Welcome!

Security Authors: Gilad Parann-Nissany, David H Deans, Bob Gourley, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, SOA & WOA, Web 2.0, Security, Big Data Journal, SDN Journal

Cloud Expo: Article

Are Legos the Building Blocks of the Cloud?

Building cloud applications is about leveraging the bricks in the existing PaaS and SaaS services

Legos have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest, fondest memories involve Legos - starting from a small car made from a couple of simple bricks to very complex spaceships and wild creatures. I'm always amazed at how nicely and cleanly they snap together to create something solid, functional, and - in the case of the Millennium Falcon - amazing. Let's be honest, I'm not the only one occasionally sneaking down Target's Lego aisle to discover what new theme they've cooked up from the same core concept: clicking bricks together.

It's magical what happens to the brain when snapping those colorful, simple blocks into place. Visions of larger, cooler creations are conjured and we find ourselves scrambling for additional blocks to connect to create something that has a whole new purpose or function.

Okay, okay, where am I going with this?

Snapping Legos together is a perfect analogy for where cloud application development is headed. Just like IaaS has abstracted the infrastructure world into a single button push and PaaS abstracted the operating systems and database software support world into a simple and portable platform, SaaS provides a world of building blocks (or bricks) from which amazing applications snap together.

A new abstraction layer is the dotted line between PaaS and SaaS. Picture the various SaaS services you are using in applications as Lego bricks. You may have a brick for an email service like SendGrid, one for SMS text messaging like Twilio, and one for document storage like Dropbox. Combining these different building blocks empowers cloud application developers to quickly and inexpensively provide functional application components. Best of all, it allows the team to focus on building unique application functionality rather than fussing with replicating pre-existing capabilities such as messaging, payments, or documents.

Okay, now for the dark side. Lego's advantage is that it very tightly controls the spacing and size of those little bumps on every Lego piece ensuring that they easily snap together. Each piece must be manufactured to an exacting degree of precision - with tolerances in the 10 micrometers range. When two pieces are snapped together they must fit firmly, yet be easily disassembled and repurposed into something new. Other building block companies such as Mega Bloks and KRE-O have different tolerances and brick sizes - not all of the different manufacturers' bricks plug and play with Lego's. When it comes to plastic bricks, you're stuck picking a single manufacturer so all creations interconnect. Tying this back to SaaS, consider the bumps on each brick as a cloud service API. Different manufacturers' APIs are not typically interchangeable as there is no uniform, shared standard.

This is the dotted line between SaaS components and PaaS layers mentioned earlier. It represents an aggregation of the inconsistent vendor APIs into a single uniform set of calls organized by category into a single hub.

Say what?

Think of it this way - how cool would it be if a cloud Messaging Hub provided a single set of uniform API calls into the various email cloud service providers such as SendGrid, aWebber, MailChimp, Mailgun, and Postmark, as well as cloud SMS services including Twilio, Plivo, TeleStax, and Tropo? Hubs would be available for multiple categories such as storage (e.g., Dropbox, box.net) and for Payments (e.g., Paypal, Amazon FPS, Authorize.net). Hubs would be analogous to brick sets from different manufacturers, each providing a cool end product to play with - and to connect with one another.

The difference in this scenario is that the hub provides a single set of interlocking standards for ensuring the blocks function together. Once you integrate to SendGrid through the Messaging Hub, you are also immediately integrated to Mailgun and aWebber without adding a stitch of code. Call me a geek, but that is a beautiful building block creation. It saves development, test, and maintenance time - and that translates to money in the bank.

Let's take this a step further - something I've always wished Lego would do: add "smarts" to the bricks. Imagine if you snapped the Paypal and Twilio bricks together via the Payments and Messaging hubs, and they instantly knew that you wanted to send an SMS text message to a customer when a payment failed to be posted. Boom!

In my mother's words, that is "good and good for you".

These smarts can also be applied to failover. What if when you snapped two email provider bricks together (within a hub) such as SendGrid and Mailgun, with SendGrid as the main provider and Mailgun as the backup? See where I am going with this? You'd get a 2-fer deal - the smart bricks would automatically know how to:

  1. Failover to the secondary service should the main provider have a service interruption
  2. Pause the main service and switch over to the secondary service when capacity has reached (or is near reaching) its subscription service limit

Like those amazing building bricks sets from Lego, Mega Bloks, and KRE-O, building cloud applications is about leveraging the bricks in the existing PaaS and SaaS services whenever possible to reduce the time and cost to get an application to market.

The time has come to take that a step further and standardize across the building blocks (or bricks) from different manufacturers (cloud service vendors). When done correctly, it translates to 30%-50% reductions in the time and cost to build and maintain cloud applications.

I'm off to Super Target to see if Lego has released Iron Man 3 as a part of its new Lego super hero collection. Oh, wait, I mean to get some milk and eggs. :)

More Stories By David Honan

David Honan, vice president of product management at Cloud Elements, has a Masters degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Colorado. He started his career as a developer for an aerospace company and, in 1996, joined InfoNow Corporation (now Channel Insight) as its 6th employee: first as a developer and project manager, then with the sales engineering and product Management teams. Before joining Cloud Elements, David managed a cloud-based surgical procurement product at GHX. He, his wife Michelle, and three teenaged children live in Louisville, Colorado.

Comments (0)

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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. 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 wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, at more than US$500 billion, and ranks 23rd in the world. A recent re-evaluation of Nigeria's true economic size doubled the previous estimate, and brought it well ahead of South Africa, which is a member (unlike Nigeria) of the G20 club for political as well as economic reasons. Nigeria's economy can be said to be quite diverse from one point of view, but heavily dependent on oil and gas at the same time. Oil and natural gas account for about 15% of Nigera's overall economy, but traditionally represent more than 90% of the country's exports and as...
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
"At our booth we are showing how to provide trust in the Internet of Things. Trust is where everything starts to become secure and trustworthy. Now with the scaling of the Internet of Things it becomes an interesting question – I've heard numbers from 200 billion devices next year up to a trillion in the next 10 to 15 years," explained Johannes Lintzen, Vice President of Sales at Utimaco, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
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...
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
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 @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...