|By Jason Bloomberg||
|September 3, 2014 07:00 PM EDT||
In last week’s Forbes article I discussed various senses of the term real-time: low latency user interfaces, up-to-date information, live human interactions, and high-performance data processing – to name but a few. Today, for the Cortex audience (as well as the Wired Innovations and SYS-CON audiences), it’s time to channel Lewis Carroll and have a wondrous adventure to shed light on the true significance and challenges of real-time.
As we venture down the rabbit hole of our technology-infused world, it’s easy to see that everything is getting faster and bigger and, well, just more. Moore’s Law has just taken a big swig from a bottle that says drink me, as we have more memory, more storage, faster networks, more network-connected doodads, more and faster processors than ever before. And of course, we’re also getting better at everything: better apps. Better operating systems. Better ways of abstracting every element of our environment to provide even greater performance and flexibility. We are truly living in a time of plenty, if not excess. It’s no wonder that we want real-time in everything we do.
Today’s challenge isn’t only making stuff go faster. It’s figuring out how all the acceleration of all the bits and pieces fit together. Furthermore, this push to achieve a holistic perspective on all this gear drives our quest for real-time, as it only takes one bottleneck to slow everything else down. The only way we’ll truly achieve real-time behavior is by understanding the connections this wonderland of real-time requires. So let’s get started, or my ears and whiskers, we’ll be late!
Real-Time Starting Point: Reactive Programming
Google “real-time.” Right after Bill Maher’s HBO show and a general Wikipedia entry comes Wikipedia’s “real-time computing” page – presumably the real-time we’re talking about here. Load that page and you’ll notice two curiouser and curiouser facts right off the bat: first, the Wikipedia article itself has serious issues – as though no one who cares about real-time computing actually wants anybody else to understand it. Second, “real-time computing” is apparently synonymous with “reactive computing,” a much less familiar term. The rest of the article focuses on the sort of real-time we want from our antilock brakes – useful to be sure, but not the enterprise context we were looking for.
Maybe reactive computing is closer to the mark? Well, there’s inexplicably no Wikipedia page for that. The closest we can come is the reactive computing mock turtle: reactive programming. The basic idea with reactive programming is that the behavior of pieces of software can be declaratively defined, and thus evaluated in real-time – just as spreadsheet cells update automatically when a value they refer to changes.
There’s more to the reactive story than software that updates automatically, however, as a visit to the reactive manifesto illustrates. This wise caterpillar of a manifesto calls out four key reactive traits: event-driven, scalable, responsive, and resilient – essentially calling for Cloud-friendly, event-driven architectures that have the declarative behavior definition we know and love from the spreadsheet – only now across a hybrid enterprise context. Mushroom, anyone?
It’s no coincidence that Bloomberg Agile Architecture™ (BAA) also calls out responsiveness and resilience, although the BAA contexts for these terms are aspects of business agility rather than software – but suffice it to say, if your software doesn’t have these traits, it’s unlikely your organization is agile. Alas, we thought we saw the Cheshire Cat of agility, but all we saw was its smile. The people behind the reactive manifesto, however, have a far more technical context for these terms – Play Framework, an open source web application framework for Java and Scala that bills itself as lightweight, stateless, and Web-friendly.
At this point this Cortex might have gone down the Scala rabbit hole – but I’ll save that for a future issue (Through the Looking Glass, perhaps?). Just for fun, however, let’s follow the stateless thread of this adventure to the beach where the Walrus and the Carpenter entertain their oysters. I’ve discussed statelessness over the years in many contexts, from the challenge of maintaining business process instance state with stateless Services, to the role hypermedia play in transferring state to the client if you actually follow REST properly (which almost no one does), to the challenges state management presents to Cloud-based applications. Understanding the relationship between statelessness and real-time behavior, however, ties all these concepts together in a nice package. The oysters, however, aren’t nearly so satisfied.
State, in fact, is the Queen’s tarts of real-time computing. Sure, sometimes your software behavior can be completely reactive: event happens, do some stuff, give some kind of result, and never keep track of anything or wait around for somebody else to finish something. Such processing can be blisteringly fast, of course. It’s when you have to keep track of something that problems arise: where do you do the tracking? Do you have to keep track of multiple things at once when they might interact somehow? How permanent does the tracking have to be? And most importantly: won’t all this tracking slow everything down?
Time to hide the tarts: we could simply keep track of everything in the database. We get unlimited persistence, but databases are relatively slow and scaling them can be difficult. So let’s call upon the knave of hearts to spirit away those tarts to some piece of infrastructure in our middle tier, like an application server or an ESB. The database breathes a sigh of relief, but now we have a Cloud-unfriendly centralized state management approach. So instead, let’s pass the tarts to the client – after all, that’s where REST got its name (Representational State Transfer, natch). We now have scalability and Cloud friendliness, but this approach doesn’t deal well with shared state (as we would need for any type of collaborative application), and nobody likes HATEOAS, even when they understand it.
Enter caching. The idea of a cache is to temporarily store those pesky state tarts, thus lightening the load on the persistence tier. And calloo callay! We can now cache in memory, making it wicked fast. But we still have the Cloud-friendliness problem, so enter from the Queen’s croquet pitch the distributed in-memory cache. Cloud-friendly, check. Wicked fast, check. Responsive? Well, it depends on the color of the roses. The problem here, of course, is the problem caches always have: if all your data are always changing or every interaction always requires different data, caches are worse than useless, since caching something only makes sense if somebody is going to use it a few times before you need to refresh it.
At this point there’s only one more place for the tarts to go: back to the database. We need faster databases that are both Cloud-friendly and deal well with the continually exploding nature of Big Data. It’s no wonder, therefore, that the database marketplace is undergoing a dramatic period of innovation. Yes, another rabbit hole for yet another day – but let’s tease out a single architectural tea party that relates directly to real-time: immutability.
Your mad hatter of a database is immutable if it only supports writes that append data but no updates or deletes. Instead, to handle these pesky changes, additional records are added that indicate a previous record has changed. Immutability is essential for solving some knotty problems with concurrency – a mischievous dormouse for distributed computing since the client/server days and still a hassle in today’s Cloud-enabled world. As anyone who has used GitHub or a similar immutable data store can attest, immutability is the key to scaling a database that supports a large number of users who can add information, since all changes are handled as new data, and furthermore, the data store maintains a complete audit trail of everything that has ever happened, regardless of whether we all move down one seat at the table in search of clean dishes.
GitHub additionally works well with caching because it must assemble the current version of each stored file by adding together all the changes, or diffs, to that file. Temporary storage of each current version thus lightens the load on the underlying data store. But in other situations where the underlying data are always in flux, immutability still helps to address the real-time need. Reads can be extraordinarily fast compared to traditional databases, because the database can look to the index to identify the latest version of a record.
And so our adventure through real-time computing brings us to indexing in all its glory – not just for finding the desired record, but also for all the metadata necessary to assemble the various diffs in order to deliver the current version of a record in real-time. The metadata story for real-time, however, doesn’t stop at indices, as the army of metadata playing cards are central to the notion of declarative programming.
We have thus come full circle to the notion of reactive programming, which includes declaratively defining the behavior of pieces of software as simply as entering formulas into cells in a spreadsheet. And while a single worksheet may have tens of thousands of cells, extending the role metadata play to a distributed enterprise context ups the ante on the relationship between reactive programming and metadata: being able to resolve the desired behavior of any software given the combination of all metadata in the relevant environment – for every interaction, in real-time.
We call such resolution dynamic constraint satisfaction, where the metadata describe the relevant constraints, even though they may be fully dynamic. Calculating the result, therefore, must take place in real-time. Envision one massive spreadsheet, only instead of formulas in the cells, you have any reactive software you might find anywhere in your IT environment. The cell with your final answer is always correct, and always up to date – in real-time. Off with their heads!
The Intellyx Take
Our adventure down the real-time rabbit hole in this enterprise IT wonderland took us many different places. And while each of the critters we met had its own real-time story, our adventure tied all the individual stories together. Such is the nature of real-time: we have many moving parts and they must all be working at top form together in order to deliver a true real-time experience to each user.
Real-time behavior, therefore, is an important challenge for any digital professional, as there is more to digital transformation than meets the eye. Your customers, partners, and broader audience expect such behavior from your digital efforts, and to keep them happy you need the right technology and most importantly, the right architecture to glue everything together in real-time.
We’re entering a new era of computing technology that many are calling the Internet of Things (IoT). Machine to machine, machine to infrastructure, machine to environment, the Internet of Everything, the Internet of Intelligent Things, intelligent systems – call it what you want, but it’s happening, and its potential is huge. IoT is comprised of smart machines interacting and communicating with other machines, objects, environments and infrastructures. As a result, huge volumes of data are being generated, and that data is being processed into useful actions that can “command and control” thi...
May. 27, 2015 11:51 AM EDT
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BMC delivers software solutions that help IT transform digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive business advantage. BMC has worked with thousands of leading companies to create and deliver powerful IT management services. From mainframe to cloud to mobile, BMC pairs high-speed digital innovation with robust IT industrialization – allowing customers to provide amazing user experiences with optimized IT per...
May. 27, 2015 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 495
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...
May. 27, 2015 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 4,273
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be
May. 27, 2015 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,773
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will addresses this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
May. 27, 2015 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,306
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, discussed how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.
May. 27, 2015 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 5,474
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists will peel away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud environment, and we must architect and code accordingly. At the very least, you'll have no problem fil...
May. 27, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,244
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
May. 27, 2015 09:30 AM EDT Reads: 4,622
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
May. 27, 2015 09:30 AM EDT Reads: 7,125
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.
May. 27, 2015 07:30 AM EDT Reads: 5,732
Building low-cost wearable devices can enhance the quality of our lives. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Sai Yamanoor, Embedded Software Engineer at Altschool, provided an example of putting together a small keychain within a $50 budget that educates the user about the air quality in their surroundings. He also provided examples such as building a wearable device that provides transit or recreational information. He then reviewed the resources available to build wearable devices at home including open source hardware, the raw materials required and the options available to power s...
May. 27, 2015 04:30 AM EDT Reads: 4,329
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
May. 27, 2015 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 6,005
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
May. 27, 2015 02:30 AM EDT Reads: 5,671
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
May. 27, 2015 02:00 AM EDT Reads: 6,417
Collecting data in the field and configuring multitudes of unique devices is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that can stretch IT resources. Horan & Bird [H&B], Australia’s fifth-largest Solar Panel Installer, wanted to automate sensor data collection and monitoring from its solar panels and integrate the data with its business and marketing systems. After data was collected and structured, two major areas needed to be addressed: improving developer workflows and extending access to a business application to multiple users (multi-tenancy). Docker, a container technology, was used to ...
May. 27, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,625
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
May. 26, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 5,280
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
May. 26, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 5,012
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
May. 26, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 6,750
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
May. 26, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 7,361
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
May. 26, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 4,655