Oracle Magazine spoke with Maureen Fleming, vice president of business process management and middleware research programs at International Data Corporation (IDC), about the latest innovations in application server technology.
Oracle Magazine: What do organizations look for in an application server platform?
Fleming: Most organizations today are looking for a set of services that improve the ease with which they can deploy scalable, high-performance applications. Application servers such as Oracle WebLogic Server can be purchased as part of a suite with a broad set of additional middleware capabilities such as distributed data caching and identity management. These additional services support mission-critical application deployments.
A lot of things have to come together to build a cloud
Oracle Magazine: How are open source and proprietary application servers being used today?
Fleming: Some organizations are now commingling open source application servers and proprietary application servers, especially for custom-developed applications. You can do some amazing things with open source technology, such as using a lightweight application server embedded in a tablet or in highly distributed scenarios, in addition to serving classic custom applications. When it comes to running packaged applications, you have to make sure your application server is certified to run those applications in an optimal way. It’s important to pick an application server that is recommended by the application vendor, especially given the investments associated with these applications.
Oracle Magazine: How are businesses using application server technology to streamline deployments and simplify maintenance?
Fleming: Companies are virtualizing Java server farms and standardizing management across the farm. Rather than having one application server or server cluster per application, they are creating shared environments to improve utilization. This permits administrators to spin up or tear down instances as needed and troubleshoot issues across the farm. Development teams can choose the right application server while improving operational consistency and driving down costs.
On the low end or mobile end, companies are starting to use lightweight platforms like Raspberry Pi or even a tablet to serve applications. On the high end, they are turning to engineered systems such as Oracle Exalogic. Engineered systems offer a great deal of scalability in a plug-and-play environment that has been preconfigured to improve speed and performance. They let you run larger applications than you’ve been able to run in the past, so you can dream bigger about the type of application you want to build without hitting prior logical limits.
Oracle Magazine: How are application servers evolving in an era of cloud computing?
Fleming: Application servers are the least mature of all the tiers of the cloud. For example, SaaS [software as a service] platforms predate the cloud as we know it today, and some of these platforms are not constructed to work with leading application server platforms.
A lot of things have to come together to build a cloud application. This is motivating middleware vendors to build application platform frameworks and services. Java-based cloud application platforms are evolving around standards that will drive some consistency in how cloud applications can be built.
Oracle Magazine: What does the future hold for application server technology?
Fleming: Event-driven design is becoming more and more important with the growth of the Internet of Things and as a way to take advantage of the growing volumes of data that can be harnessed for business value. For example, new digital services are being built using sensors embedded in industrial and consumer products that transmit data to a collector that aggregates and looks for indications that something is going wrong. This prompts a notification to an application or backbone designed to manage the response. The response may be executed on a mobile device; it may be a task generated by an existing application; it may be built using BPM [business process management] technology; or it may be a custom application running on an application server or cloud application platform.
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