Welcome!

Related Topics: @ThingsExpo, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Agile Computing, @CloudExpo, @BigDataExpo

@ThingsExpo: Article

Adventures in Digital Real-Time Wonderland

The only way we’ll truly achieve real-time behavior is by understanding the connections the wonderland of real-time requires

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.

drinkmeAs 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!

rabbitReal-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.

caterpillarMaybe 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?

catIt’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.

walrusAt 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.

tartsState, 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.

croquetEnter 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.

hatterYour 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.

dormouseGitHub 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.

cardsWe 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.

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
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Aruna Ravichandran, vice president of DevOps Product and Solutions Marketing at CA Technologies, has been named co-conference chair of DevOps at Cloud Expo 2017. The @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, and @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo Silicon Valley will take place Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 add...
With billions of sensors deployed worldwide, the amount of machine-generated data will soon exceed what our networks can handle. But consumers and businesses will expect seamless experiences and real-time responsiveness. What does this mean for IoT devices and the infrastructure that supports them? More of the data will need to be handled at - or closer to - the devices themselves.
Translating agile methodology into real-world best practices within the modern software factory has driven widespread DevOps adoption, yet much work remains to expand workflows and tooling across the enterprise. As models evolve from pockets of experimentation into wholescale organizational reinvention, practitioners find themselves challenged to incorporate the culture and architecture necessary to support DevOps at scale. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Anand Akela, Senior...
Join IBM November 2 at 19th Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how to go beyond multi-speed it to bring agility to traditional enterprise applications. Technology innovation is the driving force behind modern business and enterprises must respond by increasing the speed and efficiency of software delivery. The challenge is that existing enterprise applications are expensive to develop and difficult to modernize. This often results in what Gartner calls ...
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
All organizations that did not originate this moment have a pre-existing culture as well as legacy technology and processes that can be more or less amenable to DevOps implementation. That organizational culture is influenced by the personalities and management styles of Executive Management, the wider culture in which the organization is situated, and the personalities of key team members at all levels of the organization. This culture and entrenched interests usually throw a wrench in the work...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
Automation is enabling enterprises to design, deploy, and manage more complex, hybrid cloud environments. Yet the people who manage these environments must be trained in and understanding these environments better than ever before. A new era of analytics and cognitive computing is adding intelligence, but also more complexity, to these cloud environments. How smart is your cloud? How smart should it be? In this power panel at 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, pane...