Friday, May 7, 2010

Delivering data analytics through Workday SaaS ERP apps empowers business managers at actual decision points

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Workday.

See a demo on how Workday BI offers business users a new experience for accessing the key information to make smart decisions.

About Workday
This BriefingsDirect podcast features software-as-a-service (SaaS) upstart Workday, provider of enterprise solutions for human resources management, financial management, payroll, spend management, and benefits management.

Can software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications actually accelerate the use and power of business analytics?

We're going to help answer that by examining a human capital management (HCM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) SaaS provider, Workday, and show how easily customizable views on data and analytics can have a big impact on how managers and knowledge workers operate.

Historically, the back office business applications that support companies have been distinct from the category of business intelligence (BI). Certainly, applications have had certain ways of extracting analytics, but the interfaces were often complex, unique, and infrequently used.

By using SaaS applications and rich Internet technologies that create different interface capabilities -- as well as a wellspring of integration and governance on the back-end of these business applications (built on a common architecture) -- more actionable data gets to those who can use it best. They get to use it on their terms, as our case today will show, for HCM or human resources managers in large enterprises.

The trick to making this work is to balance the needs that govern and control the data and analytics, but also opening up the insights to more users in a flexible, intuitive way. The ability to identify, gather, and manipulate data for business analysis on the terms of the end-user has huge benefits. As we enter what I like to call the data-driven decade, I think nearly all business decisions are going to need more data from now on.

To learn more about how the application and interfaces are the analytics, with apologies to Marshall McLuhan, please join me in welcoming Stan Swete, Vice President of Product Strategy and the CTO at Workday; Jim Kobielus, Senior Analyst for BI and Analytics at Forrester Research, and Seth Grimes, Principal Consultant at Alta Plana Corp., and a contributing editor at TechWeb's Intelligent Enterprise. The discussion is moderated by me, BriefingsDirect's Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:
Swete: When I think of how BI is done, primarily in enterprises, I think of Excel spreadsheets, and there are some good reasons for that, but there’s also some disadvantages that that brings.

When I look at the emergence of separate BI tools, one driver was the fact that data comes from all kinds of disparate data sources, and it needs aggregation and special tooling to help overcome that problem.

Also, traditional enterprise applications have been written for what I would call the back-office user. While they do a very good job of securing access to data, they don’t do a very good job of painting a relevant picture for the operational side of the business.

A big driver for BI was taking the information that’s in the enterprise systems and putting a view on some dimensionality that managers or the operational side of the business could relate to. I don’t think apps have done that very well, and that’s where a lot of BI originated as well.

From a Workday perspective, we think that you're going to always need to have separate tools to be data aggregators, to get some intelligence out of data from disparate sources. But, when the data can be focused on the data in a single application, we think there is an opportunity for the people who build that application to build in more BI, so that separate tooling is not needed. That’s what we think we are doing at Workday.

Kobielus: Being able to pull data from wherever into your Excel spreadsheet and model it and visualize it is how most people have done decision, support, and modeling for a long time in the business world.

... I like what you said, that the interface is the analytics. That’s exactly true. Fundamentally, BI is all about delivering action and more intelligence to decision agents. The analytics are the payload, and they are accessed by the decision agents through an interface or interfaces. Really, the interfaces have to fit and really plug into every decision point.

... In the cloud, it has to be like a cloud data warehouse ecosystem, but it also has to be a interface. The interfaces between this cloud enterprise data warehouse (EDW) and all the back-end transactional systems have to be through cloud and service oriented architecture (SOA) approaches as well.

What we are really talking about is a data virtualization layer for cloud analytics to enable the delivery of analytics pervasively throughout the organization.

Grimes: We're definitely in a data-driven decade, but there’s just so much data out there that maybe we should extend that metaphor of driving a bit.

The real destination here is business value, and what provides the roadmap to get from data to business value is the competencies, experiences, and the knowledge of business managers and users.

It’s the systems, the data warehouses, that Jim was talking about, but also hosted, as-a-service types of systems, which really focus on delivering the BI capabilities that people need. Those are the great vehicle for getting to that business value destination, using all of that data to drive you along in that direction.

Swete: The thing that frequently gets left out is a focus on the transactional apps themselves and the things they can do to support pervasive analytics.

For disparate data sources, you're going to need data warehouses. Any time you've got aggregation and separate reporting tools, you're going to need to build interfaces.

But, if you think back to how you introduced this topic Dana, how you introduced SaaS, is when you look at IT’s involvement, if interfaces need to get built to convey data, IT has to get involved to make sure that some level of security is maintained.

From Workday’s point of view, what you want to do is reduce the times when you have to move data just to do analysis. We think that there is a role that you can play in applications where -- and this gets IT out of it -- if your application, that is the originator of transactional data, can also support a level of BI and business insight, IT does not have to become as involved, because they bought the app with the trust in the security model that’s inherent to the application.

What we're trying to is leverage the fact that we can be trusted to secure access to data. Then, what we try to do is widen the access within the application itself, so that we don’t have to have separate data sources and interfaces.

This doesn’t cover all cases. You still need data aggregation. But, where the majority of the data is sourced in a transaction system, in our case HR, we think that we, the apps vendor, can be relied on to do more BI.

What we've been working on is constantly enhancing managers' abilities to get access to their data. Up through 2009, that took the form of trying to enhance our report writer and deliver more options for reports, either the option to render reports in a small footprint, we call it Worklet, and view it side by side, whether they are snippets of data, or the option to create more advanced reports.

This is an ability to enhance our built-in report writer to allow managers or back-office personnel to directly create what become little analysis cues.

We had introduced a nice option last year to create what we call contextual reporting, the ability to sort of start with your data -- looking at a worker -- and then create a report about workers from there, with guidance as to all the Workday fields, where they applied to the worker. That made it easier for a manager not to have to search or even remember parts of our data dictionary. They could just look at the data they knew.

This year, we're taking, we think, a major step forward in introducing what we are calling custom analytics. This is an ability to enhance our built-in report writer to allow managers or back-office personnel to directly create what become little analysis cues. We call them matrix reports.

That’s a new report type in our report writer. Basically, you very quickly -- and importantly without coding or migrating data to a separate tool, but by pointing and clicking in our report writer -- get one of these matrix reports that allows slicing and dicing of the data and drilling down into the data in multiple dimensions. In fact, the tool automatically starts with every dimension of the data that we know about based on the source you gave us.

We're trying to make it simple to get this analysis into the hands of managers to analyze their data.

Self-service information

Kobielus: What you are saying there is very important. What you just mentioned there, Stan, is one thing I left off in my previous discussion, which is self-service information and exploration through hierarchical and dimensional drill down and also mashup in collaborative sharing of your mashups.

It's where the entire BI space is going, both traditional, big specialized BI vendors, but also vendors like yourself, who are embedding this technology into back office apps, and have adopted a similar architecture. The users want all the power and they're being given the power to do all of that.

... My colleague, Boris Evelson, surveyed IT decision makers -- we have, in fact, in the last few years -- on the priorities for BI and analytics. What they're adopting, what projects they are green lighting, more and more of them involve self-service, pervasive BI, specifically where you have more self-service, development, mashup style environments, where there is more SaaS for quick provisioning.

What we're seeing now is that there is the beginnings of a tipping point here, where IT is more than happy to, as you have all indicated, outsource much of the BI that they have been managing themselves, because, in many ways, the running of a BI system is not a core competency for most companies, especially small and mid-market companies.

Grimes: Add in the web. The web is going to be a great mechanism for interconnecting all of the distributed systems that you might have and bringing in additional data that might be germane to your business problems, that isn’t held inside your firewall, and all that kind of stuff. The web is definitely a fact nowadays and it’s so reliable finally that you can run operational systems on top of it.

That’s where some of the stuff that Stan was talking about comes into play. Data movement between systems does create vulnerability. So, it's really great, when you can bundle or package multiple functional components on a single platform.

Swete: When we think about reporting at Workday, we have three things in mind. We're trying to make the development of access to data simple. So that’s why we try to make it always -- never involve coding. We don’t want it to be an IT project. Maybe it's going to be a more sophisticated use of the creation of reports. So, we want it to be simple to share the reports out.

The second word that’s top of my list is relevance. We want the customers to guide themselves to the relevant data that they want to analyze. We try to put that data at hand easily, so they can get access to it. Once they're analyzing the data, since we are a transaction system, we think we can do a better job of being able to take action off of what the insight was.

I call it transanalytics. It's a combination of transaction systems and analytics systems. And really it's a closed loop. It must be.

So, we always have what we call related actions as a part of all the reports that you can create, so you can get to either another report or to a task you might want to do based on something a report is showing you.

Then, the final thing, because BI is complex, we also want to be open. Open means that it still has to be easy to get data out of Workday and into the hands of other systems that can do data aggregation.

Kobielus: That’s interesting -- the related action and the capability. I see a lot of movement in that area by a lot of BI vendors to embed action links into analytics. I think the term has been coined before. I call it transanalytics. It's a combination of transaction systems and analytics systems. And really it's a closed loop. It must be.

It's actionable intelligence. So, duh, then shouldn't you put an action link in the intelligence to make it really truly actionable? It's inevitable that that’s going to be part of the core uptake for all such solutions everywhere.

... The analytics themselves though -- the analysis and the intelligence -- are a core competency they want to give the users: information workers, business analysts, subject matter experts. That's the real game, and they don't want to outsource those people or their intelligence and their insights. They want to give them the tools they need to get their jobs done.

What's happening is that more and more companies, more and more work cultures, are analytic savvy. So, there is a virtuous cycle, where you give users more self-service -- user friendly, and dare I say, fun -- BI capabilities or tools that they can use themselves. They get ever more analytics savvy. They get hungry for more analysis. They want more data. They want more ways to visualize and so forth. That virtuous cycle plays into everything that we are seeing in the BI space right now.

Cost analysis

Swete: Or vision is that, as we can widen our footprint from an application standpoint, the payoff for what our end-users can do in terms of analysis just increases dramatically. Right now, it's attaching cost to your HR operations' data. In the future, we see augmenting HR to include more and more talent data. We're at work on that today, and we are very excited about dragging in business results and drawing that into the picture of overall performance.

And Workday has already built up more than just HCM. We offer financial management applications and have spend-management applications.

So a big part of how we're trying to develop our apps is to have very tight integration. In fact, we prefer not even to talk about integration, but we want these particular applications to be pieces of a whole. From a BI perspective, we wanted to be that. We believe that, as a customer widens their footprint with us, the value of what they can get out of their analysis is only going to increase.

You look at your workforce. You look at what they have achieved through their project work. You look at how they have graded out on that from the classical HR performance point of view. But, then you can take a hard look at what business results have generated. We think that that's a very interesting and holistic picture that our customers should be able to twist and turn with the tools we have been talking about today.

Grimes: There is a kind of truism in the analytics world that one plus one equals three. When you apply multiple methods, when you join multiple datasets, you often get out much more than the sum of what you can get with any pair of single methods or any pair of single datasets.

Some users are really going to get down and dirty with the data and with the analytical methods, and you want to support them, but you also want to deliver appropriate sophistication of analytics to other users.

If you can enable that kind of cross-business functions, cross-analytical functions, cross-datasets, then your end-users are going to end up farther along in terms of optimizing the overall business picture and overall business performance, as well as the individual functional areas, than they were before. That's just a truism, and I have seen it play out in a variety of organizations and a variety of businesses.

Swete: The thing that always occurs to me as an advantage of SaaS is that SaaS is a change delivery vehicle. If you look at the trend that we have been talking about, this sort of marrying up transactional systems with BI systems, it’s happening from both ends. The BI vendors are trying to get closer to the transactional systems and then transactional systems are trying to offer more built-in intelligence. That trend has several steps, many, many more steps forward.

The one thing that’s different about SaaS is that, if you have got a community of customers and you have got this vision for delivering built-in BI, you are on a journey. We are not at an endpoint. And, you can be on that journey with SaaS and make the entire trip.

In an on-premise model, you might make that journey, but each stop along the way is going to be three years and not multiple steps during the year. And, you might never get all the way to the end if you are a customer today.

SaaS offers the opportunity to allow vendors to learn from their customers, continue to feed innovation into their customers, and continue to add value, whereas the on-premise model does not offer that.

See a demo on how Workday BI offers business users a new experience for accessing the key information to make smart decisions.

About Workday
This BriefingsDirect podcast features software-as-a-service (SaaS) upstart Workday, provider of enterprise solutions for human resources management, financial management, payroll, spend management, and benefits management.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Workday.

You may also be interested in:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

rPath brings data center automation to Windows environments

rPath is making taking a deeper step into the data center automation market with support now for Windows servers.

On Tuesday, the company moved beyond its Linux solutions to also now support Microsoft Windows with a new solution based on the .NET framework. rPath is working to fill a void in the marketplace for tools that let IT admins deploy, configure, maintain, troubleshoot—and automate—.NET apps and runtimes. [Disclosure: rPath is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

rPath’s market research shows a diversity (hairball?) of .NET production environments, with assemblies of scripts and manual processes stitched together by what the company describes as “harried operations engineers trying to cope with unstable, rapidly changing applications and exploding scale.” In other words, heterogeneity is no stranger to pure Windows environments.

Cutting operating expenses

With its decision to support Windows (Server 2003 R2 and above), rPath also pointed to Microsoft research that shows 47 percent of enterprise IT operating expenses are related to deployment management and incident management activities. The company also noted the increasing pressure to cut costs, while improving agility and responsiveness, as drivers for the adoption of automation solutions.

“Our success with Linux is driving demand for a solution that automates deployment and maintenance of Windows-based software systems,” said Jake Sorofman, chief marketing officer for rPath, in a release. “Today, the absence of automation solutions for Windows and the complexity of .NET applications deployments make this one of the thorniest challenges in enterprise IT.”

Automation and modeling for .NET environments

rPath will bring its automation technology to the Windows environment, complete with automated packaging and deployment of .NET and Windows apps, scalable updates, unified software automation and configuration, and release lifecycle management. This could come in pretty handy when taking these stacks to virtualized environments, be they HyperV, other hypervisors or in clouds like Amazon EC2.

In effect, the rPath automation approach helps bridge the often deep gap between design-time activities and run-time production management. The gap exists for both Linux and Windows environs, for sure. Any end-to-end automation is welcome, especially in virtualization settings.

What also intrigues me, and should interest Microsoft, is the ability to use the rPath solutions for migration and co-existence in dual production settings. A lot more enterprises are running both Windows and Linux, than are running only one or the other. I may want to be more smart, as a efficiency-minded CIO, in better picking and choosing what to run where apps-wise, and to automate more of the two platforms in some unison.

Can you say "common release automation?" Sure you can.

But that may be getting a bit ahead of the game. So let’s look at each area of the new rPath offerings a little more closely.

By storing CIM data under the same version control umbrella as software, rPath’s solution streamlines deployment and update consistent systems.

With automated packaging and deployment, rPath customers who use Windows environments can automatically discover and resolve dependencies. What’s more, policies will define how applications should be packages. This yields a self-contained, end-to-end system that’s ready to deploy to any physical, virtual or cloud environment.

rPath also offers system modeling that IT admins can use to control the flow of change into deployed systems. The solution also allows IT admins to apply updates incrementally to only the components that need to be changed. This approach eliminates unnecessary changes that can lead to downtime. As rPath explains it, deep version control also offers a solid foundation to reproduce, rollback and troubleshoot apps.

A unified solution with lifecycle management

Here’s how this unified system works: By storing common information model (CIM) data under the same version control umbrella as software, rPath’s solution streamlines deployment and update consistent systems. The solution does this by simultaneously deploying applications and their supporting configurations over the Windows management application programming interface (API) (WMI). rPath bills the new solution as the first real configuration management system for Windows.

Finally, rPath’s release lifecycle management platform offers a shared repository of version-controlled system artifacts that drive consistent reuse across the release lifecycle, consistent handoffs across the release lifecycle to eliminate the risk of configuration drift, and automated dependency discovery and resolution to minimize the risk of deployment failures and outages. rPath claims this dramatically accelerates and improves the quality of release processes.

rPath support for automated deployment and configuration of applications built using the Microsoft .NET Framework will be available in the third quarter of 2010.

For a white paper on "Automating .NET Application Deployment and Configuration" go to:
BriefingsDirect contributor Jennifer LeClaire provided editorial assistance and research on this post. She can be reached at and
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Just as the vendor-speak turns from SOA, the users are actually embracing it

This guest post comes courtesy of Tony Baer’s OnStrategies blog. Tony is a senior analyst at Ovum.

By Tony Baer

There is a core disconnect between what gets analysts and journalists excited, and what gains traction with the customers who consume the technologies that keep our whole ecosystem in business.

OK, guilty as charged, we analysts get off on hearing about what’s new and what’s breaking the envelope, but that’s the last thing that enterprise customers want to hear.

Excluding reference customers (who have a separate set of motivations that often revolve around a vendor productizing something that would otherwise be custom developed), most want the tried and true, or at least innovative technology that at has matured through the rough spots and is no longer version 1.0.

It’s a thought that crystallized as we bounced impressions of this year’s IBM Impact 2010 event with colleagues like Dorothy Alexander and Marcia Kaufman, who shared perceptions that, while this year’s headlines or trends seemed a bit anticlimactic, that there was real evidence that customers were actually “doing” whatever it is that we associate with SOA.

[Note: See a roundup of Impact news.]

Forget about the architectural journeys that you’ve heard about SOA; SOA is an enterprise architectural pattern that is a means to an end.

Forget about the architectural journeys that you’ve heard about with SOA; SOA is an enterprise architectural pattern that is a means to an end. It’s not a new argument; it was central to the "SOA is dead" debate that flared up with Anne Thomas Manes’ famous or infamous post of almost a year and a half ago, and of the subsequent debates and hand wringing that ensued.

IBM’s so-called SOA conference, Impact, doesn’t even include SOA in its name. But until now SOA was the implicit rationale for this WebSphere middleware stack conference to exist. Yet more and more the focus is about the stack that SOA enables; and more and more, about the composite business applications that IBM’s SOA stack enables.

IBM won’t call it the applications business, but when you put vertical industry frameworks, business rules, business process management, and analytics together, it’s not simply a plumbing stack, but a collection of software tools and vertical industry templates that become the new de facto applications that bolt atop and aside the core application portfolio that enterprises already have and are not likely to replace.

Something old, something new

In past years, this conference was used to introduce game changers, such as the acquisition of Webify that placed IBM Software firmly on the road to verticalizing its middleware.

This year the buzz was about something old becoming something new again. IBM’s acquisition of Cast Iron, as dissected well by colleagues Dana Gardner and James Governor, reflects the fact that after all these years of talking flattened architectures, especially using the ESB style, that enterprise integration (or application-to-application, or A2A) hubs never went out of style. There are still plenty of instances of packaged apps out there that need to be interfaced.

The problem is no different from a decade ago when the first wave of EAI hubs emerged to productize systems integration of enterprise packages. While the EAI business model never scaled well in its time because of the need for too much customization, experience, commoditization of templates, and emergence of cheap appliances provided economic solutions to this model.

More importantly, the emergence of multi-tenanted SaaS applications, like, Workday and many others, have imposed a relatively stable target data schema plus a need of integration of cloud and on-premises applications. Informatica has made a strong run with its partnership with Salesforce, but Informatica is part of a broader data integration platform that for some customers is overkill. By contrast, niche players like Cast Iron which only do data translation have begun to thrive with a Blue Chip customer list.

Of course Cast Iron is not IBM’s first appliance play. That distinction goes to DataPower, which originally made its name with specialized appliances that accelerated compute-intensive XML processing and SSL encryption. While we were thinking about potential synergy, such as applying some of DataPower’s XML acceleration technology to A2A workloads, IBM’s middleware head Craig Hayman responded to us that IBM saw Cast Iron’s technology as a separate use-case. But they did demonstrated that the software of Cast Iron could, and would, literally run on DataPower’s own iron.

IBM could go the opposite direction and infuse some of this A2A transformation as services that could be transformed and accelerated by the traditional DataPower line.

Of course, you could say that Cast Iron overlaps the application connectors from IBM’s Crossworlds acquisition, but those connectors, which were really overlay applications (Crossworlds used to call them “collaborations”), have been repurposed by IBM as BPM technology for WebSphere Process Server.

Arguably, there is much technology from IBM’s Ascential acquisition focused purely on data transformation that also overlaps here. But Cast Iron’s value add to IBM is the way those integrations are packaged, and the fact that they have been developed especially for integrations to and from SaaS applications – no more and no less.

IBM has gained the right sized tool for the job. IBM has decided to walk a safe tightrope here; it doesn’t want to weigh Cast Iron’s simplicity (a key strength down) with added bells and whistles from the rest of its integration stack. But the integration doesn’t have to go in one direction –weighing down Cast Iron with richer but more complex functionality. IBM could go the opposite direction and infuse some of this A2A transformation as services that could be transformed and accelerated by the traditional DataPower line.

This is a similar issue that IBM has faced with Lombardi, a deal that it closed back in January. They’ve taken the obvious first step in “blue washing” the flagship Lombardi Teamworks BPM product, which is now rebranded IBM WebSphere Lombardi Edition and bundled with WebSphere Application Serve 7 and DB2 Express under the covers.

The more pressing question is what to do with Lombardi’s elegantly straightforward Blueprint process definition tool and IBM WebSphere BlueWorks BPM, which is more of a collaboration and best practices definition rather than modeling tool (and still in beta). The good news is that IBM is trying the right thing in not cluttering Blueprint (now rebranded IBM BPM Blueprint), but the bad news is that there is still confusion with IBM’s mixed messages of a consistent branding umbrella but uncertainty regarding product synergy or convergence.

Back to the main point however: while SOA was the original impetus for the Impact event, it is now receding to a more appropriate supporting role.

This guest post comes courtesy of Tony Baer’s OnStrategies blog. Tony is a senior analyst at Ovum.

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Confluence of global trends ups ante for improved IT governance to prevent costly business 'glitches'

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: WebLayers.

Headlines these days are full of big, embarrassing corporate and government "gotchas."

These complex snafus cost a ton of money, severely damage a company’s reputation, and most importantly, can hurt or even kill people.

From global auto recalls to bank failures to exploding oil rigs, and cyber crime that can uproot the private information from millions of users, the scale and damage that technology-accelerated glitches can inflict on businesses and individuals has probably never been higher. So what is at the root?

Is it a technology run amok problem, or a complexity spinning out of control issue -- and why is it seemingly worse now?

A new book is coming out this summer that explores the relationship between glitches and technology, specifically the role of software use and development in the era of cloud computing.

It turns out the role and impact of governance over people, process, and technology comes up again and again in the new book.

BriefingsDirect's latest podcast discussion then focuses on the nature of, and some possible solutions for, a growing parade of enterprise-scale glitches. We interview the author of the book as well as a software expert from IBM to delve into the causes and effects of glitches and how governance relates to the problem and fixes.

Please join guests, Jeff Papows, President and CEO of WebLayers, and the author of Glitch: The Hidden Impact of Faulty Software, and Kerrie Holley, IBM fellow and Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s SOA Center of Excellence. The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:
Papows: What we're actually seeing is the confluence of three primary factors that are creating an information technology perfect storm of sorts.

The first is a loss of intellectual capital. We saw, between 2000 and 2007, the first drop in computer science graduates. The merger and consolidation activity -- the other side of the recession of 2008 -- has created massive complexity in these giant corporate IT mash-ups and critical back-office systems.

The third factor is just the sheer ubiquity of the technological complexity curve. It’s the magnitude of technology that’s now part of our social fabric, whether it’s literally one million transistors that now exist for every human being on the planet or the six billion network devices that exist in the world today, all of which are accessing the same critical back-office structures.

You take those three meta-level factors and put them together and we're making the morning broadcast news cycles now on a daily basis with more and more of these embarrassing things coming to light. They're not just inconvenient, but there are monumental economic consequences -- and we're killing people. Look at the recent glitches you have seen at places like Toyota.

One of the most heartbreaking things in the research for the book was on software that controls the radiation devices in our hospitals for cancer treatment. I ran across a bunch of research where, because of some software glitches and policy problems in terms of the way those updates were distributed, people with fairly nominal cancers received massive overdoses in radiation.

The medical professionals running these machines -- like much of our culture, because something is computerized -- just assume that it’s infallible. Because of the problems in governance or lack of governance policy, people were being over-radiated.

Holley: Jeff brought up some excellent points. The other thing that we see is that we've had this growth of distributed computing.

If we look at a lot of what businesses are trying to accomplish today, whether it’s a new business model, differentiation, or whatever they're trying to do compete, what we are finding is that the complexity of that solution is pretty significant.

If we look at a lot of technologies that are out in the market place, unfortunately, in many cases they are siloed. They repair or they help with a part of the problem, but perhaps they're not holistic in dealing with the whole life-cycle. ... We just have an explosion of technologies that we have to integrate.

Secondly -- this is a point-in-time statement -- we're seeing rapid improvements in the technology to solve this. It hasn’t caught up, but I think it will. ... Along with that comes some of the challenges in terms of how we make this agile, and how we make it such that it doesn't break.

Papows: We've grown up for decades now where we just threw more and more bodies at the problem, as the technological curve grew.

All that means is automating those best practices and turning them inward, so that we’re governing ourselves as an industry the way that we would automate or govern many things.

There was always this never-ending economic rosy horizon, where you would just add more IT professionals and you would acquire and you’d merge systems.

In 2008, the economic malaise that we’re managing our way through changed all of that. Now, the only way out of this complexity curve that we’ve created is to turn the innovation that has been the hallmark of our industry back on ourselves.

That means automating and codifying all of the best practices and human capital that’s been in-place and learning for decades in the form of active policy management and inference engines in what we typically think of as SOA and design-time governance.

Really, all that means is automating those best practices and turning them inward, so that we’re governing ourselves as an industry in the same way that we would automate or govern many things. But now it’s no longer a "nice to have."

I would argue that it’s critical, because the complexity curve and the economics have crossed and there is no way to put this genie back in the bottle. There is no way to go backward.

There are lots of examples in the book [of what can go wrong] that may not be as ubiquitous as Toyota, but there are many cases of widespread health, power, energy, and security risks as a consequence of the lack of policy management or governance

... We all need to say, "I am a computer science professional. We have reached a point in the complexity curve where I no longer scale." You have to start with an admission of fact. And the reality is that the demands placed on today's IT organizations, the magnitude of the existing infrastructure that needs to continue to be cared for, the magnitude of application demands for new systems and access points from all of this new technology, simply is not going to correlate without a completely different highly automated approach.

Holley: One of the nice things that the attention to SOA has brought to our marketplace is the recognition that we do need to focus on governance. I don’t know of a single client who’s got an SOA implementation who has not, as a minimum, thought about governance.

They may not be doing everything they want to do or should be doing, but governance is clearly on the attention span of everyone in terms of recognizing that it needs to be done.

... That governance is not only around the technology. It’s not only around the life-cycle of services. It’s not only around the use of addressing processes and addressing application development. Governance also focuses on the convergence that’s required between business and IT.

The synergistic relationship that we seek will be promoted through the use of governance. Change management specifically brings about a pretty significant focus, meaning that there will be a focus on the part of the business and the IT organizations and teams to bring about the results that are sought.

... A lot of what IBM has been talking about from a Smarter Planet standpoint is actually the exact issues that Jeff has talked about, which is that the world is getting more instrumented. There are more sensors. There is a convergence of a lot of different technology, SOA, business process management, mobile computing, and cloud computing.

Clearly, on one end of the spectrum, it’s increasing the complexity. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s adding tremendous value to businesses, but it mandates this attention to governance.

My book, that’s going to be out later this year, is 100 SOA Questions: Asked and Answered. What my co-author [Ali Arsanjani] and I are trying to accomplish in the book, which distinguishes us from other SOA books in the marketplace, is based on thousands of questions that we’ve experienced over the decade in hundreds of projects where we’ve had first-hand roles in as consultants, architects, and developers.

We provide the audience with a hands-on, prescriptive understanding of some of the more difficult questions, and not just have platitudes as answers, but really give the reader an answer they can act on.

Papows: If we don’t police our own industry, if we don’t get more serious about this governance, whether it’s IBM or WebLayers or some other technological help, we run the risk of seeing the headlines we’re seeing today become completely ubiquitous.

There's an old expression, "Everybody wants governance, but nobody wants to be governed." We run the risk, and I think we’ve tripped over it several times, where we get to the point where developers don’t want to be slowed down. There is this Big Brother-connotation at times to governance. We’ve got to explore a different cultural approach to it.

Governance, whether it’s design time or run time, is really about automating and codifying best practices.

Governance, whether it’s design-time or run-time, is really about automating and codifying best practices, and it’s not done generically as was once taught. It can be, in my experience, very specific. The things we see Ford Motor Co. doing are very different. They're germane to their IT culture and organization.

What you need is a way to automate what you are doing, so that your best practices are enforced. I'd argue that rather than making distinctions between design and run-time governance, companies simply, one way or another, need to automate their best practices.

The business mandates of the corporations need to be reflected in an automated way that makes it manageable across the information technology life-cycle -- or you exist at your own peril.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: WebLayers.

Monday, May 3, 2010

IBM to build out hub for cloud of clouds with Cast Iron acquisition

Looking to improve its ability to integrate across various cloud ecosystems, IBM on Monday bought integration services provider Cast Iron Systems.

The latest addition to IBM's infrastructure portfolio comes amid a rolling thunder of acquisitions in the technology space, a result of confidence that the economy is improving and a validation that new service models like cloud are roiling the post-recession IT landscape.

Cast Iron Systems, in Mountain View, CA, is not a cloud provider, but rather a hub enabler of other cloud and SaaS services providers. Cast Iron, through appliances, software and services, also provides an integration capability between on-premises data and applications in enterprises and the various emerging cloud services providers.

Cast Iron recently delivered OmniConnect, a cloud integration solution offers a single platform rather than multiple products or on-premise tools to accomplish cloud integrations.

With the addition of Cast Iron Systems to its portfolio, IBM will be able to offer clients a complete platform to integrate cloud applications from providers including, Amazon, NetSuite and ADP with on-premise applications, such as SAP and JD Edwards, said IBM.

IBM needs to make sure the core value of integration, a mainstay of its WebSphere brands, does not slide up and out of the enterprises data center and then become controlled then by the likes of cloud leaders Google, Microsoft, Amazon and I guess we can think of Cast Iron as a way to bring WebSphere to cloud integrations.

IBM expects the global cloud computing market to grow at a compounded annual rate of 28 percent from $47 billion in 2008 to $126 billion by 2012.

The Cast Iron buy jettisons IBM into extending its integration role across more types of integration, across cloud ecosystems and for becoming a traffic cop of sorts for web services and cloud API activities. Cast Iron, a privately held company founded in 2001, becomes part of IBM as of today. Terms of the sale were not released.

Security, integration, and customization form the top three hurdles that enterprises face in exploiting the benefits of cloud computing, said Craig Hayman, General Manager, Websphere, at IBM, in announcing the acquisition at the IBM Impact event in Las Vegas.

IBM sees the Cast Iron value as significantly helping on the integration portion of the cloud-weakness triumvirate. The buy is also clearly aimed at helping to simplify how integration is accomplished across ecosystems and a variety of integration styles. The addition of Cast Iron also bolsters IBM DataPower line, given the appliances model the Cast Iron has used, as well as IBM's Lombardi acquisition.

Building more Cast Iron systems and appliances using IBM hardware and software infrastructure can go a long way to cutting the total costs of providing these integration hubs.

"Cloud application use is exploding, but just because you like doesn't mean you are going to throw out SAP, Oracle or other applications you have on-premise. It's a hybrid world where companies have a combination of cloud and on-premise locations," said Chandar Pattabhiram, vice president of Channel and Product Marketing for Cast Iron Systems, earlier this year. "You don't maximize the value of your cloud applications unless you get all the data into it – so you need integration."

UPDATE: Cast Iron competitor Boomi has some thoughts.

"IBM WebSphere has a history of buying appliance-based companies and so we think this is a good fit for Cast Iron," said Bob Moul, Boomi CEO. "Boomi on the other hand has been focused exclusively on the cloud computing space and has built the industry's number one integration cloud as pure Software-as-a-Service. We remain committed to the cloud and are convinced that this pure-SaaS integration approach is the best model to drive the continued success and expansion of the cloud computing industry.”

Hot on heels of smartphone popularity, cloud-based printing scales to enterprise mainstream

As enterprises focus more on putting applications and data into Internet clouds, a new trend is emerging that also helps them keep things tangibly closer to terra firma, namely, printed materials – especially from mobile devices.

Major announcements from HP and Google are drawing attention to printing from the cloud. But these two heavy-hitters aren’t the only ones pushing the concept. Lesser-known brands like HubCast and Cortado got out in front with cloud printing services that work to route online print orders to printer choices via the cloud. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Still a nascent concept, some forward-thinking enterprises are moving to understand what printing from the cloud really means, what services are available, why they should give it a try, how to get started—and what’s coming next. Again, we’re early in the cloud printing game, but when Fortune 500 tech companies start advocating for a better way to print, it’s worth investigating.

HP’s Cloud Printing

HP is no stranger to cloud printing. The company is behind a service called MagCloud that lets self-publishers print on demand and sell through a web-based marketplace with no minimum orders. But a recent announcement suggests HP is looking to deeply lead the charge into printing from the cloud for the broader enterprise ... and consumers.

Earlier this month, HP rolled out the ePrint Enterprise mobile printing solution developed in collaboration with RIM. It’s based on HP CloudPrint technology and works with BlackBerry smartphones. As HP describes it, CloudPrint lets users print documents from their mobile devices, computers and netbooks while they aren’t in the office on a LAN.

Essentially, CloudPrint blends cloud and web-services-based technologies to let people print anything—like reports, photos, emails, presentations, or documents—from anywhere. All you need is a destination network-connected printer. With CloudPrint and ePrint Enterprise, HP has a wide margin of enterprise printing needs covered.

Google’s Cloud Printing

Google got into the cloud printing game in mid-April. Dubbed Google Cloud Print, the search engine giant’s service will work with the Chrome operating system, where all applications are web apps. Google wanted to design a printing experience that would make it possible for web apps to give users the full printing capabilities that native apps have today. Access to the cloud is the one component all major devices and operating systems have in common.

Here’s how it works: Instead of relying on a single operating system—or drivers—to print, apps can use Google Cloud Print to submit and manage print jobs. Google Cloud Print will send the print job to the appropriate printer, with the particular options the user selected, and then return the job status to the app. But Google Cloud Print is still under development, which gives HP and other players a chance to gain market momentum.

Cloud Printing Pioneers

Indeed, there are other players promoting printing from the cloud—and some could be considered pioneers. Hubcast is one of them. Hubcast bills itself as the only worldwide digital print delivery network. It routes your online print order to the high quality network printer closest to you. This way you don’t have to pay shipping charges for printing. Hubcast won the Gartner “Cool Vendor” Award back in 2008.

Meanwhile, Cortado offers one-stop mobile business software solutions that aim at the enterprise—including cloud printing. Cortado competes with HP, offering a free cloud printing app called Cortado Workplace for BlackBerry and iPhone that lets you print your documents to any printer reachable via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Enterprise customers can also get Cortado Corporate Server for use on their company network behind the firewall.

Why Print from the Cloud?

Road warriors, mobile workers and on-the-go professionals can see the value in being able to access information and personal documents from just about any device. The problem historically has been the need to install drivers that make printing possible. Keeping up to date with print drivers for the various printers you might meet with while out of the office is cumbersome at best and nearly impossible at worst.

HP has also invested heavily in new ways of publishing, of making the mashup of printing and cloud services a commercial opportunity, with even small-batch, location-focused publications possible via printers rather then presses.

Similarly, the latest user-focused cloud printing solutions that are integrated with mobile devices make publishing boundary-less and set the stage to boost productivity with the ability to print documents on the fly at places like FedEx, hotels, business centers or anywhere else along a professional’s travels that offer access to a printer. In other words, these solutions extend the corporate network and offer cross-platform conveniences that aren’t available through traditional printing options.

Getting started is getting easier easy. You just have to download an application to your BlackBerry or iPhone. Becoming an early adopter of cloud printing puts you on the cutting-edge of business and could give you an advantage in a competitive marketplace.

Think about the possibilities of being able to print, sign and fax a document back to a client from just anywhere you happen to be. Cloud printing is poised to revolutionize the enterprise work environment in much the same way that cloud computing is transforming IT settings.

It also highlights the longer-term strength of cloud models, beyond more than cost savings from outsourcing. And that value is the powerful role that clouds play as integration platforms, to enable things that could not be done before, to bind processes -- like printing -- that scale up and down easily and affordably.
BriefingsDirect contributor Jennifer LeClaire provided editorial assistance and research on this post. She can be reached at and