Cloud-Native Applications: Seed Project Kickoff

Cloud-Native Applications is a new research initiative which was launched by the ICCLab a couple of months ago. The initial time was used to gather knowledge on this very interesting and broad topic. For a detailed description of the initiative and cloud-native applications in general head to the initiative overview page.

But all the knowledge in the world is not worth much without some actual experience. And therefore as of the beginning of this year we launched the Cloud-Native Applications Seed Project or CNA Seed Project for short. The goal of this project is to take a traditional business application which was not designed to run in the cloud and modify it so that it can be deployed and operated in a cloud-environment.

Evaluation of Application to Migrate

At the heart of this project lies the application which is to be migrated. For the evaluation of a suiting application we decided to use the following criteria:

  1. Must be open source
  2. Should be a business application
  3. Should be a common used type of application

Without having full access to the code the realization of this project would not be possible so the first point is pretty straight forward. For points two and three: The goal of the initiative is to eventually transfer the knowledge and experience gained in the research on to our students as well as to industry partners (e.g. Swiss SMBs). Therefore the application or at least the context of the application needed to be something relevant for business.

We took some time evaluating several well known and positively reviewed open source business applications and came up a list of about ten applications such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Document Management Systems (DMS). More extensive details about the evaluation can be found in this blog-post.
At the very end of our evaluation we were left with two choices: SuiteCRM and Zurmo.

In the end we decided to go with Zurmo. The reasons behind this choice were that Zurmo:

  1. Is developed by a Team with extensive experience with CRMs (formerly offering a modified version of SugarCRM @ Intelestream)
  2. Follows test-driven development (TDD) practices in its development
  3. Has all core functionality of a CRM without offering an overwhelming amount of features
  4. Uses gamification
  5. Has a modern look and feel to it

The first two reasons give us confidence that the code is high quality and that our changes won’t just break the system in an unforseen or hidden way.
While evaluating CRMs a statement that we read over and over again is the that one of the main problems of CRMs is that people are not using them. The last three reasons for choosing Zurmo address exactly this issue. After evaluating alternative products we think Zurmo could be a CRM solution which would actually be used by its end-users.

Next Steps

After an initial analysis of the application we’ll go on planning on how to transform the application to run it in a cloud-environment. So stay tuned for updates in which we’ll write about our progress, the problems we’ve encountered, new findings and everything else we think might be useful knowing when transforming a traditional application from cloud-enabled all the way to cloud-native.

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