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Automated Deployment is a must for Rapid Application Development on the Web
Have you ever bought a big fancy refrigerator with the latest and greatest wiz bang features and when the delivery truck arrived, realized it would not get through the door? I did, and soon learned the valuable lesson of planning the deployment of my applications even before I start coding.
Developers of my vintage remember the early days when we deployed programs by the use of a single XCOPY command. As computing environments became more complex, deployment of applications became a daunting task and things got so bad that a whole new industry specialising in installation tools emerged. At its peak there were tools with several thousand dollar price tags on offer.
Realising that the unnecessary complexity of deployment hinders progress and is actually bad for the bottom line, major players embarked on efforts to reverse the trend and either automate or simplify the software deployment process. Some vendors even promised the return of XCOPY deployment. Automatic update has been a life saver and these days most major platforms and products are automatically updated online without much input from the end user.
On the Linux platform things are more complicated. The emergence of Linux distributions that let you pay for ease of deployment of otherwise free code is a compromise that is seen as somewhat contrary to the philosophy of open source and free software. Notwithstanding these sentiments, most people prefer purchasing finished goods to building them from supplied kits, especially goods that are more complex than flat-packed trendy Swedish furniture that can be put together with the help of a single Allen key. Time will tell if Linux and automated deployment can co-exist without limiting the flexibility that is the strength of this all important web platform.
Manual deployment of web applications is even more complex. It involves many steps, is time consuming and error prone. Often developers do not have full control over the process and have to depend on system and database administrators to follow their detailed instructions and hope for the best. With some third party hosting services, timely incremental updates crucial to bug fixes and application security may be unachievable altogether.
Shahram Mirkazemi of the Morfik team has posted a series of technical blogs on deployment issues which highlight the enormous challenge of manual deployment. Rob Allen has an interesting blog about automating deployment of PHP applications.
Rapid application development on the web would be meaningless without automated deployment tools. Any vendor that aspires to provide professional fully integrated development tools for web application developers cannot afford to ignore the importance of automated deployment.
There will always be puritans who would prefer to compile the operating system from the source code and spend time on the minutiae of manual installation and configuration. To them the journey is as enjoyable as the arrival at the destination. But if history is anything to go by, soon the complexity of mission critical high traffic live applications as well as competitive market pressures will leave developers with no choice but to automate the deployment of their web applications.
So before even starting your next project it may be prudent to check with your Hosting Service, IT department and the vendor of your development tools to see if they support automatic deployment.
Remember that, at the end of the day, the client may hold you responsible for getting the big fancy refrigerator he ordered through the door!
Morfik is among the first to provide auto-deployment and to raise the bar for professional Web IDEs. Others will have no choice but to follow. We will showcase our auto-deployment offering in a future technical blog.