Microservices can be seen as neurons in the brain, controlled by a cortex that provides processing context to the service.
That’s the vision of Nashua, N.H.-based startup Pneuron (the p is silent), which has created a platform that interacts with underlying data and application systems, without the need for upfront, heavyweight aggregation and query writing.
The company started out two and a half years ago to solve the problem of data application backlog, and it has morphed into solving problems of “connecting the dots with disparate systems,” according to Tom Fountain, Pneuron’s CTO.
Microservices are called “neurons” in the Pneuron platform, and each is configured to behave in a certain way. So when a neuron receives an input, it acts according to that pre-assigned behavior. The container, called a “cortex,” controls the messaging between neurons, giving users the ability to distribute the problem and scale the system, said Fountain.
“You can’t take the data to the analytics, so you take the analytics to the data,” he said. “It’s a more lightweight runtime approach that lets you sidestep the data aggregation step. That’s why it’s important to segment the problem types.”
The Pneuron platform acts as an overlay on these other systems, with XML messages carrying the payload. “The message layer is dumb; the logic is in the service. The microservice knows what to do when it gets a message,” said Fountain.
“The neuron doesn’t care where the message came from,” he continued. “It knows it will act as prescribed.”
Each neuron reaction is a step in a process, and users could devise a neuron network as simple or complex as needed to solve a business problem. It’s not programming, Fountain emphasized; it’s selecting and configuring neurons. “One neuron does its thing, and the cortex passes it on to the next neuron,” he said.
Some developers might say this type of approach will cost them jobs, as business analysts and marketing types can create their own applications. Fountain said the platform merely frees up developers to work on projects that carry more business value than data and systems integration.
There are four elements to the Pneuron platform: the neurons (microservices), the cortex (a distributed service bus), a design studio tool for selecting, configuring and connecting neurons, and a visualization tool for dashboarding.
The core platform has 53 preconfigured neurons out of the box, allowing organizations to take a business problem and decompose it into microservices. “As you connect neurons, you can incrementally test at the logic level” to make sure it works according to plan, Fountain said. Custom neurons can be created with a UI and logic, and can be added to the neuron library and connected to the network via a self-described XML message.
“System integration is holding the market back,” added Simon Moss, Pneuron’s CEO. “Why do I need to deploy six technologies to solve one business problem? Metcalfe’s Law (regarding scalability) will destroy the traditional centralization model.”