Friday, October 26, 2007

SOA Insights analysts view IBM's information umbrella, explore SAP's Business Objects grab and define 'Guerilla SOA'

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The latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Vol. 26, provides a roundtable discussion and dissection of Services Oriented Architecture (SOA)-related news and events with a panel of IT analysts and experts.

In this episode, our group examines the relationship and tension between enterprise-wide SOA and more discrete Web-Oriented Architecture -- what we like to call Guerilla SOA. We also look at the probable acquisition of Business Objects by SAP, and the recent Information On Demand conference from IBM.

Join noted IT industry analysts and experts Jim Kobielus, principal analyst at Current Analysis; Tony Baer, principal of onStrategies, and JP Morgenthal, CEO of Avorcor. Our discussion is hosted and moderated by me, Dana Gardner.

Here are some excerpts:
On WOA and 'Guerilla SOA'

You always have two different communities -- one very active, very leading-edge groups like financial services, and then there are always on the lookout for new technologies that are going to help them do their business faster and better, doing lots of more. They are not risk averse they are willing to throw some additional capital at those projects and see what they’ll bear. Right now they are the primary community that I see that’s really gung-ho on this. ... The other group, let’s call them the moderates or the laggards, definitely view this technology as questionable. ... They still lean towards, "I want a complete application. I really don’t want to play with this stuff."

Therefore, people might be pushing it off, which relates to what IBM is doing, which is trying to make this comprehensive, more simplified, and more integrated, so that, in addition to those cutting edge organizations in such fields as financial services, this could be more palatable for the larger bell curve of enterprises. ... My concern for the industry as a whole is that people are going to view it as throwing a lot of consulting dollars down the drain and not seeing any value for it. I’ve recently joined the camp, at least academically, not in any way physically or throwing my weight behind it, but Guerrilla SOA is what I have been doing in my business. I just haven’t put a title to it.

A year or year-and–half-ago, we started seeing WOA ... and it’s also been called Enterprise Web 2.0 or Enterprise 3.0. But, it’s really putting emphasis on REST, as a way of leveraging HTTP as a Web service. And now WOA is becoming more of an emerging best practice. Guerrilla SOA better captures what it’s up to or about than WOA. ... So, this notion of an application with a REST style for building Web services based on straight HTTP and XML sort of applies to what JP has been talking about.

I'm much more in favor of small, non-enterprise oriented, focused projects that deliver value within 30 to 90 days. I see that’s the greatest value right now for using these technologies based on SOA, Web services, and the like, because the enterprise stuff is nice, but right now it is too fluid for the industry to grab hold of. It’s resulting in potential large-scale problems for companies that have no idea how to build the distribution. ... The problem with distributed environments is that very few people actually know how to manage them.

In IBM’s case, they are one of the founders of distributed computing. At their core, they understand it well, but they buy too much into their own marketing hype and don’t tell customers well enough, "Hey, look, at the core of all this, of what you’re trying to do, trying to get more agile, we lived there. We built the first computers that became agile and communicated across network."

Parts of this argument we could have had 10 years ago, the whole idea of the big umbrella vendor. If nobody wanted a big umbrella vendor and wanted best of breed, SAP would not be what it is today. I remember during the emergence of the ERP market about 10 or 12 years ago, there was a debate: “Shall we go best of breed, versus an umbrella approach?" The market has clearly spoken.

However, what you've gotten at the same time is a revolution that picked up steam with the original Borland IDEs and the popularity of bottom-up development, and was energized by the original Visual Basic. There is a powerful constituency of organizations that need Guerilla SOA and need to get it done now. It’s also behind the rise of agile development.

When you look at just the difference in style between conventional Web service and RESTful, there is a little bit of an irony. Conventional Web services were touted as a simpler alternative to an earlier incarnation of SOA, which was CORBA. This reflects a growing maturity in the field. As we started getting a little more experience working with some of those Web-services technology, we realized that maybe we didn't always need those complicated SOAP headers. So, why not dispense with that, because most of our needs right now are for simple things like fetching data.

Everybody is going to run around the corporate standard, if the corporate standard doesn’t meet their needs. It’s the actual knowledge workers, the end users. If IT can't give them what they need, they are going to find it some other way. If what the knowledge worker needs is not being funded out of capital budgets and being supported by IT, they're going to pay for it our of their monthly expenses. They are just going to grab it for free on the Internet and mash it up.

I've been focusing more on the small and mid-sized market, and these guys just want to get something done. The interesting thing is that they don’t spend their time sitting there wondering, whether they're going to do Web services or SOA. It’s more like 1,500 calls coming in a day, they’re being bombarded, and yet they still have to get stuff done. So, it’s the backlog.

Then you come in and you tell them, "Hey, in three weeks I can give you a completely new wrapper around everything you have, leave exactly what you have in place, but allow you to do everything you wanted to, the way you want to do it." At first, they say, "Right, show me." Once you show them, it opens up a non-stop flow. They get it the minute they see it.

The Web itself and the WOA and the Guerilla SOA are all part of the same trend, which is away from the need for a large corporate IT umbrella, but that you can get things done, satisfy customer needs, be innovative and agile in new markets, and can go global -- all based on not needing one big umbrella, but leveraging what’s able across a rich, fertile, open ecology.

On IBM's Information On Demand Conference

About two years ago, IBM established an organizing framework for their data management, database integration, and other data solutions, called Information On Demand, and it’s just a big catch-all for the products they already had, as well as lots of new projects they’ve been developing to address data management under the SOA big top.

IBM released 10 press releases
, and even those press releases didn’t capture every nuance of every product announcement, enhancement, and initiative they've got going on. ... They announced upgrades or enhancements to their databases, data warehousing products, their master data management (MDM) products, their data integration products under the Information Server portfolio, their enterprise content management products, the FileNet products, plus the preexisting IBM content management products.

What's really interesting is the whole idea of IBM biting of more than they can chew. IBM and Oracle are among the few organizations that could pull off something like this and not be overwhelmed by it. You and I saw this several years ago when Ascential had it’s analyst conference right after the acquisition by IBM and they revealed the roadmap. What's impressed me is that it’s been a very deliberate plan.

A cornerstone of that was Information Server, the whole information-server strategy. Ascential itself was kind of a mini IBM, a company that was glued together by acquisition. What they realized was they had all these disparate tools that ultimately related to the lifecycle of data in all those different forms, and, prior to the acquisition by IBM, they had a roadmap which, I believe, was called Hawk and Serrrano.

The interesting part was that it was all going to become metadata driven and that would drive all the data-integration and data-access strategies. So, I see that as the unsung hero of all this. It provided a more global perspective IBM needed and rationalizes all of these other initiatives. It’s not that everything is acting off of Information Server as a hub, but it provides a logical core or gut unification theory.

On Business Objects and SAP

The big news there of course was the pending acquisition by SAP. One of the good things was, at the very start of the keynote, Bernard Liautaud, the founder of the Business Objects, reassured the customers, employees, and partners that Business Objects will be a standalone product group under SAP. It will autonomous. It can continue to pursue its vision. ... It will up to Business Objects whether it makes sense to use a particular piece of SAP technology in any given product, but he reassured everybody that there will be growing integration between Business Objects and SAP offerings.

But [Henning Kagermann, the Chairman of SAP] intends to have it both ways, because he then said, “We will also make sure that Business Objects maintains an equivalent level of tight integration with all of our competitors.” He's trying to have it both ways, but at least Kagermann was speaking the right speak. From my discussions afterwards, everybody said, "Yeah, I think they are speaking in good faith. So far, so good. We’ll wait and see." The deal has not been closed yet, and it will be a couple of months.

I see the convergences that are going on are all being driven by SOA mega brands that are continuing to bulk up on the full range of best-of-breed tools that enterprises are asking for. SAP, although it has BI, data warehousing, and data integration under NetWeaver, none of that is best of breed. It’s all primarily just in the box when you license their CRM or ERP applications.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Oracle users enjoy open source benefits but shy away from databases -- for now

An early Texas settler claimed that the Rio Grande was "a mile wide and a foot deep." A recent survey among Oracle database users seems to offer the same sentiment about the prevalence of open source in the enterprise.

Sponsored by MySQL and conducted by Unisphere Research, the study among members of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) found that, despite a heavy use of open source in some areas of operation, organizations running over half their applications on open-source software increased from 9 percent in 2006 to 13 percent in 2007. However, only one-third of the 226 respondents said they had an open-source database in production.

While slightly more than half of the respondents said they plan to increase their adoption of open source in the next year, fewer than 10 percent reported application portfolios that are supported by or interact with open-source systems.

Respondents also indicated that cost indeed seems to be a driver, with two-thirds reporting that the adoption of open source was spurred by cost savings. This compares with 57 percent citing cost as a factor in a similar study last year.

However, cost savings come at a price. Support and security continues to be concerns and seem to act as roadblocks to wider adoption. Just over half of the respondents felt that support wasn't as robust as commercial applications, and more than one-third saw security as a major stumbling block.

Tony Baer at OnStrategies has an interesting take -- and, in the process, paints a picture that will have me looking over my shoulder at Thanksgiving dinner:

By the way, did we neglect to mention that this open source survey of Oracle database customers was sponsored by MySQL? It conjures up an image of a mouse sneaking into a kitchen during Thanksgiving dinner and feasting on the scraps. In fact, that’s exactly the picture that was painted by the survey.

Open source use is wide but not terribly deep. Roughly 90% of respondents said they used open source software or were planning to, but it’s mostly for the commodity stuff sitting below the application layer where most organizations imbed their real value-add. Only 4% said they used open-source-based enterprise apps, like SugarCRM. Not surprisingly, the most popular open source offerings were the Apache web server, which happens to underlie most J2EE middle tier products like IBM WebSphere; and of course, Linux. In essence, customers look to open source for cheap plumbing that simply works.

And that certainly applies to databases. This being a survey of Oracle database users, it’s obvious that nobody’s replacing Oracle with MySQL or any of its open source cousins. But if you’ve got a satellite web app, there’s little risk – or cost – in using MySQL. Significantly, 20% of Oracle users surveyed reported having open source databases larger than 50 GBytes. That 20% is kind of a funny figure. If you’re an optimist, you’ll point to it as proof positive that open source databases are getting ready for prime time; if you’re a cynic, you’ll claim that the figure proves that they will never rise higher than supporting roles.

... Obviously, nobody dismisses the viability of open source for basic commodity tasks, but when it comes to mission critical systems, Oracle users still know whose throat they really want to choke.

Like all surveys, it represents a few answers -- 226 to be exact -- from a small niche of the IT market. That would seem to indicate caution in extrapolating the results to the entire industry.

Incidentally, the same settler who made the remark about the Rio Grande also said it was "too thin to plow and too thick to drink." How much of these results you want to swallow is up to you. The 21-page executive summary of the recent deep-and-wide study is available to members on the IOUG Web site.

In any event, I agree with Tony that open source databases are ripe for rapid growth and expand use-case scenarios. As more applications are served up as services, those service providers will be doing a lot of custom distributed infrastructure development, leveraging open source, and rolling their own functionally targeted stacks. Think of Google, Amazon, eBay and Yahoo as examples. Are they running Oracle or DB2 or Microsoft SQL Server, or are they taking a more commoditized view on databases?

We'll see more of these mega service providers using more open source databases, I suspect, though they won't talk about it. There will be more instances of database caches and subsets hither and yon, and these too will be increasingly open source. They will be tuned for their purposes, and not general purpose not enterprise-oriented. Scale, speed and cost rule.

Therefore the actual numbers of open source database licenses might be small and hard to measure, but the impact will be felt as more applications and services move to service provider models and more infrastructure customization as differentiation is layered on top of the database itself. Some folks swear by Ingres as a fine data environment, albeit open source.

And because databases are so mission critical, once comfort using open source varieties of these bedrocks of infrastructure components are reached, then a tipping point may be at hand. This may also be accelerated by moves toward Web-Oriented Architecture (WOA) and so-called Guerrilla SOA, where instances of services are virtualized on discrete runtime stacks.

Virtualization using open source hypervisors and open source databases to produce combined dynamic data serving stacks (create data capacity as you need it) also makes a lot of sense. It does mean more than what Oracle does with RAC and striping.

I made the pitch a while back on why IBM ought to buy into open source databases to spur on sales of other IBM infrastructure. It may have been premature, but the logic still has a nice ring to it. When a big provider like IBM makes open source databases strategic, as a bludgeon to its competitors (Oracle and Microsoft) and a loss-leader to other revenues, then all bets are off.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sybase ushers in iPhone as secure client for mainstream corporate email

When I saw the demo last summer it was impressive. Sybase used its Information Anywhere suite as a go-between to allow such corporate email stalwarts as IBM Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange to integrate with a mobile Apple iPhone for email and PIM.

Now the demo is set to become a commercial reality. Sybase today at Mobile Business Expo in New York announced that it will begin supporting the iPhone as a wireless client for Domino and Exchange email and PIM/address book (including corporate directory look-up) early next year.

The iAnywhere approach comes with full connectivity to the native iPhone email application, not via webmail in the Safari browser. The email is therefore also available for offline use.

While the Sybase announcement comes soon after Apple's publicly declared intention to allow third-party developers and ISVs to write native apps for the iPhone, Sybase said the announcements are unrelated to the forthcoming SDK.

"We took guidance from Apple" on the project to include iPhone as a client among some 200 others that Information Anywhere suite connects (such as Windows Mobile, Symbian and Palm-based devices), but there is no formal relationship between Sybase and Apple, said Senthil Krishnapillai, Sybase product manager for iAnywhere.

The Information Anywhere suite connects mobile clients to email systems using standards, but not IMAP, which many email administrators shun do to potential unfettered exposure of email traffic to the Internet. Those using the Sybase solution for making the iPhone a corporate email client will be able to use their mobile networks to securely synchronize and replicate their emails, said Krishnapillai.

The Sybase approach will work with any iPhone and supports all Domino versions from R6 through the new version 8, as well as Exchange 2000 through Exchange 2007. The solution will require the iAnywhere suite 5.5, however. The iPhone-iAnywhere solution is expected in Q1 2008.

We should also expect that Sybase will enable 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.

What's more, it should take about five minutes to set up a user, following the same basic steps as setting up a Windows Mobile connection, said Sybase. This should make email administrators breathe easier as iPhone users request connectivity privileges.

Sybase said that 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 will soon be available in several markets.

Quite a bit more integration could be done between iPhone and corporate email. Microsoft might not be too keen on it, but IBM should be.

If you're a Domino shop, send an email to your IBM support staff and ask if Big Blue will use the forthcoming iPhone SDK to provide more native integration, perhaps between the Domino/Notes calendar and the native calendar client on iPhone. Web access could work in the meantime, I suppose.

But wait ... how about running a Notes client directly on the iPhone? Hey, how about running Outlook on the iPhone? These would be some killer apps should users clamor enough for them (and/or hackers make up the difference). I won't hold my breathe on Outlook, but maybe one of the open source Outlook knock-offs, eh?

If I were IBM, however, I'd think very seriously about a native Notes client for iPhone (and for all the other iPhone wannabe converged devices that are making their way to the market). A Notes client, of course, would allow the mobile iPhone users to get a lot more to their fingertips than email and calendar -- there are many thousands of Domino applications and data views that would make the iPhone a very handsome corporate endpoint.

Come on, IBM and Apple how about it? Sybase has shown the way, now take the ball and run with it. Notes and iPhone is match made in heaven.

Should IBM and Apple work together to bring a Notes client to the iPhone?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Citrix's end-to-end virtualization powerhouse hastens the massive disruption of PC applications as we know them

Citrix Systems is moving aggressively to desktop virtualization with today's announcement of the new Citrix XenDesktop 2.0 products. Combined with other recent Citrix strategic moves, the world of PCs and applications delivered as services is soon to be flipped.

Heads or tails, both end users and those seeking to make a good living delivering business and consumer applications as services should win.

The slew of announcements come at Citrix's iForum user conference in Las Vegas, and quickly builds on the now-final acquisition of open source virtualization vendor XenSource, which Citrix picked up for $500 million in August.

Citrix XenDesktop combines Citrix Desktop Server, which uses the Citrix ICA (Independent Computing Architecture) protocol, with a virtual infrastructure for hosting virtual desktops in the data center based on Citrix XenServer.

The combo exploits dynamic provisioning to stream desktop images on demand from network storage based on the Citrix Provisioning Server (acquired with Ardence early in 2007). Citrix XenDesktop is due in the first half of 2008.

Using these technologies and approaches, entire PC desktops en masse can reside in efficient datacenters. And these are datacenters that can leverage and exploit: open source, virtualization instances of server runtimes and discretely supported applications, low-cost blades on standard hardware, automated provisioning and fail-over, and tightly managed and centralized operations. You'll get nice BI on how the apps and data are used, too.

In short, you get datacenters as the means to lifecycle delivery of apps, media, and web services dramatically lower TCO. It means a virtualized back-end utility-grid of delivery resources supports more of what has been a massive client-server money pit for going on 20 years. It means an applications delivery infrastructure that's actually under control, with declining total costs on energy and labor, that is flexibly able to deliver just about any environment, desktop, application, media and services.

When you combine virtualization benefits up and down the applications lifecycle -- with such functionality as back-end automated server instance provisioning -- you get excellent cost controls. You get excellent management, security and code controls. And you marry two of the hottest trends going -- powerfully low TCO for serving applications at scale with radically simpler and managed delivery via optimized WANs (NetScaler Web application accelerator) of those applications to the edge device.

A new type of ROI is now up for grabs, when you factor in datacenter consolidation, applications and middleware modernization, savings on labor, energy and real estate. And, golly, you'll be virtualizing Linux and Windows instances and serving up those platforms' applications as services right beside each other, running efficiently on the same highly utilized metal. See more on the cost and management benefits of virtualization runtime instances in a recent BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition podcast.

Incidentally, all of this augers really well for SOA -- discrete services can be supported and delivered this way too. And so they should be straight-forwardly composed and reused to build out flexible business processes. More on that another day.

For now, this end-to-end virtualization value that Citrix is quite close to assembling disrupts beyond the support cost-benefits analysis to include adoption and exploitation of new business models, such as subscription and targeted advertising for making such desktop and applications services very inexpensive or even free to those accessing them via a provider.

And the traditional channel is going to be shaken up, too. XenSource will reportedly soon announce an OEM deal with Dell and a resale support agreement with HP, says

Indeed, I expect that the Citrix solution set to begin to sell more among providers -- either outside of enterprises or internally with shared services and charge-back-based managed services bureaus -- than traditional IT departments. Citrix used to amount to a value of wrappering traditional apps with presentation services delivery to ease complexity and dealing with "problem" applications. Now, the value is about rethinking applications and their deployment lifecycles entirely -- and working toward the dual-necessity of improving the applications experience for users while dramatically cutting costs via simplified runtime environments and innovative economics.

Also on the disruption front, Citrix is now offering serious alternatives to virtualization market leader VMware, while also reming close (for the time being) to Microsoft and its forthcoming Viridian hypervisor. See more on the increasingly complex relationship in a recent BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition podcast.

So to take a step back and consider what Citrix is providing this week (and others will no doubt ned to step up to the plate with, too). We have the back-end and delivery benefits, catalyzed by virtualization. We have the managed delivery via Citrix's presentation, WAN optimization, and security services, etc.

Yet because we're centralizing the delivery, we can also see how those services can be metered out on a per-user and per-service basis. So this enables the ecology of providers to offer comprehensive desktops and apps, as well as -- at the same time -- gives these service providers -- internal or external -- an economic means for charge-backs, managed services P&Ls, and subscriptions. You can make money. You can save money. You can do both.

Now, let's take it a step further. We can also inject and manage advertisements, training, knowledge-sharing, targeted links and content -- just about any relevant information in any media -- right into the actual presentation UI of the apps, media, services, content, etc.

Remember the BI benefits? By being centralized, the meta data on each user and apps use is there for the analysis and algorithmic associations. As users -- and their employers -- see the benefits of targeted content associated within applications and processes -- via display ads, links, RSS feeds, etc. -- they can empower the users, while also subsidizing the entire cost structure of providing the applications and services lifecycles.

This new monetization scheme would no doubt work differently for enterprises, small business, and consumers (and mobile users), but it could work very well through a variety of models. Again, you can make money. You can save money. You can do both. When you have centralized and managed serving of all the elements of work and play PC activities, the world is your oyster. You can innovate wildly.

All of this raises Citrix's profile dramatically, and makes for some interesting blue-sky "what ifs."

Think about "what if" Google had entree to this entire end-to-end apps delivery portfolio (and desktop virtualization jazz) and added it to its already heady SaaS offerings and massively effective targeted advertising arsenal. You could do Google web services, or Windows apps, or Linux apps (or green-screen mainframe apps!), all on a rich client or off the wire -- or whatever combo works best in the immediate circumstances. All of it is (or part of it) ad or subscription supported; all complementary with what's inside enterprises, and what's best acquired as services from outside.

So think about if Google were to partner closely (or even acquire) Citrix. Think about whether Microsoft could have the stomach for that. Imagine a bidding war between Google and Microsoft for Citrix solutions OEM deals (or the company itself). Or image Citrix remaining independent and playing to two nicely off of one another. Imagine that IBM might cotton to this as a way of getting in on the SaaS and ad-based models, while being applicable and amenable to the large enterprises.

Sure, let Microsoft continue to dominate the applications development and deployment environment. And then use Citrix to provide for those applications and services simple, low-cost host and delivery alternatives (and multiple business models). All those VB developers are beavering away to create apps that you can better and more cheaply delivery via your virtualized and centrally provisioned environments. Microsoft subsidizes the applications creation, in effect, but only gets a portion of the pay-off on the deployments side in the form of Windows licenses for the virtualized server runtime instances. (But Microsoft begins to lose on PCs OS license, the Office license, and the cash cows go on a diet. Ouch!)

Meanwhile, let Google broker ads that can be injected (with permission) into the Citrix-powered services streams for all those applications. The cost savings for providing the apps goes closer to the degree of free for the business, subsidized by the cash from the targeted ads and hopefully useful content.

The myriad services providers and Internet providers adopt this all as the way to provide applications, desktops, content, media, and services off of the wire to small business, enterprise and home users at a compelling per month per user subscription rate. Those subscriptions can be baked into the triple or quad play of Internet, telephone, cable TV, mobile, and of all the needed or desired PC functions and applications. Talk about share of wallet!

I suppose I'd call that "Everyplay." Users can check off what they want, and its provisioned on the back end and readily delivered to the device (a low-cost converged device like the iPhone perhaps). And a home or small business could probably get all of what they need for less than $150 per month, with adds ons for beyond-basic services, (ringtones!), of course. Sounds like a business to me.

Yes, the Citrix strategy bears careful monitoring. The implications are really quite staggering. And this could happen sooner than you think.