The Shift from Monolithic to Microservices: What It Means for CTOs.

The shift in application development strategies is moving from monolithic design to isolated and resilient components known as microservices. As a result, applications that were designed with platform entanglements such as database and messaging layers have become more complex and costly to operate and maintain. This provides new challenges to CTOs, who must stay aware of the most dynamic, cost-efficient, and secure methods of managing their company’s data, while navigating the inexorable slide toward a microservices economy.

Mike D. Kail, CTO of Security-as-a-Service firm Cybric.io, points out that “with the rise in popularity of Docker Containers, there is an associated belief amongst many that by simply moving an application to leverage containers instead of virtual machines or bare metal, that you then get microservices by default.” But, he says, “that is certainly not true.” Microservices is an architectural pattern, and containers can be part of the technology using that pattern, but containers remain a “thing” while “microservices” is still a “notion.” This pattern can be used to either re-factor an existing application, or more easily leveraged for greenfield initiatives.

Central to the popularity of microservices is the ability to overwrite or replace an individual component without taking down the entire application, leading to less downtime and faster deployment or redeployment of software into an operating environment. Immutable infrastructure also helps with overall security as an APT can be rapidly mitigated by “refreshing the deployment”. This is also a concept shared by microservices – a modular and agile codebase, each part maintained by individual teams.

Microservices is an approach that is still evolving. It is a process being spearheaded by some of the biggest players in the business, like Walmart, Amazon, and Netflix. It is a technological ideal intended to ensure an organization’s ongoing agility and flexibility. This in turn allows faster and more intelligent response to immediate market demands like volume spikes in online shopping or movie watching.

Microservices need not be small, as the term “micro” might imply, but each service is dedicated to a single task or process. This allows for the components to be taken offline and edited, rebuilt, or replaced, without having to take an entire application down with it. This in turn allows for improvement on the fly, with less scheduled downtime, which leads to better business continuity.

The switch away from monolithic applications to collections of compartmentalized or containerized components seems to offer a much more practical approach to managing application development. They can be scaled separately and deployed as needed. They can be designed and programmed separately using different platforms or languages. And testing becomes more affordable, targeted, and frequent.

So What Problems Do Microservices Pose?

According to JP Morgenthal, Managing Editor of Microservices Journal, as applications get decomposed into microservices there arises a range of challenges around managing the sprawl. “In short,” he says, “no one knows the whole picture. They only know what’s wrong with their part.”

He points out that the previous generation of monolithic applications were expensive to maintain because of the high degree of entanglement of the components. Changes required more complex releases and longer testing cycles, yet at the same time, their design fostered simpler operation using fewer components.

“But as we move to polyglot microservices that leverage existing cloud services and are much more elemental, we still see an increase in the number and types of things that impact applications. This in turn increases complexity on the operations of these applications.”

What’s the Diagnosis?

Morgenthal highlights a need for greater involvement of developers in the cycle, specifically, full stack engineers and site reliability engineers. “The factors and attributes associated with design of microservices further increases complexity due to the way data management changes and the nature of discrete transactions.”

Wanted: A New Approach for CTOs in Managing Microservices

The very thing that makes microservices a more practical application development practice – compartmentalization – leads to an incomplete management perspective. “There is now a more urgent need for end-to-end management – something that has never truly existed. We need to break down the silos between organizations and departments, and we need to move from reactive to proactive. This would be the nirvana of modern applications management,” says Morgenthal.

This puts the role of the CTO in a new, indispensable light, as someone who must take complete end-to-end ownership of an application’s life cycle, encourage communication, and understanding across all teams and timelines involved, and be capable of knowing the entire process.

Mike D. Kail of Cybric.io, himself a CTO, adds more. He states, “I believe that the role of the CTO is more relevant today than ever. As with Digital Transformation, every company is becoming a technology company. The modern-day CTO needs to have the technical chops to drive the overall product/platform vision internally and the soft skills and business acumen to drive outward facing initiatives as well as communicate effectively and clearly with the other C-suite peers.”

Overall, the challenge of establishing full end-to-end management of microservices resembles the typical left-brain/right-brain dynamic of a living corporate entity. The logical processes of developing and refining a highly versatile and compartmentalized application need to be balanced with a refined approach to human communication within IT-Ops, upwards to senior management, and outwards to those who will ultimately benefit from it. This requires a blend of political acumen and technological know-how, something that will make CTOs more visible and indispensable as the microservices trend continues to expand.

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Labor Day – Bitcoin and Ethereum drop, China bans ICOs

I write for the finance and investment website ValueWalk. My post entitled What’s Behind The Labor Day Bitcoin, Ethereum Price Fall? is now online. Here is an excerpt:

The PBoC statement slammed the brakes on a large number of ongoing ICO projects in China, causing widespread consternation among investors who urged their clients and colleagues to sell quickly. This contributed substantially to the ongoing drop in Bitcoin and Ethereum Prices. The joint statement also said that “Individuals and organizations that have completed ICO fundraisings should make arrangements to return funds.”

The ruling does not prevent Chinese investors from participating in offshore ICOs, however.

To add further panic and confusion, the statement intimated that cryptocurrencies themselves may become illegal, since they are “not issued by the monetary authorities… do not have legal status equivalent to money, and can not [sic] and should not be circulated as a currency in the market use.”  Others have interpreted this statement as not pointing to a complete ban, but a great deal of uncertainty remains.

To read more, please click here.

I See A Black Moon Rising: Crypto Tokens and the Future of Investment

I write for the finance and investment website ValueWalk. My post entitled I See a Black Moon Rising is now online. Here is an excerpt:

When companies launch their ICO, they issue crypto tokens in exchange for investment cash. The tokens are built on top of the blockchain platform, and their owners can trade them as they wish.

Sergey Vasin, Chief Investment Officer of Blackmoon points out, “Tokenized funds are more cost-efficient thanks to lower infrastructure and setup costs…This economy is transmitted to investors in the form of higher net return. For the cherry on top, fund tokens are also immediately tradable.”

This new economy gives rise to two major opportunities. First, the token-based investment process should be more transparent and auditable due to its blockchain roots. Secondly, this improved “open book” approach offers the potential to expand the market beyond cryptocurrencies and incorporate fiat currency into the portfolio.

To read more, please click here.

Bitcoin And The Future Of Futures

I write for the finance and investment website ValueWalk. My post entitled Bitcoin And The Future Of Futures is now online. Here is an excerpt:

Some retailers around the world already accept Bitcoin, but they do so on a spot market basis, exchanging the bitcoins for their own currency within seconds of acceptance. Some might say that demotes the status of Bitcoin to a mere novelty version of money, since it cannot stand on its own. Others will say the transaction is on par with any other foreign currencies that retailers might accept at the day’s exchange rate.

Volatility is the problem that leads to the question, “Why can’t Bitcoin be purchased on a futures market like oil?” Oil also has an issue with volatility, as can be seen every time a major refinery catches fire, or an oil producing nation decides to turn the taps off. But with oil and other commodities, futures are based on a delivery of tangible product, like an actual barrel of oil or bushel of wheat. With Bitcoin, there are no actual coins, there is simply the value of those coins, agreed upon by its users and miners, and based on faith paired with scarcity.

To read more, please click here.

WannaCry, Mixers, And Bitcoin Wallets

I write for the finance and investment website ValueWalk. My post entitled WannaCry, Mixers, And Bitcoin Wallets is now online. Here is an excerpt:

Amid the furor of the August 1 Bitcoin Fork, another interesting thing happened. The individual(s) behind the WannaCry ransomware attack started to empty their bitcoin wallets. The $140,000 worth of bitcoin they originally collected gained about 20% more in value during the split, and it was around that time that the virtual money started to move.

The activity was detected by Keith Collins of Quartz, who used a bot to watch for movement in the accounts. The bot observed the initial withdrawal of $70,000, which was then followed by additional amounts from other bitcoin wallets until all the money was gone.

To read more visit ValueWalk here.

How to Say No to Your Boss

The “No” answer starts long before the question is asked.

My approach to time management, and consequently being able to say “no” to your boss is based on two skills: psychology – specifically the psychology of influence – and project management – the art of planning and managing work.

To say no to your boss, you must take the proactive step, long before, of managing up: setting up a time once per week, for a huddle, in which you can inform your boss as to your workload and timelines, including personal/family commitments. Using a visual tool like a Gantt chart will help as well. Although a manager seems to have the right to ask people to take on extra work, physical visual proof of busy-ness is a powerful tool of influence. It gives you leverage.

The second benefit to regular huddles is the development of a relationship. You can build greater trust with your manager once s/he starts to know you better. Trust and relationship also go far in the negotiation process.

Third, be prepared to offer an alternative. Your Gantt chart/calendar and your positive relationship should go far in terms of offering a time other than the weekend to take care of the pressing task. Often, managers themselves have poor time management skills and think everything must get finished right away.  If you can offer a spot of time next Tuesday afternoon, that might be sufficient.

Fourth, if this type of thing happens often, it’s time to plan for it in advance. I call this crisis management. A request to do extra work over the weekend is a crisis. If this is a regular occurrence, then it should be scheduled into your calendar – as in, 2 hours per week are reserved for the boss’s next crisis. If you know it’s going to happen, then schedule for it now.

Finally, ask yourself why these last-minute requests are happening at all. Again, this goes back to poor planning on the part of the boss. Use that same huddle to help project plan his/her priorities so that the urgency doesn’t have to happen at all.

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What Is Ethereum And How To Buy It?

I write for the finance and investment website ValueWalk and I posted my commentary entitled What Is Ethereum And How To Buy It? there today. Here is an excerpt:

Let’s start by getting the terminology straight. Ethereum is an open source code designed primarily to govern smart contracts on the blockchain. A smart contract is any contract between parties, especially those that lack a level of trust or credit rating. An example may be the sale of fair trade coffee. How would a wholesale purchaser know the coffee is fair trade? They would feel much more confident if the entire coffee production and preparation process was verified and incorporated into a smart contract that itself is sealed immutably inside a block on the blockchain. Ethereum allows developers to build their own apps on its open platform.

Part of the Ethereum code is Ether, described as the fuel that makes the contracts work. It can also be seen as a currency of sorts, and may emerge as a competitor to, or even replacement for Bitcoin, depending on how the lava flows. Ether is presented in coins, and can also be referred to as an Ethereum coin.

To read more, please visit ValueWalk here.

ValueWalk Post: How To Buy Bitcoin: A Guide For Beginners

I write for the finance and investment website ValueWalk. My post entitled How To Buy Bitcoin: A Guide For Beginners is now online. Here is an excerpt:

First, the Wallet

You’ll need a wallet. Not a nice leather billfold, because Bitcoins are not physical. There are no coins and no paper bills involved. It is all virtual. The Bitcoin wallet is an app that you can download to your phone, and your computer. It contains two 16-digit passwords: one is called a public key, and the other is a private key.

Quite simply, when you buy Bitcoin, your wallet sends your public key information to the vendor, the same way you would enter a credit card number into an online form. The public key tells the vendor’s app where to send the Bitcoin amount. The private key is the password you employ to confirm the transaction from your end. This one-time code is reviewed by the computers on the blockchain, who then approve the transaction unanimously as representing your receipt of a certain amount of Bitcoin. Once the code has been accepted by the computers on the blockchain, your wallet’s information will say it has some Bitcoin in it, and then the code is sealed permanently into the next block on the chain.

To read more visit ValueWalk here.

Arguments Against Time Management

Here are the most common objections to establishing a time management plan. See how many fit your mindset, or that of your colleagues.

This is an excerpt from my book, Cool Time: A Hands-On Guide for Managing Work and Balancing Time. If you want to learn more, please check out the Books page on this website.

Common Objections to Time Management

Nobody appreciates being told how to act. Books on time management often force people to adopt techniques that go against their natural preferences, such as using a certain type of agenda, or doing certain things at certain times, in short, taking some of the fun out of life. Such fears and objections are perfectly sound, since people are conservative by nature. Change generates fear of the unknown, a fear of failure or of being seen to fail. This fear goes back all the way to the early days of our evolutionary history. Like the rest of our metabolism, it cannot be changed so much as understood and properly channeled.

The purpose of Cool-Time is to help you take the principles and apply them to your environment, culture and preferences in the most comfortable and proactive way possible – the one with the greatest payoff.

Time Management Doesn’t Allow for Spontaneity

In fact, it’s perfect for spontaneity, since it allows for the existence of “free time.” By keeping the day in order and with a day plan in mind, spontaneous activities can occur without endangering or forgetting the other activities and priorities of the day. Being able to take some time for yourself is essential, but in the real world this can only truly work if the other tasks are understood, prioritized and accounted for.

The best way to be spontaneous in life is to plan to be spontaneous.

It’s Only Good for People in a Routine, and That’s Not Me

Everyone has a routine. Some routines are just more obvious than others. A person who does shift work, or someone who has a fixed list of tasks to accomplish day in and day out, has her routine clearly mapped out. However, we all have a routine by the very nature of the 24-hour clock and our circadian rhythms.

The first stage in effective time management is to step back, observe the constants and standards in your life, and then recognize the routine in which you operate. Then, like a fish suddenly discovering the water in which it lives, the patterns of your existence will emerge for you to manipulate and finesse. If you can’t identify any distinct routine happening daily, step back and observe your activities over a week or a month. Your routine will emerge, and will serve as the foundation for your time management plans.

It May Work for Others, But It Simply Won’t Work Here

Our environment is too different. Everyone says that. Everyone thinks their business has unique pressures and requirements that make any time management regimen unworkable. Whether you work in the public or private sector, or a not-for-profit; whether you are a student, a homemaker, between assignments, a manager or an up-and-coming professional, you are in the business of selling “you” to other people. Also, no matter what activity you are involved in, there is someone, somewhere who does it better, or did it better. There is always opportunity for improvement, advancement, and refinement. It’s up to you to identify how to make that happen.

I Have No Time to Put Together a Plan

Actually, you do have the time, it’s just been assigned to other tasks. Time is neither made nor found, simply rearranged, much like the Law of Conservation of Energy we learned in Physics 101.  Let’s put it this way. If you are a working parent, and your child’s school calls to say that she is sick and needs to see a doctor, there’s not much on this earth that would stop you from going to her side right away. Even if you’re not a parent, a sudden toothache or a broken finger is going to change your schedule for the day pretty quickly. Most of your colleagues will be accommodating, and the work will get done later. The point is, time can be found when it’s important enough. The benefits of Cool-Time are tangible. They translate into money, health, satisfaction, and control. Cool-Time is important enough to make the time.

I Work Better Under Pressure — I’m A Last-Minute Kind Of Person

Nobody really works better under pressure, since pressure immobilizes higher brain functions and replaces them with fight-or fight reflex. In short, pressure instills mental paralysis. What last-minute people do well is to compress their action and energy into a smaller block of time, not letting a project drag on, but keeping it on time.

When I Need To, I Just Work Harder – Hard Work Equals More Work

Hard work without planning is like chopping a tree with a dull axe. Huge amounts of energy go misspent, and sometimes it will not yield any product at all. You cannot make bread twice as fast by putting in twice as much yeast or by setting the oven twice as high.

I’m Already Organized, And I’m Doing Just Fine/I Have a System

I’ve used it for years. If you have a system and that system works for you and your colleagues in a satisfactory way, then that’s great! Congratulations! Still, there is always opportunity for improvement. Take a moment to observe your current work environment and note whether certain tasks or procedures could be tightened up to win you back some more time. To be able to embrace change, it is necessary to confront your objections. Note any feelings or resistance you may feel towards continuous improvement, and assess whether your arguments can be countered, or whether your current way of doing things is adequate.

Check out my book, Cool-Time. Information on ordering is available on the Books page.

Break Down Large Tasks and Backlogs Through Carryover Momentum

2nd-Edition-Cover-FrontThe power of planning is an amazing thing. Whatever day of the week it is as you read these lines, think back to what you were doing one week ago. Doesn’t seem like seven days, does it? It’s not fair, how quickly time seems to fly, but that’s life.

If you are faced with a task that is too big to get done all at once, the chances are that another week will slip by, then another, then another. Though this might be considered procrastination, it’s not always the case that you’re actually consciously putting it off, so much as never quite getting around to it – there’s a difference.

To that end, there is the principle of carryover momentum, in which it becomes possible to break up a large task, and then schedule and deal with it regularly and consistently over a period of days.

If you were to assign one hour per day to a project, you wouldn’t feel that much headway had been achieved after the first hour on the first day. But if you were able work on the project one hour each workday for a month, that’s 20 hours, or two-and-a-half full business days. For larger scale projects, that one-hour per day, even with weekends and holidays off, becomes 250 hours in a year, or the equivalent of one month’s worth of workdays. That’s a lot of time!

The reason why this technique is called carryover momentum goes back once again to the workings of the brain. By returning to an ongoing task on a daily basis – preferably, but not necessarily at the same time each day – the mind continues to retain and access the creative momentum of the previous day. It significantly reduces the amount of “let’s see now, where was I?” that happens when a project is picked up after a week or two of inactivity.

This is yet another example of how to capitalize on the strengths and weaknesses of the brain to get the right work done in the right way within the constraints of a busy day.

So, if you are facing a large project at work, and you feel overwhelmed by the size of it all, do not despair. That sense of overload is normal. It’s mental paralysis, the manifestation of the fight-or-flight reflex, draining nutrients from the thinking area of the brain. Its treatment is tangible, logical knowledge, represented by a simple calendar. By laying out a collection of one-hour blocks across a calendar (larger blocks for larger projects), it becomes possible to map the project across time, and assign tasks accordingly. Where once you had a mountain blocking your view, you now have a mountain with a staircase carved into it.

This is an excerpt from my book, Cool Time: A Hands-On Plan for Managing Work and Balancing Time. If you would like a copy, hop on over to my Books page. If you would like a workshop at your location, or if you would like to attend a live webcast, check out the details at my company, Bristall.com. If you would like me to come and speak to your group, contact details are available on my Speaker page. If you would like to listen to my podcast, check it out here. Either way, you will win back time and money. It’s just practical common sense.