Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Pat Romanski, Ambuj Kumar, Shelly Palmer, XebiaLabs Blog, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Agile Computing, Cloud Security, @BigDataExpo, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: 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
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Yuasa System will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Yuasa System is introducing a multi-purpose endurance testing system for flexible displays, OLED devices, flexible substrates, flat cables, and films in smartphones, wearables, automobiles, and healthcare.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CAST Software will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CAST was founded more than 25 years ago to make the invisible visible. Built around the idea that even the best analytics on the market still leave blind spots for technical teams looking to deliver better software and prevent outages, CAST provides the software intelligence that matter ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japanese Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ruby Development Inc. builds new services in short period of time and provides a continuous support of those services based on Ruby on Rails. For more information, please visit https://github.com/RubyDevInc.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
As businesses evolve, they need technology that is simple to help them succeed today and flexible enough to help them build for tomorrow. Chrome is fit for the workplace of the future — providing a secure, consistent user experience across a range of devices that can be used anywhere. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will take a look at various options as to how ChromeOS can be leveraged to interact with people on the devices, and formats th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Taica will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Taica manufacturers Alpha-GEL brand silicone components and materials, which maintain outstanding performance over a wide temperature range -40C to +200C. For more information, visit http://www.taica.co.jp/english/.
Organizations do not need a Big Data strategy; they need a business strategy that incorporates Big Data. Most organizations lack a road map for using Big Data to optimize key business processes, deliver a differentiated customer experience, or uncover new business opportunities. They do not understand what’s possible with respect to integrating Big Data into the business model.
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities – ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups. As a result, many firms employ new business models that place enormous impor...
Amazon is pursuing new markets and disrupting industries at an incredible pace. Almost every industry seems to be in its crosshairs. Companies and industries that once thought they were safe are now worried about being “Amazoned.”. The new watch word should be “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” In his session 21st Cloud Expo, Chris Kocher, a co-founder of Grey Heron, will address questions such as: What new areas is Amazon disrupting? How are they doing this? Where are they likely to go? What are th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp emp...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale, a leading provider of systems and services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale has been involved in shaping the computing landscape. They've designed, developed and deployed some of the most important and successful systems and services in the history of the computing industry - internet, Ethernet, operating s...
Infoblox delivers Actionable Network Intelligence to enterprise, government, and service provider customers around the world. They are the industry leader in DNS, DHCP, and IP address management, the category known as DDI. We empower thousands of organizations to control and secure their networks from the core-enabling them to increase efficiency and visibility, improve customer service, and meet compliance requirements.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
Join IBM November 1 at 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Cognitive analysis impacts today’s systems with unparalleled ability that were previously available only to manned, back-end operations. Thanks to cloud processing, IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Imagine a robot vacuum that becomes your personal assistant tha...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, will lead you through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He'll look at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering ...
In a recent survey, Sumo Logic surveyed 1,500 customers who employ cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). According to the survey, a quarter of the respondents have already deployed Docker containers and nearly as many (23 percent) are employing the AWS Lambda serverless computing framework. It’s clear: serverless is here to stay. The adoption does come with some needed changes, within both application development and operations. Tha...