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QCon Takeaways: Microservices, Docker and IoT

By Gary Olliffe | March 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

SOAIoTApplication ArchitectureTechnology and Emerging Trends

It seems to be conference season, and after attending my first event of the year I thought I’d share a few thoughts and a brief look ahead.

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege to attend QCon London and I hope to be attending a couple of other events over the next couple of months.  I also have some real work to do for Gartner’s AADI in London, AADI in SydneyCatalyst San Diego and Catalyst London where I’ll be presenting sessions on microservices, APIs and a sprinkling of IoT content.   If you’ve got limited time to spare and you want to find impartial and varied technical insights these are great conferences, and I can say that as a past delegate too.

But it was QCon that kicked off this year’s season for me.  Not only was the sun shining in London, in March!  It was also an opportunity to hear some great speakers and learn what was motivating the other delegates.  I took away three things:

1) Interest in microservices continues to grow unabated… every microservice session I attended was packed and the ubiquity of the term became a running joke across all the tracks.   My read is that most of the audience were still feeling it out. Plenty are evaluating or trialing the concepts, but the common struggle is less with the tech, but with the “art” of it; scoping services, refactoring, defining domains.  My recent microservices research and blog post give more detail on microservice architecture.

2) Application architecture, platforms and infrastructure continue to blend, blur and evolve – the “software defined” theme, whether it be storage, compute, networks or composite applications changes the way we must think about system architecture.  Docker was (obviously) the prevalent tech-du-jour, but the role for supporting tools and frameworks was strongly in evidence. My colleague Richard Watson also attended and has just published Gartner’s most recent Docker research (clients only)

3) IoT is still a nascent challenge for a application architects – there were some cool demos, plenty of interest and experimentation/PoC discussion, but real business-driven IoT projects were not mainstream yet for the QCon crowd.   When I contrast this to the waves of case studies and vendor announcements across the IoT marketplace, I’m convinced this is an area where application architects need to be prepared.  But prepared for what?

The IoT is not one thing, one architecture, or one set of technologies – it’s one of the broadest umbrella terms I can recall emerging… it makes “Web 2.0” seem positively specific and concrete.  Even “Cloud” was a more tangible term.

The breadth of IoT is going to challenge our applications and architectures to cope with diversity.  Diversity of data (be that origin, structure, volume or velocity), diversity of location (things have a place and often move), diversity of connectivity (things need to connect and communicate), and fundamentally the diversity of “things” (the source of the thing – built, bought, rented, etc, the size of the thing, the criticality of the thing).  Jet engines and whisky bottles are at opposite ends of this spectrum, but an airline might soon see value in integrating both into their IT environment (though I have yet to be offered Johnnie Walker Blue Label on a flight…one day!)

Service-oriented and API-centric thinking will still be critical, but the diversity of IoT scenarios will require new flexibility and adaptability in our architectures.   Microservices will play some part in that, but this will not be a case of one-size-fits-all.   IoT development, integration, analytics, and management platforms (and some platforms that do all of these) will also play a role, and as architects we have to find sustainable ways to weave all this into (Digital) business solutions.

Do you see IoT impacting your application architecture already or do you see the future impact of IoT differently? Please share your thoughts below via the comments.

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