Saturday, July 21, 2007

Optaros opens OS projects catalog, JBoss Rules 4.0 debuts

With more than 140,000 open-source projects floating around, finding the right one for your company is a daunting task. For IT managers, who usually don't have the vantage point that developers enjoy, the search can also be fraught with danger. Choosing or backing the wrong project can have far-reaching operational, legal and financial consequences.

Now, Opatros Inc. has a helping hand. They have morphed their popular Open Source Catalogue into an online version that provides a searchable and interactive source for finding the open-source projects that best meet a company's business and technology needs.

The Optaros Enterprise Open Source Directory (EOS) eliminates the need to download and print the hefty catalogue that Optaros introduced in November 2006. That version was downloaded over 10,000 times, however, indicating an industry need for this information.

The online directory gives viewers a short description of the project, includes an Optaros rating -- one to five stars -- as well as a community rating, comments from community members, and a link to the project Web site.

The ferment in the open-source community is one of the driving forces behind the move to an online, interactive product, according to Bruno von Rotz, Optaros's EOS Directory executive sponsor.

Von Rotz explained, "Since the launch of the Open Source Catalogue six months ago, some of the leaders have further expanded their competitive positioning. Additionally, the ratings of more than 70 percent of all the projects listed have changed, and we have added and removed approximately 45 enterprise-ready projects. The open source community is developing so rapidly that an online resource is the best approach to capture changes and stay relevant."

In other open-source news, business rules are moving into the mainstream with the release of JBoss Rules 4.0, which promises faster and leaner performance, a more powerful scripting language, point-and-click rules editing, and -- most important -- access to non-programming IT workers. JBoss Rules is the RedHat product that combines the Drools project with a JBoss subscription.

JBoss blogger Pierre Fricke says the new release "lays the foundation for bringing rules-based solutions into Simple, Open and Affordable SOA deployments. . ." Would that be SOASOA or just SOA-squared?

Tony Baer at Computer Business Review sees the new offering as a move by JBoss to position its new version "as a lightweight, more accessible alternative to spending tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars on more complex alternatives."

Some of the benefits of Rules 4.0 include:
  • More expressive and powerful declarative business action scripting language
  • New Guided Rules Editor with point-and-click functionality
  • Visual modeling technology to declaratively model execution paths of related rules
  • Multi-application support (for stateful and stateless processing)
  • Hibernate readiness, and
  • Business Rules Management System (Technology Preview), a web-based, AJAX-enhanced, collaborative rule authoring, versioning and management system to help non-programming IT workers interactively author and/or modify rules that are then automatically versioned.
In other JBoss community news, ICEsoft Technologies has announced what it's promoting as a "new and improved" version of ICEfaces, the company's flagship Ajax development environment.

Version 1.6.0 now offers deeper integration with JBoss Seam, the Web 2.0 application framework.

According to ICEsoft, ICEfaces extends JavaServer Faces (JSF) and eliminates the need for low-level JavaScript development. In the new release, SeamGen enhancements support the rapid generation of functional Seam + ICEfaces applications. It also contains source code examples.

An earlier e-newsletter from ICEsoft reported that the new version contained more than 180 bug fixes, as well as several enhancements.

ICEsoft claims a developer base of 12,000 and says ICEfaces has been downloaded more than 150,000 times. The latest version can be downloaded from

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Where are the best SOA synergies now that Rogue Wave is independent?

Either today or tomorrow the completion of Battery Ventures' buyout of Rogue Wave Software will prompt some strategic thinking about where this high-performance C++ platform supplier best fits in.

As a bit of background, Rogue Wave was a part of publicly traded Quovadx, which found itself in a bit of hot water with the SEC. That now appears to be resolved, and the Integration Solutions Division and Rogue Wave units of Quovadx are being scooped up in private equity buyout by Battery Ventures. The Rouge Wave unit will operate as a stand-alone unit within a Battery subsidiary, Quartzite Holdings. The third Quovadx unit, its CareScience division, was spun off to healthcare alliance Premier in March.

What's more, word has it that Rogue Wave Executive Vice President and President Cory Isaacson will be leaving the company entirely, replaced by new CEO Bart Foster (CEO of former Battery portfolio company DecisionPoint Software).

So now that Rogue Wave is un-entangled, as it were, and part of a private equity firm that, if history is an indication, might well want to find a good home for its newly adopted firm ... someday, someway -- where might Rogue Wave land?

Well, consider that there are hordes of C++ applications scattered around the world. Consider that these applications need to accomplish two things for health and economy: modernization of platform and service-enablement. The Java applications world is undergoing just such a transition, as are myriad mainframe applications. Not too many C++ applications are being newly written specifically for SOA; Java and C# are pretty popular there.

But the larger SOA infrastructure vendors might just want a high-performance, multi-core-optimized C++ complement to their Java, .NET and mainframes modernization and/or SOA-enablement strategies. Rogue Wave also has some marquee customers in financial services, telco, software, and government. Large professional services companies that are also enjoying growth synergies by bundling modernization and SOA initiatives would also no doubt value a strong C++ component to these efforts in the market.

As frosting on this tasty cake, Rogue Wave is also tightly involved in the Apache Tuscany SCA Native (aka C++) incubation project, and Rogue Wave will likely produce a commercial platform that combines its Hydra SCA 3.5 (releases in April) with Tuscany SCA Native (aka C++) community-developer and open source code. Rogue Wave is a contributing member of the Open SOA Collaboration. So there's an open source path and commercial-open source business model potential here too.

And which large IT vendor might want to 1) augment a SOA strategy with strong C++ platform and modernization offerings, 2) avail itself of a commercial-open source market opportunity, 3) augment Java and mainframe SOA migration initiatives, and 4) make application modernization and SOA transformation professional services hay?

Why, Novell, of course. Actually, I can think of a couple of others. Rogue Wave bears watching and waiting over the coming months.

Monday, July 16, 2007

IBM broadens its data reach for SOA with DataMirror buy

Further banking on SOA as a consolidation strategy accelerator for enterprises, IBM on Monday announced its intention to acquire DataMirror.

The Markham, Ontario-based DataMirror provides real-time data capture and delivery across a broad range of data sources — including IBM's own DB2, Oracle, Sybase and Microsoft SQL Server — and allows altered data from such sources to be fed into the popular IBM Information Server. The goal: real-time integration and delivery of data deltas across a variety of sources to then reach a variety of applications and services.

The approximately $161 million acquisition, if approved, will thereby extend the reach of IBM's Information Server and give businesses faster access to data for making business decisions, responding to market demands, and rapidly identifying new business opportunities. The acquisition continues a fast-paced (for IBM) buying spree, almost as active as Oracle's over the past several years, although IBM tends to buy smaller companies that augment its strategies, rather than buy its way into new businesses wholesale.

Data and access to data is the lifeblood of any agile big businesses. According to IBM, the DataMirror technology captures data changes as soon as they occur and delivers the changes and new data either to other business processes or the enterprise service bus (ESB). This makes it an integral part of an SOA strategy.

IBM Information Server currently processes data from DB2 databases, but what DataMirror brings to the party is its technology works with a wide variety of other databases, sitting on top of the other processes, and can capture the data without slowing the performance of those operations.

So the inclusion of the DataMirror technology into its "Information on Demand portfolio" will allow Big Blue to cast a bigger umbrella over more types of real-time data for distribution and processes-updating capabilities. That means a more comprehensive SOA infrastructure capabilities set that spans data services with transactional and presentation services.

IBM said the acquisition will move their information-on-demand strategy closer to the master data management "holy grail" of providing one view of the customer -- the total and correct view.

This acquisition also therefore further amplifies the vision that management of meta data about data (aka master data management) is the keystone of the future for enterprise software infrastructure vendors. By making data free yet coordinated, IBM can position it's Information Server and IBM's Dynamic Warehousing offerings as the best-of-breed data management environments for gathering, distributing, and also analyzing real-time business activities. The value continues to move up an abstraction from the core RDBs.

As an example of how the real-time capture and delivery can aid business development, DataMirror pointed to a telecom application, in which a client company can detect when customers are running low on pre-purchased minutes, allowing the company to contact the customers in advance about purchasing more time, thereby increasing sales and preventing customers from experiencing a loss of service.

You have to wonder whether IBM will also extend what DataMirror does into open source databases -- from mySQL to Ingres to perhaps even SaaS applications and/or repositories. Such a move could allow IBM to become the all-data-for-all-purposes-oriented leader (more "open" than Microsoft or Oracle) -- while still protecting its DB2 franchise (for now). Being inclusive at the data management level is more important than protecting an installed base, right?

Among the other benefits of the combined platform will be:
  • Dynamic data warehousing
  • Real-time analytics
  • Faster disaster recovery
  • Production and e-business integration
  • Real-time event detection
DataMirror currently has about 2,200 customers, about 60 percent of whom are also IBM customers, as well as 15,000 licenses. The company and its 220 employees will be integrated into IBM's Information and Platform Solutions business unit, and IBM said it intends to retain DataMirror's Toronto-area development center focused on heterogeneous data capture.

The acquisition requires approval from DataMirror's stockholders, as well as regulators, and the deal is expected to close in the late third quarter of this year.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

IT enters its most fertile development era ever

Information technology is now entering an unprecedented era of rapidly expanding development productivity. This is because of two unassailable facts: The number and types of people who can actively participate in software development are expanding, while -- at the same time -- we're seeing a rapid compression in the effort, cost and risk of taking applications and services from concept into full production.

Put these trends together and we enter a fertile new era of diverse applications and services creation, one that offers developers more choice on how to build, and offers architects more choice of how to deploy (including broader use of web services and hosting to the "cloud"). The trends auspiciously portend less risk for businesses, both for entrepreneurs and enterprises alike, to innovative in ways that more easily bring applications to markets via the Internet.

The entrepreneurs are groking this all just fine, while the enterprises are quickly recognizing that they face new upside benefits as they adopt so-called Enterprise 2.0 approaches. Such development process improvements as "application lifecycle management 2.0", open source development communities such as Eclipse, and a widening embrace of Agile development practices are quelling enterprise IT leaders' fears of development project misfires.

In the mostly consumer-facing Web 2.0 arena, the ongoing mash-up of the definitions of developer and entrepreneur among start-ups allows for a flowering of innovation with relatively low up-front costs. If an application or service doesn't work in gaining wide use and appeal, these innovators keep on changing it until it does. Google is a prime example of this tinker-to-success mentality.

Other accelerants to the ease-of-development trends are the wide embrace of open source tools, preference for rich Internet applications (RIAs) approaches (highlighted by the recent Microsoft Silverlight unveilings), and openly available APIs for myriad ecommerce and social networking Web services from the likes of Google, Amazon, Yahoo!,, and Microsoft.

I'm also seeing a variety of new automated development workflows and requirements gathering approaches that bring non-developers increasingly into the act of defining, adjusting and implementing applications. These folks are not coders, but they are keen on business transformation via re-engineered business processes. The more tools that close the gap between process efficiency knowledge and the implementation of such productivity enhancements via IT, the more that talented non-developers will deeply exploit IT for their business goals.

A prime example of such tools and approaches is One Team Technologies, a Chicago-based start-up that walks non-geeks through a series of menus and choices -- selecting new options based on the roles and choices of the creators -- to design database-driven, potentially mission-critical applications. I think venture capitalists ought to use this technology and approach to incubate even more innovative start-ups, and create more business process-focused applications that can be delivered quickly to dynamic enterprises and markets.

And while this trend toward design automation and inclusion of more non-coders into development makes sense for start-ups and Web 2.0 greenfield innovators, the fruits of this broadening portfolio of possibilities will soon benefit SMBs and enterprises as they embrace software as a service (SaaS) and on-demand delivery of applications and integration services. SaaS also accelerates the ability to mash-up and use the services provided from communities of functional interest and from vertical industry niches. That is to say that those hosting organizations interested in proving on-demand applications will increasingly provide the tooling to create and adapt applications all the more appealing to more businesses.

The road from application service innovation to full production, as I mentioned, is already rapidly compressing. A great example of this compression effect comes from Bungee Labs' Bungee Connect offering, which debuted at Web 2.0 Expo. Another way of describing Bungee Connect is software development and deployment as a service (SDDS). Bungee Connect combines the virtues of online web application development with a near-real-time test and debug capability and with a click-to-host service that — now here's the rub — costs the developer next to nothing to get into full production.

Here's an offering that recognizes that new business models that vastly expand the universe of web services players is what the web is all about. The Bungee Connect service began allowing beta use access on May 1. Developers may register to participate in the early-access beta program.

Bungee Connect gives developers WSYWIG, drag-and-drop, rich Ajax interface creation tools online. Those familiar with scripting and web applications development can begin creating web applications from a library of Bungee functions, or create their own services, or mash-up ones from a core of providers: Amazon, Google,, Yahoo!, Real Networks, Windows Live, PayPal, and eBay.

The cost for the use of the tools, testing, and then hosting is free, and the subscription cost for the at-scale hosting only kicks in based on the use of the application by end users. Low use means low costs, and high use means a predictable measure of the proceeds goes to the development and hosting service. The hosting business stays with Bungee as the grid services provider while the applications ramp up into a sustainable business. Bungee collects rent — so to speak — based on use of the underlying infrastructure. Pay as you grow.

The net effect of these trends and examples is that the time, cost and risk of going from design to full production are deeply compressed. We are entering a period on unmatched applications, services, and media creativity.

Shouldn't you and your company be a part of it?