Welcome!

Virtualization Authors: Ian Khan, Michael Jannery, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, Java, SOA & WOA, Linux, Virtualization, Big Data Journal

Cloud Expo: Article

Take Control of Your Schemalessness with Dynamic Schemas

Addressing the inflexibility of structured data by enabling schemaless data to be dynamically and logically structured

Static data structures have been at the heart of data processing tools since the dawn of computing, but they have always limited the flexibility of the organization leveraging the data. Recently, the rise of flexible formats like JSON have led to schemaless data as an attempt to increase agility. However, schemaless data have proven difficult to work with, because of hidden rigid structure in the form of implied schemas.

EnterpriseWeb addresses the problems of both the inflexibility of structured data as well as the impracticality of schemaless data, by enabling schemaless data to be dynamically and logically structured.

From the fixed-length fields of the 1950s, to the relational structures of modern database management systems, to the semistructured data formats XML and JSON, the structure of our data has always informed code about how it should be processed. Data are defined by their relationships, and we used to hard-code those relationships into rigid structures. That approach allows only one static view, which is difficult to work with, and even more difficult to change. Nevertheless, such rigid data structures - and the models that represent them - are an integral part of enterprise information management.

Traditional relational database management systems (RDBMSs) exemplify this point with their static entity-relationship models (ERMs) and tightly interconnected data structures. XML improves this situation slightly, allowing semi-structured information, but schemas still constrain flexibility and performance. With both approaches, fixed definitions, views, and reports limit the ability for businesses to freely transform information into insight and become obstacles to systemwide change.

The Rise of Schemalessness
This challenge of inflexible data structures has given rise to schemaless data. With JSON in particular, we can create whatever data structure we like when we author data. We don't have to shoehorn data into rigid data structures, thus allowing every record to have its own structure.

But there is a problem with schemaless data. Consider this simple task: how do you create a query for all the addresses in a particular Zip Code if every record has a different name or format for Zip Code? Schemalessness, after all, isn't magic - even schemaless data require some kind of metadata so the code will know how to process such information, what software development guru Martin Fowler calls an implied schema.

Implied schemas represent the structure inherent in any data record. If each address record has its own format, then that format provides the implied schema for that record. Dealing with implied schemas thus falls to the developer, who must figure out how to code software to process these implied schemas, which are different for each and every record.

In Fowler's tutorial on schemalessness, he explains the pros and cons of implied schemas. Despite acknowledging the power of schemalessness to support more flexible and responsive user experiences, he recommends avoiding it and implied schemas for developer convenience. Good advice with respect to traditional software, but the world of data is changing. Today we live in an increasingly schemaless world, where more often than not, the structure of our data is fluid or nonexistent.

Raising the Discussion to Dynamic Schemas
Fowler makes it clear that in the past it has been impractical from the developer's perspective to work systematically with schemaless data, because implied schemas are difficult to deal with. After all, structure is itself useful, and isn't the problem per se. Rather, how to avoid the limitations of static structure without falling into the trap of unmanageable schemaless data that is the real challenge.

EnterpriseWeb's unique approach to modeling solves this critically important challenge by leveraging dynamic schemas that have flexible, metadata-driven relationships with underlying information. Using metadata this way separates concerns, letting people consider relationships from multiple perspectives, rather than from a single static point of view. In addition, it's now possible to change and extend metadata to meet diverse business needs without disruption.

Instead of settling for complex ERMs with their inflexible, tightly coupled data structures or dealing with the coding complexities of implied schemas, developers can project dynamic schemas from the metadata simply by writing different transformations. As a result, dynamic schemas are developer friendly and dynamic - a welcome change from the difficult problem of schemalessness.

Add an Agent for Performance
So far so good, but how do we build software to process all such data in a general way, freeing ourselves from custom coding for implicit schemas? The solution is an intelligent agent.

EnterpriseWeb's intelligent agent, SmartAlex™, is a distributable transaction manager that resolves dynamic schemas for each interaction. Every human or system client interaction is a request for SmartAlex to interpret dynamic schemas (as well as other models and additional metadata) and translate them to a context-specific set of resources in order to construct a custom response.

This Agent-Oriented approach maximizes performance for such dynamic computing. In the background, SmartAlex handles all run time connection and transformation details, sparing programmers from manually integrating resources for varied and unanticipated uses, greatly improving IT productivity while enabling business agility.

SmartAlex logs all system events, indexes all new and updated resources, and tags all changes in relationships for detailed and navigable audit history. This practice creates a feedback loop as SmartAlex leverages the same indexed logs to guide its execution. Data, code, and user interface components, as well as connectors for federated services, systems, databases, and devices, can be updated or replaced without breaking related apps and processes - as SmartAlex is ‘aware' of the changes. In this way EnterpriseWeb supports real time exception and change management for resilient solutions that can evolve naturally.

The EnterpriseWeb Take
Schemalessness was a reaction to the limitations of structured data. People struggled with the constraints of static structure, and figured that if they simply got rid of structure, then the problem would go away. But this move was merely a shell game, as the limitations of fixed schemas shifted to implied schemas, now without the benefits of structure to inform the code responsible for their processing.

The solution is to raise the level of abstraction, and instead of arguing over fixed vs. implied schemas, to work at the dynamic schema level. Such an approach is model-driven, allowing application designers to build models that capture their data structures, and allowing an intelligent agent to use the metadata each model represents to meet the specific needs of each interaction. The real lesson here is that the solution to resolving the challenge of schemalessness combines both dynamic schemas and the action of the agent. Stay tuned to my next newsletter for more information.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

@ThingsExpo Stories
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP and chief architect at BSQUARE Corporation; Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc.; and Andris Gailitis, C...
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
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.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
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...
There is no doubt that Big Data is here and getting bigger every day. Building a Big Data infrastructure today is no easy task. There are an enormous number of choices for database engines and technologies. To make things even more challenging, requirements are getting more sophisticated, and the standard paradigm of supporting historical analytics queries is often just one facet of what is needed. As Big Data growth continues, organizations are demanding real-time access to data, allowing immediate and actionable interpretation of events as they happen. Another aspect concerns how to deliver ...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
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.
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.
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 ...
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
"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.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
In this Women in Technology Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing at Verizon Enterprise, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO at MetraTech; Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems; Seema Jethani, Director of Product Management at Basho Technologies; Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell Inc.; Anne Hungate, Senior Director of Software Quality at DIRECTV, discussed what path they took to find their spot within the technology industry and how do they see opportunities for other women in their area of expertise.
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
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.