Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Kong Yang, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Jyoti Bansal

Related Topics: Microservices Expo

Microservices Expo: Article

Moving Toward the Zero Latency Enterprise

Moving Toward the Zero Latency Enterprise

The Internet makes it possible to deliver information almost instantaneously - anytime, anywhere - and is redefining the traditional boundaries around organizations and their IT systems. The Internet has turned buyers into sellers, sellers into buyers, and set new expectations for how services should be delivered. These expectations raise the bar for applications in terms of their need for interconnectivity and responsiveness. For businesses to remain competitive in this environment - or in the case of government agencies, responsive - they must embrace the idea that speed not only matters, but that it is now a key discriminator. Enterprises able to leverage the Internet's real-time nature and its technologies create competitive advantages that let them reap the benefits of greater efficiency, responsiveness, market share, and profitability. This promise has led businesses to look to interconnect their enterprise resource management (ERM), supply chain management (SCM), and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, both internally and externally; and government agencies to look for better ways to connect their systems with the public, their suppliers, and each other.

The Gartner Group coined the term "zero latency enterprise (ZLE)" to describe organizations that can exchange information with employees, trading partners and customers in near real time). The original focus was on internal systems, but much of what Gartner said applies equally to eliminating latency between internal and external systems. Figure 1 illustrates many of the concepts underpinning ZLE. In a ZLE organization, business events trigger system events that post actions and send responses throughout the enterprise. Bill Gates calls this level of interconnectivity a "digital nervous system." Like the human nervous system, the applications in a ZLE organization interconnect in such a way that they eliminate latency, which is the time gap between when the system receives information at one point and uses it, wherever needed, at others.

 

Becoming a ZLE
Transforming your organization into a ZLE is a three-phase process. You must understand where latency exists within your current processes and systems and your options for reducing or eliminating it. You must then create an architecture that focuses on minimizing latency along the critical path of as many business processes as possible. Finally, you must translate the architecture into an implementation plan that provides the roadmap for yours becoming a ZLE organization.

The first step in becoming a ZLE organization is identifying the major business processes within your organization that the ZLE architecture must support. One goal at this stage is to establish the architectural boundaries of the effort; will it deal with internal systems, external systems, or both? Another goal is to understand the dynamics of each business process: its tempo, meter, natural pauses and breaks. Understanding these dynamics is critical to recognizing latency and bounding the parameters for fixing it. It is important to remember that what constitutes latency in one process may be completely acceptable in another, even for the same application.

The next step is to decompose each business process into its applications and identify any latency points that exist. You should ask: What applications make up this process? Is latency a problem in either the overall process or one or more of its supporting applications? If so, how much of a problem? How much does its timing need to change? The result of asking and answering these questions is a list of business processes and applications that have latency problems.

Next you need to learn as much as possible about each latency point so that you can later devise techniques for removing, or at least minimizing, the latency. For internal systems, latency stems from several root causes (see Figure 2). Legacy systems are often stovepiped applications that were developed independently, over time, using different technologies. These applications create islands of information and functionality that are by their very nature difficult to integrate and share.

 

The same data belonging to different applications may be in different formats, follow different data validation and business rules, or be updated through completely different business processes. Interfaces within these older applications tend to be synchronous, tightly coupled, and driven more by the underlying technologies than the business needs they serve. Proprietary drivers, proprietary APIs, and proprietary formats represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tying these systems together. One question you should ask is: What are each application's processing characteristics: batch, on-demand, or continuously running? Some may be batch oriented where you need them to be real time, others may have availability and reliability problems in cases where you need them to be 24x7. These issues frequently reflect age and technology differences that increase the difficulties in creating a coherent architecture.

Latency's causes multiply when you look at connecting internal and external systems. Each external system potentially represents a different set of technology, security, reliability, and manageability characteristics that your architecture must address.

The Architecture
At the end of the first phase, you should have a good understanding of your organization's internal and external business processes and the latency points you need to address within each. You're now ready to lay out the major business processes and applications and begin developing an overall ZLE architecture. It's important that your architecture address four key elements: business process management, data communications and routing, data transformation and formatting, and applications connectivity.

Business process management is, in my opinion, the most important part of the architecture; it's the glue that ties applications together. It should reflect the enterprise's business processes: assembling, sequencing, and orchestrating applications to align them with the business's natural processes and work flows. A workflow manager, a rules engine, and collaborative tools can be critical components at this level. Employees, business partners, and customers should find easy-to-use, intuitive interfaces supporting your core business processes.

Data communications and routing in conjunction with business process management create the central nervous system for the ZLE architecture. Two fundamental architectures, shown in Figure 3, have evolved in this area: hub-and-spoke; and data, or information, bus. The hub-and-spoke architecture uses a central integration engine and message queuing products, such as MQSeries and MSMQ, to integrate across applications. In this architecture, applications deal with one another through the central hub; this is responsible for extracting, transforming, and routing data and coordinating activities throughout the overall system.

 

The information bus architecture takes a decentralized approach. This architecture implements a common messaging framework, frequently using a publish and subscribe model, for intercommunication. Applications connect to this bus through application adapters and pass messages to one another by placing them onto the bus. The information bus may use either a messaging or workflow manager to assist in routing messages. You can use either architecture internally; the information bus is clearly superior when connecting between internal and external systems.

XML has become the lingua franca for solving the data transformation and formatting problem. It provides a flexible, extensible syntax for expressing both information and its structure in a meaningful format. Legacy applications can apply Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations (XSLTs) to XML documents to convert information within those documents into whatever format they need. Data transfer and replication tools are also available for extracting, transforming, cleansing, and loading data for those wanting to make minimum modifications to existing applications.

Application integration can occur at many different levels (see Figure 4). A key question is whether there is overlap in the data the applications process or the business rules they enforce. User interface integration integrates applications at the presentation layer. This level of integration is valuable for connecting independent applications into common business processes. Data integration integrates applications at the database level by copying, transferring, or replicating information from one data source to another. This is a good strategy when transfers are timely and business rules are sufficiently compatible. Business logic integration integrates applications' middle tiers, allowing each application to retain its original business rules and logic. This level of integration works best for tying existing, interdependent applications together into more streamlined processes. Component integration integrates applications through their application programming interfaces (APIs), common components, or function calls. Integration at this level may require you to write proxy interfaces for some components; change call interfaces from direct to RPC for others; or adopt a distributed object model such as DCOM, CORBA, or Web services. This integration form is most useful for creating components several applications or processes can share.

 

A critical part of the application integration analysis is looking closely at each latency point to determine both the level of integration and corrections needed. The first step is to identify the appropriate integration level for each application: presentation, business logic, or data. Simply changing the application's invocation characteristics may be enough to also change its latency characteristics for some applications.

In situations where that is not the case, the next step is to drill down into the application and its interfaces with an eye towards improving the application's performance characteristics. The first, and simplest, corrective measure is to identify and remove any inefficiencies or chokepoints within the application. A second option is to look at overlapping the application's processing with that of others by making it an asynchronous process. Making an application asynchronous is straight-forward; you simply need to add a queue and alerting and rendezvous mechanisms. This can also be a good approach for dealing with reliability and availability problems caused by older systems. A third, and sometimes only, option is to redesign and rewrite the application.

You may need to make several passes through each of the four architectural elements to finalize the ZLE architecture. That isn't unusual. It's important that you come away with an overall architectural strategy, a list of integration points, and an idea of the integration strategies you'll need to address as part of the implementation process, which is the next step. Before proceeding to the implementation phase, it's a good idea to create a set of guiding principles to help in making architectural tradeoffs and selecting products. Questions you should answer include: Are the number or types of products you use of concern? How about the amount of code you write? Is it important to use the same solution for solving the latency problem between both internal and external applications? Is it important to use the same integration solution for integration points at the same level? Do you have large investments in ERM, SCM, or CRM solutions that will drive the implementation? With the answers to these questions in hand, you're now ready to look at options for implementing the architecture.

Implementation
Web services provides a lightweight, standards-based solution for implementing a ZLE architecture. Web services offers an integration model that brings applications together as loosely coupled components within a larger architectural framework. This standards-based framework closely aligns to the four elements in the ZLE architecture (see Figure 5). Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS) and WS-Choreography are standards proposals for modeling, defining, orchestrating, and implementing business processes. WS-Transaction and WS-Security supply protocols for implementing atomic and business transactions, and security features such as authentication and encryption that are necessary for tying applications together into new business processes. The Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), HTTP, and TCP/IP create the backbone for data communications. WS-Routing, and WS-Referral address the data routing problem.

 

XML, which is the heart of Web services, provides a standard for data representation. XSLT adds a language for data transformation and formatting. SOAP-RPC contributes a lightweight, standards-based, platform-independent component model for implementing distributed components. In short, Web services provides all the elements necessary to implement whatever ZLE architecture you ultimately develop. With several of the standards still evolving, the issue is that products lag behind standards; that means you have to write more code.

If that is a concern, off-the-shelf enterprise application integration (EAI) products offer a good foundation for moving towards a ZLE organization. EAI products provide message broker and adapter technologies that quickly integrate applications to exchange and share information at the data, business logic, or presentation layers. Most EAI solutions implement either a message broker or bus concept corresponding to the hub-and-spoke and information bus architectures. If you decide this is the best approach for you, choose a product that fits into your overall integration strategy by providing the greatest number of integration adapters corresponding to the integration levels, points, and products you identified as part of your analysis.

EAI and Web services are extremely powerful together - EAI for fine-grained interfaces, Web services for coarse-grained interfaces. Many EAI vendors, such as SeeBeyond, TIBCO, webMethods, and IBM, recognize this synergy and offer products that are in fact a marriage between traditional EAI technologies and Web services. These products give you a best of both worlds option. Ultimately, the question boils down to which strategy works best with your architecture within your organization.

Summary
The costs of not becoming a ZLE organization are high; they translate to frustrated customers, disappointed partners, and missed opportunities. The challenges are in understanding critical business processes and developing an architecture that removes the problems creating latency both in the enterprise's internal systems and in their connections to systems be-longing to trading partners and customers. Web services standards, which EAI products are rapidly adapting, lay out the framework you need for implementing this architecture. As more companies adopt them, low cost, standards-based solutions for implementing ZLE applications may finally become a reality.

More Stories By Rickland Hollar

Rickland Hollar is a senior applications architect with the Central Intelligence Agency with over 30 years of experience in the industry. The views expressed in this article are his own and not necessarily those of the Agency. Prior to joining the CIA, he was president of a Virginia-based software development firm.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Wil Marshman 09/08/03 05:17:13 PM EDT

We [HP's NonStop Enterprise Division (NED), aka Tandem] picked up on ZLE several years ago and have produced a framework [as a product/solution] to facilitate customers doing what Holler describes. The Real Time Enterprise is an idea whose time has come [I assert that certain data needs to be accessible in real time for an enterprise to function effectively and many of our IT systems are not amenable to the changes required, mostly due to the silos that enterprises have built].

My point is that there are companies who can make the journey that Mr. Hollar describes easier. HP's ZLE implementation is ahead of the game.

Wil

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Enterprise architects are increasingly adopting multi-cloud strategies as they seek to utilize existing data center assets, leverage the advantages of cloud computing and avoid cloud vendor lock-in. This requires a globally aware traffic management strategy that can monitor infrastructure health across data centers and end-user experience globally, while responding to control changes and system specification at the speed of today’s DevOps teams. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Josh Gray, Chie...
In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Scott Davis, CTO of Embotics, will discuss how automation can provide the dynamic management required to cost-effectively deliver microservices and container solutions at scale. He will discuss how flexible automation is the key to effectively bridging and seamlessly coordinating both IT and developer needs for component orchestration across disparate clouds – an increasingly important requirement at today’s multi-cloud enterprise.
To more closely examine the variety of ways in which IT departments around the world are integrating cloud services, and the effect hybrid IT has had on their organizations and IT job roles, SolarWinds recently released the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2017: Portrait of a Hybrid Organization. This annual study consists of survey-based research that explores significant trends, developments, and movements related to and directly affecting IT and IT professionals.
Developers want to create better apps faster. Static clouds are giving way to scalable systems, with dynamic resource allocation and application monitoring. You won't hear that chant from users on any picket line, but helping developers to create better apps faster is the mission of Lee Atchison, principal cloud architect and advocate at New Relic Inc., based in San Francisco. His singular job is to understand and drive the industry in the areas of cloud architecture, microservices, scalability ...
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor – all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Is your application too difficult to manage? Do changes take dozens of developers hundreds of hours to execute, and frequently result in downtime across all your site’s functions? It sounds like you have a monolith! A monolith is one of the three main software architectures that define most applications. Whether you’ve intentionally set out to create a monolith or not, it’s worth at least weighing the pros and cons of the different architectural approaches and deciding which one makes the most s...
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.
This recent research on cloud computing from the Register delves a little deeper than many of the "We're all adopting cloud!" surveys we've seen. They found that meaningful cloud adoption and the idea of the cloud-first enterprise are still not reality for many businesses. The Register's stats also show a more gradual cloud deployment trend over the past five years, not any sort of explosion. One important takeaway is that coherence across internal and external clouds is essential for IT right n...
Back in February of 2017, Andrew Clay Schafer of Pivotal tweeted the following: “seriously tho, the whole software industry is stuck on deployment when we desperately need architecture and telemetry.” Intrigue in a 140 characters. For me, I hear Andrew saying, “we’re jumping to step 5 before we’ve successfully completed steps 1-4.”
In large enterprises, environment provisioning and server provisioning account for a significant portion of the operations team's time. This often leaves users frustrated while they wait for these services. For instance, server provisioning can take several days and sometimes even weeks. At the same time, digital transformation means the need for server and environment provisioning is constantly growing. Organizations are adopting agile methodologies and software teams are increasing the speed ...
Software as a service (SaaS), one of the earliest and most successful cloud services, has reached mainstream status. According to Cisco, by 2019 more than four-fifths (83 percent) of all data center traffic will be based in the cloud, up from 65 percent today. The majority of this traffic will be applications. Businesses of all sizes are adopting a variety of SaaS-based services – everything from collaboration tools to mission-critical commerce-oriented applications. The rise in SaaS usage has m...
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, drew upon his own experience with operating a Docker container-based infrastructure on a large scale and present a lightweight solution for resource isolation using microservices. He also discussed the implementation of microservices in data and application integrat...
We'd all like to fulfill that "find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life" cliché. But in reality, every job (even if it's our dream job) comes with its downsides. For you, the constant fight against shadow IT might get on your last nerves. For your developer coworkers, infrastructure management is the roadblock that stands in the way of focusing on coding. As you watch more and more applications and processes move to the cloud, technology is coming to developers' rescue-most r...
2016 has been an amazing year for Docker and the container industry. We had 3 major releases of Docker engine this year , and tremendous increase in usage. The community has been following along and contributing amazing Docker resources to help you learn and get hands-on experience. Here’s some of the top read and viewed content for the year. Of course releases are always really popular, particularly when they fit requests we had from the community.
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...
Even for the most seasoned IT pros, the cloud is complicated. It can be difficult just to wrap your head around the many terms and acronyms that make up the cloud dictionary-not to mention actually mastering the technology. Unfortunately, complicated cloud terms are often combined to the point that their meanings are lost in a sea of conflicting opinions. Two terms that are used interchangeably (but shouldn't be) are hybrid cloud and multicloud. If you want to be the cloud expert your company ne...
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 human body is the most complex machine ever created! With a complex network of interconnected organs, millions of cells and the most advanced processor, human body is the most automated system in this planet. In this article, we will draw comparisons between working of a human body to that of a datacenter. We will learn how self-defense and self-healing capabilities of our human body is similar to firewalls and intelligent monitoring capabilities in our datacenters. We will draw parallels b...
Cloud adoption is often driven by a desire to increase efficiency, boost agility and save money. All too often, however, the reality involves unpredictable cost spikes and lack of oversight due to resource limitations. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Joe Kinsella, CTO and Founder of CloudHealth Technologies, will tackle the question: “How do you build a fully optimized cloud?” He will examine: Why TCO is critical to achieving cloud success – and why attendees should be thinking holisticall...