Friday, June 27, 2008

Progress Software continues SOA buying spree with Mindreef acquisiton

Progress Software has followed its acquisition of IONA Technologies earlier this week with another acquisition, this time picking up privately held Mindreef, Inc., the Hollis., NH maker of the SOAPscope product family.

SOAPscope's quality and validation tools should dovetail with Progress' quality of service (QoS) emphasis quite well. Can't poke around for overlaps or redundancies on this one. Seems a clear addition to the burgeoning Progress solution set.

Included in the SOAPscope family are SOAPscope Server, SOAPscope Architect, and SOAPscope Developer, all of which will join the Progress Actional SOA Management product family. This combination of Actional and Mindreef service-oriented architecture (SOA) governance products provides visibility, control, and validation both across the entire lifecycle of an SOA initiative and at each stage of a SOA deployment, say the companies.

Financial details of the acquisition were not announced. In fact, as of this writing, the Progress Web site is silent on the acquisition, while the Mindreef site has been updated with its status as a unit of Progress and a FAQ for customers.

According to the FAQ, full details of the acquisition strategy will be announced in mid-July, when Progress, of Bedford, Mass., hosts a webinar for all Mindreef customers. What we do know, however, is that the current Mindreef products will keep their own names, at least for the time being, while Mindreef will adopt the Progress company name.

The FAQ also addresses the question of how the Mindreef acquisition fits in with the Progress strategy:

In January 2008, Progress introduced the concept of real-world SOA, which embodies three key challenges: distribution, quality of service (QoS) and heterogeneity. Mindreef’s core competency in quality and validation tools directly aligns with QoS, where QoS helps organizations strive for a SOA that is fast, reliable, scalable and secure, and thus strengthens our overall go-to-market strategy moving into 2009.

Earlier this week, as I reported on Wednesday, Progress bought IONA Technologies for a little over $100 million, which broadened Progress' position in the SOA marketplace.

Last August, I had a podcast discussion with Colleen Smith, managing director of Software as a Service for Progress, in which we discussed the company's acquisition strategies, among other things.

I took my first briefing with Mindreef, given their neighborly proximity, about three years ago. The seasoned team had a hit on their hands with SOAPscope, and their timing in the SOA market was great. But I'm not sure the company grew as was hoped, and perhaps the fast evolution of SOA beyond a WS-* emphasis played a role. SOAP hasn't blossomed to quite the degree some people had forecast.

In any event, I expect this was a happy transition.

Eclipse Foundation delivers Ganymede train with 23 cars, but where are the cloud on-ramps?

Not all trains run on time, but The Eclipse Foundation has kept to its schedule with its annual release train, this year named Ganymede.

For the third year in a row, the Eclipse community has delivered, on the same day as in previous years, numerous software updates across a wide range of projects.

This year's iteration includes software that spans 23 projects and represents over 18 million lines of code. Highlights of the release include the new p2 provisioning platform, new Equinox security features, new Ecore modeling tools, and support for service-oriented architecture (SOA).

Now that the Eclipse Foundation has proven it mettle with delivery of consistent and complete packages of downloads -- now's the time to take this puppy to the cloud. I'd like to see more integration between Eclipse products and cloud-based development, integration and deployment services. And I'm not alone on these wants, no siree.

Amazon Web Services has proven the demand and acceptance. A modern IDE needs the cloud hand-offs and test and real-world performance proofing that cloud and platform as a service (PaaS) are now offering. How about a hybrid model where the IDE remains local but more application lifecycle management and test and debug features comes as services?

How about integration between such a hybrid model and then associated ease to choose among a variety of cloud deployment partners and models? Build, test, and deploy across many providers and models, all close in the bosom of Eclipse. All supported by the community. We could call it Eclipse Cloud Services (ECS). I'm in.

Well, until IBM figures that out, here are the lastest and greatest on earth-bound Eclipse. Key features of the release for SOA support include:
  • SCA Designer, which provides a graphical interface for developers who wish to create composite applications using the SCA 1.0 standard.

  • Policy Editor, a collection of editors and validators that makes it easy for developers to construct and manipulate XML expressions that conform to the WS-Policy W3C standard.

  • Business process modeling notation (BPMN) Editor that allows consumers to construct and extend the BPMN 1.1 standard notation to illustrate business processes.
For Equinox and runtime projects:
  • A new provisioning system, called p2, makes it easier for Eclipse users to install and update Eclipse.

  • New security features, including a preferences-like storage for sensitive data such as passwords and login credentials and the ability to easily use the Java authentication service (JAAS) in Equinox.

  • Rich Ajax Platform (RAP) 1.1, with new features, including the ability to customize the look and feel with Presentation Factories and CSS and the ability to store application state information on a per user basis.

  • The Eclipse Communication Framework (ECF), with real-time shared editing and other communications features to allow developers to communicate and collaborate from within Eclipse.
Developer tools include:
  • A new JavaScript IDE, called JSDT, provides the same level of support for JavaScript as the JDT provides for Java. New features include code completion, quick fix, formatting and validation.

  • The Business Intelligenec Reporting Tools (BIRT) project now provides an improved JavaScript editor and a new JavaScript debugger for debugging report event handlers.

  • DTP has added a new graphical SQL query editor, called the SQL Query Builder, and improved usability of connection profile creation and management for users and adopters/extenders.
More information on all of the new the features can be found at the Ganymede Web site.

The idea behind the yearly release train, according to the Eclipse Foundation, is to provide predictability and reliability for developers in an effort to promote commercial adoption of the Eclipse community's projects.

ZDNet blogger Ed Burnette details how Eclipse maneuvered pieces of the new release out to mirror sites in an attempt to avoid the type of logjam created when the new Firefox went live recently. Apparently, it was only partly successful, although, according to Ed, things have since smoothed out.

Ganymede, named after one of the moons of Jupiter, eclipsed the previous releases, names Callisto and Europa, also moons of Jupiter. Last year's release train encompassed 21 projects, and Europa, the 2006 release, included only 10.

Ganymede is available for download, in one of seven packages, on the Eclipse Web site.

Coveo G2B for CRM provides search-based single customer view from disparate content sources

As companies search for the holy grail of a "single view" of the customer, Coveo Solutions, Inc., which provides search-powered enterprise information access, has unveiled its Coveo G2B for CRM, a way to provide a view of all relevant customer data from a wide variety of sources.

G2B for CRM brings together data from such sources as, Siebel Systems, corporate intranets, tech support emails, customer support databases, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

It also provides advanced content analytics, giving workers the ability to present customer data graphically. Presenting customer data as a spreadsheet or a pie chart allows management or workers in planning, forecasting, and resource management. This can eliminate the need for time-consuming database queries and reporting, even when sifting through millions of documents.

Coveo's approach shows the productivity benefits of enterprise search continue to be explored. Google (appliances), Microsoft (with FAST Search technology) and Autonomy certainly think so.

Newton, Mass.- and Quebec-based Coveo G2B for CRM, built on the Coveo Enterprise Search-platform technology, is part of the company's G2B Information Access Suite, which allows knowledge workers to obtain a unified view of enterprise information.

I'm interested in seeing more mashups of search from across many enterprise and web-based providers (including social networks) to give even more complete and vetted views of customers, suppliers, partners, employees and any others that relate to business activities or ecologies. The information is out there, just waiting to be harvested and managed.

And when are we going to get a single view of IT assets in association with business processes? Increasingly searching IT devices and resources is playing a role in enterprise search too. How about not only getting a single view of the customer but also instant views to the right systems to reach out to them through, or the right integration avenues?

Let's search people and systems and gather insights to the systems context of business along with the social aspects. People, process, systems and search. That's the ticket.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Progress to buy IONA in another SOA infrastructure vendor mashup

Call it a Route 128 SOA date. Progress Software is buying IONA Technologies for a little over $100 million in actual value, broadening Progress's service oriented architecture (SOA) portfolio significantly and catapulting Progress into the open source software infrastructure arena.

Progress said Wednesday it is offering $4.05 per share in cash for IONA, a total equity value of $162 million, or $106 million net of cash and marketable securities. Both companies are publicly traded. The transaction is expected to be completed in September.

Both companies come from a long but quite distinct lineage, and both have their U.S. headquarters within a 20-minute drive around Boston's Route 128 technology corridor, from Bedford to Waltham. Progress has its roots in tightly coupled, client-server tools (Progress 4GL) and runtime platforms, while IONA, based in Dublin, Ireland, hails from the CORBA and middleware messaging and integration space.

Only a SOA mashup could make good bedfellows of these. That's because one company's lineage reaches back to the origins of client-server computing (Progress was founded in 1981), while the other reaches back to the emergence of the mainframe world into distributed computing (IONA was formed in 1991). SOA, of course, aims to make these worlds play well together and then build new services on top of the service-enabled older assets to offer business process advantages and efficiencies.

And yet despite their disparate origins, the companies match up quite well, on product capabilities, locations, direction and client verticals. Progress has already been acquiring in a SOA direction with the January 2006 acquisition of Actional Corp., which became the Progress unit focused on SOA management, security, and governance. IONA made a bold move to embrace open source for its SOA portfolio, supporting an open version of its Artix products, while also buying LogicBlaze in April 2007.

Combined with IONA's ESB and middleware products, Progress will emerge as a full-feature SOA infrastructure provider, but with a large installed base in deployed client-server and web applications and a strong presence in IONA's stronghold of finance and telecoms. [Disclosure: IONA is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

While there is overlap between the registry/repository capabilities for both companies, separate yet interoperable registry/repositories can operate well side by side and any consolidation is fairly straight-forward. In other words, these products could work well together and then combine. The fact that both companies support SOA governance capabilities indicates more an overlap than a conflict.

UPDATE: And I'm reminded too that the Sonic purchase brought an early ESB function set to Progress. This means the combined companies will be supporting and offering several flavors of ESB. Given that IONA already offers several ESB approaches -- both commercial and open source -- this may provide confusion to customers of both companies. A clear and logical ESB story will then need to come from the companies.

Given we've seen more federated approaches to ESB in recent memory, there may well be a Progress Sonic-Artix-FUSE ecology play in the works, for a more complete ESB solution comprised of several actual products and open source options.

UPDATE: More input from bloggers Tony Baer and Joe McKendrick.

The larger question proffered by the merger comes in the relationship between commercial products and open source models. Progress has not shown as vigorous an interest in open source as IONA, which became practically a benefactor to the Apache Foundation on several notable SOA projects. Progress is very much a licenses software company at a time when the software industry is shifting to subscription and services-based approaches.

It's no surprise that IONA has been sold. IONA made it clear it would enter into acquisition talks last February. A rumored suitor was Software AG, which had recently absorbed WebMethods/Infravio. There were questions on whether IONA's open source strategy would survive any such acquisition, too.

I have to believe that the Progress IONA merger means that Progress will welcome the diversification of business models that the IONA open source strategy entails, meaning a segue from per server and per seat licensing to more of a services, support, maintenance and training revenues model. The two companies can enjoy the commercial maturity of their current products while benefitting from the lower R&D and development costs of community-based projects for newer products.

We'll have to wait to see how aggressively the soon-to-be expanded Progress Software ramps up on the open source SOA strategy. What's nice about open source SOA is that is plays well on offense and defense, meaning the supplier can offer the market products and services that can build on its strengths while attacking its competitors on the revenue sources it holds most dear.

Implications on partnering with the Progress-IONA merger will be important. A well-integrated Progress-IONA may be of significant interest to global systems integrators, as they seek options on infrastructure suppliers, and certainly appreciate a support and services model. Progress may find itself more in an ecology play with other open source providers, from HP to Novell to Ingres to, gasp, Sun (not too far away campus-wise in Burlington). Maybe Microsoft is serious about its newly forged openness and focus on supporting rather than subverting enterprise heterogeneity, and so may find Progress a ramping partner.

The merger also shifts Progress's competitive landscape, putting it more up against IBM, Oracle, and Red Hat. I think the open source data base play for Progress therefore has some interesting implications. Perhaps Ingres may make more than a partner.

In the meantime, Progress can assist its applications clients move to the more modern computing paradigms while IONA can help on the back-end for integration and high performance transactions while broadening Progress's share of wallet in more enterprises and verticals. And now, viola, Progress is an open source company. The best part of the deal, therefore, is how these two companies' installed bases give the combined firm a steady yet diversified revenue stream that should build on their legacies -- and their customers' legacies -- well.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sonoa Systems appeals to industry powerhouses with ServiceNet appliance

Sonoa Systems, Inc., which provides software and appliances to ensure data protection and access control in customer-facing applications, has added some world-class enterprises to its customer list.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company today announced that Pfizer, the world's largest research-based pharmaceutical company, Warner Music, and Insights OnDemand, a provider of on-demand business intelligence solutions, will be taking advantage of Sonoa's technology backbone. These companies join such other powerhouses as JP Morgan Chase, Level 3, Landslide, Net One and Aizu University.

Sonoa's ServiceNet appliance enables enterprises and software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers to enable secure, flexible access control to manage a large number of clients without the risk of data exposure. The appliance can also monitor service-level agreements (SLAs) to ensure regulatory compliance.

Another key feature is interoperability, designed to reduce the time and effort required to add new clients, even those with different protocol or security requirements. It accomplishes this by mediating across versions, which can be done without generating new code.

Currently, the challenges of providing security for customer-facing applications, especially with diverse clients, are solved with point products or hand-coded software, which adds time and cost, making the solution economically unattractive.

Sonoa ServiceNet employs a network router-like architecture that non-intrusively enforces security, interoperability and performance policies in real-time 'on the wire'. By handling the access control, interoperability and performance issues that occur at cloud scale, teams can ensure maximum performance and scalability in the environment, making it easy to create new products and add new users and services.

Sonoa ServiceNet is available as a network or virtual appliance.

ITIL's influence extends beyond IT operations to enhance SOA, portfolio management and change management

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Listen on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Read a full transcript of the discussion.

Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) advances have helped IT departments recast themselves as mature and process-oriented. But the role and influence of ITIL, especially version 3, is extending well beyond IT organization and operations improvements to impact such essential endeavors as as service oriented architecture (SOA), portfolio management and low-risk change management.

ITIL, in effect, is fostering cultural and behavioral change inside of IT departments, which also has a direct bearing on general business transformation and the ability of enterprises to innovate and compete writ large.

To help better understand the role and impact of ITIL on actual IT departments in a variety of use-case scenarios, I interviewed two ITIL practitioners, Sean McClean, principal at KatalystNow, and Hwee Ming Ng, solutions architect in HP's Consulting and Integration group. The discussion was recorded June 18 at HP's Software Universe event in Las Vegas.

This ITIL impact podcast comes as part of a series of discussions with HP executives from the HP Software Universe conference. See the full list here.

Read a full transcript of the discussion.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Listen on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Interview: HP SOA Center director Tim Hall on new business drivers and efficiency benefits from SOA

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Listen on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Read a full transcript of the discussion.

Service oriented architecture (SOA) is at a crossroads, moving from pilot to enterprise status for many companies. As the trends and economics landscapes shift, SOA's benefits and pay-offs are accelerating.

Green and energy-conscious companies are seeing SOA through the context of data center and applications modernization. Toss in a surge of interest in virtualization, ongoing methodological on-ramps to SOA and a budding fascination in cloud computing methods, and we’re looking at the means to accommodate (at lower TCO) all the old and new of IT systems, platforms, framework, applications and delivery services.

That takes data center transformation, and not just adding more servers. We also need is the means to manage the complexity, fragility, scale and cost. HP seems to see this clearly. The goal of data center transformation that goes hand in hand with SOA efficiency is clear, but how to get there is another matter.

To probe deeper into SOA's impact on enterprise IT and business transformation, we sat down with Tim Hall, director of HP's SOA Center products for a discussion moderated by me, recorded June 18 at HP's Software Universe event in Las Vegas.

Listen to this SOA impact podcast, part of a series of discussions with HP executives from the HP Software Universe conference. See the full list here.

Read a full transcript of the discussion.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Listen on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.