Friday, November 16, 2007

Open Group aims to make IT architects 'distinguished'

The Open Group, a vendor- and technology-neutral consortium, has taken certification to a new level with the announcement of its Distinguished Certified IT Architect designation within the IT Architect Certification program (ITAC).

As enterprise IT moves into new, uncharted waters -- especially the area that encompasses services oriented architecture (SOA) -- one of the chief concerns has been the availability, or lack of availability, of the trained and experienced architects who are necessary to make the vision a reality.

Begun two years ago, ITAC, a peer-review process, has already certified over 2,000 architects from some of the largest names in global enterprises. The new level of certification will require that individuals demonstrate a history of significant impact to the business through the application of IT architecture.

[Disclosure: I recently moderated an Open Group panel.]

The Open Group had already set the bar pretty high for architects certified at the basic level. Steve Nunn, the group's COO, told BriefingsDirect in a round-table discussion last March that one of the initial steps for certification was compiling a resume, and, in some cases, that has amounted to a 52-page document.

The core attributes expected from the Distinguished Certified IT Architect include:

  • Executive level communication skills
  • Responsibility for significantly complex architecture engagements
  • A demonstrated architectural vision for key business initiatives
  • Governance expertise

The new certification provides for three distinct career paths: chief/lead architect, profession executive, and enterprise architect.

A great deal of will power and leadership charisma will be required to make inroads toward SOA benefits.

This means that the architects of SOA must be as much evangelists and consensus-builders as technologists. They must be trusted and absolutely respected. Pointy-haired bosses ala Dilbert need not apply.

SOA architects must also balance short-term business outcomes with longer-term objectives aimed at maintaining quality and maximizing IT value. Too often architecture has been focused on discrete initiatives or infrastructure projects, such as server architecture or network architecture, rather than the broader IT perspective.

The concept of total architect also jibes well with Total Architecture, a topic I explored in a recent podcast with Dr. Paul Brown, author of “Succeeding with SOA: Realizing Business Value Through Total Architecture.”

Latest 'The Group' podcast delves into Google Android, Yahoo's China syndrome, and Facebook gestures (again)

Steve Gillmor's The Gang debuts its second coming for the second time. There's always good tibits and chunky nuggets in these roundtable gab-fests.

As usual the topics straddle places more weight on the Web 2.0 side than the IT side, but I'm working on it.

Steve's guests this week include, your's truly, Jason Calacanis, Sam Whitmore, Mike Arrington, Dan Farber, Mike Vizard, Robert Anderson and New York Times Bits columnist Saul Hansell.

This is Calacanis's last appearance on The Gang, so get him while you can. I forget who he impersonates this time, might be Marc Canter again or Don Kirshner, I'm not sure.

Go to Facebook and join The Gillmor Group, if Steve let's you. So far he seems uncharacteristically friendly. It can't last.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

IBM's 'Blue Cloud' signals the tipping point for enterprise IT into services model

I recall a front page story I wrote for InfoWorld back in 1997. At the time there were still plenty of naysayers about whether websites were a plaything or a business tool. There was talk of clicks and mortar, and how the mortar would always determine business outcomes.

And then General Motors -- the very definition of a traditional big business -- unveiled an expansive website that fully embraced the Internet across its businesses. We at InfoWorld wrote about GM's embrace of the Web then as a corporate tipping point, from which there was no going back. Clicks became mainstream for businesses. Case closed.

And so it is today, with IBM's announcement of Blue Cloud -- an approach that not only talks the services talk, but walks the services walk. We are all at the tipping point where IT will be delivered of, by and for services. If Google, Yahoo!, Amazon and eBay can do what they do with their applications and services, then why shouldn't General Motors? Or SMB XYZ?

So the king of mainframes and distributed computing moves the value expectations yet again -- to the pre-configured cloud architecture. The standards meet the management that meets the utility that gets the job done faster, better, cheaper. Slap an IBM logo on it and take it to the bank.

The future of IT is clearly about the efficiencies and agility of the grid/utility/Live/fabric/cloud/SOA/WOA thing. There can be no turning back. I believe Nick Carr is coming out with a book on this soon, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google, and IT is by no means irrelevant this time.

IBM's Blue Cloud, arriving in the first half of 2008, will use IBM BladeCenter servers, a Linux operating system, Xen-based virtualization and the company's own Tivoli management software. Nothing about this is terribly new. Sun Microsystems has been talking about it for years. HP is well on the way to making it so, given its Mercury and Opsware acquisitions. Citrix has an eye on this all too. Red Hat has its approach. Amazon is game. Google is riding the wave. Even Microsoft has hedged its bets.

But the tipping point comes when IBM's global clout in the major accounts is brought into play. The sales force will feel The Force, Luke. IBM will march in and let your IT services architecture mimic the service providers' basic set-ups too. You gain the ability to integrate your internal services with those of your partners, customers, suppliers, vendors and providers. Next will come an ESB in the cloud, no? This makes for a fertile period of innovation.

Perhaps IBM will also cross the chasm and host their own services -- not applications per se, but commodity business functions that ISVs, providers, and companies can innovate on top of or in addition to. Google has maps, but IBM has payroll, or tax returns, or purchasing. Could be quite interesting. I would expect IBM to offer ads in these services too some day (come on, Sam, it's not so bad).

And that also means you'll be provisioning IT internally and externally as subscription services. Charge-backs and IT shared services models become the standard models across both supply chains as well as value-added sales activities. Businesses will determine their margins based on the difference between what they pay for IT services (internal or external) plus the cost of the value added services -- and then what they charge on the receiving end. High-volume, recurring revenue, fewer peaks and troughs.

This is really the culmination of several mega trends in two major areas: IT and economics of online commerce. The trends that support this on the IT side include virtualization, high-availability clustering, open source platforms and tools, industry standard multi-core hardware, storage networks, Java middleware, WAN optimization, data services and federation, scripting language maturity -- as well as application consolidation and modernization, datacenter unification, low-energy-use dictates, and common management frameworks. The result is something like Blue Cloud.

The online economics trends include ecommerce, advertising supported Web services/media/entertainment, pay as you use services and infrastructure as a service, and - of course -- free code, free tools, free middleware, free stacks. It's all free -- except the service, maintenance, and support (otherwise known as a subscription).

And if one major corporation buys into IBM's Blue Cloud and they deploy in such a way as to exploit all these mega trends -- while counting on IBM as the one throat to choke as the means to reduce change risk -- what happens?

Well, they might see total IT operating costs go down by 40% over a few years, while also able to enjoy the productivity benefits of SOA, SaaS, services ecologies like, and therefore become more agile in how they acquire and adjust their business processes and services delivery. You might get to do more for a lot less. And a lot less IT labor.

And so our Blue Cloud-user corporation has their competitors who will, no doubt, need to follow a similar course, lest they be set on a path of grave disadvantage due to higher costs and an inability to change as quickly in their markets. If a mere 50 of the global 500 move to a Blue Cloud or equivalent, it would be enough to change the game in their respective industries. We're seen it happen in financial services, retail, music and media, and IT itself.

And so large enterprises will need not just make decisions about technology platform, supplier, and computing models. They will need to make bigger decisions based on broad partnerships that produce services ecologies in niches and industries. For an enterprise to adopt a Blue Cloud approach is not just to pick a vendor -- they are picking much more. The businesses and services and hosting all become mingled. It becomes more about revenue sharing than just a supplier contract.

Yes, Blue Cloud and many other announcements and alignments in 2007 point to a 2008 in which a services ecology evolves and matures for many industries. The place where differentiation matters most is at the intercept of proper embrace of the service model, of picking the right partners, and of exerting leadership and dominance of best practices within a business vertical or niche. You'll have a different relationship with your services partner than you do with your IT vendor. IBM will show you the way.

Hear the music? It ain't the Blues! It's the quick-step. Dancers, pick your partners carefully. You're going to be spending a lot of time sharing your futures together.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

BriefingsDirect SOA Insights analysts examine 'Microsoft-Oriented Architecture' and evaluate SOA's role in 'Green IT'

Listen to the podcast. Or read a full transcript.

The latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Vol. 27, provides a roundtable discussion and dissection of Services Oriented Architecture (SOA)-related news and events with a panel of IT analysts and experts.

Please join noted IT industry analysts and experts Jim Kobielus, principal analyst at Current Analysis; Neil Macehiter, principal analyst at Macehiter Ward-Dutton; and Joe McKendrick, an independent analyst and blogger, for our most recent discussion, which is hosted and moderated by myself, Dana Gardner.

In this episode, recorded Oct. 26, our group examines the recent Microsoft SOA & Business Process Conference. The debate centers on whether the news around the pending Oslo approach amounts to support for SOA or Microsoft-Oriented Architecture (MOA) instead.

[UPDATE: Todd Biske weighs in on the topic.]

Is this yet another elevation of the COM/DCOM wars, or is Microsoft moving to a federated modeling of business process value, one that may leapfrogs other SOA vendors products and methods? Or, perhaps Microsoft is seeking to both steer SOA adopters to its platforms while also offering an inclusive business process modeling approach? Look for the answers in this discussion.

What's more, the analysts also evaluate SOA's role in Green IT. Does SOA beget better energy and resources use, or does better energy conservation in IT inevitably grease the skids toward greater SOA adoption -- or both? Learn more about how ROI and Green IT align with SOA patterns and adoption.

Here are some highlights and excerpts:
On SOA and Microsoft's Oslo ...

The SOA universe is heading toward a model-driven paradigm for distributed service development in orchestration, and that’s been clear for a several years now. What Microsoft has discussed this week at its SOA and BPM conference was nothing radically new for the industry or for Microsoft. Over time, with Visual Studio and the .NET environment, they've been increasingly moving toward a more purely visual paradigm.

Looking at the news this week from Microsoft on the so-called Oslo initiative, they are going to be enhancing a variety of their Visual Studio, BizTalk Server, BizTalk Services, and Microsoft System Center, bringing together the various metadata repositories underlying those products to enable a greater model-driven approach to distributed development.

I was thinking, okay, that’s great, Microsoft, I have no problem with your model-driven approach. You're two, three, or four years behind the curve in terms of getting religion. That’s okay. It’s still taking a while for the industry to completely mobilize around this.

In order words, rather than developing applications, they develop business models and technology models to varying degrees of depth and then use those models to automatically generate the appropriate code and build the appropriate sources. That’s a given. One thing that confuses me, puzzles me, or maybe just dismays me about Microsoft’s announcement is that there isn't any footprint here for the actual standards that have been developed like OMG’s unified modeling language (UML), for example.

... So, it really is a Microsoft Oriented Architecture. They're building proprietary interfaces. I thought they were pretty much behind open standards. Now, unless it’s actually 2003, I have to go and check my calendar.

I don’t see this as exclusively Microsoft-oriented, by any stretch. ... There are a couple of elements to the strategy that Microsoft’s outlined that differentiate it from the model-driven approaches of the past. The first is that they are actually encompassing management into this modeling framework, and they're planning to support some standards around things like the Service Modeling Language (SML), which will allow the transition from development through to operations. So, this is actually about the model-driven life cycle.

The second element where I see some difference is that Microsoft is trying to extend this common model across software that resides on premises and software that resides in the cloud somewhere with services. So, it has a common framework for delivering, as Microsoft refers to it, software plus services. In terms of the standard support with respect to UML, Microsoft has always been lukewarm about UML.

A few years ago, they were talking about using domain specific language (DSL), which underpin elements of Visual Studio that currently exist, as a way of supporting different modeling paradigms. What we will see is the resurgence of DSL as a means of enabling different modeling approaches to be applied here. ... Microsoft is really trying to drive this is around a repository for models, for an SML model or for the models developed in Visual Studio.

This smacks of being a very ambitious strategy from Microsoft, which is trying to pull together threads from different elements of the overall IT environment. You've got elements of infrastructure as a service, with things like the BizTalk Services, which has been the domain of large Web platforms. You've got this notion of computer applications in BPM which is something people like IBM, BEA, Software AG, etc. have been promoting.

Microsoft has got a broad vision. We also mustn’t forget that what underpins this is the vision to have this execution framework for models. The models will actually be executed within the .NET framework in the future iteration. That will be based on the Window’s Communication Foundation, which itself sits on top of the WS-* standards ... .

So that ambitious vision it still some way off, as you mentioned -- beta in 2008, production in 2009. Microsoft is going to have to bring its ISVs and systems integrator community along to really turn this from being an architecture that's oriented toward Microsoft to something broader.

Clearly, they had to go beyond UML in terms of a modeling language, as you said, because UML doesn’t have the constructs to do deployment and management of distributed services and so forth. I understand that. What disturbs me right now about what Microsoft is doing is that if you look at the last few years, Microsoft has gotten a lot better when they are ahead of standards. When they're innovating in advance of any standards, they have done a better job of catalyzing a community of partners to build public specs. ... I'd like to see it do the same thing now in the realm of modeling.

On Green IT and SOA's Impact on Energy Use in IT ...

Green IT was named number one in a top-ten strategic technology areas for 2008 by Gartner Group. How does SOA impact this?

The whole notion of SOA is based on abstraction, service contracts, and decoupling of the external calling interfaces from the internal implementations of various services. Green smashes through that entire paradigm, because Green is about as concrete as you get.

SOA is the whole notion of consolidation -- consolidation of application logic, consolidation of servers, and consolidation of datacenters. In other words, it essentially reduces the physical footprint of the services and applications that we deploy out to the mesh or the fabric.

SOA focuses on maximizing the sharing, reuse, and interoperability of distributed services or resources, application logic, or data across distributed fabrics. When they're designing SOA applications, developers aren't necessarily incentivized, or even have the inclination, to think in terms of the ramifications at the physical layer of these services they're designing and deploying, but Green is all about the physical layer.

In other words, Green is all about how do human beings, as a species, make wise use and stewardship of the earth’s nonrenewable, irreplaceable resources, energy or energy supplies, fossil fuels, and so forth. But also it’s larger than that, obviously. How do we maintain a sustainable culture and existence on this planet in terms of wise use of the other material resources like minerals and the soil etc.?

Over time, if SOA is successful other centers of development or other deployed instances of code that do similar things will be decommissioned to enable maximum reuse of the best-of-breed order-processing technology that’s out there. As enterprises realize the ROI, the reuse and sharing should naturally lead to greater consolidation at all levels, including in the datacenter. Basically, reducing the footprint of SOA on the physical environment is what consolidation is all about.

Another trend in the market is the SaaS approach, where we might acquire more types of services, perhaps on a granular level or wholesale level from Google, Salesforce, Amazon, or Microsoft, in which case they are running their datacenters. We have to assume, because they're on a subscription basis for their economics, that they are going to be highly motivated toward high-utilization, high-efficiency, low-footprint, low-energy consumption. That will ultimately help the planet, as well, because we wouldn’t have umpteen datacenters in every single company of more than a 150 people.

Maybe we're looking at this the wrong way. Maybe we’ve got it backwards. Maybe SOA, in some way, aids and abets Green activities. Maybe it's Green activities, as they consolidate, unify, seek high utilization, and storage that aid and abet SOA. ... Green initiatives are going to direct companies in the way that they deploy and use technology toward a situation where they can better avail themselves of SOA principles.

The issue is not so much reducing IT’s footprint on the environment. It’s reducing our species' overall footprint on the resources. One thing to consider is whether we have more energy-efficient datacenters. Another thing to consider is that, as more functionality gets pushed out to the periphery in terms of PCs and departmental servers, the vast majority of the IT is completely outside the [enterprise] datacenter.

I'm going to be a cynic and am just going to guess that large, Global 2000 corporations are going to be motivated more by economics than altruism when it comes to the environment. ... As we discussed earlier, the Green approach to IT might actually augment SOA, because I don’t think SOA leads to Green, but many of the things you do for Green will help people recognize higher value from SOA types of activities.
Listen to the podcast. Or read a full transcript.

Monday, November 12, 2007

IBM scoops up BI leader Cognos in $5B cash bid

The thought on the street was that Cognos had to get bought soon, given the business intelligence (BI) consolidation land-grab of late -- punctuated by Oracle's acquisition of Hyperion and SAP's buy of Business Objects.

So now Big Blue steps up to the plate, and for $5 billion in cash, buys Cognos. This quite large acquisition for IBM quickly adds more BI-oomph to the IBM "Information" portfolio, but also importantly takes Cognos off the market from anyone else. Other suitors would probably have been Microsoft and perhaps HP. This BI value could have burnished HP's total managment drive and complemented the Opsware purchase.

Publicly held Cognos, of Ottawa, Canada will become part of IBM’s Information Management software and should well augment IBM's aggressive Information on Demand initiatives through new BI and Performance Management capabilities. The Cognos assimilation will be led by managed by Information Management General Manager Ambuj Goyal.

It will be interesting to see how IBM will support all the Cognos partnership deals with many vendors, ISVs, channel players, SIs, and users. For example, Cognos just joined a partnership with Software AG, which competes with IBM on several levels.

Despite the complications of how to best merge the Cognos ecology into the IBM arsenal/universe, the purchase shows the importance of insight into and improved management of business activities to the global enterprise leadership. IBM has put a premium on ramping up its Information on Demand values through rapid acquisitions and business development.

Just this year, IBM has bought (or is in the process of buying) Watchfire, Telelogic, DataMirror, WebDialogs, and Princeton Softech.

Helping huge and complex corporations to get a handle on their data, content, metadata, and digital assets -- as well as to refine, consolidate and automate access to said assets -- forms a needed foundation for IBM's strategies around services oriented archirecture (SOA) and business process managment (BPM). Providing end-to-end, top-to-bottom value in the data lifecycle also buttresses IBM's goal of easing the customization of and ongoing agility of business applications and processes, even into granular vertical business niches. And all of these values further empower IBM's professional services offerings and depth.

Indeed, IBM has wasted no time nor expense in cobbling together perhaps the global leadership position in data management in the most comprehensive sense. IT vendor competition has long centered on entrenchment via platform, development framework, proprietary technologies, and price-performance persuasion. Long-term advantage via best solutions for complete data lifecycle management and mastery has additional relevance in a market where virtualization, SaaS, SOA, and open source are dislodging the old-school vendor lock-in options.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Software AG and Cognos bring BI and BPM into common orbit

The much-discussed marriage of business intelligence (BI) and business process management (BPM) may be a step closer to the altar with last week's announcement by Software AG that it will embed Cognos 8 BI with the webMethods product suite.

Software AG, which made the announcement at Integration World 2007 in Orlando, Fla., says the strategic partnership and OEM licensing agreement will allow companies to combine BI with BPM and business activity monitoring, providing real-time and historical data on a single dashboard for actionable insight. The new out-of-the-box component will let users:

  • Streamline change management, because requirements and implications of proposed changes will be illustrated before implementation.

  • Accelerate process improvements by drilling down on operational data.

  • Enhance business agility through more rapid implementation of operational changes.

  • Achieve closer alignment with line-of-business objectives due to using the same platform for business planning and performance monitoring.

  • Improve accountability through the embedded use of scorecarding and analytics.

Pundits and analysts have been talking about the merger of BI and BPM for a long time, and the talk heated up with TIBCO's acquisition of Spotfire last May, but all that talk has led to a lot of dating, but no commitment.

Peter Kürpick, president and chief product officer for the webMethods division of Software AG referred to the all the talk in making the announcement. "Many talk about delivering an integrated product suite and a seamless user experience, but few actually deliver. The inclusion of best-in-class BI and reporting is one key element. Others include a shared metadata model and lifecycle governance for all assets, real-time monitoring, and process-based collaboration."

Tony Baer at CBR Online sees this as a pre-emptive strike by Software AG in a market where the big players are lining up their BI assets:

"With rivals such as IBM and Oracle also having collected BI assets as part of their greater software platforms, which also include BPM and BAM, Software AG's tie-in with Cognos (for now, the last major independent BI vendor, unless you're counting Information Builders) was an important pre-emptive move."

Current customers can add Cognos BI as a supported feature immediately.

In other news from Integration World, Software AG has opened the door for bringing rich Internet applications (RIAs) to enterprise transaction systems with the introduction of Natural for Ajax, an enhanced version of the company's Natural 2006 application development and deployment environment.

Natural 2006 allows developers to create highly scalable enterprise transactional systems running on either mainframe or open source platforms. Natural for Ajax follows close on the heels of Software AG's release of Natural for Eclipse. Key benefits of RIAs include the streamlined ability to create composite views of application and data, as well as the availability of more dynamic, high-performance and interactive reporting.

According to Software AG, Natural for Ajax can be used to create browser-based, rich user interfaces for enterprise applications and mainframe systems that rival the look, feel and performance of the latest Web 2.0 applications. Developers can implement rich-client functionality using a library of more than 50 pre-defined Web graphical user interface (GUI) controls. Other interactive features -- such as “drag and drop,” context menus and advanced grid processing -- can be used within a standard Web browser to streamline development and boost productivity.

Among the other announcements:

  • Software AG will offer and support Layer 7's SecureSpan SOA security and policy enforcement solutions on a global basis. Layer 7 provides gateway software and appliances for securing, scaling, and simplifying production SOAs. The Layer 7 product will also serve as a fully interoperable policy enforcement point (PEP) for services government by CentraSite, a SOA governance solution developed jointly by Software AG and Fujitsu.

  • The CentraSite community, which brings together partners who are developing solutions that interoperate with CentraSite, has grown to over 50 members. A standards-based organization, the CentraSite Community now includes such members as Progress Software, MID, BAP Solutions, JustSystems, Composite Software, Intalio, IONA, iTKO, Solstice Software, SOA Software, and SymphonySoft.

  • Software AG and Satyam Computer Systems Ltd., announced they will expand their global partnership for developing vertical solutions using WebMethods. This partnership focuses on industry-specific process frameworks for such key sectors as insurance, manufacturing, and telecom.