Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sun to swap out ME for SE on mobile devices -- high risk alert!

Looks like Sun will slowly dump, ie wither on the vine, Java mobile and try to drive Java SE down into the class of mobile converged devices like an iPhone. As I said earlier, iPhone has ushered in the need to do something about mobile Java fast -- but this move with SE is fraught with risk.

From the story:

Java Standard Edition (SE), geared for desktop computers, will gradually supplant Java Micro Edition (ME) as technology improvements let more computing power be packed into smaller devices, said James Gosling, the Sun vice president often called the father of Java.

... Sun's Java expectation dovetails with recent trends, most notably Apple's iPhone, which architecturally is much more an Apple computer writ small than a mobile phone writ large. In particular, Apple uses a version of its regular Safari Web browser so users will have as much of the desktop Internet experience as possible. ... But much of the rich Internet application action is happening with software such as Ajax, the Adobe Integrated Runtime (nee Apollo) and Microsoft's Silverlight and Google Gears.

My questions are: Does an iPhone-like device need Java (mobile, standard, bastard [Java BE]) at all, and for what? Are there better ways to cross the mobile cloud "wire" than applets?

Are not RIAs supplanting some of Java's UI virtues? Hasn't Adobe Flash and Air made write-freely, run-freely a better way for rich media Web delivery writ large? Why not write once for the Web via the RIAs approach and have all of that easily driven down to converged mobile devices like an iPhone? Oh, and use it on PCs too. Televisions any day now.

Okay, and then there are the JVM values. You may want to virtualize on these devices to bring even more apps on down. But why not use a tight little hypervisor and not an SE JVM? How about Boot Camp for mobile on the iPhone? Not so far fetched, especially if the apps are written with mobile Web distribution in mind. Nope, don't need Java for that.

And if the device is not an iPhone, how about using good old Embedded Linux to natively accomplish, yet again, much of what should have been a Java ME value -- fewer customizations on the mobile platform for running more applications better. Makes sense to write the apps in Linux and have them run just about everywhere, eh?

These are key questions, and there are few assurances -- and certainly high risk -- in Sun trying to swap out ME for SE on the mobile converged device class, and across the global markets for mobile services, content and applications. This needs to be executed on flawlessly. There's embedded Linux squeezing on one side, RIAs on the other, WOA in general, and always the Windows Mobile thing tricking along the rosy VB developer path.

The poor performance Sun has had with Java on the full PC client is now coming back to haunt them on the mobile client. If there had been a fuller Java applications community for the PC, perhaps that would have ushered in all those apps (and ISVs) to the converged classes of devices now. But, alas, Java on the client did not storm the world. And ME is too fragmented. And bringing an SE version down to the mobile class is the answer, huh?

Now the notion of end-to-end Java has always held a certain fascination for me. However, didn't they design SE to work as a lightweight server stack, to cross the chasm between a PC and a server? Use the same stack, run the same apps, be lightweight (or at least the right weight)? That was good. Many folks prefer to use SE over EE.

And now we're to expect the SE class of Java-this and Java-that to run everywhere. It might work ... if the applications are there to bring this chicken home to sit on the eggs and they quickly hatch. It will be an interesting, albeit short, period of time to see if this all flies.

On the other hand, once again, Sun may have fumbled the Java ball, this time with ME, one of the hithertofore bright spots for JAVA. Did the market move faster than Java? Or did Java mis-time the whole bloody thing? Either way, I thought the community process was designed to prevent that sort of thing.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Progress Software extends SOA reach with new deployment manager offering

Progress Software Corp. is offering developers a leg up in clearing one of the last hurdles in service-oriented architecture (SOA) -- deployment. Its Sonic Deployment Manager (SDM), which it announced this week, is designed to allow enterprises to model all aspects of a deployment and test production environments before roll-out.

SOA can provide many benefits to an enterprise -- agility and lower cost come to mind -- but it's not without its challenges. Once a company has decided on a SOA strategy, put an infrastructure in place, and tackled such issues as data access and governance, it's still faced with the daunting task of deployment, rolling out applications across the enterprise and across the lifecycle of each component.

Progress says the two key uses for SDM are lifecycle management and large-scale deployments. SDM can create a reproducible package of all components and configurations of a given deployment instance, which would allow precise rollback and recreation of a given environment, which would enable configuration management, auditing, and regulatory compliance.

Among the features of SDM, which is now available for $15,000, are:

  • Rapid, large scale deployment to automate installation and configuration on a large number of target systems.
  • Support for fast, iterative development to streamline migration from development through QA and to production.
  • Remote domain and site support for upgrading over a network.
  • Automated installation and configuration for tailored configuration.
  • Model-driven functionality that allows developers to model the installation independent of the machine parameters.
Last July, I had a lengthy podcast discussion about Software as a Service (SaaS) with Colleen Smith, managing director of Saas for Progress. You can listen to the podcast here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

BriefingsDirect SOA Insights analysts on virtualization trends and role of IT operations efficiency for SOA

Listen to the podcast. Or read a full transcript.

The latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Vol. 24, provides a roundtable discussion and dissection of Services Oriented Architecture (SOA)-related news and events, with a panel of IT analysts. In this episode, our experts examine virtualization trends through the acquisition this summer of XenSource by Citrix. We also discuss the $1.6-billion purchase of Opsware by HP as a way of analyzing IT management, automation and operations, as well as the impact on SOA.

Join noted IT industry analysts and experts Jim Kobielus, principal analyst at Current Analysis; Neil Macehiter, research director at Macehiter Ward-Dutton; Dan Kusnetzky, principal analyst and president of the Kusnetzky Group; Brad Shimmin, principal analyst at Current Analysis; Todd Biske, practicing enterprise architect for a Fortune 500 firm (formerly with MomentumSI); JP Morgenthal, CEO of Avorcor; and Tony Baer, principal of onStrategies. Our discussion is hosted and moderated by me, Dana Gardner.

Here are some excerpts:
On Virtualization and Citrix-XenSource

Virtualization is definitely something that organizations are looking at right now. For the clients I've worked with, it's been a mix. Some are really trying to embrace it on the server side and make use of it right now. Others are looking at possibly using it on the desktop for developers, when they need to get a specific development environment, but it’s definitely in people’s minds today. So, I would definitely classify it as in the list of strategic initiatives that companies are looking at and determining how to use appropriately.

The interesting thing about XenSource is that it’s been considered to be the leading, emerging alternative to VMware. It essentially virtualizes the machine to a slightly more native approach than VMware. It's a very interesting acquisition because Xen has had a relationship with Microsoft, where it gets access to Microsoft's virtualization technology, and it also fills a key gap for Citrix. ... Microsoft will still need some way of interoperating its hypervisor with the Linux environment. So, even though the relationships may change somewhat in the long run, there will still be some sort of technology sharing here.

The XenSource acquisition by Citrix is good for Microsoft, because it allows Microsoft to buy some time until Viridian is ready. A year from now, Microsoft can say, “Oh yeah, we don’t have Viridian ready just yet, but look at this. Two of our primary virtualization partners have gotten together to field an ever more comprehensive virtualization product portfolio, which is integrated or will be integrated fairly tightly with Viridian when that comes out." So, we'll hear Microsoft saying, “We don’t have it all together today, but we have partners who can give you a fuller virtualization portfolio to compete with EMC/VMware."

If we look at Citrix's portfolio, every single piece, service, or product offering is matched by something Microsoft is pushing now. That, in essence, means that Microsoft is trying to acquire the business that Citrix has and slowly remove Citrix from the limelight and off to the sidelines. ... [Citrix] needed a broader strategy, one that wasn’t focused solely on access mechanisms. The acquisition of XenSource gives them a broader story.

If we look at just the idea of what XenSource was doing with their processing virtualization management security, particularly their recent announcement of partnership with Symantec for the Veritas Storage Foundation software to be included in XenEnterprise, you could see that Citrix starts to have a more top-to-bottom virtualization story than they every had before. So, from a product portfolio view, this acquisition appears to make some sense.

We've been dealing with issues of the Microsoft platform for a long time around resource management, where we're fighting with SQL Server and other applications or resources, and each one has different memory requirements. This virtualized environment allows us to focus on giving our application 100 percent of the resources, and thereby never running out of things like TCP/IP sockets or having memory thrashing errors slowing down wireless communications, which is critical to Web services doing their job. So, it’s having a profound effect on the production environment.

This is a really interesting acquisition that will help XenSource at least get more mind share in the enterprise. Companies obviously have lots of Microsoft investments on all their desktops. There's a good chance that major enterprises have significant investments in Citrix as well, if they've got any need for remote access for their systems, terminal services, etc. It will open it up to a few more environments to add in this virtualization capability for organizations that were still unsure about what to do with open source. It’s a good thing from that perspective.

On the datacenter side, the promise there is better utilization of resources. As I said, if you really want to get into it, you could find a way to tune Microsoft. But I have a sys admin working in one of my clients who is fighting with this 3GB initialization parameter. When he puts it in one way, one app gets hit when he puts it in there. When he doesn’t put it in, other apps get hit. But mine [virtualized] works fine.

This is a clear case of where you go out and get an additional operating system license and put this into each application and in its own virtual machine running on a four-way or eight-way Intel Duo Core 2 machine -- they are running a storage area network (SAN) -- and you have one of the cleanest, most high performing environments I've ever seen.

SOA is, in effect, heightening this issue, because of the need for discrete services running with their own horses and their own power. ... What virtualization does is let you set up that verified stack on your server and not have to worry about breaking it down the road, because it's sitting in it's own virtual environment.

On HP-Opsware and SOA Operational Efficiency

If you start getting into the automation space, the HP-Opsware deal is obviously the more interesting one. There's a natural connection between the virtualization space and some of the movements in the management space.

When you really embrace SOA, you're going to wind up with more moving parts for a given solution. And in doing so, you could create this management challenge of how to allocate resources for each of these individual services that have their own life cycle. There's a natural potential to move towards server virtualization to do that, so you can get your arms around that whole management concept. Where I've been disappointed in the management space, however, was that we really haven’t seen anything from the large systems management vendors to start tackling this problem.

So, if we are creating lots and lots of services -- you may now have 500 or 1,000 services -- you have to look at that and say, "I have a bigger management problem." There's no reason we can’t take the concepts of SOA and apply them to the management environment.

So, whether it's automated provisioning of solutions, automated policy management, a need to change SOA’s or enable more resources for a particular consumer, there is no reason that I shouldn’t be able to have my management systems call a service to do that. I may want to set up custom orchestrations for how to manage my infrastructure. I may want it all automated out of the box and just push a switch and have it happen.

In order to get there, we've got to have management services on all of our infrastructure, and that’s where there's a huge gap. Everything is still intended to be used by a person. Maybe with some creative scripting, people are able to do it, but you can compare it to the days of Web-enabling mainframes, where the technique was to screen scrape off the green screens. You almost have to do the same thing from the management side now. Look at these user-facing consoles, figure out what glue you can put in front of it to script it, and automate it.

I want to see my SOA installations able to speak to and hear from my datacenter systems management solutions. And right now, for that closed loop you were talking about, everything we see is the basic SNMP traps that may get read by Tivoli’s program. That lets you say, "Okay, there is an alert that one of my servers is overrun on memory. I’ve got these applications running on it, I am going to need to do something, and I see an alert that I can drill down on, and do some basic root-cause analysis."

That’s not enough for a true Business Technology Optimization (BTO) and being able to utilize the resources you are trying to marshal for a SOA environment. I want my Tivoli Application Manager to fully automate that process, look at the variables and the event stream coming from my systems, correlate that, and put it into some sort of context with my applications that are running on it.

I had a conversation with Paul Preiss, who heads up the International Association of Software Architects (IASA) about this very thing. He has raised a point and is trying to drive attention toward the exponential growth of SOA, as people start to add services and services become dependent upon services and organizations. ... From a product perspective, when you deliver a product as a SOA, you're delivering the architecture, and then you are delivering the implementation of that architecture. Therefore, you have a very controlled instance in which you can manage very easily without needing large governance controls, because you're providing all the infrastructure for management of that SOA as part of your application.

[However] when you have a lot of legacy infrastructure and legacy investment, and people without the sophisticated SOA architecture experience on staff start developing services, you open yourself up for potential disaster. In those instances, the organization has to ask itself, "Are we ready to invest here?" Every organization obviously wants to take advantage of the latest technologies. This is one of them that can really end up biting them if they are not careful. So they need to step back and think about what it takes to invest in SOA and start to wrap their legacy systems and make them available.

Opsware is very good at automating provisioning in the lifecycle, but it’s around the infrastructure that’s running the services, not the services themselves. That’s where the linkage needs to come. ... The vendors in the space -- the BMCs, IBMs, HPs, all of them -- have really missed this, and they’ve been lacking in explaining how they're really going to manage the services, because they're so fine-grained. Historically, managing an instance of an SAP application server is very coarse-grained, and that’s comparatively straightforward. But, when you're talking about disaggregating that and having application components everywhere, you have to disaggregate the way you manage as well.
Listen to the podcast. Or read a full transcript.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

BEA-Oracle products assimilation roadmap analyzed, but what about the sales forces?

Here's the third-day story on the BEA-Oracle merger development: How would the various products line up?

Rich Seeley talks with several analysts, myself included, in this in-depth story about the ways in which tools, app servers, portals, transaction monitors, SOA components, and other integration middleware like ESBs would or would not mesh.

It's a well-rounded look at the landscape from the product perspective. Good reading, if I don't mind saying so.

I suppose the next interesting assimilation concern would be the sales organizations. BEA has a large direct sales force, though not as large as Oracle's. Should a deal go through and the redundancies are, err ... managed, that would leave a lot of enterprise IT sales talent looking for work.

Some of the BEA sales veterans may be miffed at the financial restatements and market unease at the stock options backdating issues at the firm. That might complicate their exits and/or assimilation into the Oracle fold. The Oracle sales force has a distinct, err ... culture, that may not be for everyone.

What's more, many of the smaller SOA market vendor entrants are often in a difficult position when it comes to the high early-on costs of assembling a global (or even regional) direct sales force with the knowledge, experience, and contacts to effectively sell such complex and costly products. There are therefore opportunities for these vendors to now bulk up on direct sales veterans in the enterprise software and infrastructure spaces, once the BEA salesforce is in play. Get those resumes polished. And time to re-negotiate the non-competes and severance terms!

The mashup of BEA and Oracle could offer some opportunities for other vendors to come in and make some stock and innovative compensation offers these salespeople can't refuse. I should think the headhunters in the space are smiling today as they make their calls and check in on the golf games and family matters of many sales professionals in the BEA camp.

IBM, Microsoft and SAP recruiters will be sniffing about too, no doubt. Change, as they say, is good.