ScaleOut Offers Microsoft AppFabric Alternative
IT professionals concerned about the viability or open source nature of the substitutes Microsoft suggested when it stops supporting AppFabric 1.1 for Windows Server on April 2, 2016, have at least one long-time commercial alternative.
ScaleOut Software, which has been shipping since 2005, supports more than 400 customers over 10,000-plus servers, CEO Bill Bain told Enterprise Technology. The company's ScaleOut StateServer (SOSS) automatically replicates all stored objects on multiple hosts to always maintain high availability; uses an unmanaged heap for stored data to keep access times as predictable as possible, and keep client caches coherent with the in-memory data grid (IMDG) to ensure multi-threaded code running on the cluster can coordinate access to transactional data using the well understood sequential consistency model, ScaleOut said.
Earlier this month, Microsoft posted a blog announcing the cessation of support for AppFabric in a year. AppFabric provides hosting, management, and caching capacities for Web applications and mid-tier services, simplifying IT professionals' ability to build, scale, and manage applications, especially those built using ASP.NET, Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), and Windows Workflow Foundation (WF), according to Microsoft.
The news did not come as a shock to some IT professionals.
"I was not too surprised with this news. Microsoft AppFabric hasn't been improved for a while," Thuan Nguyen, SharePoint MVP, told Enterprise Technology. "To me, Microsoft wants to centralize and consolidate its products to cloud services. With this strategy, the cloud market would be well controlled by Microsoft because lots of organizations are using Microsoft products."
But that doesn't mean the end-of-life isn't already creating problems for some large organizations.
"It will impact retooling and re prioritizing some projects until we have a clear cache strategy for .NET solutions," said an IT manager and decision maker at a financial firm, who asked to remain anonymous as he had not obtained corporate approval to speak publicly. "These impacts include pipeline projects, support expertise in our operational staff, monitoring, and capacity planning, primarily for our in-house .NET solutions.
Looking to help enterprises avoid potential problems, Microsoft recommended current AppFabric users move to Microsoft Azure Redis Cache, an open source solution, or Redis on Windows for those needing premise caching. A growing number of organizations use Redis, but the open source networked in-memory data store may not be appropriate for all enterprises, said Bain. Redis published a cluster tutorial in 2013.
"We will be looking at ScaleOut. Microsoft has pointed us toward their Open Tech Redis port (open source) for new projects. We have not been impressed with the solutions for monitoring that Microsoft has suggested and said they use," the financial firm's IT manager said. "It sounds to be extremely limited and text based. There really isn’t any enterprise tooling for built for it. In Azure they monitor it by calling Redis with the INFO command and storing the results. Monitoring and alerting is driven from that return. Other information such as CPU/network bandwidth/memory usage comes from the standard OS process performance counters -- very basic and not enterprise ready. ScaleOut is much more mature in this space and caching solutions like this are something our IT department could feel more comfortable and get behind, but again we’re keeping all options open."
For hosting, Microsoft said enterprises can manually host services on Internet Information Services (IIS). Those businesses using AppFabric's management and monitoring capabilities can build custom solutions, according to Microsoft.
Several IT professionals voiced concern about the future of third-party applications, such as SharePoint, that rely on AppFabric. However, SharePoint functionality, including the Distributed Cache feature, will be supported under the Microsoft Support lifecycle for Sharepoint 2013, Erica Mohler, senior program manager at Microsoft, said. Managed Cache and AzurePack also will be supported, added Pranav Rastogi, Microsoft program manager.
For its part, ScaleOut has formalized an AppFabric migration guide it's used previously to transition clients to SOSS from Microsoft's offering, said Chris Villinger, vice president of business development and marketing at ScaleOut.
"The community doesn’t need to feel like they're out in the cold," he said. "There are great options out there and we can certainly be one of those."