Welcome to a new part of my blog where I meet industry vendors, thought leaders and guru’s to discuss their thoughts on todays application architectures, technologies and challenges with regards to managing application performance. If you’d like to meet me for beers then please send a short request to email@example.com and I’ll be in touch.
And what beers will you be drinking this evening?
Sam Adams Boston Lager and a Guinness please.
What brings you to San Francisco?
We’ve spent the last week touring the US visiting our FS and ISV customers in Denver, Los Angles and San Francisco to present and get feedback on our new cloud enablement vision and XAP Platform which is due to be released end of Q2 this year.
What are the key pain points and problems you address today for customers?
Firstly, our legacy has always been about helping customers improve the performance and scalability of their enterprise applications. We do this by helping their applications process data faster in memory so that they are not constrained by the limitations of technology like relational databases that use conventional disk, which is slower. We provided the first in-memory data grid architecture that allows enterprise customers to dramatically increase the throughput of their trading, reconciliation, risk management and e-commerce applications to name a few.
Our goal is provide linear scalability middleware for our customers no matter what platform they run or where they choose to deploy their applications. We essentially allow them to pick up and manage their application as a single entity so they can deploy it wherever they want to, whether it is on-premise or in a private/public cloud so it can scale and perform.
What is unique about the solutions and value you provide?
Firstly, our XAP middleware allows customers to seamlessly scale their mission critical business applications and data access whilst still being able to guarantee transaction acidity. We focus on ensuring high value business transactions like trades & online retail purchases are able to complete and scale in environments of several terabytes. This is different to the flux of recent NoSQL technologies that are offering fast data access in big data environments of several petabytes where data is often low value like tweets or status updates and data persistence is eventual not atomic. The majority of our customer’s applications don’t have data volumes like Twitter, Facebook or Amazon but rather massive volumes of high value transactions on relatively small sets of data, so our technology can help them scale beyond the limits of relational databases and grow their business.
With our new cloud enablement product CEAP, we are basically taking our existing capabilities in XAP, which are specific to scaling the customers application on our own application stack and extending them to manage and scale their application on any stack (e.g. Tomcat + mySql or RoR+Cassandra). These capabilities include deployment, provisioning, monitoring and dynamic scaling based on real time KPIs within the application. So the idea is that if you want to cloud-enable your applications, you can do so without any change, just let CEAP manage them in a cloud environment and mask the underlying infrastructure provider and deployment considerations from your application. So ultimately we’re looking to take the pain away from how customers manage and scale their applications as they look to leverage the benefits of the Cloud.
What cloud adoption are you seeing?
It really varies by industry at the moment. For example, Financial Services are heavily regulated with key considerations around security and PCI compliance. They care about efficiency, time to market and becoming as agile as technology allows them to be rather than for pure IT cost savings. We have one customer where the business is simply not happy with six month release cycles waiting for hardware to be procured and provisioned. They see on-premise private clouds as an enabler to become more agile whilst still being able to retain control and compliance of their applications and data. They believe they can get to a couple of weeks release cycle with the IT as a service.
On the other hand we have several ISV customers who are looking to grow their business using public clouds like Amazon EC2 and Rackspace. They want their IT capacity to grow as and when they need it without making big upfront investments which hits their bottom line. IT expense becomes operational expenditure (OpEx) vs. Capital Expenditure (CapEx) and that is an attractive proposition for them. It’s not so much that public clouds are cheaper than private clouds as in most cases its not. It’s purely down to the flexibility and agility they have where IT can be provisioned when it’s needed. For example, many ISV’s may launch a new product or service – they can simply deploy these to a public cloud and automatically let IT capacity grow when its needed so they pay for the IT resource they actually use. If the new product or service fails then they aren’t left with a bunch of servers sitting in their data center depreciating and losing them money.
What cloud challenges are your customers facing?
Moving to the cloud for some customers isn’t that straight forward. We’ve seen several customers having to re-architect some of their applications to leverage the elasticity benefits of the cloud. If you want your product or application today to run in the cloud and be SaaS ready it can take up to 18 months for this to happen.
We also see challenges for customers in how they define and manage SLA’s with their cloud providers. For example, many public cloud providers will let you grow your application from 2 JVM’s to 200 JVM’s on the fly, the problem then becomes what service you actually get from the cloud. Many public clouds are multi-tenant with shared server resource and storage yet they provide very little SLA or quality of service.
What technology trends are you seeing within your customer base?
We’re seeing a lot of NoSQL adoption, mainly because it performs better in terms of read/write latency and can also scale much more easily than traditional relational databases. They are also super flexible to develop with. They are schema free, which means their data models can evolve and grow, as they need to. They provide an agile data model for agile developers who want to do things faster without being constrained by the schema limitations of relational database technology. That said the relational database isn’t going away, its still needed for atomicity working with middleware like XAP. NoSQL is more about Not Just SQL than saying bye bye to relational databases. We’re specifically seeing NOSQL in e-Commerce retail, social networking and even Telco who are looking to migrate to Cassandra for example for better throughput and performance from both an OSS and BSS perspective. If you look at the needs of Telco customers they want real-time Business Intelligence of their customers so they can provision relevant content on the fly to try and maximize their interaction with customers on their portals. They can’t get this BI with traditional relational databases and monolithic application architectures; they simply don’t scale or perform quickly enough.
Big data is also becoming a big problem. Data volumes are now in the petabyte range with some customers and its not slowing down anytime soon. How you manage and monitor big data will become critical. Memory is so cheap these days you can manage and process more data in memory, which means the business logic, will execute faster without needing to perform disk I/O so much with things like relational databases.
What performance pain and challenges do you typically see within customer accounts?
(Slight smile) We see lot’s week in week out. Locking & Synchronization bottlenecks are common when transaction concurrency is high and it’s only a matter of time before customers see this once throughput hits a certain level. Memory management is also a massive issue, poor implementations and unnecessary object creation can cause memory thrashing and GC to occur and we all know what happens there. Large heap sizes are also becoming the norm now where 20GB heap isn’t uncommon, having the right GC and memory gen configuration can be critical.
Which software companies inspire you?
Amazon – They are always thinking smart. Instead of chasing what hosting companies were doing they changed the game and made the hosting companies chase them with IaaS. Whenever you hear the words “Public Cloud” the first vendor people think of is Amazon.
JetBrains – It’s the “Apple IDE” and “iPhone of Dev”, they innovate and actually surprise you with what they think of and deliver.
Finally, who is your favorite super hero?
My favorite super hero… hmmm. Maybe Sue Storm from the fantastic four, but only because Jessica Alba is so hot and as much as I like the App Man, you can’t beat that… Iron man is my second choice, because he’s not really a super hero, just a really really smart inventor (and because he acts so cool around Gwyneth Paltrow…)
Thanks guys for the chat, its interesting to hear what customer problems you’re looking to solve and how you see applications changing in the future. Good luck with your XAP platform and if you’re ever in San Francisco remember to give App Man a call. For more information on Gigaspaces check out their website http://www.gigaspaces.com.
If you or your organization would like to have beers with App Man please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .