Welcome!

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog, @BigDataExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Take Control of Your Schemalessness with Dynamic Schemas

Addressing the inflexibility of structured data by enabling schemaless data to be dynamically and logically structured

Static data structures have been at the heart of data processing tools since the dawn of computing, but they have always limited the flexibility of the organization leveraging the data. Recently, the rise of flexible formats like JSON have led to schemaless data as an attempt to increase agility. However, schemaless data have proven difficult to work with, because of hidden rigid structure in the form of implied schemas.

EnterpriseWeb addresses the problems of both the inflexibility of structured data as well as the impracticality of schemaless data, by enabling schemaless data to be dynamically and logically structured.

From the fixed-length fields of the 1950s, to the relational structures of modern database management systems, to the semistructured data formats XML and JSON, the structure of our data has always informed code about how it should be processed. Data are defined by their relationships, and we used to hard-code those relationships into rigid structures. That approach allows only one static view, which is difficult to work with, and even more difficult to change. Nevertheless, such rigid data structures - and the models that represent them - are an integral part of enterprise information management.

Traditional relational database management systems (RDBMSs) exemplify this point with their static entity-relationship models (ERMs) and tightly interconnected data structures. XML improves this situation slightly, allowing semi-structured information, but schemas still constrain flexibility and performance. With both approaches, fixed definitions, views, and reports limit the ability for businesses to freely transform information into insight and become obstacles to systemwide change.

The Rise of Schemalessness
This challenge of inflexible data structures has given rise to schemaless data. With JSON in particular, we can create whatever data structure we like when we author data. We don't have to shoehorn data into rigid data structures, thus allowing every record to have its own structure.

But there is a problem with schemaless data. Consider this simple task: how do you create a query for all the addresses in a particular Zip Code if every record has a different name or format for Zip Code? Schemalessness, after all, isn't magic - even schemaless data require some kind of metadata so the code will know how to process such information, what software development guru Martin Fowler calls an implied schema.

Implied schemas represent the structure inherent in any data record. If each address record has its own format, then that format provides the implied schema for that record. Dealing with implied schemas thus falls to the developer, who must figure out how to code software to process these implied schemas, which are different for each and every record.

In Fowler's tutorial on schemalessness, he explains the pros and cons of implied schemas. Despite acknowledging the power of schemalessness to support more flexible and responsive user experiences, he recommends avoiding it and implied schemas for developer convenience. Good advice with respect to traditional software, but the world of data is changing. Today we live in an increasingly schemaless world, where more often than not, the structure of our data is fluid or nonexistent.

Raising the Discussion to Dynamic Schemas
Fowler makes it clear that in the past it has been impractical from the developer's perspective to work systematically with schemaless data, because implied schemas are difficult to deal with. After all, structure is itself useful, and isn't the problem per se. Rather, how to avoid the limitations of static structure without falling into the trap of unmanageable schemaless data that is the real challenge.

EnterpriseWeb's unique approach to modeling solves this critically important challenge by leveraging dynamic schemas that have flexible, metadata-driven relationships with underlying information. Using metadata this way separates concerns, letting people consider relationships from multiple perspectives, rather than from a single static point of view. In addition, it's now possible to change and extend metadata to meet diverse business needs without disruption.

Instead of settling for complex ERMs with their inflexible, tightly coupled data structures or dealing with the coding complexities of implied schemas, developers can project dynamic schemas from the metadata simply by writing different transformations. As a result, dynamic schemas are developer friendly and dynamic - a welcome change from the difficult problem of schemalessness.

Add an Agent for Performance
So far so good, but how do we build software to process all such data in a general way, freeing ourselves from custom coding for implicit schemas? The solution is an intelligent agent.

EnterpriseWeb's intelligent agent, SmartAlex™, is a distributable transaction manager that resolves dynamic schemas for each interaction. Every human or system client interaction is a request for SmartAlex to interpret dynamic schemas (as well as other models and additional metadata) and translate them to a context-specific set of resources in order to construct a custom response.

This Agent-Oriented approach maximizes performance for such dynamic computing. In the background, SmartAlex handles all run time connection and transformation details, sparing programmers from manually integrating resources for varied and unanticipated uses, greatly improving IT productivity while enabling business agility.

SmartAlex logs all system events, indexes all new and updated resources, and tags all changes in relationships for detailed and navigable audit history. This practice creates a feedback loop as SmartAlex leverages the same indexed logs to guide its execution. Data, code, and user interface components, as well as connectors for federated services, systems, databases, and devices, can be updated or replaced without breaking related apps and processes - as SmartAlex is ‘aware' of the changes. In this way EnterpriseWeb supports real time exception and change management for resilient solutions that can evolve naturally.

The EnterpriseWeb Take
Schemalessness was a reaction to the limitations of structured data. People struggled with the constraints of static structure, and figured that if they simply got rid of structure, then the problem would go away. But this move was merely a shell game, as the limitations of fixed schemas shifted to implied schemas, now without the benefits of structure to inform the code responsible for their processing.

The solution is to raise the level of abstraction, and instead of arguing over fixed vs. implied schemas, to work at the dynamic schema level. Such an approach is model-driven, allowing application designers to build models that capture their data structures, and allowing an intelligent agent to use the metadata each model represents to meet the specific needs of each interaction. The real lesson here is that the solution to resolving the challenge of schemalessness combines both dynamic schemas and the action of the agent. Stay tuned to my next newsletter for more information.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

Latest Stories
Struggling to keep up with increasing application demand? Learn how Platform as a Service (PaaS) can streamline application development processes and make resource management easy.
New Relic, Inc. has announced a set of new features across the New Relic Software Analytics Cloud that offer IT operations teams increased visibility, and the ability to diagnose and resolve performance problems quickly. The new features further IT operations teams’ ability to leverage data and analytics, as well as drive collaboration and a common, shared understanding between teams. Software teams are under pressure to resolve performance issues quickly and improve availability, as the comple...
The proper isolation of resources is essential for multi-tenant environments. The traditional approach to isolate resources is, however, rather heavyweight. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Igor Drobiazko, co-founder of elastic.io, will draw upon their own experience with operating a Docker container-based infrastructure on a large scale and present a lightweight solution for resource isolation using microservices. He will also discuss the implementation of microservices in data and applicat...
Join IBM June 8 at 18th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn how to innovate like a startup and scale for the enterprise. You need to deliver quality applications faster and cheaper, attract and retain customers with an engaging experience across devices, and seamlessly integrate your enterprise systems. And you can't take 12 months to do it.
See storage differently! Storage performance problems have only gotten worse and harder to solve as applications have become largely virtualized and moved to a cloud-based infrastructure. Storage performance in a virtualized environment is not just about IOPS, it is about how well that potential performance is guaranteed to individual VMs for these apps as the number of VMs keep going up real time. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Dhiraj Sehgal, in product and marketing at Tintri, will discu...
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, will discuss how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to im...
This is not a small hotel event. It is also not a big vendor party where politicians and entertainers are more important than real content. This is Cloud Expo, the world's longest-running conference and exhibition focused on Cloud Computing and all that it entails. If you want serious presentations and valuable insight about Cloud Computing for three straight days, then register now for Cloud Expo.
As you respond to increasing requests for new analytics, you need fast and flexible technology in your arsenal so that you can deploy the right workload to the right platform for the need at hand. Do you need self-service and fast time to value? Do you have data and application control and privacy needs, along with strict SLAs to meet? IBM dashDB™ is data warehouse technology powered by in-memory computing and in-database analytics that are designed for fast results, scalability and more.
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
Up until last year, enterprises that were looking into cloud services usually undertook a long-term pilot with one of the large cloud providers, running test and dev workloads in the cloud. With cloud’s transition to mainstream adoption in 2015, and with enterprises migrating more and more workloads into the cloud and in between public and private environments, the single-provider approach must be revisited. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Yoav Mor, multi-cloud solution evangelist at Cloudy...
IoT device adoption is growing at staggering rates, and with it comes opportunity for developers to meet consumer demand for an ever more connected world. Wireless communication is the key part of the encompassing components of any IoT device. Wireless connectivity enhances the device utility at the expense of ease of use and deployment challenges. Since connectivity is fundamental for IoT device development, engineers must understand how to overcome the hurdles inherent in incorporating multipl...
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
The IETF draft standard for M2M certificates is a security solution specifically designed for the demanding needs of IoT/M2M applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Romansky, VP of Strategic Technology at TrustPoint Innovation, will explain how M2M certificates can efficiently enable confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity on highly constrained devices.