Compared to the traditional grid computing approach, application fabrics create a self-managing, self-healing application environment out of standards-based commodity hardware and operating systems, rather than relying on a set of separately-managed, heterogeneous resources to provide additional computing power. This difference is very important for several reasons. Most importantly, this architectural approach allows application fabrics to provide support for time-sensitive applications that are unable to withstand the latency and unpredictability associated with batch-oriented technologies like traditional grids. Further, this approach allows application fabrics to virtualize the commodity hardware nodes into a single system, enabling developers and administrators to view and manage the hardware as if it were a single computer. Finally, this architecture provides application-level fault-tolerance, rather than depending on the reliability of a collection of heterogeneous infrastructure resources under distributed control.
Putting Application Fabrics to Use
At some point in the future, application fabrics will become a standard deployment option for all applications. At this point in the maturity of the market, application fabrics are being used most frequently to benefit time-critical analytics, high-performance computing and data-processing applications, deployed either as stand-alone applications or as Web services within an SOA environment. These applications can be characterized as CPU- and/or data-intensive in their efforts to provide timely business insights and capabilities that are essential to the ongoing operations of an enterprise.
For time-critical applications that are CPU-intensive, application fabrics provide effortless scaling across a “fabric” of hundreds or even thousands of commoditygrade computers. At the scale often required for these applications, the automated management offered by application fabrics becomes a key consideration, greatly reducing application total cost-of-ownership (TCO).
For time-critical applications that process high volumes of data, reliability is paramount Organizations cannot afford failure mid-way through a process or transaction, which might cause errors and inconsistencies throughout multiple systems. For these applications, application fabrics provide the reliability of expensive, high-end systems at the cost of commodity hardware.
For both CPU- and data-intensive time-critical applications, the effortless scaling of application fabric environments enables organizations to bring online only the computing power they need today, with the knowledge they can easily add additional computers later, as needed.
CPU/data-intensive time-critical applications may be deployed as Web services within an SOA environment, rather than as stand-alone applications. In services-oriented environments, business logic is not rigidly associated with a single application, but rather available as Web services to be accessed and assembled into a variety of composite applications, for a variety of audiences. Time-critical applications composed of a large number of services can become very brittle, since the failure of one basic service can cause a chain reaction that brings each of the composite applications that consume that service to a halt. Deploying an application fabric as a key component of a services-oriented environment secures the dependability of individual services and thus ensures the performance of time-critical applications that rely on those services, without the need for additional hardware or software infrastructure.
Google Puts Its Application Fabric To Highly Productive Use
Google’s application fabric underlies its powerful core applications, including its search engine. For each search request, the search application queries a 40+ terabyte index of over 4 billion Web pages to produce search results, which are delivered to endusers often at sub-second rates. Google’s applications are run on 60,000+ famously inexpensive commodity computers running Linux, and its application fabric manages these tens of thousands of computers as a self-managing and self-healing network that is both extremely scalable and inexpensive considering its capability. The fabric facilitates bringing new machines on line to expand capacity and allows dead machines to be swapped-out at the system administrators’ convenience, all without interruption of service.
The result of Google’s underlying application fabric is that the company’s executives can work to grow the business, enhance existing services and create new ones, all without concern for the ability of its applications and infrastructure to keep up. And not only can Google’s application fabric keep up, but it can do so with linear cost increases to add capacity, rather than periodic massive overhauls to re-architect for new requirements.
Benefits of Application Fabric Software to Key Stakeholders
Overall, application fabrics benefit enterprises by enabling applications to be simultaneously scalable, dependable, manageable and affordable. These applications can create new capabilities and insights for the business, which drive greater business agility and competitive advantage.
Specifically, application fabrics benefit numerous key stakeholders within an organization:
Application architects and developers: Application architects and developers are in the business of translating business requirements into technology-based solutions. Traditional application deployment approaches require architects to design to the limitations of the infrastructure. Application fabric software frees architects from having to trade-off among scalability, dependability, manageability and affordability, thus allowing them to focus on creating maximum business value. With application fabric software, developers are also freed from infrastructure limitations, in particular the need to worry about complicated distributed computing concepts Instead, developers can write code as if the applications were going to
be deployed on a single computer.
Systems administrators: Systems administrators are responsible for deploying and managing applications and their infrastructure, including adding capacity to the infrastructure as the demands on a given application grow. With application fabrics, administrators can treat a network of commodity machines as a virtualized single system, easing deployment and management challenges as all changes to any hardware, software, or applications running within the fabric happen dynamically. Further, application fabric software can detect when new “bare metal” has been added to the fabric’s network, automatically installing the appropriate operating system, fabric software and applications.
Technology executives: IT and engineering executives are responsible for enabling competitive advantage through technology-related initiatives, while minimizing the cost of doing so. Application fabrics provide a dependable environment that IT executives can count on to make strategic applications scalable, dependable, manageable and affordable. As a result, technology executives can bring new capabilities and insights to market faster, driving forward the organization’s ability to outpace the competition. And because they run on commodity-grade hardware and industry-standard operating systems, application fabrics also minimize the cost of deploying and scaling these applications. Another large component of a technology executive’s job is to manage the talent within a technology organization. In the past, these executives were forced to deploy senior development staff to manually build scalability and reliability into application environments. With application fabric software, executives can rely on the fabric layer to provide these qualities, rather than expensive and hard-to-find development talent.
Business executives: Business executives are concerned with the overall success of the business, which requires the agility to stay ahead of the competition. Appistry EAF supports competitive agility by decoupling strategic applications from the limitations of their physical infrastructure. Confident that their fabricbased applications will keep pace, business executives are freed to imagine new capabilities and drive for new insights, thus improving decision-making, providing better value and service to consumers, operating more efficiently, and, ultimately, staying ahead of the competition.