and upgrading the ERP platform can also pose issues that negatively impact web and mobile applications.  Because of this, new release frequencies are reduced which in turn limits new functionality innovation.  This doesn’t bode well at a time when agility and nimbleness create huge competitive advantages.

The Pros and Cons for Decoupling the Two

The Advantages of Decoupling ERP & Web Platforms

The speed of innovation today far outpaces the upgrade processes and traditional software development practices of yesterday.  That is why so many organizations use the new approach of DevOps in order to increase an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services. Under DevOps, developers can work in unison to create and upgrade separate features which speed the velocity of development and deployment.  By decoupling your ERP and web platforms, developers can work independently and in parallel.  This modular approach allows for subtle differences to be made without worrying about dependencies or corresponding changes to the other end.  This can greatly increase a company’s operational efficiency and agility, giving it the ability to respond to changing needs in quick fashion.  Decoupling also increases resiliency as down time on one platform does not affect the other. 

The Disadvantages of Decoupling ERP & Web Platforms

Decoupling does introduce some drawbacks, however.  When you decouple your web platform, it often means that more vendors are involved, increasing the complexity of communication and responsibility.  Also, implementation and initial costs can be higher as more players are involved.  Higher costs are seen on the front end and are offset by a lower cost of ownership because of the increase in flexibility and increase in the rate of innovation.  Organizations that choose to decouple should also plan on an influx of personnel with the web development skills required to build and maintain the platform. 

Sorting Through Your Organization’s Individual ERP Situation

The truth is that there is no right or wrong answer to the question at hand; only an answer that is best for your particular situation.  It depends on what your business’s processes and goals are, and how each path lines up with your organization’s particular requirements. 

Have questions? Please feel free to reach out to us. We stand ready to listen to your business and technology challenges and help you find the right solution for your business.


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Which of the Big 3 Cloud Service Providers is Best for Me and Why Choose One Over the Other?

To say that the cloud has played a transformational role in redesigning enterprise architecture today would be a vast understatement.  While early pioneers of cloud computing primarily used it for testing environments, companies with fluctuating workload demands soon began incorporating it for cloud bursting where the cloud served as a natural extension of the datacenter.  Today, companies of all sizes and industries are realizing the flexibility, scalability and redundant nature of the cloud and the vast majority of enterprises utilize the cloud to some degree.

The Big 3

Just like the American auto industry, there is a big three in the cloud computing industry as well.  Those players are AWS (owned by Amazon), Azure (owned by Microsoft) and Google Cloud.  All of them offer Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud models as well as additional offerings such as backup, disaster recovery and active directory federation services.   For those considering cloud computing from one of the three giants, the obvious question arises, which one is better?  In some ways that is like debating Ford vs. Chevy or LeBron James and Michael Jordon.  There isn’t a clear winner.  That doesn’t mean however that one of these cloud providers isn’t a better fit for your particular organization.  Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each of these big name cloud providers.

AWS

Think of AWS (Amazon Web Services) as the grandfather of cloud service providers, even though it has only been around since 2006.  It was the first, and its head start has helped ensure that it remains the biggest, at least for now.  Not only does AWS have a substantial lead in market share over its competitors, AWS offers a more mature feature-rich environment as well.  It also has more data centers, giving it greater reach across the globe.  All of this together supports increased scalability and resiliency. 

One can’t discuss AWS without recognizing the elephant in the room.  Amazon is a conglomeration of so many businesses across multiple industries and many companies in need of cloud services compete with them.  One could argue that by contracting with AWS as your cloud provider, you are in fact indirectly funding your competition.  Along the same line, many independent pizza chains switched from Pepsi to Coke back in the 80’s and 90’s to stop funding their chief competitor, Pizza Hut who at the time was owned by Pepsi. Many companies, especially those in the retail industry, are starting to question the wisdom of turning toward AWS.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft has a history of being late to the game, but once they sit down to play, they go all-in and catch up quickly, oftentimes leaving their original competitors in the dust.  Azure is the runner up in cloud computing and Microsoft is pouring resources into the platform.  Consequently, its growth rate is outpacing that of AWS.   While AWS does offer Windows platforms, Azure does it better.  Azure can serve as a direct extension of your datacenter, allowing you to migrate to the cloud a little at a time instead of all at once.  It also makes backups and disaster recovery far simpler.  Microsoft will also allow you to transfer some of your existing on-prem licenses when you move to Azure.

As hybrid architectures have become highly popular, many companies are implementing Azure Stack, a turn-key solution that creates a single complete ecosystem for both your public and private clouds.  The advantage? You can easily manage resources within both environments through a single interface. This unified approach greatly simplifies software deployment as developers can deploy new applications to either public or on-premise as both programming platforms are identical.  A unified platform means your developers do not have to learn a new platform to create and modify code for cloud applications. Azure simply utilizes the same Visual Studio and .Net environments developers are already accustomed to working with. Applications can also be bounced back and forth between testing and production environments.

Google Cloud

Boasting the dominant internet search engine in the world has not provided Google with any inherent advantage for its cloud hosting services.  Google Cloud ranks a distant #3 in market share and has a long way to catch up.  One of its primary benefits is its lower price structure compared to its competitors. If you’re willing to commit long-term, you can expect better pricing and discounts.  Another advantage that differentiates Google Cloud is its openness for customization of compute instances.  On the downside, Google Cloud is criticized for its lack of support for native party backup services.  So who’s using Google Cloud? Currently it’s very popular among schools and other types of organizations that use Chrome devices. 

Other Cloud Considerations

When researching the big 3 cloud service providers, consider the size of your organization, application platforms and budgets:

  • AWS and Google Cloud are highly popular among smaller organizations, but Azure has a far stronger presence when it comes to enterprise customers.  Why? Microsoft has been serving the enterprise business community for most of its existence so they are very familiar with enterprise workloads and architectures. 
  • While AWS and Google Cloud had a clear advantage serving organizations that utilize open-source technologies, Microsoft now fully supports Linux, Java and PHP application platforms and provides complete open-source ecospheres for developers to test Linux and other open source components.  
  • Of course cost is always a big consideration, but an apples-to-apples cost comparison is difficult to determine since each company utilizes different pricing models and formulas.  AWS used to charge for computing by the hour while Azure charged by the minute, making Azure’s pricing more precise.  And AWS recently announced a change in its pricing to per-second billing. The cloud services landscape is ever-evolving.

Summarizing the Cloud

All three cloud service providers have their individual strengths and offer a solid product.  While there is no clear winner, Azure has some inherent advantages for many organizations that are hard to beat. 


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