|By Jason Bloomberg||
|September 3, 2014 07:00 PM EDT||
In last week’s Forbes article I discussed various senses of the term real-time: low latency user interfaces, up-to-date information, live human interactions, and high-performance data processing – to name but a few. Today, for the Cortex audience (as well as the Wired Innovations and SYS-CON audiences), it’s time to channel Lewis Carroll and have a wondrous adventure to shed light on the true significance and challenges of real-time.
As we venture down the rabbit hole of our technology-infused world, it’s easy to see that everything is getting faster and bigger and, well, just more. Moore’s Law has just taken a big swig from a bottle that says drink me, as we have more memory, more storage, faster networks, more network-connected doodads, more and faster processors than ever before. And of course, we’re also getting better at everything: better apps. Better operating systems. Better ways of abstracting every element of our environment to provide even greater performance and flexibility. We are truly living in a time of plenty, if not excess. It’s no wonder that we want real-time in everything we do.
Today’s challenge isn’t only making stuff go faster. It’s figuring out how all the acceleration of all the bits and pieces fit together. Furthermore, this push to achieve a holistic perspective on all this gear drives our quest for real-time, as it only takes one bottleneck to slow everything else down. The only way we’ll truly achieve real-time behavior is by understanding the connections this wonderland of real-time requires. So let’s get started, or my ears and whiskers, we’ll be late!
Real-Time Starting Point: Reactive Programming
Google “real-time.” Right after Bill Maher’s HBO show and a general Wikipedia entry comes Wikipedia’s “real-time computing” page – presumably the real-time we’re talking about here. Load that page and you’ll notice two curiouser and curiouser facts right off the bat: first, the Wikipedia article itself has serious issues – as though no one who cares about real-time computing actually wants anybody else to understand it. Second, “real-time computing” is apparently synonymous with “reactive computing,” a much less familiar term. The rest of the article focuses on the sort of real-time we want from our antilock brakes – useful to be sure, but not the enterprise context we were looking for.
Maybe reactive computing is closer to the mark? Well, there’s inexplicably no Wikipedia page for that. The closest we can come is the reactive computing mock turtle: reactive programming. The basic idea with reactive programming is that the behavior of pieces of software can be declaratively defined, and thus evaluated in real-time – just as spreadsheet cells update automatically when a value they refer to changes.
There’s more to the reactive story than software that updates automatically, however, as a visit to the reactive manifesto illustrates. This wise caterpillar of a manifesto calls out four key reactive traits: event-driven, scalable, responsive, and resilient – essentially calling for Cloud-friendly, event-driven architectures that have the declarative behavior definition we know and love from the spreadsheet – only now across a hybrid enterprise context. Mushroom, anyone?
It’s no coincidence that Bloomberg Agile Architecture™ (BAA) also calls out responsiveness and resilience, although the BAA contexts for these terms are aspects of business agility rather than software – but suffice it to say, if your software doesn’t have these traits, it’s unlikely your organization is agile. Alas, we thought we saw the Cheshire Cat of agility, but all we saw was its smile. The people behind the reactive manifesto, however, have a far more technical context for these terms – Play Framework, an open source web application framework for Java and Scala that bills itself as lightweight, stateless, and Web-friendly.
At this point this Cortex might have gone down the Scala rabbit hole – but I’ll save that for a future issue (Through the Looking Glass, perhaps?). Just for fun, however, let’s follow the stateless thread of this adventure to the beach where the Walrus and the Carpenter entertain their oysters. I’ve discussed statelessness over the years in many contexts, from the challenge of maintaining business process instance state with stateless Services, to the role hypermedia play in transferring state to the client if you actually follow REST properly (which almost no one does), to the challenges state management presents to Cloud-based applications. Understanding the relationship between statelessness and real-time behavior, however, ties all these concepts together in a nice package. The oysters, however, aren’t nearly so satisfied.
State, in fact, is the Queen’s tarts of real-time computing. Sure, sometimes your software behavior can be completely reactive: event happens, do some stuff, give some kind of result, and never keep track of anything or wait around for somebody else to finish something. Such processing can be blisteringly fast, of course. It’s when you have to keep track of something that problems arise: where do you do the tracking? Do you have to keep track of multiple things at once when they might interact somehow? How permanent does the tracking have to be? And most importantly: won’t all this tracking slow everything down?
Time to hide the tarts: we could simply keep track of everything in the database. We get unlimited persistence, but databases are relatively slow and scaling them can be difficult. So let’s call upon the knave of hearts to spirit away those tarts to some piece of infrastructure in our middle tier, like an application server or an ESB. The database breathes a sigh of relief, but now we have a Cloud-unfriendly centralized state management approach. So instead, let’s pass the tarts to the client – after all, that’s where REST got its name (Representational State Transfer, natch). We now have scalability and Cloud friendliness, but this approach doesn’t deal well with shared state (as we would need for any type of collaborative application), and nobody likes HATEOAS, even when they understand it.
Enter caching. The idea of a cache is to temporarily store those pesky state tarts, thus lightening the load on the persistence tier. And calloo callay! We can now cache in memory, making it wicked fast. But we still have the Cloud-friendliness problem, so enter from the Queen’s croquet pitch the distributed in-memory cache. Cloud-friendly, check. Wicked fast, check. Responsive? Well, it depends on the color of the roses. The problem here, of course, is the problem caches always have: if all your data are always changing or every interaction always requires different data, caches are worse than useless, since caching something only makes sense if somebody is going to use it a few times before you need to refresh it.
At this point there’s only one more place for the tarts to go: back to the database. We need faster databases that are both Cloud-friendly and deal well with the continually exploding nature of Big Data. It’s no wonder, therefore, that the database marketplace is undergoing a dramatic period of innovation. Yes, another rabbit hole for yet another day – but let’s tease out a single architectural tea party that relates directly to real-time: immutability.
Your mad hatter of a database is immutable if it only supports writes that append data but no updates or deletes. Instead, to handle these pesky changes, additional records are added that indicate a previous record has changed. Immutability is essential for solving some knotty problems with concurrency – a mischievous dormouse for distributed computing since the client/server days and still a hassle in today’s Cloud-enabled world. As anyone who has used GitHub or a similar immutable data store can attest, immutability is the key to scaling a database that supports a large number of users who can add information, since all changes are handled as new data, and furthermore, the data store maintains a complete audit trail of everything that has ever happened, regardless of whether we all move down one seat at the table in search of clean dishes.
GitHub additionally works well with caching because it must assemble the current version of each stored file by adding together all the changes, or diffs, to that file. Temporary storage of each current version thus lightens the load on the underlying data store. But in other situations where the underlying data are always in flux, immutability still helps to address the real-time need. Reads can be extraordinarily fast compared to traditional databases, because the database can look to the index to identify the latest version of a record.
And so our adventure through real-time computing brings us to indexing in all its glory – not just for finding the desired record, but also for all the metadata necessary to assemble the various diffs in order to deliver the current version of a record in real-time. The metadata story for real-time, however, doesn’t stop at indices, as the army of metadata playing cards are central to the notion of declarative programming.
We have thus come full circle to the notion of reactive programming, which includes declaratively defining the behavior of pieces of software as simply as entering formulas into cells in a spreadsheet. And while a single worksheet may have tens of thousands of cells, extending the role metadata play to a distributed enterprise context ups the ante on the relationship between reactive programming and metadata: being able to resolve the desired behavior of any software given the combination of all metadata in the relevant environment – for every interaction, in real-time.
We call such resolution dynamic constraint satisfaction, where the metadata describe the relevant constraints, even though they may be fully dynamic. Calculating the result, therefore, must take place in real-time. Envision one massive spreadsheet, only instead of formulas in the cells, you have any reactive software you might find anywhere in your IT environment. The cell with your final answer is always correct, and always up to date – in real-time. Off with their heads!
The Intellyx Take
Our adventure down the real-time rabbit hole in this enterprise IT wonderland took us many different places. And while each of the critters we met had its own real-time story, our adventure tied all the individual stories together. Such is the nature of real-time: we have many moving parts and they must all be working at top form together in order to deliver a true real-time experience to each user.
Real-time behavior, therefore, is an important challenge for any digital professional, as there is more to digital transformation than meets the eye. Your customers, partners, and broader audience expect such behavior from your digital efforts, and to keep them happy you need the right technology and most importantly, the right architecture to glue everything together in real-time.
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi's VP Business Development and Engineering, will explore the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context w...
Oct. 10, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 158
There will be 20 billion IoT devices connected to the Internet soon. What if we could control these devices with our voice, mind, or gestures? What if we could teach these devices how to talk to each other? What if these devices could learn how to interact with us (and each other) to make our lives better? What if Jarvis was real? How can I gain these super powers? In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, will show you!
Oct. 10, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 124
Developing software for the Internet of Things (IoT) comes with its own set of challenges. Security, privacy, and unified standards are a few key issues. In addition, each IoT product is comprised of at least three separate application components: the software embedded in the device, the backend big-data service, and the mobile application for the end user's controls. Each component is developed by a different team, using different technologies and practices, and deployed to a different stack/target - this makes the integration of these separate pipelines and the coordination of software upd...
Oct. 10, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 326
As a company adopts a DevOps approach to software development, what are key things that both the Dev and Ops side of the business must keep in mind to ensure effective continuous delivery? In his session at DevOps Summit, Mark Hydar, Head of DevOps, Ericsson TV Platforms, will share best practices and provide helpful tips for Ops teams to adopt an open line of communication with the development side of the house to ensure success between the two sides.
Oct. 10, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 639
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
Oct. 10, 2015 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 336
The IoT market is on track to hit $7.1 trillion in 2020. The reality is that only a handful of companies are ready for this massive demand. There are a lot of barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can we deal with these issues and challenges? The paradigm has changed. Old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways will certainly lead you to the dead end. What is mandatory is an overarching and adaptive approach to effectively handle the rapid changes and exponential growth.
Oct. 10, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 256
SYS-CON Events announced today that Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, will keynote 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.
Oct. 10, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 135
The IoT is upon us, but today’s databases, built on 30-year-old math, require multiple platforms to create a single solution. Data demands of the IoT require Big Data systems that can handle ingest, transactions and analytics concurrently adapting to varied situations as they occur, with speed at scale. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chad Jones, chief strategy officer at Deep Information Sciences, will look differently at IoT data so enterprises can fully leverage their IoT potential. He’ll share tips on how to speed up business initiatives, harness Big Data and remain one step ahead by apply...
Oct. 10, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 641
WebRTC converts the entire network into a ubiquitous communications cloud thereby connecting anytime, anywhere through any point. In his session at WebRTC Summit,, Mark Castleman, EIR at Bell Labs and Head of Future X Labs, will discuss how the transformational nature of communications is achieved through the democratizing force of WebRTC. WebRTC is doing for voice what HTML did for web content.
Oct. 10, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,444
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Oct. 10, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 5,951
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Oct. 10, 2015 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 826
The broad selection of hardware, the rapid evolution of operating systems and the time-to-market for mobile apps has been so rapid that new challenges for developers and engineers arise every day. Security, testing, hosting, and other metrics have to be considered through the process. In his session at Big Data Expo, Walter Maguire, Chief Field Technologist, HP Big Data Group, at Hewlett-Packard, will discuss the challenges faced by developers and a composite Big Data applications builder, focusing on how to help solve the problems that developers are continuously battling.
Oct. 10, 2015 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 521
Nowadays, a large number of sensors and devices are connected to the network. Leading-edge IoT technologies integrate various types of sensor data to create a new value for several business decision scenarios. The transparent cloud is a model of a new IoT emergence service platform. Many service providers store and access various types of sensor data in order to create and find out new business values by integrating such data.
Oct. 10, 2015 04:00 AM EDT Reads: 610
There are so many tools and techniques for data analytics that even for a data scientist the choices, possible systems, and even the types of data can be daunting. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Harrold, Global CTO for Big Data Solutions for EMC Corporation, will show how to perform a simple, but meaningful analysis of social sentiment data using freely available tools that take only minutes to download and install. Participants will get the download information, scripts, and complete end-to-end walkthrough of the analysis from start to finish. Participants will also be given the pract...
Oct. 10, 2015 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 341
WebRTC: together these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at WebRTC Summit, Cary Bran, VP of Innovation and New Ventures at Plantronics and PLT Labs, will provide an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it may enable, complement or entirely transform.
Oct. 10, 2015 02:15 AM EDT Reads: 772
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dyn, the worldwide leader in Internet Performance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dyn is a cloud-based Internet Performance company. Dyn helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Through a world-class network and unrivaled, objective intelligence into Internet conditions, Dyn ensures traffic gets delivered faster, safer, and more reliably than ever.
Oct. 10, 2015 02:00 AM EDT Reads: 662
WebRTC services have already permeated corporate communications in the form of videoconferencing solutions. However, WebRTC has the potential of going beyond and catalyzing a new class of services providing more than calls with capabilities such as mass-scale real-time media broadcasting, enriched and augmented video, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Luis Lopez, CEO of Kurento, will introduce the technologies required for implementing these ideas and some early experiments performed in the Kurento open source software community in areas ...
Oct. 10, 2015 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 788
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Oct. 10, 2015 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 185
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, will discuss the impact of technology on identity. Should we federate, or not? How should identity be secured? Who owns the identity? How is identity ...
Oct. 9, 2015 10:00 PM EDT Reads: 455
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new data-driven world, marketplaces reign supreme while interoperability, APIs and applications deliver un...
Oct. 9, 2015 08:00 PM EDT Reads: 323