Modern software architectures are highly complex and often very difficult to maintain and operate. A single enterprise application comprises hundreds (or even thousands) of individual services, technologies, and toolchains while requiring a lot of underlying infrastructure, such as servers, routing and load balancing rules, and security controls. All of this complexity increases overhead costs and adds to the ever-growing workloads of software, network, and infrastructure teams, especially when you multiply this effort across dozens or hundreds of software deployments.
Platform engineering is a new discipline introduced by Gartner to address these challenges by reducing the complexity of software engineering, network operations, and application delivery. The platforms built by these engineers are known by several names, including internal developer platforms, internal developer portals, and application delivery platforms. This guide defines an application delivery platform, discusses the underlying technology, and highlights a leading platform engineering solution.
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What is an application delivery platform?
An application delivery platform is a suite of technologies that handles all the services that support an application, including security, traffic management, load balancing, and data management. Platform engineers combine all these services into a common toolset used to deploy applications at customer sites, so there’s no need to build a new architecture every time. This streamlined experience makes application delivery cost-effective by significantly reducing workloads and deployment timelines.
What is the importance of an application delivery platform?
The goal of an application delivery platform is to reduce deployment and management complexity. Deployment complexity leads to a greater risk of human error when configuring things like security controls and access policies, and any mistakes are likely to be found and exploited by cybercriminals. Management complexity makes it harder to stay on top of patch schedules. Unpatched software often contains vulnerabilities that are exploited by cybercriminals; for example, known ransomware groups targeted unpatched IBM software earlier this year.
By reducing complexity, an application delivery platform also reduces the attack surface, improving an organization’s overall security posture.
What technology makes up an application delivery platform?
By its very nature, an application delivery platform is highly customized to fit the needs of the applications being supported. Here are some examples of the services and technologies that are often included.
- Server storage & compute: The platform needs storage (usually solid-state) and processing units (CPUs or GPUs) to run the applications and store necessary data. Ideally, the OS and computing architecture will support containers (e.g., Docker) for microservices applications.
- Automation tools: A key feature of application delivery platforms is the ability to automatically provision and deploy new environments, apps, and network services as well activate services licenses and service chaining. That means the platform should host automation tools for configuration management, code delivery, and software-defined networking (SDN).
- Security: The ideal platform makes it possible to deliver applications without configuring security every time. That means it provides unified management and repeatable deployments for security services like firewall traffic inspection, access control lists, and advanced authentication.
- Routing & load balancing: A lot of backend networking goes into the typical application deployment to ensure traffic is routed correctly and optimized for performance. An application delivery platform should support network functions virtualization (NFVs) and SDN so standard network configurations can be easily deployed alongside the applications being delivered.
- Management tools: Engineers need a way to remotely access, manage, and troubleshoot application deployments, even (and especially) during major service disruptions. The ideal platform includes out-of-band serial console management and supports third-party troubleshooting tools so remote teams can quickly recover systems and applications without an expensive on-site visit.
While this list is far from exhaustive, it covers the foundational technology that supports an application delivery platform. Platform engineering is still in its infancy, and many organizations struggle to efficiently execute it because of how many moving pieces need to be considered. The goal is to find a solution that provides the best framework of hardware and software capabilities that platform engineers can build upon, so they can create a fully customized application delivery platform without reinventing the wheel.
Introducing ZPE Systems’ Services Delivery Platform
The Services Delivery Platform from ZPE Systems is the perfect foundation for any platform engineering initiative. Nodegrid edge routers serve as the hardware backbone, providing networking and failover capabilities, OOB serial console management, and plenty of memory, storage, and CPU headroom for additional apps and services. You can build a fully customized hardware platform with the modular Net Services Router (NSR), extending your storage or compute capabilities or adding more ports to support your application deployment.
The vendor-neutral, Linux-based Nodegrid OS can run your custom applications as well as third-party automation, security, DevOps, and management tools. Plus, Nodegrid unifies all connected services and applications under a single management umbrella, allowing teams to oversee and orchestrate all of their deployments from one convenient portal.
- Read about how ZPE’s Services Delivery Platform streamlined operations for DigiCert in our case study: Simplifying Critical Infrastructure for the Leading Digital Security Enterprise
Ready to Learn More?
The Services Delivery Platform from ZPE Systems simplifies platform engineering with powerful, multipurpose hardware and an open, vendor-neutral OS. Contact us today to learn more about using Nodegrid for your application delivery platform!