Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ruling on Novell's Unix assets bolsters OSS, binds Novell and IBM

So Novell really does now finally seem to own the Unix copyrights. Linux finds itself on a high-ground pedestal of long-term, low-risk use (unless Microsoft buys Novell [should have when they could have, eh?]). And IBM and Novell are closer than ever.

Fun times.

The folly of the SCO Group FUD fiasco hurt more than SCO's 2003 investors. It has shown that the PR war approach to undermining confidence in Linux and OSS is a loser's sport for wannabe spoilers.

And while Microsoft thought it bought Novell a pair of permanent knee pads with its Windows-SUSE Linux indemnification pact last year, IBM will now come around to stand Novell back up on its feet, perhaps for good.

Someone should write a novel about Novell's travails with Microsoft over the years. More plots than a first-year Fortran class.

And there's irony, too. IBM and Novell, for example. Who would have predicted 10 years ago that IBM and Novell/Unix/Linux would make great partners against Microsoft, Red Hat, Sun, Oracle and BEA? It's too good not to be true.

We just saw some first hard evidence of the deepening relationship with the IBM-Novell middleware and OS stack bundle news last week. And it's not too whacky to consider Novell's long, tortured journey finding a quiet resting place on the outskirts of Armonk, NY. Set the rocking chair with a nice view of the Hudson. Tea at 4 p.m., lovely sunsets.

I believe the slow-motion tennis ball lob on Linux risk FUD never quite made it over the net. The federal judge on the Unix case just knocked it back in Microsoft's court. SCO as proxy is no more. OSS and IBM's lawyers are the only winners. So let's close the book on that sordid chapter.

Much more interesting now is the market dynamics over how far and how fast up the datacenter stack open source components/solutions will move. Will the Red Hat/JBoss/Apache incubator code move the bar on OSS disruption into the echelons of serious enterprise middleware and beyond? Will data services get an open source foundation? Maybe an OSS metadata layer makes sense, just like OSS ESBs do?

IBM is the arbiter to watch on this transition. Novell can help them manage the timing, while covering a flank against Red Hat. BEA can only watch and wait. Oracle can time the infrastructure transition while nimbly moving up the stack to vertical business applications and data services. Ditto SAP. Sun can play around with trial-and-error open source models roulette while laying off its way to a niche hardware business.

HP could be very interesting. This will be the year for HP's SOA play. It needs to find a way to master the OSS/support/hardware/solutions/consolidation process. But where to chase for the next margins? Who is friend or foe? There won't be too much room for error on this one, not too many chances to recover from missed opportunities or misplaced bets.

The timing is key. And managing transitions from commercial to OSS up and around the stack (to ding competitors while remaining key to major accounts) is the game. There won't be any more Red Hat/JBosses, or such accidental empires. But there may be an OSS applications and services ecology on the horizon. And SOA will soon drive they types of choices that require businesses to focus on such an OSS services ecology.

So like the days when Unix was the infrastructure law in the core corporate datacenter (and Windows was only hype-ware there), we may be back to a period where the major transitions have little to do with Microsoft's rate cards. Microsoft will be at an ongoing disadvantage in the commercial-OSS transitional disruption march across back-end servers as long as it has no OSS strategy (other than FUD). And that FUD strategy has just come up wanting.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

SOA Insights analysts explore SOA appliances, BPEL4People and GPL v3

Read a full transcript of the discussion. Listen to the podcast.

Appliances for IT infrastructure have evolved to include everything from email servers to network routers to XML accelerators. Some would argue that "appliances" can be hardware, software, or both. Purists have a more strict definition that they say will make the locked-down and all-inclusive devices of great appeal to growing legions of IT operators and SOA architects.

For the latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition podcast, our panel of IT analysts and experts are joined by someone who knows appliances inside and out, Jim Ricotta, vice president and general manager of appliances within IBM’s software group. Jim offers some hints that IBM is betting big on appliances across more aspects of IT solutions.

Our expert panel digs into this and other recent trends in SOA and enterprise IT architecture in the latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, volume 21. Our group also examines the emerging BPEL4People specification for making humans and SOA better, if only loosely, coupled. The discussion ends with a look at the GPL v3 and the importance, or not, of the Apple iPhone.

So join noted IT industry analysts and experts Tony Baer, Jim Kobielus, Brad Shimmin, and Todd Biske for our latest SOA podcast discussion, hosted and moderated by yours truly.

Here are some excerpts:
... On IT infrastructure appliances and SOA

The basic concept of an appliance is to allow customers to get their projects going more quickly, experience lower total cost of ownership (TCO), etc. ... We have a broader remit and we are looking at a number of different appliance efforts for different parts of the IBM product set.

The idea with an appliance is that the clients don’t care what’s inside. They care about the functions that the device does. The way we have architected our product, we do have lots of choices. We can pick the right processors.

[But] it’s really much more ... than performance. ... it’s about TCO and then "time to solution" and "time to deployment."

I’ve heard big global IT organizations, when they do their TCO calculation, say a router is $100 a month to support, a server is $500, and a DataPower SOA appliance is maybe $200 to $250. Those are the kind of ranges I hear.

So, we are talking a potential 50 percent reduction in total cost? Yes.

Our customers say, “Geez. We could do what your box does with software running on a server, but the operations folks tell us it would be two times or four times more expensive to maintain, because we have to patch all the different things that are on there. It’s not the same everywhere in the world in our infrastructure. Whereas with your box, we configure it; we load a firmware image, and it’s always the same wherever it exists.”

So, our view is an appliance is three things that the customer buys at the same time: They buy hardware, software, and support, and it’s all together. That’s really what we think is the core value proposition.

A manager I worked for had the term "Dial-tone Infrastructure." You want to plug it in, pick it up, and it works. That’s the model that everybody is trying to get to with their solutions. But, when you're dealing with an appliance, you have to have that level of integration between the hardware and the software, so that you're getting the absolute best you can out of the underlying physical infrastructure that you have it on.

Any software-based approach that’s on a commodity hardware is not going to be optimized to the extent that it can be. You look at where you can leverage hardware appropriately and tune this thing to get every last ounce of performance out of it that you can.

[SOA and appliances] dovetail because the very concept of an appliance is something that’s loosely coupled. It’s a basic, discrete component of functionality that is loosely coupled from other components. You can swap it out independently from other components in your architecture, and independently scale it up or scale it out, as your traffic volume grows, and as your needs grow. So, once again, an appliance is a tangible service.

SOA has its own version of an ISO stack with the WS-Standards and the layers from things like BPEL, all the way down to XML and the basics. That’s what enabled this approach of putting together a device that supports a bunch of these standards and can fit right into anybody’s SOA architecture, no matter what they are doing with SOA.

We see ESB as a key part of any SOA architecture and deployment. If you do it properly ... you tend to get a performance solution. You’ve done optimization. You’ve done a pruning back of all the potential functions. ... You tend to have good performance from, as well as the other benefits I pointed to, easy deployment and low TCO. So, given that ESB is the core of SOA, in many ways having an appliance alternative is important.

A lot of this space in the middle in SOA is all about what I would call a "configure-not-code" approach. Appliances, by definition, are something you configure, not something that you are going to be developing code for. So, it’s really tuned for an operational model, and not for a developer having to go in and tinker around with it.

And that’s really where a lot of the savings can come in the total cost of ownership. It isn’t how much work you have to go through it to actually make a change to the policies that are being enforced by this software appliance or device, and there are big differences between the products out there.

An appliance can act as an enabler for other pieces of software in terms of providing that level of performance and scalability that those pieces can't do on their own. Such as we are seeing with ESBs and other areas. Those pieces of software need desperately some piece of hardware somewhere that can get them the information need in any timely manner.

We [at IBM] have some discussions underway with network providers that have big corporate clients who are now launching their first B2B Web services, and they are basically utilizing SOA-type functions between organizations across Wide Area Networks. These carriers are looking at how to provide a value-added service, a value-added network to this growing volume of XML, SOA-type traffic. We see that as a trend in the next couple of years.

On BPEL4People for SOA ...

The BPEL4People specification came to fruition this week. ... It’s interesting that they made both spec proposals separate. But, it’s not any type of surprise. IBM and SAP have been talking about this for about 18 months to two years, if I recall. What was a little interesting was that Oracle originally dissented from this, and now Oracle is part of that team.

The SOA folks have looked at BPEL and find something interesting. It does well with machine-to-machine, or at least with designed-for-automated processes to trigger other automated processes based on various conditions and scenarios, and do it dynamically. But, the one piece that was missing was most processes are not 100 percent automated. There’s going to be some human input somewhere. It was pointed out that this is a major shortcoming of the BPEL spec.

So, IBM, SAP, Oracle, BEA, Adobe and Active Endpoints have put together a proposal to patch this gap, and they’re going to submit it to OASIS ... BPEL4People. We’re going to add a stopping point to say, "Put a human task here." That’s essentially BPEL4People. It’s a little more than that, but essentially boils down to that.

Where I tend to see the value in this is that invoking a human task as a service is not necessarily a call for relationship with orchestration. You don’t necessarily have to orchestrate in order to invoke a human task.

I think that we definitely need this. There's a constant tension with trying to take a business-process approach within IT when developing solutions. If you look at the products that are out there, you have one class of products that are typically called "workflow products" that deal with the human task management, and then you have these BPM products or ESBs with orchestration in them that deal with the automated processes. Neither one, on their own, gives you the full view of the business process.

As a result, there’s always this awkward hand-off that has to occur between what the business user is defining as the business process and what IT has to turn around and actually cobble together as a solution around that. Finally getting to a point where we’re saying, "Okay, let’s come up with something that actually describes the true business process in the business definition of it," is really important.
Read the full transcript for more IT analysis and SOA insights. Listen to the podcast. Produced as a courtesy of Interarbor Solutions: analysis, consulting and rich new-media content production.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Sybase demos swift use of iPhone as mobile client to corporate email, calendar, PIM

For those who think the Apple iPhone will not be a corporate mobile client any time soon, think again.

Sybase demonstrated today a straightforward way to use an Apple iPhone to access such enterprise email stalwarts as Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino servers. Not only was the email and associated attachments available via the iPhone's native client email software, but real-time access to the business user's corporate calendar and address book were there too.

Today's demonstration, before a group of industry and financial analysts at an annual Sybase user conference in Las Vegas, also showed unified communications functions, including click-to-call on the iPhone from the online corporate directory. Sybase says its capability to provide such integration is unique among mobile infrastructure vendors.

For the demo, Sybase used its Information Anywhere Suite infrastructure from its iAnywhere product line to deliver the corporate messaging goods to the iPhone client. The messaging integration via Information Anywhere is secure by using SSL, does not require IMAP, and connects through existing ports.

That means that corporate IT personnel can accommodate business users who want to use iPhones to access their core corporate communications without a lot of IT overhead. It takes five minutes to set up a user, following the same basic steps as setting up a Windows Mobile connection, said Sybase.

The enterprise email-to-iPhone support service is not yet publicly available, but it soon could be. Already many enterprises in the U.S. are asking Sybase and its partners for ways to use the iPhone for corporate messaging. Such inquiries are also coming from Europe, where the iPhone is not even yet available.

No details were forthcoming on availability of the iPhone connectivity services, thought Sybase certainly seems to like the idea of working closely with Apple to make the capability a commercial reality.

"We will do some work with Apple to make this a very powerful experience," said Terry Stepien, president of Sybase's iAnywhere division.

While many observers have pegged the iPhone as a consumer device, Sybase, in Dublin, CA, examined the device and found that the existing Apple OS X-based APIs are strong enough for enterprise messaging use. Recognizing that IT messaging administrators resist IMAP standards due to security concerns, Sybase made the iPhone a corporate client without using IMAP.

Quite a bit more could be done, however. Stepien said that the native calendar client on iPhone could be exploited if APIs for that were available.

From where I sat watching the demo, an Apple-Sybase solution to satisfy those who want to add the iPhone to other sanctioned corporate mobile clients is a no-brainer. This is a development to keep an eye on, and may bring iPhone to an influential class of business user sooner than most thought possible.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Look for more Linux-based mobile devices in a Palm near you

Linux on mobile devices got a boost this week with a slew of announcements out of LinuxWorld in San Francisco.

One telling announcement came with Palm's decision to go with Wind River Systems' Linux as the platform for the upcoming Palm Foleo, the sub-compact companion for smartphones. While the Foleo was designed to be Linux-based from the get-go, the decision went to go with Wind River's device-optimized version of Linux.

Wind River will also provide its development suite, professional services, and customer support in bringing the Foleo to market. The Foleo is billed as a smart-phone adjunct that allows users to view and work on phone-based email with a larger screen and full-size keyboard. It also allows Web surfing, editing, and Power Point presentations.

Without having made a formal debut, the Foleo is receiving mixed notices from the reviewer community. ZDNet's George Ou, thinks that, while it needs some tweaking, it poses a threat to the laptop. On the other side of that fence, Alice Hill from Real Tech News thinks it's going to bomb, and gives five reasons why it will fail.

As with most new devices, only time will tell. A key to success will be bulk purchases by enterprises for their edge and remote workers. Not sure the pricey iPhone makes sense there (yet).

Meanwhile, the LiMo Foundation, which is dedicated to the adoption of Linux in the mobile device community, announced what it called "a significant membership surge," with the addition of five new core members and eight associate members.

The core members, who will participate on the board, include Aplix, Celunite, LG Electronics, McAfee, and Wind River. Associate members include ARM, Broadcom, Ericsson, Innopath, KTF, MontaVista Software, and NXP B.V.

LiMo's goal is to create the world's first globally competitive, Linux-based software platform for mobile devices, and organizers expect to see the first handsets supporting the LiMo platform on the market in the first half of 2008.

In other Linux-mobile news, Motorola and Wind River has formed a strategic alliance designed to provide integrated Advanced TCA(R) and Micro TCATM communication platforms with Carrier Grade Linux and VxWorks runtimes. This is aimed at providing bundled hardware and software solutions for telecom, military, aerospace, medical, and industrial automation.

Disclosure: Wind River has been a sponsor of BriefngsDirect podcasts, which I produce and moderate.