Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Elizabeth White, Tim Hinds, Dan Sarel, Derek Weeks, David Balaban

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
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry's single source for the cloud. Fusion's advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including cloud...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
The IoT has the potential to create a renaissance of manufacturing in the US and elsewhere. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Florent Solt, CTO and chief architect of Netvibes, will discuss how the expected exponential increase in the amount of data that will be processed, transported, stored, and accessed means there will be a huge demand for smart technologies to deliver it. Florent Solt is the CTO and chief architect of Netvibes. Prior to joining Netvibes in 2007, he co-founded Rift Technol...
Join IBM June 8 at 18th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn how to innovate like a startup and scale for the enterprise. You need to deliver quality applications faster and cheaper, attract and retain customers with an engaging experience across devices, and seamlessly integrate your enterprise systems. And you can't take 12 months to do it.
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, will discuss how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to im...
This is not a small hotel event. It is also not a big vendor party where politicians and entertainers are more important than real content. This is Cloud Expo, the world's longest-running conference and exhibition focused on Cloud Computing and all that it entails. If you want serious presentations and valuable insight about Cloud Computing for three straight days, then register now for Cloud Expo.
IoT device adoption is growing at staggering rates, and with it comes opportunity for developers to meet consumer demand for an ever more connected world. Wireless communication is the key part of the encompassing components of any IoT device. Wireless connectivity enhances the device utility at the expense of ease of use and deployment challenges. Since connectivity is fundamental for IoT device development, engineers must understand how to overcome the hurdles inherent in incorporating multipl...
The paradigm has shifted. A Gartner survey shows that 43% of organizations are using or plan to implement the Internet of Things in 2016. However, not just a handful of companies are still using the old-style ad-hoc trial-and-error ways, unaware of the critical barriers, paint points, traps, and hidden roadblocks. How can you become a winner? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan will present a methodical approach to guide the holistic adoption and enablement of IoT implementations. This ov...
The IETF draft standard for M2M certificates is a security solution specifically designed for the demanding needs of IoT/M2M applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Romansky, VP of Strategic Technology at TrustPoint Innovation, will explain how M2M certificates can efficiently enable confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity on highly constrained devices.