|By Jason Bloomberg||
|August 7, 2011 09:00 AM EDT||
At ZapThink we’re proud to be iconoclasts. After all, building agile architectures requires critical appraisal—and frequent dismissal—of traditionally held beliefs. We know this role places us among the heretics who dare challenge established dogma.
In fact, the whole notion of agility has long suffered this battle between iconoclasm and dogmatism. As we discuss in our Licensed ZapThink Architect course, the Agile Manifesto embodies an iconoclastic approach to software development dogma – and yet, so many people have become dogmatic about the Agile Manifesto itself, entirely missing its point!
ZapThink once more jumped into this iconoclasm-masquerading-as-dogma fray with our recent ZapFlash, How I Became a REST “Convert.” We explained how you can implement SOA following REST principles, and how such an approach introduces important simplifications and efficiencies as compared to a Web Services-based approach.
Get out the torches and pitchforks! ZapThink is at it again! Not only are we flying in the face of established SOA dogma, we’re taking on REST dogma as well! Never mind that the original vision for the REST movement was inherently iconoclastic. In fact, it’s no wonder that RESTafarians use religious metaphors in their discussions (although Rastafarianism is a far cry indeed from the Catholic metaphors we’re leveraging in this ZapFlash).
To quote our beloved Agile Manifesto, we want to favor responding to change over following a plan—even if that plan is how SOA or even REST is “supposed to be done.” The goal is stuff that actually addresses the business problem, not some adherence to official dogma (another Agile principle, in case you didn’t notice). Therefore, it came as no surprise to us when an organization contacted us and let us know that they are taking the REST-based SOA approach we discussed in the ZapFlash, and that it actually works.
The Iconoclastic REST-based SOA of the US Coast Guard
We recently spoke with the US Coast Guard (USCG) about their SPEAR (Semper Paratus: Enterprise Architecture Realization) initiative. The SPEAR approach to SOA centers on document-centric, event-driven, loosely coupled, asynchronous, message-based Business Services. Now, there’s nothing particularly iconoclastic about event-driven SOA—after all, we debunked that notion back in 2004—but their story doesn’t end there. Another central characteristic of their SOA approach is their document-centricity. While it’s true that document style interfaces are the norm for Web Services, the USCG takes the notion to a new level.
In the Web Services world, when a WSDL file specifies a document style interface, then the constraints on the input and output messages fall into one or more schema definitions, instead of the SOAP message structure itself. As far as SOAP is concerned, the body of the SOAP message contains a payload consisting of whatever document you like. The advantage of the document style over the tightly coupled remote procedure call (RPC) style is it allows for flexible versioning of Services: many changes to a Service do not force a new contract version.
However, as anyone who has monkeyed with Web Services can attest, the operations of a Service still cause issues, even when it’s a document style interface. We can’t seem to get away from Web Services’ tightly coupled RPC heritage. And furthermore, XML schemas are strongly typed, which introduces a further undesirable level of tight coupling.
To resolve such issues, REST moves the operations out of any formal contract, instead relying upon the GET, POST, PUT and DELETE operations best known from HTTP. Even so, there’s no requirement in REST that resources are necessarily documents. True, URLs that point to documents are a common and familiar pattern, but URLs could as easily point to abstracted method calls as well.
SPEAR takes document-centricity to the next level. For SPEAR, the document is the interface. It has meaning both for human and machine consumption. It’s self-describing and removes the need for defining a specific, formal contract. Instead, the USCG provides a basic header/body document structure. The header contains elements like requester, type, ID, timestamps, and status (request, response, publication or error, for example). The body contains different parts depending upon the type of Service. Request/response Services, for example, include elements like request, response, publication, and exception. As a result, SPEAR’s Service contracts (if you even decide to call them that) consist of a simple document structure and core REST operations—nothing more.
Maintaining State the Service-Oriented Way
For example, take a straightforward request/response Service that executes a simple database query. The Service simply populates the response field in the request document and returns the entire document to the requester. As a result, the document still contains the timestamped request. The ESB can now publish the document or put it on a queue, and the document itself acts as its own cache.
This approach to state is a simple example of a new trend in REST-based state management: Hypermedia as the Engine of Application State (HATEOAS). With HATEOAS, documents and the hyperlinks they contain represent all the state information a distributed environment requires. Want to know the next step in a process? Simply follow the appropriate link.
In the case of SPEAR, the USCG has established an internal standard URI representation: domain://provider:context/resource. For example, service://uscg.mda.vesselCrew:test/sla. The domain represents a taxonomy of resource types, including system://, organization://, geography://, and service://. The provider component represents the address to the provider of the resource. The context (squeezed in where ports go in a URL), represents the business context like :test, :dev, :stage, etc.
The ESB then resolves URIs to the physical endpoint references, acting as a routing engine that delivers the Business Service abstraction. Any hyperlink to such a URI, therefore, points to a document that contains all the state information the system requires, and furthermore, the architecture offers late binding to Services as a key feature. There is no build time mapping to any particular resource. Instead of using strongly typed schemas, they rely upon dynamic, loose typing in the documents. Such an approach is decidedly not Web Services-friendly.
It’s also important to note that state maintenance in the Web Services world has always been problematic. There are basically three ways to main state information in interactions among inherently stateless Services: rely upon the Service consumer to maintain a correlation ID (either not broadly adopted or relies upon an underlying protocol like HTTP cookies); rely upon the underlying execution environment (vendor dependent); or place state information into the message. Unfortunately, Web Services offer no standard way of accomplishing the latter task, requiring SOA teams to customize their SOAP headers—which is usually a deal killer.
The SPEAR approach, however, includes state information in the message, because, of course, the message is the document. As a result, they are taking a fully Service-oriented approach to maintaining state. They are able to do so in spite of leveraging an ESB because they selected the Fiorano ESB, which has long maintained state in a fully message-centric manner, instead of spawning threads to keep track of state as in other vendors’ ESBs.
Asynchronicity as the General Case
For many years, Gartner believed that SOA interactions were inherently synchronous, request/response—casting SOA as little more than next-gen client/server—until TIBCO twisted their arm into admitting that yes, SOA could be event driven. Nevertheless, SOA has always allowed for asynchronous as well as synchronous Service exchange patterns. (The whole Gartner event-driven SOA kerfuffle led to the SOA 2.0 fiasco, lest we forget.) In fact, ZapThink pointed out the importance of asynchronous behavior as early as 2002.
In the SPEAR architecture, the listener acts as the handler, retaining messages at their last stop. The senders simply fire and forget. Messages are sent to the Fiorano bus, not the destination, allowing for dynamic routing of messages as well as publish/subscribe. In this way the ESB routes, filters, and enforces policy via the URIs themselves.
Publish/subscribe is a broadcast push exchange pattern: many consumers can subscribe to the same topic, and the ESB pushes messages to subscribers as appropriate. Even when a single consumer queries a resource, the ESB follows a push pattern, putting documents onto a queue for the consumer to pick up. As a result, SPEAR can support different consumer behaviors, depending upon the use case. If the consumer is accessing Services via unreliable network connections, or simply requires low message volumes and can tolerate some latency, then the consumer can simply poll the Service. In other cases, when latency is an issue or when there are higher message volumes, the ESB can perform a true push to the consumer via a JMS interface.
OK, hold on just one minute. JMS? I thought we were talking about REST, you know, over HTTP. How can JMS fit into this picture?
Yes, the USCG is being iconoclastic once again. The ESB is abstracting the endpoint, while at the same time providing a push-based messaging infrastructure. If the consumer wants the resource to push a real-time stream of large messages to it, then the URI should resolve to a JMS endpoint. If not, or if the consumer doesn’t support JMS (typically when it’s running over HTTP) then the resource will resolve to an HTTP endpoint.
The ZapThink Take
Is the USCG implementing “pure” SOA or “pure” REST? I’m not even going to dignify those questions with a response, because the whole notion of a “pure” architectural approach is inherently dogmatic. What the USCG has done is implement an architecture that actually works for them—that is, it delivers loosely coupled, abstracted Business Services with the flexibility and performance they require. And remember, actually working trumps following a pre-determined set of best practices every time—especially when those best practices don’t actually solve the problems at hand.
There are two important morals here. First, REST-based SOA is alive and well, and offers straightforward solutions to many of the knottier problems that Web Services-based SOA has suffered from. But even more importantly, the success the USCG has achieved shows that any architectural approach is nothing more than a loose collection of best practices. It’s up to the architect to know which best practices are best for solving their particular problems. Avoid a dogmatic approach, and select the right tool for the job, even if that brands you as an iconoclast.
"We've just seen a huge influx of new partners coming into our ecosystem, and partners building unique offerings on top of our API set," explained Seth Bostock, Chief Executive Officer at IndependenceIT, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 16th Cloud Expo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Aug. 3, 2015 11:00 PM EDT Reads: 691
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Aug. 3, 2015 06:45 PM EDT Reads: 533
Container technology is sending shock waves through the world of cloud computing. Heralded as the 'next big thing,' containers provide software owners a consistent way to package their software and dependencies while infrastructure operators benefit from a standard way to deploy and run them. Containers present new challenges for tracking usage due to their dynamic nature. They can also be deployed to bare metal, virtual machines and various cloud platforms. How do software owners track the usag...
Aug. 3, 2015 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 278
The Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), which enables organizations to seamlessly run in a hybrid cloud model (public + private cloud), is here to stay. IDC estimates that the software-defined networking market will be valued at $3.7 billion by 2016. Security is a key component and benefit of the SDDC, and offers an opportunity to build security 'from the ground up' and weave it into the environment from day one. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Reuven Harrison, CTO and Co-Founder of Tufin,...
Aug. 3, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 561
One of the ways to increase scalability of services – and applications – is to go “stateless.” The reasons for this are many, but in general by eliminating the mapping between a single client and a single app or service instance you eliminate the need for resources to manage state in the app (overhead) and improve the distributability (I can make up words if I want) of requests across a pool of instances. The latter occurs because sessions don’t need to hang out and consume resources that could ...
Aug. 3, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 273
Alibaba, the world’s largest ecommerce provider, has pumped over a $1 billion into its subsidiary, Aliya, a cloud services provider. This is perhaps one of the biggest moments in the global Cloud Wars that signals the entry of China into the main arena. Here is why this matters. The cloud industry worldwide is being propelled into fast growth by tremendous demand for cloud computing services. Cloud, which is highly scalable and offers low investment and high computational capabilities to end us...
Aug. 3, 2015 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 212
You often hear the two titles of "DevOps" and "Immutable Infrastructure" used independently. In his session at DevOps Summit, John Willis, Technical Evangelist for Docker, covered the union between the two topics and why this is important. He provided an overview of Immutable Infrastructure then showed how an Immutable Continuous Delivery pipeline can be applied as a best practice for "DevOps." He ended the session with some interesting case study examples.
Aug. 3, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 296
Take the Long View with Digital Transformation By @IoT2040 | @ThingsExpo #IoT #M2M #API #Microservices #InternetOfThings
Digital Transformation is the ultimate goal of cloud computing and related initiatives. The phrase is certainly not a precise one, and as subject to hand-waving and distortion as any high-falutin' terminology in the world of information technology. Yet it is an excellent choice of words to describe what enterprise IT—and by extension, organizations in general—should be working to achieve. Digital Transformation means: handling all the data types being found and created in the organizat...
Aug. 2, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,138
Aug. 2, 2015 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 330
Approved this February by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), HTTP/2 is the first major update to HTTP since 1999, when HTTP/1.1 was standardized. Designed with performance in mind, one of the biggest goals of HTTP/2 implementation is to decrease latency while maintaining a high-level compatibility with HTTP/1.1. Though not all testing activities will be impacted by the new protocol, it's important for testers to be aware of any changes moving forward.
Aug. 2, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 209
This week, I joined SOASTA as Senior Vice President of Performance Analytics. Given my background in cloud computing and distributed systems operations — you may have read my blogs on CNET or GigaOm — this may surprise you, but I want to explain why this is the perfect time to take on this opportunity with this team. In fact, that’s probably the best way to break this down. To explain why I’d leave the world of infrastructure and code for the world of data and analytics, let’s explore the timing...
Aug. 1, 2015 07:45 PM EDT Reads: 427
[slides] Storage for Docker Containers By @OnModulus | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #Docker #Containers #Microservices
Learn how to solve the problem of keeping files in sync between multiple Docker containers. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Aaron Brongersma, Senior Infrastructure Engineer at Modulus, discussed using rsync, GlusterFS, EBS and Bit Torrent Sync. He broke down the tools that are needed to help create a seamless user experience. In the end, can we have an environment where we can easily move Docker containers, servers, and volumes without impacting our applications? He shared his results so yo...
Jul. 31, 2015 11:45 PM EDT Reads: 805
Modern DevOps Tool Kit By @Logentries and @NewRelic | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #Containers #Microservices
Auto-scaling environments, micro-service architectures and globally-distributed teams are just three common examples of why organizations today need automation and interoperability more than ever. But is interoperability something we simply start doing, or does it require a reexamination of our processes? And can we really improve our processes without first making interoperability a requirement for how we choose our tools?
Jul. 31, 2015 11:15 PM EDT Reads: 435
Cloud Migration Management (CMM) refers to the best practices for planning and managing migration of IT systems from a legacy platform to a Cloud Provider through a combination professional services consulting and software tools. A Cloud migration project can be a relatively simple exercise, where applications are migrated ‘as is’, to gain benefits such as elastic capacity and utility pricing, but without making any changes to the application architecture, software development methods or busine...
Jul. 31, 2015 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,360
The Internet of Things. Cloud. Big Data. Real-Time Analytics. To those who do not quite understand what these phrases mean (and let’s be honest, that’s likely to be a large portion of the world), words like “IoT” and “Big Data” are just buzzwords. The truth is, the Internet of Things encompasses much more than jargon and predictions of connected devices. According to Parker Trewin, Senior Director of Content and Communications of Aria Systems, “IoT is big news because it ups the ante: Reach out ...
Jul. 31, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 424
Where the Network Got Invited to the Party By @LMacVittie | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #Docker #Containers #Microservices
At DevOps Summit NY there’s been a whole lot of talk about not just DevOps, but containers, IoT, and microservices. Sessions focused not just on the cultural shift needed to grow at scale with a DevOps approach, but also made sure to include the network ”plumbing” needed to ensure success as applications decompose into the microservice architectures enabling rapid growth and support for the Internet of (Every)Things.
Jul. 30, 2015 08:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,781
Designing the IT Architecture of the Future with Adrian Cockcroft | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #Docker #Containers #Microservices
Our guest on the podcast this week is Adrian Cockcroft, Technology Fellow at Battery Ventures. We discuss what makes Docker and Netflix highly successful, especially through their use of well-designed IT architecture and DevOps.
Jul. 30, 2015 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 802
[slides] A New Architecture for the Internet of Things By @JKirklan | @ThingsExpo @RedHatNews #IoT #M2M #InternetOfThings
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Arch...
Jul. 30, 2015 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,426
[slides] Workloads and Public Cloud at @CloudExpo By @utollwi | @ProfitBricksUSA #DevOps #Containers #Microservices
Public Cloud IaaS started its life in the developer and startup communities and has grown rapidly to a $20B+ industry, but it still pales in comparison to how much is spent worldwide on IT: $3.6 trillion. In fact, there are 8.6 million data centers worldwide, the reality is many small and medium sized business have server closets and colocation footprints filled with servers and storage gear. While on-premise environment virtualization may have peaked at 75%, the Public Cloud has lagged in adop...
Jul. 30, 2015 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,245
MuleSoft has announced the findings of its 2015 Connectivity Benchmark Report on the adoption and business impact of APIs. The findings suggest traditional businesses are quickly evolving into "composable enterprises" built out of hundreds of connected software services, applications and devices. Most are embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and microservices technologies like Docker. A majority are integrating wearables, like smart watches, and more than half plan to generate revenue with ...
Jul. 30, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 151