Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Mehdi Daoudi, Pat Romanski, Flint Brenton

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).

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Today most companies are adopting or evaluating container technology - Docker in particular - to speed up application deployment, drive down cost, ease management and make application delivery more flexible overall. As with most new architectures, this dream takes significant work to become a reality. Even when you do get your application componentized enough and packaged properly, there are still challenges for DevOps teams to making the shift to continuous delivery and achieving that reducti...
Enterprises are moving to the cloud faster than most of us in security expected. CIOs are going from 0 to 100 in cloud adoption and leaving security teams in the dust. Once cloud is part of an enterprise stack, it’s unclear who has responsibility for the protection of applications, services, and data. When cloud breaches occur, whether active compromise or a publicly accessible database, the blame must fall on both service providers and users. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben Johnson, C...
Most of the time there is a lot of work involved to move to the cloud, and most of that isn't really related to AWS or Azure or Google Cloud. Before we talk about public cloud vendors and DevOps tools, there are usually several technical and non-technical challenges that are connected to it and that every company needs to solve to move to the cloud. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Stefano Bellasio, CEO and founder of Cloud Academy Inc., will discuss what the tools, disciplines, and cultural...
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...
With the rise of DevOps, containers are at the brink of becoming a pervasive technology in Enterprise IT to accelerate application delivery for the business. When it comes to adopting containers in the enterprise, security is the highest adoption barrier. Is your organization ready to address the security risks with containers for your DevOps environment? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Chris Van Tuin, Chief Technologist, NA West at Red Hat, will discuss: The top security r...
‘Trend’ is a pretty common business term, but its definition tends to vary by industry. In performance monitoring, trend, or trend shift, is a key metric that is used to indicate change. Change is inevitable. Today’s websites must frequently update and change to keep up with competition and attract new users, but such changes can have a negative impact on the user experience if not managed properly. The dynamic nature of the Internet makes it necessary to constantly monitor different metrics. O...
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
The nature of the technology business is forward-thinking. It focuses on the future and what’s coming next. Innovations and creativity in our world of software development strive to improve the status quo and increase customer satisfaction through speed and increased connectivity. Yet, while it's exciting to see enterprises embrace new ways of thinking and advance their processes with cutting edge technology, it rarely happens rapidly or even simultaneously across all industries.
Many organizations are now looking to DevOps maturity models to gauge their DevOps adoption and compare their maturity to their peers. However, as enterprise organizations rush to adopt DevOps, moving past experimentation to embrace it at scale, they are in danger of falling into the trap that they have fallen into time and time again. Unfortunately, we've seen this movie before, and we know how it ends: badly.
These days, APIs have become an integral part of the digital transformation journey for all enterprises. Every digital innovation story is connected to APIs . But have you ever pondered over to know what are the source of these APIs? Let me explain - APIs sources can be varied, internal or external, solving different purposes, but mostly categorized into the following two categories. Data lakes is a term used to represent disconnected but relevant data that are used by various business units wit...
There is a huge demand for responsive, real-time mobile and web experiences, but current architectural patterns do not easily accommodate applications that respond to events in real time. Common solutions using message queues or HTTP long-polling quickly lead to resiliency, scalability and development velocity challenges. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ryland Degnan, a Senior Software Engineer on the Netflix Edge Platform team, will discuss how by leveraging a reactive stream-based protocol,...
Many organizations adopt DevOps to reduce cycle times and deliver software faster; some take on DevOps to drive higher quality and better end-user experience; others look to DevOps for a clearer line-of-sight to customers to drive better business impacts. In truth, these three foundations go together. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 21st Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, industry experts will discuss how leading organizations build application success from all...
The last two years has seen discussions about cloud computing evolve from the public / private / hybrid split to the reality that most enterprises will be creating a complex, multi-cloud strategy. Companies are wary of committing all of their resources to a single cloud, and instead are choosing to spread the risk – and the benefits – of cloud computing across multiple providers and internal infrastructures, as they follow their business needs. Will this approach be successful? How large is the ...
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
"NetApp's vision is how we help organizations manage data - delivering the right data in the right place, in the right time, to the people who need it, and doing it agnostic to what the platform is," explained Josh Atwell, Developer Advocate for NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
The “Digital Era” is forcing us to engage with new methods to build, operate and maintain applications. This transformation also implies an evolution to more and more intelligent applications to better engage with the customers, while creating significant market differentiators. In both cases, the cloud has become a key enabler to embrace this digital revolution. So, moving to the cloud is no longer the question; the new questions are HOW and WHEN. To make this equation even more complex, most ...
One of the biggest challenges with adopting a DevOps mentality is: new applications are easily adapted to cloud-native, microservice-based, or containerized architectures - they can be built for them - but old applications need complex refactoring. On the other hand, these new technologies can require relearning or adapting new, oftentimes more complex, methodologies and tools to be ready for production. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, Solutions Marketi...
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Today companies are looking to achieve cloud-first digital agility to reduce time-to-market, optimize utilization of resources, and rapidly deliver disruptive business solutions. However, leveraging the benefits of cloud deployments can be complicated for companies with extensive legacy computing environments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, founder and CEO of Metavine, will outline the challenges enterprises face in migrating legacy solutions to the cloud. He will also prese...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...