Welcome!

SOA & WOA Authors: Liz McMillan, Scott Bampton, Gilad Parann-Nissany, Andrew Phillips, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: Java, SOA & WOA, Linux, AJAX & REA, Oracle

Java: 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.

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Harbinger Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Harbinger Systems is a global company providing software technology services. Since 1990, Harbinger has developed a strong customer base worldwide. Its customers include software product companies ranging from hi-tech start-ups in Silicon Valley to leading product companies in the US and large in-house IT organizations.
The only place to be June 9-11 is Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo 2015 East at the Javits Center in New York City. Join us there as delegates from all over the world come to listen to and engage with speakers & sponsors from the leading Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data companies. Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo are the leading events covering the booming market of Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data for the enterprise. Speakers from all over the world will be hand-picked for their ability to explore the economic strategies that utility/cloud computing provides. Whether public, private, or in a hybrid form, clo...
SYS-CON Events announces a new pavilion on the Cloud Expo floor where WebRTC converges with the Internet of Things. Pavilion will showcase WebRTC and the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices--computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridsto...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Group, will discuss how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, senso...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics...
Internet of @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley announced on Thursday its first 12 all-star speakers and sessions for its upcoming event, which will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. @ThingsExpo, the first and largest IoT event in the world, debuted at the Javits Center in New York City in June 10-12, 2014 with over 6,000 delegates attending the conference. Among the first 12 announced world class speakers, IBM will present two highly popular IoT sessions, which will take place November 4-6, 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., will show what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He will discuss opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and tec...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TeleStax, the main sponsor of Mobicents, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TeleStax provides Open Source Communications software and services that facilitate the shift from legacy SS7 based IN networks to IP based LTE and IMS networks hosted on private (on-premise), hybrid or public clouds. TeleStax products include Restcomm, JSLEE, SMSC Gateway, USSD Gateway, SS7 Resource Adaptors, SIP Servlets, Rich Multimedia Services, Presence Services/RCS, Diame...
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
As a disruptive technology, Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), which is an emerging standard of web communications, is redefining how brands and consumers communicate in real time. The on-going narrative around WebRTC has largely been around incorporating video, audio and chat functions to apps. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Alex Gouaillard, Founder and CTO of Temasys Communications, will look at a fourth element – data channels – and talk about its potential to move WebRTC beyond browsers and into the Internet of Things.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gigaom Research has been named "Media Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, will also lead a Power Panel on the topic "Choosing the Right Cloud Option." Gigaom Research provides timely, in-depth analysis of emerging technologies for individual and corporate subscribers. Gigaom Research's network of 200+ independent analysts provides new content daily that bridges the gap between break...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.