Click here to close now.


Linux Containers Authors: Don MacVittie, JP Morgenthal, Ken Simpson, Pat Romanski, Dana Gardner

Related Topics: @DevOpsSummit, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo, SDN Journal

@DevOpsSummit: Blog Feed Post

If Apps Incur Technical Debt Then Networks Incur Architectural Debt

The concept of "debt' is not a foreign one; we've all incurred debt in the form of credit cards, car loans and mortgages

72%. That's an estimate of how much of the IT budget is allocated to simply keeping the lights on (a euphemism for everything from actually keeping the lights on to cooling, heating, power, maintenance, upgrades, and day to day operations) in the data center.

In a recent Forrester Research survey of IT leaders at more than 3,700 companies, respondents estimated that they spend an average 72% of the money in their budgets on such keep-the-lights-on functions as replacing or expanding capacity and supporting ongoing operations and maintenance, while only 28% of the money goes toward new projects.

How to Balance Maintenance and IT Innovation

servicing architectural debtThis number will not, unfortunately, significantly improve without intentionally attacking it at its root cause: architectural debt.

Data Center Debt

The concept of "debt' is not a foreign one; we've all incurred debt in the form of credit cards, car loans and mortgages. In the data center, this concept is applied in much the same way as our more personal debt - as the need to "service" the debt over time.

Experts on the topic of technical debt point out that this "debt' is chiefly a metaphor for the long-term repercussions arising from choices made in application architecture and design early on.

Technical debt is a neologistic metaphor referring to the eventual consequences of poor software architecture and software development within a codebase. The debt can be thought of as work that needs to be done before a particular job can be considered complete. If the debt is not repaid, then it will keep on accumulating interest, making it hard to implement changes later on. Unaddressed technical debt increases software entropy.


This conceptual debt also occurs in other areas of IT, particularly those in the infrastructure and networking groups, where architectural decisions have long lasting repercussions in the form of not only the cost to perform day-to-day operations but in the impact to future choices and operational concerns. The choice of a specific point product today to solve a particular pain point, for example, has an impact on future product choices. The more we move toward software-defined architectures - heavily reliant on integration to achieve efficiencies through automation and orchestration - the more interdependencies we build. Those interdependencies cause considerable complexity in the face of changes that must be made to support such a loosely coupled but highly integrated data center architecture.

We aren't just maintaining configuration files and cables anymore, we're maintaining the equivalent of code - the scripts and methods used to integrated, automate and orchestrate the network infrastructure.

Steve McConnell has a lengthy blog entry examining technical debt. The perils of not acknowledging your debt are clear:

One of the important implications of technical debt is that it must be serviced, i.e., once you incur a debt there will be interest charges. If the debt grows large enough, eventually the company will spend more on servicing its debt than it invests in increasing the value of its other assets.

Debt must be serviced, which is why the average organization dedicates so much of its budget to simply "keeping the lights on."  It's servicing the architectural debt incurred by a generation of architectural decisions.

Refinancing Your Architectural Debt

In order to shift more of the budget toward the innovation necessary to realize the more agile and dynamic architectures required to support more things and the applications that go with them, organizations need to start considering how to shed its architectural debt.

First and foremost, software-defined architectures like cloud, SDDC and SDN, enable organizations to pay down their debt by automating a variety of day-to-day operations as well as traditionally manual and lengthy provisioning processes. But it would behoove organizations to pay careful attention to the choices made in this process, lest architectural debt shift to the technical debt associated with programmatic assets. Scripts are, after all, a simple form of an application, and thus bring with it all the benefits and burdens of an application.

For example, the choice between a feature-driven and an application-driven orchestration can be critical to the long-term costs associated with that choice. Feature-driven orchestration necessarily requires more steps and results in more tightly coupled systems than an application-driven approach. Loose coupling ensures easier future transitions and reduces the impact of interdependencies on the complexity of the overall architecture. This is because feature-driven orchestration (integration, really) is highly dependent on specific sets of API calls to achieve provisioning. Even minor changes in those APIs can be problematic in the future and cause compatibility issues. Application-driven orchestration, on the other hand, presents a simpler, flexible interface between provisioning systems and solution. Implementation through features can change from version to version without impacting that interface, because the interface is decoupled from the actual API calls required.

Your choice of scripting languages, too, can have much more of an impact than you might think. Consider that a significant contributor to operational inefficiencies today stems from the reality that organizations have an L4-7 infrastructure comprised of not just multiple vendors, but a wide variety of domain specificity. That means a very disparate set of object models and interfaces through which such services are provisioned and configured. When automating such processes, it is important to standardize on a minimum set of environments. Using bash, python, PERL and juju, for example, simply adds complexity and begins to fall under the Law of Software Entropy as described by Ivar Jacobson et al. in "Object-Oriented Software Engineering: A Use Case Driven Approach":

The second law of thermodynamics, in principle, states that a closed system's disorder cannot be reduced, it can only remain unchanged or increased. A measure of this disorder is entropy. This law also seems plausible for software systems; as a system is modified, its disorder, or entropy, always increases. This is known as software entropy.

Entropy is the antithesis of what we're trying to achieve with automation and orchestration, namely the acceleration of application deployment. Entropy impedes this goal, and causes the introduction of yet another set of systems requiring day-to-day operational attention.

Other considerations include deciding which virtual overlay network will be your data center standard, as well as the choice of cloud management platform for data center orchestration. While such decisions seem, on the surface, to be innocuous, they are in fact significant contributors to the architectural debt associated with the data center architecture.

Shifting to Innovation

Every decision brings with it debt; that cannot be avoided. The trick is to reduce the interest payments, if you will, on that debt as a means to reduce its impact on the overall IT budget and enable a shift to funding innovation.

Software-defined architectures are, in a way, the opportunity for organizations to re-finance their architectural debt. They cannot forgive the debt (unless you rip and replace) but these architectures and methodologies like devops can assist in reducing the operational expenses the organization is obliged to pay on a day-to-day basis.

But it's necessary to recognize, up front, that the architectural choices you make today do, in fact, have a significant impact on the business' ability to take advantage of the emerging app economy. Consider carefully the options and weigh the costs - including the need to service the debt incurred by those options - before committing to a given solution.

Your data center credit score will thank you for it.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

@ThingsExpo Stories
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, explored the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context with p...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 7-9, 2016 at Javits Center, New York City and Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 18th International @CloudExpo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound cha...
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
Continuous processes around the development and deployment of applications are both impacted by -- and a benefit to -- the Internet of Things trend. To help better understand the relationship between DevOps and a plethora of new end-devices and data please welcome Gary Gruver, consultant, author and a former IT executive who has led many large-scale IT transformation projects, and John Jeremiah, Technology Evangelist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), on Twitter at @j_jeremiah. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...