Saturday, June 14, 2008

Kapow takes a jab at challenge of creating mashups from JavaScript and AJAX sites

Kapow Technologies, whose solutions helps companies assemble mashups by harvesting and managing data from across the Web, has enhanced its approach to overcome the obstacle many businesses encounter when targeting sources with dynamic JavaScript and AJAX.

The Palo Alto, Calif. company's Kapow Mashup Server 6.4, which it unveiled this week, features extended JavaScript handling, a response to the burgeoning number of AJAX-based Web sites. [Disclosure: Kapow Technologies is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

The Web 2.0 Edition, one of four editions of the new Mashup Server, now includes support for Web Application Description Language (WADL), making it easier for applications and mashup-building tools to discover and consume REST services. The WADL support also helps developers leverage the Kapow Excel Connector, an Excel plug-in provided by StrikeIron.

The Portal Content Edition, which enables companies to refurbish existing portal assets, has several enhancements to the web clipping technology for development and deployment of JSR-168 standards based portlets. It now provides the ability to make on-the-fly changes to clipping portlets that enhance portal functionality, while adding a portlet deployment mechanism on major portal platforms such as IBM WebSphere, Oracle Portal and BEA WebLogic.

Last January, I did a podcast with Stefan Andreasen, founder and CTO of Kapow. Andreasen described the mashup landscape. You can listen to the podcast here or read the full transcript here. I also blogged last April about Kapow's Web-to-spreadsheet service. At that time, I said:

Despite a huge and growing amount of “webby” online data and content, capturing and defining that data and then making it available to users and processes has proven difficult, due to differing formats and data structures. The usual recourse is manual intervention, and oftentimes cut-and-paste chores. IT departments are not too keen on such chores.

But Kapow’s OnDemand approach provides access to the underlying data sources and services to be mashed up and uses a Robot Designer to construct custom Web harvesting feeds and services in a flexible role-based execution runtime. Additionally, associated tools allow for monitoring and managing a portfolio of services and feeds, all as a service.

In addition to the Web 2.0 Edition and the Portal Content Edition, the Kapow Mashup Server is also available in the Data Collection Edition and the OnDemand Edition.

All editions are available now. More information can be found on the Kapow Web site. Product pricing is based on a flexible subscription offering.

SOA Software, iTKO team up to offer SOA lifecycle management and QA

SOA Software and iTKO have teamed up to offer enterprises continuous management and quality assurance across the entire lifecycle of service-oriented architecture (SOA) applications.

The new offering incorporates the LISA Testing, Validation, and Virtualization Suite from Dallas, Tex.-based iTKO and Policy Manager and Service Manager from Los Angeles-based SOA Software. The two companies say the combined solution will provide protection across the entire design, development, and change lifecycle.

Among the benefits of the combined solution are:
  • Continuous compliance and quality automation from concept to production support for SOA, with LISA validation natively executed as part of the workflows within SOA Software Policy Manager.

  • Visibility into SOA policy compliance levels, with all tests, test results, endpoint data, and models viewed in a single repository.

  • An increase in the types of SOA policy that can be modeled and validated, ensuring reliable service level outcomes.

  • Service virtualization of endpoints, locations and binding properties from SOA Software combined with simulation of service behaviors and data from iTKO.

  • Enhanced runtime validation of live SOA applications for both functional and performance purposes.
The joint solution is designed to meet the needs of enterprises seeking to manage complex, heterogeneous service assets to ensure that business requirements are met, while mitigating the risk of inevitable change in underlying systems such as enterprise service bus (ESB)/messaging, databases, mainframes and other custom and legacy applications.

I took a briefing recently on LISA and was really impressed with the approach and value. It's worth a look if you're not familiar with iTKO.

Etelos puts more 'sass' into SaaS with four additional hosted Web 2.0 offerings

Etelos, Inc. has beefed up its software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings with the addition of four Web 2.0 stalwarts to its Etelos Marketplace. Users can now take advantage of WordPress, SugarCRM, MediaWiki, and phpBB as hosted solutions from the San Mateo, Calif. company.

The new additions are designed to help enterprises, small businesses, bloggers, and individual users connect with customers and other online communities on an on-demand basis. Users can set up a blog or a wiki with nothing more than a browser and Internet access. Technical details are handled by Etelos.

Founded in 1999, Etelos has been a go-to place for open-source developers eager to get their apps into the marketplace without having to go into the software distribution business. It also provides one-stop shopping for businesses looking for those apps, offering common user management, billing, support, and security.

6th Sense Analytics adds new features for collecting development productivity metrics

6th Sense Analytics, which collects and provides metrics on software development projects, this week announced several enhancements to its flagship product. These enhancements provide a more user-friendly interface and organize reports into workspaces that more closely align with the way each user works.

The Morrisville, N.C. company targets its products at companies that want to manage outsourced software development. It automatically collects and analyzes unbiased activity-based data though the entire software development lifecycle. [Disclosure: 6th Sense has been a sponsor or BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Among the enhancements to the product are:
  • Reports can now be scheduled for daily, weekly or monthly delivery by email, reducing the number of steps required to access reports, providing easier integration into customer work routines.

  • Users can now select specific reports providing the ability to see only the information pertinent to their needs.

  • The registration process has been streamlined. After inviting a new user to a team, the user’s account is immediately activated and the user is sent a welcome email that provides details for getting started including instructions for desktop installation. The action of removing users has also been simplified.

  • Reports are now relevant to any time zone for customers working with resources across a country and on multiple continents.
I've been following 6th Sense Analytics since they first emerged on the scene. Last year, I had a podcast with Greg Burnell, chairman, co-founder and CEO, as he explained the need for metrics in outsourced projects. You can listen to the podcast here and read a complete transcript here.

Last August, I reported on the first metrics that 6th Sense Analytics had released to the public. Those findings confirmed things that people already knew, and provided some unexpected insights. I saw a real value in the data:

And these are not survey results. They are the use data aggregated from some 500 active developers over past several weeks, and therefore make a better reference point than “voluntary” surveys. These are actual observations are on what the developers actually did — not what they said they did, or tried to remember doing (if they decided to participate at all). So, the results are empirical for the sample, even if the sample itself may not yet offer general representation.

Friday, June 13, 2008

OpenSpan to ease client/server modernization by ushering apps from desktop to Web server

Promising lower costs and greater control, OpenSpan, Inc., this week unveiled its OpenSpan Platform Enterprise Edition 4.0, which will allow organizations to move both legacy and desktop applications off the desktop and onto the server. This will allow them to be integrated with each other or rich Internet applications (RIAs) and expressed as Web services.

Key to the new offering is the company's Virtual Broker technology to enable the movement of the applications, allowing companies to rapidly consume Web services within legacy applications or business process automations that span applications. Companies can also expose selective portions of applications over the Web.

According to OpenSpan, of Alpharetta, Ga., the benefits of their approach include lower costs, because companies will have to license fewer copies of software, as well as giving IT greater control over end-user computing by centralizing application management on the server.

Moving applications off the desktop and onto the server means that companies no longer have to install and expensively maintain discrete copies of each application on every desktop. Users access only the application portion they need. This has the added benefit of reducing desktop complexity.

Yep, there are still plenty of companies and apps out there making their journey from the 1980s to the 1990s -- hey, better late than never. If you have any DOS apps still running, however, I have some land in Florida to sell you.

OpenSpan made a splash last year, when it announced its OpenSpan Studio, which allowed companies to integrate siloed apps. At the time, I explained that process:

How OpenSpan works is that it identifies the objects that interact with the operating system in any program — whether a Windows app, a Web page, a Java application, or a legacy green screen program — exposes those objects and normalizes them, effectively breaking down the walls between applications.

The OpenSpan Studio provides a graphical interface in which users can view programs, interrogate applications and expose the underlying objects. Once the objects are exposed, users can build automations between and among the various programs and apply logic to control the results.

OpenSpan Platform Enterprise Edition 4.0 will be available this year.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Live TIBCO panel examines role and impact of service performance management in enterprise SOA deployments

Listen to the podcast. Read a full transcript. Sponsor: TIBCO Software.

Myriad unpredictable demands are being placed on enterprise application services as Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) grows in use. How will the far-flung deployment infrastructure adapt and how will all the disparate components perform so that complex business services meet their expectations in the real world?

These are the questions put to a live panel of analysts and experts at the recent TIBCO User Conference (TUCON) 2008 in San Francisco. Users such as Allstate Insurance Co. are looking for SOA performance insurance, for thinking through how composite business services will perform and to ensure that these complex services will meet and exceed expected service level agreements.

At the TUCON event, TIBCO unveiled a series of products and services that target service performance management, and that leverage the insights that managed complex events processing (CEP) provides. To help understand how complex events processing and service performance management find common ground -- to help provide a new level of insurance against failure for SOA and for enterprise IT architects -- we asked the experts.

Listen to the podcast, recorded live at TUCON 2008, with Joe McKendrick, an independent analyst and SOA blogger; Sandy Rogers, the program director for SOA, Web services and integration at IDC; Anthony Abbattista, the vice president of enterprise technology strategy and planning for Allstate Insurance Co., and Rourke McNamara, director of product marketing for TIBCO Software. I was the producer and moderated.

Here are some excerpts:
We are describing what could be thought of as insurance. You’ve already gone on the journey of SOA. It’s like going on a plane ride. Are you going to spend the extra few dollars and get insurance? And wouldn't you want to do that before you get into the plane, rather than afterward? Is that how you look at this? Is service performance management insurance for SOA?

It’s interesting to think of [SOA service performance management] as insurance. I think it’s a necessary operational device, for lack of better words. ... I don’t think it’s an option, because what will hurt if you fall down has been proven over and over again. As the guy who has to run an SOA now -- it’s not an option not to do it.

I actually do look at service performance management as insurance -- but along the lines of medical insurance. Anthony said people fall down and people get hurt. You want to have medical insurance. It shouldn't be something that is optional. It shouldn't be something you consider optional.

It’s something that you need to have, and something that people should look at from the beginning when they go on this SOA journey. But it is insurance, Dana. That’s exactly what it does. It prevents you from running into problems. You could theoretically go down this SOA path, build out your services, deploy them, and just get lucky. Nothing will ever happen. But how many go through life without ever needing to see a doctor?

What we are seeing is that, as services are exposed externally to customers, partners, and other systems, it affects the ability to fail-over, to have redundant services deployed out, to be able to track the trends, and be able to plan, going forward, what needs to be supported in the infrastructure, and to even go back to issues of funding. How are you going to prove what's being used by whom to understand what's happening?

So, first, yes, it is visibility. But, from there, it has to be about receiving the information as it is happening, and to be able to adjust the behavior of the services and the behavior of the infrastructure that is supporting. It starts to become very important. There are levels of importance in criticality with different services in the infrastructure that’s supporting it right now.

But, the way that we want to move to being able to deploy anywhere and leverage virtualization technologies is to break away from the static configuration of the hardware, to the databases, to where all this is being stored now, and to have more of that dynamic resourcing. To leverage services that are deployed external to an organization you need to have more real-time communication.

With something like a Tivoli or a BMC solution, something like a business service management technology, your operational administrators are monitoring your infrastructure.

They are monitoring the application at the application layer and they understand, based on those things, when some thing is wrong. The problem is that’s the wrong level of granularity to automatically fix problems. And it’s the wrong level of granularity to know where to point that finger, to know whom to call to resolve the problem.

It’s right, if what's wrong is a piece of your infrastructure or an entire application. But if it’s a service that’s causing the problem, you need to understand which service -- and those products and that sort of technology won’t do that for you. So, the level of granularity required is at the service level. That’s really where you need to look.

A lot of the initiatives around ITIL Version 3.0 are starting to get some of those teams thinking in terms of how to associate the business requirements for how services are being supported by the infrastructure, and how they are supported by the utility of the team itself. But, we're a long way away from having everything all lined up, and then having it automatically amend itself. People are very nervous about relinquishing control to an automated system.

So, it is going to be step-by-step, and the first step is getting that familiarity, getting those integrations starting to happen and then starting to let loose.

We're dealing with organizations like Allstate, which have massive size and scale, with 750 services. What do people need to be considering, as we moving into to yet more complexity with virtualization, cloud computing, utility grids?

You need to make sure that, as you move from the older ways of doing things -- from the siloed applications, the siloed business unit way of doing things -- to the SOA, services-based way of doing things, you don’t ignore the new complexities you are introducing.

Don’t ignore the new problems that you are introducing. Have a strategy in place to mitigate those issues. Make sure you address that, so that you really do get the advantage, the benefits of SOA.

What I mean by that is with SOA you are reusing services. You are making services available, so that that functionality, that code, doesn’t need to be rewritten time and time again. In doing so you reduce the amount of work, you reduce the cost of building new applications, of building new functionality for your business organization.

You increase agility, because you have reduced the amount of time it takes to build new functionality for your business organization. But, in so doing, you have taken what was one large application, or three large applications, and you have broken them down into dozens or tens of separate smaller units that all need to intercommunicate, play nice with each other, and talk the same language.

Even once you have that in production, you now have a greater possibility for finger-pointing, because, if the business functionality goes down, you can’t say that that application that we just put on is down.

The big question now is what part of that application is down? Whose service is it? Your service, or someone else’s service? Is it the actual servers that support that? Is it the infrastructure that supports that? If you are using virtualization technology, is it the hardware that’s down, or is it the virtualization layer? Is it the software that runs on top of that?

You have this added complexity, and you need to make sure that doesn’t prevent you from seeing the real benefit of doing SOA.
Listen to the podcast. Read a full transcript. Sponsor: TIBCO Software.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Serena's Mashup Composer ushers content and widgets to on-demand business mashups

Acting as a mashup matchmaker, Serena Software is bringing together content -- widgets, RSS feeds, and Flash components -- with enterprise data for on-demand business mashups, giving non-technical users access to powerful customized applications without burdening IT departments.

On Tuesday, June 10, Serena will announce the upcoming major iteration of the Redwood City, Calif. company's Mashup Composer service, which allows users to drag and drop a wide variety of consumer information and combine it with data from internal applications -- such as in, Siebel, and Oracle -- to create rich Internet mashups (RIMs).

Users will be able to leverage any kind of widget or rich Internet application including Adobe Flash, Amazon search, Flickr, Microsoft Silverlight, RSS feeds, YouTube, any of the 30,000 Google gadgets, LinkedIn or Facebook profiles, or external newsfeeds. That's a lot of stuff, and there will soon be even more, especially the fruits of the fast-charging social networking.

Serena explains how this works:

"Imagine a scenario where a sales rep is preparing for a big meeting with a new customer. The rep might start with the customer’s record in, and have the mashup fetch related information like a photo and details from the customer’s Linked In or Facebook profile, external news feeds showing the company’s latest stock price, credit report information from a Dunn & Bradstreet Web service, and widgets showing local weather and traffic in the customer’s location. Soon the rep has all the information needed for the meeting. It’s as easy as personalizing a Yahoo! home page."

While some IT folks may worry that putting this functionality in the hands of non-technical people, Serena says they have that worry covered, saying that they povide a "proven governance framework that provides the reliability, security, and compliance that IT requires."

I wrote about this issue last August when I blogged on Serena and what was then its upcoming "Project Vail:"

"The trick is how to allow non-developers to mashup business services and processes, but also make such activities ultimately okay with IT. Can there be a rogue services development and deployment ecology inside enterprises that IT can live with? How can we ignite 'innovation without permission' but not burn the house down?

"Serena believes they can define and maintain such balances, and offer business process mashups via purely visual tools either on-premises or in the cloud."

The new functionality in the Mashup Composer will be available free of charge as part of Serena's on-demand release in the third quarter. Word has it that the tool will be free, and that pricing will follow the cloud model, based on infrastructure use over time.

The Serena model augers well for my earlier comments on the power and need for WOA. Again, I'm not locked into the WOA nomenclature, but the goal of spurring on SOA use and methods via energizing users with Web content remains.

Serena defines its Mashup Composer process one that enables "business mashups." I like the imagery that connotes. I'd take it a step further and join it with my WOA value comments, such that business mashups are a catalyst to broader SOA use and adoption while also extending SOA value into the managed cloud.

Consider the power of combining and leveraging the best of SOA, the best of on-demand business mashups, and the powerful insights on users and their communities as defined by the social graph information now available from the social networks.

Effectively bringing together business assets, open web content and defined social relations will offer something quite new and very productive over the next few years. Those companies that jump on this early and master it will develop a broad advantage.