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Know the ins and outs of an enterprise application project

It's not just developers and operations admins who need to plan an application launch or update together -- bring in every connected department to ensure nobody gets caught by surprise.

Enterprise application projects pump the lifeblood of a company, whether the app is a tool that employees use to work with clients, a way to generate revenue or a capability that moves the business forward. Everyone must understand exactly how an app deployment will truly fit into the data center -- not just how we think it might.

Assumptions around the deployment and implementation of critical applications and their data hurt the organization in the short and long term. It's also dangerous to let applications rule over the entire data center, wasting resources unchecked.

Application code has a lifecycle from initial launch to updates and end-of-life off-boarding, complemented by an operational lifecycle to support the app from deployment to updates to migration.

Each stage of an enterprise application project brings up unique requirements that involve technical aspects, as well as business considerations and tradeoffs, and require various levels of communication and planning. Application success is less about rigid technology choices and more about how and why things are done regarding the application. It simply doesn't matter how good your technology is if communication and processes within the group fail.

Communication from the starting gate

Planning is the first step in the long journey of an enterprise application project, one that is not taken alone. To have a successful application design, infrastructure and networking folks must join the group with developers from the first step to the very last. This means, even during proposal creation, infrastructure has a say. While a networking or infrastructure concern might not stop a purchase, it can set off critical flags for additional resources or different configuration choices, and advanced notice is always a positive thing. Application developers must understand that infrastructure is harder to retool than applications. The application has to work with, and even prompt changes to, the infrastructure, but even the most important application is not the center of the infrastructure.

Collaborative development and operations groups can highlight app needs, such as load balancing, demilitarized zone setup and backup and recovery options, before they become challenges. Plan for these requirements from the start of any enterprise application project, and then, there's no scramble when it comes to deployment.

No one likes a surprise on the budget. This method helps circumvent technical challenges and reveals key information to management regarding the total cost of the application. For example, without collaborative planning, the network team could discover that a new application requires additional security for a mobile component or that infrastructure needs encryption at rest. These are not small ticket items.

Enterprise application projects are designed for long-term use. Everyone has to be on the same page regarding the long- and short-term changes to the application's infrastructure and to budgets, as well as support in operations following deployment.

All the time in the world

Enterprise application projects done well do have one high cost: time. Staff are in meetings and performing investigations before they make choices. There will always be a tradeoff, and in some cases, the cost of workers' time is not worth it. Each company has different needs and priorities.

Time spent on collaboration and decision-making improves with each application project, so it isn't a static drain on resources. The more projects that run this way, the better staff will get at doing them. Long discussions will slowly give way to checklists; meetings will be replaced by quick email conversations. App selection and launch will become streamlined over time, as long as lines of communication and the process are open and stay open. Questions and application information requests that don't fall into the normal discussion channels will be easily addressed and not missed because the teams are working on the same goal.

Issues that could become problems after application deployment are mere talking points and minor adjustments when caught in the planning phase. These collaborations don't have to be massive in scale or scope, as long as they include the important viewpoints and lead to solid decisions.

This was last published in December 2017

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