Select Page

Ok, this is a bit of a play on words to help people understand how technology components are connected together. As the old song goes, the toe bone connected to the foot bone, etc. in the Dem Bones song. We’ll skip over the anatomical inaccuracies of those words… the point is, things are connected.

In the world of technology, things are more connected than you can ever imagine under the hood, it’s no wonder why people struggle to grasp the concepts of how the pieces of the puzzle fit together and why some things work in one area and the same thing doesn’t work in another area. It all comes down to connectivity and how technology components are ultimately built on top of other technology components to perform the features you see as a technical user.

 

{Insert Latest Technology Trend Here} is the Future – Implement it now!

Is it? Is it really? Is it really anything new under the hood? And if it truly is, can you draw a diagram to explain how and why it is better than the plethora of other options that are already available and have been available for years? If you can’t, you need to go back to the drawing board to start to understand how things plug in, work together and how the entire technology stack is built on the foundations of those technologies that have come before.

Take Docker as a prime example. I’m picking on Docker a little here as I’m getting a little bored of discussions about how Docker is the future of the universe. In reality, it’s not really that different than technology that has been around for over a decade other than the added ability to create cross-node Docker clusters through the likes of Kubernetes and some pre-packaged (aka. inflexible) ‘fake’ images – yeah, that’s pretty cool, but really? Is it actually necessary for the 95% of systems out there? In any real world situation, you’d just beef up a VM and ensure there is decent resources, proper failover and redundancy in place – job done. Unless you’re working for the likes of Google and Facebook, you should probably take a pragmatic approach and achieve the same result with 5% of the effort required.

Look, I’m not against these technologies, they’re great. But. You have to have the resource, technical capability in the specific software and technical understanding of the full technology stack to understand how everything fits together, and that comes with a cost. This isn’t something that comes overnight for anyone, so you’ve either got to be prepared to put in a lot of effort training and developing your staff, or get your cheque book open with your quill ink pen at hand ready to start writing some fairly hefty payments to get the staff/contractors in you need to develop this type of setup.

 

Your {Insert Latest Technology Trend Here} Bone is Connected To Your…

Taking a look at WordPress specifically as this came up in a recent conversation to help to illustrate how all this fits together. Basically this fairly large diagram below (click/right click and open in new tab, to open in full screen to view!) helps to highlight how the different types of technologies fit together in the technology stack. WordPress is simply the one that is highlighted throughout the diagram with the others less of a focus to help to illustrate the point.

What you will notice in the diagram below is how there are so many flavours of technology at the same technology stack layer that you need to understand how they are aligned. There is an enormous amount of similarity between a lot of the common technologies that are branded as {Insert Latest Technology Trend Here} – So when you get into the detail and discussions, you need to make sure your discussion point holds weight and this only comes with a solid understanding of how the technology stack works.

 

 

Basically at the simplest level…. Your Physical Hardware is connected to the Type 1 Hypervisor … is connected to the Type 2 Hypervisor … is connected to your application. Simple, right? Well, as you’ve probably realised when reading the docs from all the software providers at the different layers of the technology stack, it’s not always that clear what sits where.

The core concepts of the different layers are as follows…

 

Physical Hardware Virtualisation – Single Virtual Machines

This layer basically securely segregates your hardware resources into logical units that have defined boundaries. Think of this in the same concept of a piece of land with houses on. Once you’ve built one house (aka. a Virtual Machine) then that house cannot suddenly decide to take resources from the second house since it is not allowed to access that space.

 

Type 2 Hypervisor Technology –aka. Landlord / Owner Controlled

Imagine this as a property you own, whether you live in the property or rent it out. As the ultimate owner of the property, you decide what can or cannot be done within the physical space. You determine the boundaries of which the tenant can operate. You may decide that there can only be one tenant in this location, it may be your own organisation, or you may open this out to other organisations, either way – this is your choice. By this very definition, in technical terms, you get to decide what software can or cannot operate in this environment – aka. Shoes off in the house rules etc.

As you’ll see in the diagram, there is a wide variety of software that allows you to configure these Type 2 Hypervisor technologies to suit your needs – each with their own specific pieces of functionality.

 

Type 2 Hypervisor Technology – Account Specific

This is the next layer which determines what specific accounts can or cannot do. For example, taking the landlord example a little further, let’s say you have a house (aka. the Type 2 Hypervisor Technology) and you can then decide if Tenant 1 in Room X is allowed to ‘keep pets’ VS Tenant 2 in Room Y is not allowed to ‘keep pets’. That is the level of control that is capable with technology layers.

Hence why the security element is explained as such, anything within this layer is the security of the owner of this element. For example, imagine a tenant who is the owner of a rental room in a house. If this tenant decided host a dinner party of well-rounded guests, then all of a sudden decided to also invite around a rowdy crowd of guests (aka. bad actors in the web space, sending spam or receiving lots of spam traffic), then this is clearly going to interrupt the evening. The reality of web hosting is no different. Disruption results is lower performance for other websites hosted within this layer.

If you need the security of performance, you need to be moving to a service / subscription / plan with your provider that can accommodate you needs which will naturally come with an additional price tag. Hopefully that explains why – In summary, it’s because you are reserving an amount of hardware resources (CPU, RAM, HDD) to secure the performance needed of your server to keep the lights on for your end customers to do business with you.

 

Summary

Hopefully the diagram above helps to convey some of the common technologies and where they sit in the layers. When I say layers here, I’m not talking about the traditional OSI Layer Model as quite frankly that has been broken for years – Another blow post to follow on what I believe this should look like in the modern world.

It’s also important to understand these layers and how they blend with the cloud technology providers. A lot of the time this type of information is abstracted from you to “help” (but it rarely does from an understanding perspective…). Regardless of where the technology stack ultimately lives, it’s important to understand these building blocks.

 

Cloud is the Future!

As the saying goes, the cloud is just someone else’s computer. And that goes for the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform (GCP). All they have under the hood is some fancy bit of tech to easily create the different bits of the diagram above, and many more elements too that are not in that diagram. By the way, there are some pretty awesome open source versions of the cloud tech they are using, or derivatives of it – but I’ll leave that for another blog post!

When you get under the skin of the majority of cloud environments, they are often using open source technology in the background, branded as their own service. Don’t be fooled! It’s not magic, it’s marketing.

This blog post isn’t about cloud VS non-cloud, I’ll do a blog post in a while about how the cloud is doomed for failure in the next 5 – 10 years once people realise the true cost involved, but that’s for another time. This is when open source cloud platforms will really start to come into their own and usage really starts to grow in a hockey stick manner.

The following two tabs change content below.

Michael Cropper

Founder & Managing Director at Contrado Digital Ltd
Michael founded Contrado Digital in 2013. He has experience working with national and multi-national brands in a wide range of industries, helping them achieve awesome results. Michael regularly speaks at local universities and industry events while keeping up with the latest trends in the digital industry.