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Rohit is an investor, startup advisor and an Application Modernization Scale Specialist working at Google.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Top Ten App Transformations

Pivotal AppTx helps customers migrate applications to cloud native every day. Recently I wondered what are some of the most frequent app transformations and changes we need to make to get an app to cloud native. Is there a way to automate these app transformations of monolithic and legacy applications to Spring Boot ? Which manual transformation when automated will lead to the holy grail of automatic app migration to cloud ? If you are interested please read on ...

1. Spring Bootification : The process of injecting the Spring Boot framework and packaging the application as a fat jar. If you want to go through a comprehensive recipe for bootification look no further than https://pivotal.io/application-transformation-recipes/replatforming/spring-bootification-process . Don't forget the old faithful guide Building an Application with Spring Boot. 

2. Escaping the Dependency Hell : As part of the bootification you will drag in new versions of dependent java libraries. You will need to now go through an exercise of deduping and reconciling dependencies. Typically this well result in an upgrade all dependencies to latest possible versions as part of pom.xml or the build.gradle refactoring. Coexistence and upgrade  of older libraries and frameworks with Spring 2.x, 5.x starters. The maven dependency management plugin is a friend in these cases especially the dependency:tree  command that can be used to determine dependencies that are used and declared; used and undeclared; unused and declared. If you are still in classpath resolution hell and cannot figure out the origin of a class leverage the ClassGraph tool a super-fast and flexible classpath scanner.

3. Externalized Configuration : If you do manage to escape the dependency hell you now get the privilege of isolating and separating the configuration of your application and externalizing it. Typically configuration is strewn in java code, various property files, app server deployment descriptors and sometimes files on VM or bare-metal laid down by the Devops or shared services groups. When taking an app to the cloud the configuration needs to come from an external source so that it can be manipulated by the cloud platform in a consistent fashion. The best approach to take here is to fix the most egregious config options first like hardcoded ports and hardcoded file paths etc. After that take a look at the app-server deployment descriptors and port all the JNDI names and resource names to Spring Beans and configure these via Spring property sources. Eventually when most of the configuration has been externalized you can put it in a config server and organize it based on your deployment environment i.e config is segmented based on dev, test, perf, QA and prod spaces. There are some static code analysis tools that can help you understand the broad impact of these changes. Leverage app-server specific tools like windup and IBM migration-toolkit as well as classic static analysis tools like find-bugs that identify anti-cloud patterns. Pivotal has a tool in this space that identifies all the cloud remediations called Pivotal App Analyzer. Remove any app server specific deployment descriptors and clustering behavior since the clustering of app instances is now a feature provided by the cloud platform.

4. Connections to external data sources : Remove JNDI dependencies. Leverage user Provided data sources along with Spring Cloud Connectors to connect to backend and backing services in the clouds. Here is the recipe for replacing the JavaEE way of connecting to backend resources with the Spring way of datasource beans and wiring the datasources to endpoints in Pivotal Cloud Foundry. see. Spring, Java Buildpack and Pivotal Cloud Foundry does a lot of magic in this area. Remember this golden rule - NO application should *ever* use auto-reconfiguration in production. They should always use Spring Cloud Connectors directly. The right way is to leverage the java-cfenv which allows the developer direct control over parsing VCAP_SERVICES and configuring and connecting to downstream bound services.

5. Logging - Log to stdout and stderr. Before you get along too far you need some window into the state of the app in the cloud. For this purpose you should change the loggers of the app to log to stdout and stderr so these streams can be aggregated and captured in one tool provided by the platform or a trusted third-party like Splunk. Typically this involves 1. Remove logging related jars from the legacy pom.xml 2. Introduce the Cloud Native Logging Facade with a convenience library like lombok or Use SLF4J Logger Directly. Therafter configure Standard Logging by adding standard logging pattern to application.yml. This pattern will log all output to one line, and ensure that the log readers and can parse the log in a way consistent with other projects. Follow this comprehensive recipe for application logging in CloudFoundry.

6. Observability and Healthchecks : One of the cool features of Spring Boot is the ability to add production ready actuators and healthchecks to the project that introspect the datasource beans and configure the right healthchecks chained and invoked by the platform. This should be very easy to do following the step by step documentation defined in production-ready apps. It is also a good idea to define domain specific custom health indicators that give deep insight into the health of the app to the Cloud Foundry health monitor. Recipe for defining custom healthchecks can be found here.

7. Securing applications : Handle user credentials, backing service credentials with Vault or Credhub. Configure user authentication and role based access control authorization with the  Pivotal Tile SSO. Recipe for using Vault as a backing store Config Server. Recipe for Securing Applications with CredHub. Recipe for configuring the Pivotal SSO Tile for apps. Configure Pivotal SSO Automatic Resource Configuration.

8. Remove persistence of State: In-memory state offload to an external cache. Recipe for Offload HTTP Sessions with Spring Session and Redis. Conversion of Entity EJBs to Hibernate or OpenJPA or other ORM. Recipe for Converting an Existing EJB-Based Application to a Spring-Based Application. Conversion of 2pc transactions to 1pc transactions or eventual consistent state. Recipe for How To Deal With XA Global Transactions in the Cloud. Cloud Foundry doesn’t provide a (durable) file system. If your application requires a file system for durable persistence, consider using something like a MongoDB GridFS-based solution or an Amazon Web services-based S3 solution. If your application’s use of the file system is ephemeral—staging file uploads or something—then you can use the Cloud Foundry application’s temporary directory for the life of the request. forklifted-application Another alternative is to use volume service in PCF for persistent data. See recipe on external-file-system.

9. Messaging with distributed brokers. Leverage Spring Cloud Streams as an abstraction over Kafka or RabbitMQ. Recipe for running spring cloud streams with the right broker provider plugin on PCF.

10. CI/CD automation > Build and Deployment Pipelines. Auto generate CI/CD pipelines for your legacy app using Spring Pipelines. spring-cloud-pipelines provides scripts, configuration, and convention for automated deployment pipeline creation for Jenkins and Concourse with Cloud Foundry or Kubernetes. Project Crawler allows for auto generating cloud pipelines. recipe

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