Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Lori MacVittie, Elizabeth White, John Wetherill

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

CloudExpo® Blog: 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
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC 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. BMC delivers software solutions that help IT transform digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive business advantage. BMC has worked with thousands of leading companies to create and deliver powerful IT management services. From mainframe to cloud to mobile, BMC pairs high-speed digital innovation with robust IT industrialization – allowing customers to provide amazing user experiences with optimized IT per...
The world is at a tipping point where the technology, the device and global adoption are converging to such a point that we will see an explosion of a world where smartphone devices not only allow us to talk to each other, but allow for communication between everything – serving as a central hub from which we control our world – MediaTek is at the heart of both driving this and allowing the markets to drive this reality forward themselves. The next wave of consumer gadgets is here – smart, connected, and small. If your ambitions are big, so are ours. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jack Hu, D...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DragonGlass, an enterprise search platform, 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. After eleven years of designing and building custom applications, OpenCrowd has launched DragonGlass, a cloud-based platform that enables the development of search-based applications. These are a new breed of applications that utilize a search index as their backbone for data retrieval. They can easily adapt to new data sets and provide access to both structured and unstruc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MetraTech, now part of Ericsson, 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. Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society- a world leader in communications infrastructure, software and services. Some 40% of the world’s mobile traffic runs through networks Ericsson has supplied, serving more than 2.5 billion subscribers.
The 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 17th International Cloud Expo - to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - announces that its Call for Papers is open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
We’re entering a new era of computing technology that many are calling the Internet of Things (IoT). Machine to machine, machine to infrastructure, machine to environment, the Internet of Everything, the Internet of Intelligent Things, intelligent systems – call it what you want, but it’s happening, and its potential is huge. IoT is comprised of smart machines interacting and communicating with other machines, objects, environments and infrastructures. As a result, huge volumes of data are being generated, and that data is being processed into useful actions that can “command and control” thi...
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 ...
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will addresses this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, discussed how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.
Buzzword alert: Microservices and IoT at a DevOps conference? What could possibly go wrong? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by Jason Bloomberg, the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise and president of Intellyx, panelists will peel away the buzz and discuss the important architectural principles behind implementing IoT solutions for the enterprise. As remote IoT devices and sensors become increasingly intelligent, they become part of our distributed cloud environment, and we must architect and code accordingly. At the very least, you'll have no problem fil...
"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.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.
Building low-cost wearable devices can enhance the quality of our lives. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Sai Yamanoor, Embedded Software Engineer at Altschool, provided an example of putting together a small keychain within a $50 budget that educates the user about the air quality in their surroundings. He also provided examples such as building a wearable device that provides transit or recreational information. He then reviewed the resources available to build wearable devices at home including open source hardware, the raw materials required and the options available to power s...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
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...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Collecting data in the field and configuring multitudes of unique devices is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that can stretch IT resources. Horan & Bird [H&B], Australia’s fifth-largest Solar Panel Installer, wanted to automate sensor data collection and monitoring from its solar panels and integrate the data with its business and marketing systems. After data was collected and structured, two major areas needed to be addressed: improving developer workflows and extending access to a business application to multiple users (multi-tenancy). Docker, a container technology, was used to ...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.