Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Wayne Salpietro, Pat Romanski, Christoph Schell

Related Topics: Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, Machine Learning , Recurring Revenue

Java IoT: Article

Why an Application Grid?

Doing more with less infrastructure

Application servers, those dependable workhorses that run most enterprise Java applications, are rarely a hot topic of conversation these days. As a technology category, the application server appears to be fairly "established" and that the focus has moved elsewhere in the stack, but appearances can be deceiving.

In fact, much remains to be done at the application server layer. One area ripe for innovation is the ability for application server instances to work together to enable more rapid deployment of new applications and hardware while at the same time improving the utilization of underlying physical resources. In contrast to the traditional one-app/one-app-server/one-OS/one-machine architecture, a new approach has emerged with multiple application servers pooling and sharing lower-cost compute resources, while dynamically reallocating these resources across applications as needs evolve.

Grid computing refers to the aggregation of multiple, distributed computing resources, making them function as a single computing resource with respect to a particular computational task. Grid is a form of virtualization in the sense that it hides the details of resources and makes them appear like something different. Application grid applies the same concept to application servers and describes an architecture in which multiple application server instances work together to provide a shared, dynamically allocatable pool of resources to a set of applications.

Why an Application Grid?
Before delving into what it takes to make this concept work, let's look at the motivation for seeking an alternative approach in the first place. What is the primary infrastructure challenge as it stands today? An issue widely discussed in the pages of Java Developer's Journal is that of stove-piped architecture whereby applications are structured as monolithic entities that are difficult to integrate and reuse. Industry adoption of SOA has gone a long way to breaking down stovepipes at the application level. SOA achieves this by decomposing applications into finer-grained services that can be connected and reused in a more flexible way. Stove-piped resources typically remain underneath each of these SOA services - machines that are statically allocated to the entities they run. As each stovepipe (stack) is statically configured, bringing new stacks online takes a lot of effort and a big investment in hardware that will likely be underutilized.

With an application grid, the allocation of machines to applications is dynamic since it becomes easier to bring both new machines and new applications into service. With a stovepipe under an application, increasing capacity typically means adding another app server/OS/machine stack and then putting a mechanism in place to load-balance. This causes inefficiency because you don't get linear scaling - doubling the number of servers doesn't get you double the number of transactions per second or concurrent users - because other bottlenecks come into play. By contrast new application grid-enabled application servers support clustering that scales to much higher levels.

An application grid also helps improve hardware efficiency because excess capacity can be redirected to applications that need it most. By sharing and pooling resources, an application grid allows the total compute resources required to be less than the sum of all the applications' peak demands. Since few applications hit their peak loads at the same time in most environments, shared resources can be moved from lower-demand applications to those with higher demand. Continuous, automated, dynamic adjustment of resources is one of the primary capabilities of the application grid architecture.

Finally, an application grid enables a higher quality of service. Faster response times and higher reliability, which come from the application grid's ability to parallelize computation, replicate data across distributed nodes, and reduce interruptions from network problems or Java garbage collection, allow more computation per unit of time, and improve resiliency by eliminating single points of failure and automating failover. An application grid also provides tools to manage a collection of machines in an aggregated way, enabling faster administrative response and reducing human error.

Creating an Application Grid
Sounds great, but can this be achieved with current technologies? There is certainly more work for vendors in future product releases, but much can be done today. There are four fundamental capabilities that must be in place at the application server level: clustering, adjusting, metering, and automating.

Clustering is supported by most application servers, though with varying levels of reliability and administration. It is most often used for availability/failover: instances in a cluster divide work and replicate data, such as Web user sessions; each instance is responsible to another member of the cluster that serves as a backup. A backup server automatically takes over responsibilities in the event of the primary's failure. Clustering also allows horizontal scale-out since work is distributed (load-balanced) across the cluster.

Adjustment capability coupled with scale-out clustering is a key element of application grids. It's one thing to statically set up a set of application server instances (nodes) as a cluster and put load balancing in front of it. But when nodes can be added to or removed from the cluster while the application is running, we have the basis for dynamic scaling.

Metering, or instrumentation, complements adjustment. We need to adjust clusters for visibility into what's happening inside them. Are any computing resources near critical thresholds? Are application service levels in danger? In short, the application server, the Java Virtual Machine, and other resources must provide the right kind of information about things like memory use and latency.

Once we have dynamically adjustable clustering with good instrumentation, the linchpin of the application grid is automation. This meta-level controller plugs into the adjustment controls and metering instruments of the clusters creating an automated feedback loop of observations and adjustments. The mechanism adds nodes to clusters in need of capacity and removes nodes from clusters with reduced need. Since each cluster is ignorant of the surrounding clusters competing for resources, the application grid controller makes allocation decisions that are optimal for the grid overall, taking into account demands, resources, and policies.

Getting Started
Many enterprises have already started down the path to an application grid by using the clustering mechanisms in contemporary application servers for horizontal scale-out and by using scripting to partially automate the addition and removal of nodes.

State-of-the-art distributed caching technologies complement these early steps by creating an even more dynamic in-memory data grid with extreme scalability. Real-time JVM technology provides the predictability and additional instrumentation for applications with microsecond latency demands. And finally, as understanding and practices around application grid mature, management technologies with increasingly sophisticated mechanisms for cross-grid optimization will continue to evolve.

The combination of accelerating business change and the agility enabled by SOA imposes increasingly volatile demands on infrastructure. At the same time, the economic climate is driving the need for greater resource efficiency. It's time for a new approach to application resourcing: application grid.

More Stories By Adam Messinger

Adam Messinger is Vice President of Development in the Fusion Middleware group at Oracle. He is responsible for managing the Oracle Coherence, Oracle JRockit, Oracle WebLogic Operations Control, and other web tier products. Prior to joining Oracle, he worked as a venture capitalist at Smartforest Ventures and O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures. Adam is a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business where he was a Sloan Fellow and of Willamette University where he was a G. Herbert Smith Scholar.

More Stories By Mike Piech

Mike Piech is senior director at Oracle with responsibility for Oracle Fusion Middleware products: Oracle WebLogic, Oracle Coherence, Oracle JRockit, and Oracle Tuxedo. He joined Oracle as part of the BEA acquisition, prior to which he spent seven years running product marketing at Dorado Corporation, which builds a WebLogic-based cloud solution for mortgage banking.

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
jabailo 05/14/09 01:39:00 PM EDT

I think application server developers should switch from trying to build something that has everything but the kitchen sink, to moderately functional, very robust and specifically useful servers.

The application grid is a great idea. Instead of repeating clusters of overloaded database and application servers, a heterogeneous network of servers that have a blend of specific functionality and some degree of programmability inside the box.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
"Peak 10 is a hybrid infrastructure provider across the nation. We are in the thick of things when it comes to hybrid IT," explained Michael Fuhrman, Chief Technology Officer at Peak 10, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
Data reduction delivers compelling cost reduction that substantially improves the business case in every cloud deployment model. No matter which cloud approach you choose, the cost savings benefits from data reduction should not be ignored and must be a component of your cloud strategy. IT professionals are finding that the future of IT infrastructure lies in the cloud. Data reduction technologies enable clouds — public, private, and hybrid — to deliver business agility and elasticity at the lo...
"At the keynote this morning we spoke about the value proposition of Nutanix, of having a DevOps culture and a mindset, and the business outcomes of achieving agility and scale, which everybody here is trying to accomplish," noted Mark Lavi, DevOps Solution Architect at Nutanix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"DivvyCloud as a company set out to help customers automate solutions to the most common cloud problems," noted Jeremy Snyder, VP of Business Development at DivvyCloud, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"We focus on SAP workloads because they are among the most powerful but somewhat challenging workloads out there to take into public cloud," explained Swen Conrad, CEO of Ocean9, Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
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 protoco...
Your homes and cars can be automated and self-serviced. Why can't your storage? From simply asking questions to analyze and troubleshoot your infrastructure, to provisioning storage with snapshots, recovery and replication, your wildest sci-fi dream has come true. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, provided a ChatOps demo where you can talk to your storage and manage it from anywhere, through Slack and similar services with...
"I think DevOps is now a rambunctious teenager – it’s starting to get a mind of its own, wanting to get its own things but it still needs some adult supervision," explained Thomas Hooker, VP of marketing at CollabNet, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"I will be talking about ChatOps and ChatOps as a way to solve some problems in the DevOps space," explained Himanshu Chhetri, CTO of Addteq, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
From personal care products to groceries and movies on demand, cloud-based subscriptions are fulfilling the needs of consumers across an array of market sectors. Nowhere is this shift to subscription services more evident than in the technology sector. By adopting an Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) delivery model, companies are able to tailor their computing environments to shape the experiences they want for customers as well as their workforce.
If you read a lot of business and technology publications, you might think public clouds are universally preferred over all other cloud options. To be sure, the numbers posted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft’s Azure platform are nothing short of impressive. Statistics reveal that public clouds are growing faster than private clouds and analysts at IDC predict that public cloud growth will be 3 times that of private clouds by 2019.
"Outscale was founded in 2010, is based in France, is a strategic partner to Dassault Systémes and has done quite a bit of work with divisions of Dassault," explained Jackie Funk, Digital Marketing exec at Outscale, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In their Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, and Mark Lav...
"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.
For over a decade, Application Programming Interface or APIs have been used to exchange data between multiple platforms. From social media to news and media sites, most websites depend on APIs to provide a dynamic and real-time digital experience. APIs have made its way into almost every device and service available today and it continues to spur innovations in every field of technology. There are multiple programming languages used to build and run applications in the online world. And just li...
If you are thinking about moving applications off a mainframe and over to open systems and the cloud, consider these guidelines to prioritize what to move and what to eliminate. On the surface, mainframe architecture seems relatively simple: A centrally located computer processes data through an input/output subsystem and stores its computations in memory. At the other end of the mainframe are printers and terminals that communicate with the mainframe through protocols. For all of its appare...
"As we've gone out into the public cloud we've seen that over time we may have lost a few things - we've lost control, we've given up cost to a certain extent, and then security, flexibility," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics,in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Five years ago development was seen as a dead-end career, now it’s anything but – with an explosion in mobile and IoT initiatives increasing the demand for skilled engineers. But apart from having a ready supply of great coders, what constitutes true ‘DevOps Royalty’? It’ll be the ability to craft resilient architectures, supportability, security everywhere across the software lifecycle. In his keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Jeffrey Scheaffer, GM and SVP, Continuous Delivery Busine...
"We do one of the best file systems in the world. We learned how to deal with Big Data many years ago and we implemented this knowledge into our software," explained Jakub Ratajczak, Business Development Manager at MooseFS, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.