Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Roger Strukhoff

Related Topics: Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, IoT User Interface, 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
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
"Dice has been around for the last 20 years. We have been helping tech professionals find new jobs and career opportunities," explained Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Application transformation and DevOps practices are two sides of the same coin. Enterprises that want to capture value faster, need to deliver value faster – time value of money principle. To do that enterprises need to build cloud-native apps as microservices by empowering teams to build, ship, and run in production. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Neil Gehani, senior product manager at HPE, discussed what every business should plan for how to structure their teams to delive...
Rapid innovation, changing business landscapes, and new IT demands force businesses to make changes quickly. In the eyes of many, containers are at the brink of becoming a pervasive technology in enterprise IT to accelerate application delivery. In this presentation, attendees learned about the: The transformation of IT to a DevOps, microservices, and container-based architecture What are containers and how DevOps practices can operate in a container-based environment A demonstration of how ...
As we enter the final week before the 19th International Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo in Santa Clara, CA, it's time for me to reflect on six big topics that will be important during the show. Hybrid Cloud This general-purpose term seems to provide a comfort zone for many enterprise IT managers. It sounds reassuring to be able to work with one of the major public-cloud providers like AWS or Microsoft Azure while still maintaining an on-site presence.
Without lifecycle traceability and visibility across the tool chain, stakeholders from Planning-to-Ops have limited insight and answers to who, what, when, why and how across the DevOps lifecycle. This impacts the ability to deliver high quality software at the needed velocity to drive positive business outcomes. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Phil Hombledal, Solution Architect at CollabNet, discussed how customers are able to achieve a level of transparency that e...
Much of the value of DevOps comes from a (renewed) focus on measurement, sharing, and continuous feedback loops. In increasingly complex DevOps workflows and environments, and especially in larger, regulated, or more crystallized organizations, these core concepts become even more critical. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk, showed how, by focusing on 'metrics that matter,' you can provide objective, transparent, and meaningful f...
Between 2005 and 2020, data volumes will grow by a factor of 300 – enough data to stack CDs from the earth to the moon 162 times. This has come to be known as the ‘big data’ phenomenon. Unfortunately, traditional approaches to handling, storing and analyzing data aren’t adequate at this scale: they’re too costly, slow and physically cumbersome to keep up. Fortunately, in response a new breed of technology has emerged that is cheaper, faster and more scalable. Yet, in meeting these new needs they...
@DevOpsSummit taking place June 6-8, 2017 at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York Call for Papers is now open.
Logs are continuous digital records of events generated by all components of your software stack – and they’re everywhere – your networks, servers, applications, containers and cloud infrastructure just to name a few. The data logs provide are like an X-ray for your IT infrastructure. Without logs, this lack of visibility creates operational challenges for managing modern applications that drive today’s digital businesses.
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...
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
In IT, we sometimes coin terms for things before we know exactly what they are and how they’ll be used. The resulting terms may capture a common set of aspirations and goals – as “cloud” did broadly for on-demand, self-service, and flexible computing. But such a term can also lump together diverse and even competing practices, technologies, and priorities to the point where important distinctions are glossed over and lost.
Monitoring of Docker environments is challenging. Why? Because each container typically runs a single process, has its own environment, utilizes virtual networks, or has various methods of managing storage. Traditional monitoring solutions take metrics from each server and applications they run. These servers and applications running on them are typically very static, with very long uptimes. Docker deployments are different: a set of containers may run many applications, all sharing the resource...
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...
Join Impiger for their featured webinar: ‘Cloud Computing: A Roadmap to Modern Software Delivery’ on November 10, 2016, at 12:00 pm CST. Very few companies have not experienced some impact to their IT delivery due to the evolution of cloud computing. This webinar is not about deciding whether you should entertain moving some or all of your IT to the cloud, but rather, a detailed look under the hood to help IT professionals understand how cloud adoption has evolved and what trends will impact th...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
Without lifecycle traceability and visibility across the tool chain, stakeholders from Planning-to-Ops have limited insight and answers to who, what, when, why and how across the DevOps lifecycle. This impacts the ability to deliver high quality software at the needed velocity to drive positive business outcomes. In his session at @DevOpsSummit 19th Cloud Expo, Eric Robertson, General Manager at CollabNet, showed how customers are able to achieve a level of transparency that enables everyone fro...
In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Claude Remillard, Principal Program Manager in Developer Division at Microsoft, contrasted how his team used config as code and immutable patterns for continuous delivery of microservices and apps to the cloud. He showed how the immutable patterns helps developers do away with most of the complexity of config as code-enabling scenarios such as rollback, zero downtime upgrades with far greater simplicity. He also demoed building immutable pipelines in the cloud ...