|By Jason Bloomberg||
|May 27, 2014 08:30 AM EDT||
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.
It’s been proven time and time again that in tech, diversity drives greater innovation, better team productivity and greater profits and market share. So what can we do in our DevOps teams to embrace diversity and help transform the culture of development and operations into a true “DevOps” team? In her session at DevOps Summit, Stefana Muller, Director, Product Management – Continuous Delivery at CA Technologies, answered that question citing examples, showing how to create opportunities for ...
Aug. 27, 2015 05:45 PM EDT Reads: 436
Skeuomorphism usually means retaining existing design cues in something new that doesn’t actually need them. However, the concept of skeuomorphism can be thought of as relating more broadly to applying existing patterns to new technologies that, in fact, cry out for new approaches. In his session at DevOps Summit, Gordon Haff, Senior Cloud Strategy Marketing and Evangelism Manager at Red Hat, discussed why containers should be paired with new architectural practices such as microservices rathe...
Aug. 27, 2015 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 336
Early in my DevOps Journey, I was introduced to a book of great significance circulating within the Web Operations industry titled The Phoenix Project. (You can read our review of Gene’s book, if interested.) Written as a novel and loosely based on many of the same principles explored in The Goal, this book has been read and referenced by many who have adopted DevOps into their continuous improvement and software delivery processes around the world. As I began planning my travel schedule last...
Aug. 27, 2015 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 469
Any Ops team trying to support a company in today’s cloud-connected world knows that a new way of thinking is required – one just as dramatic than the shift from Ops to DevOps. The diversity of modern operations requires teams to focus their impact on breadth vs. depth. In his session at DevOps Summit, Adam Serediuk, Director of Operations at xMatters, Inc., will discuss the strategic requirements of evolving from Ops to DevOps, and why modern Operations has begun leveraging the “NoOps” approa...
Aug. 27, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 301
In today's digital world, change is the one constant. Disruptive innovations like cloud, mobility, social media, and the Internet of Things have reshaped the market and set new standards in customer expectations. To remain competitive, businesses must tap the potential of emerging technologies and markets through the rapid release of new products and services. However, the rigid and siloed structures of traditional IT platforms and processes are slowing them down – resulting in lengthy delivery ...
Aug. 27, 2015 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 508
The Microservices architectural pattern promises increased DevOps agility and can help enable continuous delivery of software. This session is for developers who are transforming existing applications to cloud-native applications, or creating new microservices style applications. In his session at DevOps Summit, Jim Bugwadia, CEO of Nirmata, will introduce best practices, patterns, challenges, and solutions for the development and operations of microservices style applications. He will discuss ...
Aug. 27, 2015 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 374
In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ernest Mueller, Product Manager at Idera, will explain the best practices and lessons learned for tracking and optimizing costs while delivering a cloud-hosted service. He will describe a DevOps approach where the applications and systems work together to track usage, model costs in a granular fashion, and make smart decisions at runtime to minimize costs. The trickier parts covered include triggering off the right metrics; balancing resilience and redundancy ...
Aug. 27, 2015 02:00 PM EDT
Docker containerization is increasingly being used in production environments. How can these environments best be monitored? Monitoring Docker containers as if they are lightweight virtual machines (i.e., monitoring the host from within the container), with all the common metrics that can be captured from an operating system, is an insufficient approach. Docker containers can’t be treated as lightweight virtual machines; they must be treated as what they are: isolated processes running on hosts....
Aug. 27, 2015 01:30 PM EDT
Before becoming a developer, I was in the high school band. I played several brass instruments - including French horn and cornet - as well as keyboards in the jazz stage band. A musician and a nerd, what can I say? I even dabbled in writing music for the band. Okay, mostly I wrote arrangements of pop music, so the band could keep the crowd entertained during Friday night football games. What struck me then was that, to write parts for all the instruments - brass, woodwind, percussion, even k...
Aug. 27, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 337
Whether you like it or not, DevOps is on track for a remarkable alliance with security. The SEC didn’t approve the merger. And your boss hasn’t heard anything about it. Yet, this unruly triumvirate will soon dominate and deliver DevSecOps faster, cheaper, better, and on an unprecedented scale. In his session at DevOps Summit, Frank Bunger, VP of Customer Success at ScriptRock, will discuss how this cathartic moment will propel the DevOps movement from such stuff as dreams are made on to a prac...
Aug. 27, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 165
SYS-CON Events announced today that G2G3 will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based on a collective appreciation for user experience, design, and technology, G2G3 is uniquely qualified and motivated to redefine how organizations and people engage in an increasingly digital world.
Aug. 27, 2015 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 386
SYS-CON Events announced today that DataClear Inc. 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. The DataClear ‘BlackBox’ is the only solution that moves your PC, browsing and data out of the United States and away from prying (and spying) eyes. Its solution automatically builds you a clean, on-demand, virus free, new virtual cloud based PC outside of the United States, and wipes it clean...
Aug. 27, 2015 10:30 AM EDT Reads: 304
What does “big enough” mean? It’s sometimes useful to argue by reductio ad absurdum. Hello, world doesn’t need to be broken down into smaller services. At the other extreme, building a monolithic enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is just asking for trouble: it’s too big, and it needs to be decomposed.
Aug. 27, 2015 08:30 AM EDT Reads: 296
Several years ago, I was a developer in a travel reservation aggregator. Our mission was to pull flight and hotel data from a bunch of cryptic reservation platforms, and provide it to other companies via an API library - for a fee. That was before companies like Expedia standardized such things. We started with simple methods like getFlightLeg() or addPassengerName(), each performing a small, well-understood function. But our customers wanted bigger, more encompassing services that would "do ...
Aug. 27, 2015 08:15 AM EDT Reads: 153
The pricing of tools or licenses for log aggregation can have a significant effect on organizational culture and the collaboration between Dev and Ops teams. Modern tools for log aggregation (of which Logentries is one example) can be hugely enabling for DevOps approaches to building and operating business-critical software systems. However, the pricing of an aggregated logging solution can affect the adoption of modern logging techniques, as well as organizational capabilities and cross-team ...
Aug. 27, 2015 07:15 AM EDT Reads: 334
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ab...
Aug. 27, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 189
DevOps has traditionally played important roles in development and IT operations, but the practice is quickly becoming core to other business functions such as customer success, business intelligence, and marketing analytics. Modern marketers today are driven by data and rely on many different analytics tools. They need DevOps engineers in general and server log data specifically to do their jobs well. Here’s why: Server log files contain the only data that is completely full and accurate in th...
Aug. 27, 2015 02:45 AM EDT Reads: 301
Brands are more than the sum of their brand elements – logos, colors, shapes, and the like. Brands are promises. Promises from a company to its customers that its products will deliver the value and experience customers expect. Today, digital is transforming enterprises across numerous industries. As companies become software-driven organizations, their brands transform into digital brands. But if brands are promises, then what do digital brands promise – and how do those promises differ from ...
Aug. 26, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 408
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advance...
Aug. 26, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 156
We chat again with Jason Bloomberg, a leading industry analyst and expert on achieving digital transformation by architecting business agility in the enterprise. He writes for Forbes, Wired, TechBeacon, and his biweekly newsletter, the Cortex. As president of Intellyx, he advises business executives on their digital transformation initiatives and delivers training on Agile Architecture. His latest book is The Agile Architecture Revolution. Check out his first interview on Agile trends here.
Aug. 24, 2015 07:15 AM EDT Reads: 485