Monday, March 31, 2008

WSO2 launches Web Services Framework for Spring 1.0

"Contract first" or "code first?" Spring developers now have a choice with WSO2's release of Web Services Framework (WSF) for Spring 1.0. The new WSF/Spring 1.0 integrates the Apache Axis2 /Java Web services engine into the Spring Framework, giving Spring users full control from within the Spring configuration model.

The existing SpringWebServices (SWS) within Spring supports Web services through the contract-first model, by which users start with XML schema and WSDL definitions of their service. WSF/Spring 1.0 adds code-first support, by which users can start with existing Spring beans and offer them as Web services with a simple Spring configuration.

Paul Freemantle, co-founder and VP of sales at WSO2, the open-source SOA company located in Mountain View, Calif., and Sri Lanka, explains why this new feature is important in his personal blog:

So how does this compare to Spring Web Services? Well, the first thing is that SWS is mainly about contract-first. And, while contract first is an excellent practice, there are times when it is not appropriate - for example, it may be simply too much effort for a simple first web service. WSF/Spring supports the POJO programming model simply and effectively, and generates the WSDL automatically from the beans you expose. (WSF/Spring does also expose contract-first). The second reason is simply that some users want to use Axis2. Axis2 is a very full featured and interoperable toolkit that does support some extra standards not yet available in SpringWS such as WS-SecureConversation, WS-Trust, WS-Policy and WS-ReliableMessaging. Axis2 also takes a very different approach to enabling these standards using the module approach rather than direct wiring of handlers.

WSF/Spring 1.0 is released under Apache License 2.0 and is based on the open source Apache Axis2/Java Web services engine. Key features include:
  • Support for the WS*- stack, including WS-Addressing, WS-Policy WS-Security, WS-SecurityPolicy, WS-ReliableMessaging, WS-Eventing, and SOAP Message Transmission Optimization Mechanism (MTOM).
  • Inversion of Control (IOC) container support enabling Spring services to be exposed through an IOC container, as well as support for editing the Axis2 booting configuration through the IOC container.
  • Automated WSDL generation via the Axis2/Java code generation tool.
  • Querying service support.
  • Method exclusion in Spring beans, allowing developers to have fine-grained control over which methods are exposed as Web service operations.
WSO2 has been making the news on a regular basis lately. In mid-January, it introduced its Web Services Framework for Ruby 1.0, building a bridge between Ruby-based applications and enterprise-class Web Services. Later in January it launched its Mashup Server 1.0, which combined JavaScript and Web services. [Disclosure: WSO2 has been a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

WSF/Spring 1.0 is available for download today, and carries no software licensing or subscription fees. Support is available from the WSO2 site.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

We know SOA depends on cultural shifts, but -- like the weather -- we still don't do much about it

Recent observations on on lack of meaningful SOA adoption suggest that the technologies and techniques have amounted to but a mere improvement on EAI. Some conveniently calling it EAI 2.0, but admit the effects are not yet wide nor deep.

We have yet to see SOA adoption lead to substantive transformation, surveys and primary research will no doubt indicate.

The acknowledgment that SOA requires top-down, bottom-up, organizational and behavioral, ie "cultural," change to proceed to its potential is well documented and debated. We have come back to this topic again and again, for example, on the BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition analyst-powered podcast series.

So let's recognize that a higher purpose is at work here, and that SOA is a subset -- not even a leading driver, perhaps -- of the end-game. Also augmenting and influencing the IT transformation journey in addition to SOA are several mega IT trends and shifts (in no particular order): SaaS, RIA/mashups, virtualization, cloud computing, open source adoption, ITIL adoption, business process outsourcing, applications modernization, data center consolidation, SAN adoption, BI, BPM, master data management, etc. etc. etc.

There are great new tools and effects that can make IT perform better. The tech folks obviously have their hands full with them, and are often expected to implement under the "do more for less" ongoing mandate, the unfortunate business-side takeaway from Moore's Law.

But these IT efficiencies are the means, not the ends. The end-game is business transformation. Contingent to and in coordination with that is IT transformation. The relationship between the two is intrinsic, interdependent and highly variable -- from enterprise to enterprise, IT department to IT department -- often an enigma in motion. While the IT trends deeply affect the trajectory of the IT-centric transformation, they to do necessarily have an understood or appreciable influence on the business transformation processes.

Frankly, it's all too complex, too unwieldy, too unmanageable -- this bridging of the "business side" with the "IT side." People and passions play a huge role, too. Agendas get crafted. Sides are taken. Leaders and followers emerge. Politics permeates the process, regardless of how well the IT performs. And then any means to meaningfully simplify the complexity (tactically or strategically) become themselves highly complex. And so on. And so on. Transformation remains a distant vision.

There remains therefore an ongoing, pernicious reinforcement gap between the change agents of IT, the change agents of business requirements, and the means to engender change in cultures, groups and individuals. In other words the politics of change in large, complex organizations remains a mystical, quizzical patchwork of leaps, lunges and stumbles.

Let's not necessarily blame SOA or IT, any more than we should blame the rain. SOA in of itself is not enough to overcome the many obstacles on the path to ongoing and effective business and cultural transformation.

And yet, companies do succeed. Profits are made. Solutions are crafted and delivered to markets. Buyers keep buying, and workers keep working. Productivity seems to emerge and proceed at a certain scale, at the right level of decentralization. They say our brains are constructed to work best in close groups of 8-10, and to seek cooperation in larger groups up to about 140. Family and village are the scales we've been designed for. People therefore naturally seem to gravitate back to the scale that works, and perhaps even subconsciously resist moving beyond the perceived scale (and perhaps natural order) that actually functions for them.

There's a fascinating new essay by Paul Graham, "You Weren't Meant to Have a Boss," that relates this to developers and software development, but there may be a larger lesson in it, too. IT is great and keeps getting better by leaps and bounds, but biology and evolution are destiny. IT needs to line up behind this fact, not seek to side-step it -- or worse, ignore it. It's not nice to fool mother nature, as the margarine commercial used to say.

Politics is the process by which groups of people make decisions. SOA's expected role and virtue is closely tied to politics. And the decisions being made by IT executives, by business management, and by the line of business implementors often have very little relationship, little in the way of interchange between the people and the processes in a natural order.

SOA's great promise is to help align people, process, and processing. But something remains in the way. SOA lacks a political context. It lacks power over the people, and so far the power of the people has not been much interested in embracing SOA. Why should they?

We in the industry have not answered this question: Why should the people promote SOA as a means for them to get their jobs done in the ways they know work best in real life. What's in it for the average bear? What are the incentives to SOA adoption for those carrying the load?

The politics of SOA needs to succeed if SOA is to succeed as a lynchpin of both IT and business transformation. When SOA's virtues are translated to real improvements to real people, we may see the myriad gears of adoption mesh.

There should be a good story here. I think SOA is part of the answer, not the problem. But looking to SOA to change cultures seems to be a moot expectation. Politics changes cultures, and cultures are reflected in politics.

When the business consumers of IT services demand SOA and its effects, then we'll see the real transformation.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Elastra emerges to make cloud computing more attainable for enterprises

Cloud computing as a concept has been gathering significant interest in the past months, but aside from developers, testers and startups, the ability to exploit the efficiencies and cost-benefits of cloud computing for average enterprises have remained hard to grasp.

Startup Elastra unveiled its approach today to making cloud computing more practical, introducing two markup languages -- one (ECML) that helps pull applications together to deploy to a cloud environment, and a second (EDML) to help define and organize the right cloud-based infrastructure to support those applications.

In general the Elastra approach provides onramps to compute clouds based on descriptive tools that help reduce complexity for IT departments. This should encourage experimentation and ultimately lead to ramp ups in the use of public clouds, as well as the build-out and use of home-grown, so-called private clouds. Less attention has been given of late to the promise of private clouds, which are really a natural extension of current datacenter consolidation, clustering, application modernization, ITIL and virtualization initiatives.

As virtualized software has become the primary layer over now-buried hardware that architects and engineers must deal with, we should expect more tools and "bridging" technologies like Elastra to emerge to help grease the skids for what can (and should?) be deployed in clouds. The software then becomes agile services that can be provisioned and consumed via innovative and highly efficient business models and use-based metering schemes.

I suppose we can coin this as "middleware for cloud computing," or maybe "APIs for cloud computing." In any event, let's hope these onramps become highly visual, automated and increasing based on widely accepted standards.

Because Elastra's approach allows applications to be deployed to public (like Amazon's EC2/S3) or private clouds (like the ones many enterprises are likely to build out as they virtualize datacenters), it aims to become a de facto standard for accessing cloud resources. Packaged under the Elastra Cloud Server, the database-driven product can help bring applications rapidly to a pay-as-you-use model. Enterprises may be able to provide more applications as services, charging internal consumers as a managed service provider.

I had a chance to sit down last week and discuss the arrival of ECML and EDMl with Kirill Sheynkman, president and CEO of Elastra. He was a major force behind integration and enterprise portal provider Plumtree Software, which was acquired by BEA in 2005. Indeed, there are a lot of former BEA folks under the hood at Elastra.

Sheynkman is obviously a fan of cloud-based infrastructures, and also has had experience on what it takes to practically define and introduce a new category to the enterprise IT mind. His vision for the cloud opportunity is compelling, but his feet seem firmly on the ground, with a strong sense of what will work in real-world use.

Part of Elastra's DNA is putting more data in the cloud, where it can be used assiduously to support apps, services and business processes. And once the data layer makes its way to the cloud (private, public or both), can the rest of the support infrastructure be far behind? We're already seeing a lot of talk around integration as a service, and infrastructure as a service. And we're also increasingly seeing tools and development as a service.

Once the IT support infrastructure is effectively abstracted to a cloud, with specific languages to manage and access those resources, then the move to Nick Carr's utility vision seems well under way. What remains is for the tools and architecture definitions to be readily described, communicated, and managed for the compelling economics of cloud-based support to take off.

I'm beginning to think the segue to the cloud could happen sooner than many think, and be very much a mainsteam enterprise endeavor after all.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

SpringSource releases tool suite based on Eclipse Mylyn

SpringSource, the company behind the Spring Portfolio Java application platform, has announced its SpringSource Tool Suite, a Spring-specific developer tool set designed to reduce the complexity of enterprise Java development and maintenance.

Based on Eclipse Mylyn, SpringSource Tool Suite extends Mylyn's task focus, tool integration, and workflow streamlining to enterprise application development and is designed to relieve information overload for developers by identifying only the information relevant to the task at hand.

Targeted to both ends of the developer spectrum, the tool suite provides tool-guided assistance to newcomers to the Spring Framework, while providing seasoned experts with architecture review tools to ensure best practices and support tools for finding resolutions for incidents.

The tool suite builds on the success of Eclipse, Mylyn, and Spring IDE to simplify the large aggregation of tools used in complex applications.

While the SpringSource press releases glossed over many of the specifics of the tools suite, Charlie Babcock at Information Week did a little digging and found some nuggets:

Java developers frequently test their programs by running them and are notified of runtime errors, prompting them to search through thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of lines of code, to find the errors. With the SpringSource Tool Suite, they will be able to zero in on problematic code, with the relevant lines highlighted in a different color, said Christian Dupuis, SpringSource lead engineer on the SpringSource Tool Suite, in an interview. By mousing over the segment, the Tool Suite will consult a database of known problems and in some cases be able to recommend a solution.

In other news, SpringSource has joined the Eclipse Foundation and will assist in developing the Eclipse ecosystem.

Sybase releases iPhone enterprise email solution

Sybase has now released the iAnywhere solution for bringing enterprise emails to the Apple iPhone. We blogged on this just a few days ago.

Based on the reaction, Sybase will get a lot more evaluation for their mobile messaging solution, even though it's designed to work with most all mainstream smartphones.

And, my, oh, my, I just keep seeing more people with iPhones, just about everywhere I go this week in the Bay Area. I'm glad this is panning out as I expected a mere hour after the announcement of the iPhone's pending release.

Apple has finally found its toehold in the enterprise with iPhone. The only question is much of the rest of the Apple bandwagon gets dragged into the big business maw. I have to say, using Keynote to whip out a preso I'm giving this morning saved my butt. Trying to do it in Powerpoint would have made me miss the point.

Oh, and now Safari runs on Windows, faster than most, and comparable to FireFox 3.x.

Yep, despite the Microsoft-funded malarky from some quarters, Apple is pushing its envelope further than ever. Productivity wins after all?

Monday, March 17, 2008

EclipseCon debuts OSGi runtime offerings, common platform frees up developers from middleware drudgery

Tony Baer has a great rundown of the EclipseCon OSGI-based runtime Equinox news today. Extending the Eclipse community's unity to runtimes makes a ton of sense, given that developers can focus on the applications and business logic and become far less concerned with complex deployment issues. Write once, run anywhere?

Eclipse's component development plan, called CODA (Component Oriented Development and Assembly), hinges on Eclipse's Equinox, which is the foundation's OSGi-based runtime and a part of the new Eclipse Runtime project.

The best new benefits will come in the conjunction of the Eclipse tools and Equinox runtimes. For example, developers in a vertical industry niche can use the tools and runtimes together and via community synergies enjoy a "common platform for participation."

I've long been a complainer about the gulf between runtime and design time, with the clear need for better feedback between the two -- especially in the era of Agile and web services assembly. An Eclipse-Equinox ecology symmetry gets us on the way.

The arrival of OSGi-based runtimes also conjures up the ability to repackage middleware as OSGi bundles, sort of like the BEA microarchitectures, which would be most welcome in highly virtualized runtime stack environments. Are you going to need a full LAMP or Windows stack to support a service in an SOA? Why not build a SOA stack on top of Equinox? Check out Swordfish on this sort of thing.

I can see where the OSGi runtime stuff, open source ESB stuff and variety of SOA tools in general can come together in fruitful ways. Flexible custom stacks and SOA make great conceptual bedfellows. Optimized stacks on the fly?

There are also implications for the SaaS and cloud folks, whereby they can look to these flexible custom Equinox stacks to efficiently support their applications and services, be they in virtualized or traditional stacks. Custom build the apps from the ground up, for better performance, less waste, less integration headaches. Green, baby.

What's more, the whole mobile and MID space is a perfect target for OSGi runtime bundles, given that OSGi originated in the embedded space. Small, lightweight, and reliable -- works for me. Sprint is already an OSGi fan. I think we'll also see OSGi running closely with Android. And Android on the iPhone (someday) offers a very interesting future.

Who loses from a viral Equinox runtime community and uptake? Well, Microsoft and .NET offer similar values, but with less openness and choice. The Java community is entertaining some JSRs, numbers 291 and Sun's 277, that undergird new component models. Sun losing traction on 277 could mean a further loss of control over Java.

Winners could be IBM, because the Lotus Notes and associated groupware clients are already OSGi-based. Community development around Notes, et al -- nice fit, for sure. They ought to give all that Notes client stuff away under OSS licenses anyway, no?

Microsoft licenses Adobe Flash Lite, turns up heat under Apple and iPhone?

Look for Flash applications to be coming to more mobile devices near you, just not an iPhone. Adobe Systems announced today that Microsoft has licensed Adobe's Flash Lite software to enable Flash-compatible content in the Internet Explorer Mobile browser.

This will mean that people using those devices will be able to access the building avalanche of rich content available via Flash clients. Microsoft has also licensed Adobe Reader LE software, which will allow users to view email attachments and Web content in PDF format.

Maybe Microsoft really does get the benefits of open, for fun and profit ... or at least to take some oxygen from the market competition.

[UPDATE: Looks like Apple and Abode have been of a like mind on this. See Computerworld story.]

Microsoft will also make Flash Lite and Reader LE available to OEMs who license Windows Mobile software.

Flash Lite already runs on numerous devices, and Adobe estimates that over half a billion have already shipped with Flash capability. However, the latest news now puts more pressure on Apple, whose popular iPhone doesn't support Flash, something that has had the blogoshpere bubbling since the iPhone made its debut. The recent iPhone SDK did nothing to make Flash a feature either.

I mean, I don't get it. Apple will deal with Microsoft to bring Exchange to iPhone, but resists Flash content. I know Apple has been a persnickety partner, but this is not necessarily putting the customer first.

Last July, Walt Mossberg went out on a limb and predicted that iPhones would see Flash "within the next couple of months."

Chris Zeigler at the Endgadget Mobile blog refers to the "spat" between Apple and Adobe as being part of a Goldilocks syndrome. Last week, he quoted part of Steve Jobs' remarks at a recent shareholders meeting:

Basically, Steve doesn't like Flash Lite -- the pared-down version Adobe has designed for small screens and lightweight processors -- and the full-fledged version has too much bloat for the iPhone's resources.

Whether Jobs is right remains to be seen, but the half billion devices that already use Flash technology may put a few holes in his argument. It would seem that Apple is in kind of a bind. The early adopters and gadget geeks have all gotten their iPhones, and now competitors are lining up with similar products, some coming in at a much lower price than the iPhone.

Later adopters, and even some gadget geeks, may place less value on novelty and slick features, and pay more attention to the rich media experience they're already used to on desktops and laptops. A lot of smart phones and PDAs already use Windows Mobile. Adding Flash to those would create a lot of pressure in the market.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sybase readies means to make iPhone a Lotus Notes client

Take a look at this Flash demo of an Apple iPhone running corporate email mainstay Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange using Sybase technology. And this is without the benefits of the recently delivered SDK.

Not sure when this will be available (I expect quite soon). But it shows that iPhones can very rapidly be used for online/offline corporate email, with the corporate address book accessed via the iPhone's browser. So you won't have to depend on the local address book.

This demo has me jazzed to take the best of the iPhone UI and multiple network connections and jibe it with the best of corporate email. Could this be a Blackberry buster?

We won't know if the total cost of the Sybase iAnywhere plus email plus iPhone costs competes with the total cost of the Blackberry approach until Sybase announces. But it is nice to see more competition. Prices are bound to come down.

IT administrators will very soon have a number of choices on enabling their users to access email, address book and some calendar functions via the iPhone. This Sybase iAnywhere approach, which I first reported on last fall, handles both IBM Lotus Notes/Domino and Microsoft Exchange for mobile delivery.

iAnywhere also delivers these email back-ends to many other mobile clients, too. So there may be plenty of different mobile endpoints in use -- though we know the panache the iPhone generates and therefore the iPhone is set for a place in the enterprise pantheon.

We know that soon Exchange support will come to iPhone via ActiveSync. But Lotus Notes email will need different support. Sybase will, no doubt, have the very large Lotus market in its sights when it makes the iPhone solution available.

I'm also curious what the experience will be if, as reported, we see a JVM on the iPhone, and perhaps an OSGi-based client that could make the iPhone a very cool end-point to all things Domino, including all those workflow apps. And the client would keep running no matter what other apps or tools the iPhone wanders into. Dropping app sessions when changing apps is a kind of downer for the iPhone with the current SDK.

So look for the Sybase foot to drop on availability and pricing on iPhone support to corporate email soon, especially Lotus email. It's good to have choice.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sun waits out Microsoft, gets some interoperability bang after all

What a nut I was. Back when Sun Microsystems and Microsoft announced they would be joining forces on interoperability between Sun, nee Java, and .NET (remember Steve Ballmer [of "Ballmer and Butthead" fame) and Scott McNealy sitting side by side) I thought they meant it.

I pushed the envelope, just for giggles, calling for binary compatibility between Java and .NET/DCOM/COM. What good was mere web services standards interoperability when what the enterprises really needed was a way to make their Windows stuff and the rest of their stuff work well together? I figured the customer has to count in all of this, somehow. I still thank all those who held their hysterics and brickbats in check.

Long before SOA became a tech buzzword, I was thinking it made sense for native low-level messaging between Windows Everywhere and, well ... everywhere else. I even suggested that Microsoft buy BEA Systems and make it the glue between all things .NET/Windows legacy stuff and, well ... everything else.

Now, today, we're part more of the way there. It's still the Microsoft roach motel -- service message calls go in but they can't come out. But there seem to be more ways for the roaches to move around, which may lead to even more openness if the little buggers can chew long enough.

The biggest shift is not that Microsoft is doing away with the roach motel, it's just that they are not so much concerned with the client any more -- they want (and must) preserve the roach motel on the server. And that means Microsoft needs partners, because the relationship between the virtualized hardware means that multi-core, multi-thread hardware (and the interplay between binary-level software and parallelism) counts more than ever.

And so in today's announcements there are strong hints of this shift by Microsoft. Indeed, this latest in the recent Microsoft drumroll of openness and interoperability fobs includes some downright interesting stuff:
  • A demonstration and testing area for Windows on Sun x64 systems and storage
  • A lab space for customer proofs-of-concept focused on Windows Server 2008 on Sun x64 systems and storage
  • The ability to certify Java Platform Enterprise Edition (Java EE) and Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE), including Sun's Java Runtime Environment software for and with Microsoft operating environments and applications
  • Joint work to help enable cross-platform server virtualization, including Windows Hyper-V and Sun xVM software
  • Cross-company collaboration to allow Sun Ray thin client software to provide a first-rate virtual desktop for the Windows environment and support Windows technologies.
Much of the "sharing" comes via a Sun/Microsoft Interoperability Center on Microsoft's Redmond, Wash. campus. Yo, engineers without borders: That's good work if you can get it.

It's nice to see the ongoing Java compatibility moves. You may recall that Microsoft paid more than $20 million for the right to screw up Java compatibility long enough to let open source frameworks and stacks become truly useful. Now that was money well spent!

Now, perhaps to reduce the true usefulness of open source frameworks and OSGi runtimes (just in the nick of time), Sun and Microsoft can see eye to eye on Java. It should work with Windows. Fine, no need to quarrel on that account any longer.

Much more interesting here is the cross-platform server virtualization stuff. So the VMs can work on a variety of platforms? Right, stunning achievement. Virtualization can be virtual after all. We all thank you. Let's move on.

And then there's the: "Allow Sun Ray thin client software to provide a first-rate virtual desktop for the Windows environment and support Windows technologies." Whoa. And not even a week after Exchange Server support on the Apple iPhone.

So you'll be able to run a Windows instance (via terminal emulation, no doubt -- hey, and maybe even Java if performance can muster) in the Sun Ray. This does show some shifts. Microsoft wants the client license and the "software plus services" payola, and who cares what the end hardware device is, right?

Between Microsoft's acquiescence that the iPhone is not going away and will soon end up en masse in the enterprise -- and this acknowledgment that thin clients can be a good value after all -- we see Microsoft moving away from the big honking hardware PC mantra, and closer to the "big, honking webtone switch" mantra.

Thin clients can be good for Microsoft, because it can get a CAL for the Windows instance, and for the server license. And, over time, for the ad revenue and per-user subscriptions for the applications and services. That's "software plus services," and not "hardware plus services," folks.

So Sun was right after all. They were right about "write once, run anywhere." They were right about 64-bit servers, 64-bit files, parallelism, Rock, Niagara, utility, grid. They were right about virtualization (but wrong about not buying VMWare). They were right about thin client terminals (though not right about buying Cobalt).

And now Microsoft gets it, too. Trouble is Microsoft can better afford mistakes than Sun. Yet Sun has been able to wait out the uber trends nonetheless, notwithstanding some investor value diminishment. And Microsoft is not being stupid, not being happy with investor value diminishment either.

From this new shift at Microsoft who is left in the dust? All those PC hardware makers, for one. Guess we should expect thin terminal products from HP and Dell any day now. Heck, why not go straight to the mobile Internet device (MID) and leap-frog the thin clients all together?

The shift also mean we're going to see more of Microsoft being a kingmaker in the market for the lower-cost, higher-performance server clouds that support virtualized Windows containers. Sun ought to do pretty well there, and may give Dell, HP and IBM a run on total cost.

Ironic, but just as Java compatibility seems complete, Sun's future may actually be in providing the cloud support for more Windows containers than Java. Funny, eh?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

JVM on iPhone adds to seduction of enterprise IT buyers to mobile computing

Sun Microsystems' plans to tune the micro Java Virtual Machine to the iPhone -- leveraging the new SDK to characterize the JVM as an "application" -- could quickly turn the iPhone into a powerful business tool that IT executives can love too.

The iPhone may have hit the trifecta with Microsoft Exchange support (take that RIM!), the new SDK, and now the probable June arrival of a native JVM. These add up to an enterprise-ready mobile endpoint that ushers the iPhone from a smart phone/PDA/browser into the first (but not last) true mobile Internet device (MID) for fun and work.

Apple's SDK and targeted VC funding to spur on native iTunes apps will pay huge dividends eventually for consumers and the media hungry power users. But businesses looking for better mobile endpoints won't rush to another client platform.

The enterprise trend is away from supporting client-installed applications to embracing RIAs, web services, SOA-supported SaaS, and such client frameworks as Flex/Flash/AIR and Silverlight. The browser is king, more than ever, forever. Java can still play in this game quite well, however, and (performance willing) extend enterprise investments in Java to the edge.

Sun will need to make the JVM on iPhone scream. The iPhone and its MID ilk could be what client side Java has needed all along. There will need to be some compelling apps right away for this Java-iPhone mashup to gain traction. That is certainly doable, give the global stable of Java developers.

Iphone won't have the MID field to itself for long, so time is of the essence. There will be JVMs elsewhere, and Android and the OHA could quickly bear fruit. This is a huge potential market. Apple needs to seduce developers and IT architects and executives now. The Safari browser and "pinch" UI are Apple's competitive edge on the edge.

So what will immediately intrigue enterprise IT departments? Secure connections to mainstay enterprise browsers, along with email and groupware. The Microsoft Exchange announcement this week takes care of that. And the OSGi-based Lotus Notes et al from IBM should follow suit.

Incidentally, look for some compelling OSGi runtime announcements at this months EclipseCon. OSGI, having come from the embded world, makes total sense for iPhone.

And there are more than one way to skin the enterprise iPhone cat. You may also recall that Sybase highlighted a way to bring enterprise email and PIM, as well as some apps, to the iPhone several months ago at some additional expense to use their servers. For shops already using the iAnywhere approach, this may be the way to go.

But secure web browser connections to existing enterprise web applications is the real treat the iPhone can deliver to enterprises that would encourage them to actually buy iPhones en masse for their workers. It may be an offer they can't refuse.

I hope that the Mozilla Foundation takes the iPhone SDK and develops a lightweight Firefox browser for the iPhone ASAP. Combine the web apps that the iPhone Firefox and Safari together support, toss in SSL via Java, and create the means to easily set up VPNs -- and that's when iPhone becomes the darling of the mobile enterprise.

Of course the critical mass of such adoption pushes iPhone beyond the role of MID and begins to east away at the definition of a personal computer. Use bluetooth or USB to hook up the enterprise iPhone to a keyboard and mouse and maybe monitor and get rid of those PCs altogether. All mobile, all the time. The iPhone becomes the ubiquitous enterprise thin client, at less than $500, and it's a phone too. And you can take it anywhere and work. One device. Nice.

But for now, I don't see the cost-benefits in writing native iPhone apps or porting existing enterprise apps to iPhone. Maybe never. You don't need native computing and local data storage to make great use of iPhone for businesses purposes. As the PC goes to mostly browser use, the MID takes over.

Yes, there will be oddles of interesting innovation, native iPhone apps that can aid user productivity and make them better connected wherever they go.

The iPhone can become the MID for business, and start to replace the PC outright for a significant portion of workers. The only question is whether the users will buy the iPhone and have their IT departments set it up for enterprise use, or whether the IT departments will buy it for the workers first.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

It's good news, bad news: Microsoft gets its Internet act together

From a variety of sources, I'm hearing the same thing that Robert Scoble is, and that is that Microsoft under Ray Ozzie is making major strides in giving Web developers what they want, opening the client-side stuff well with IE 8, putting core productivity apps as services online, and assembling the cloud-supported infrastructure to make a compelling new case for keeping Microsoft on the short list of premier tools, runtime vendors AND service providers.

The Google fear on the business model disruption, the Apple fear on the client disruption, and the Amazon fear on the cloud disruption, seems to be making Microsoft do what anti-trust regulators, Java, open source developers, Linux, Firefox, OpenDocument, IBM, Novell, and a chorus of Microsoft bashers like myself have been trying for many years. And that is ultimately to save Microsoft from itself.

At the PDC in LA a mere 2.5 years ago it seemed like Redmond was slipping backwards in time into a gradual descent with its Connected Computing drive, and with us all connected to the Indigo bus using only MS file formats. This was, as I said at the time, an attempt to make the web a client/server affair, with Microsoft's fat clients (not its browser) the client bits. Microsoft seemed to think it has whipped the wed sufficiently to go back to the old tricks -- integrated tools plus client monopoly plus closed packaged apps equals total domination.

Now, we're seeing a much different approach, of actually meeting the Internet on its terms, and making the Microsoft way shift -- and not the other way around. We'll see more open tools, plus less lock-in to the client monopoly, plus less closed and packaged services, with a differentiated subscription and ad-supported business model. Total domination, perhaps not; but long slog to irrelevance and demise -- no way.

With Silverlight, we see RIA tools that bridge client environments -- even non-Microsoft mobile runtimes and Linux. We're seeing an IE 8 that supports (rather than subverts) de facto and official web standards. With Microsoft Online Services you can side-step the closed fat client apps. We're seeing low-cost commodity infrastructure in the cloud with SQL Server Data Services instead of server lock-in. [Message to Sun: Get MySQL Services on your cloud ASAP, and for free!]

Yes, all those that have been surrounding Microsoft with 1,000 cuts for years, ganging up on them, picking on them, teasing them, disrupting their cash cows and taking the punch out of their arrogance -- you have done a great job. You mooned the giant, and the giant changed instead of charged. Jack did not get a chance to cut the beanstalk while the giant was still in descent. The giant went back to the lab in his castle, lead by Ray Ozzie.

As a result, Google is not going to get away with chopping down the vine unmolested. Yahoo and Amazon are not going to combine to form the perfect web services/ecommerce cloud. Apple remains an elitist playground with a nice music businesses. Time Warner, AT&T, Motorola, Novell and Red Hat remain out to lunch. Microsoft will still generate enough gravity to hold IBM, SAP, HP, Dell, Intel, Nokia, and the global SIs in a tight orbit. And if Microsoft plays the advertising network card (with Yahoo) right, it will form a new center of gravity for media and entertainment (and perhaps business services) to provide the second source to Google.

Trouble is, this is a good news, bad news moment.

The good news is that Microsoft can change and adapt (a least in its intentions and early deliverables so far). The bad news is that Microsoft can change and adapt, even if they need to hamstring their traditional cash cows to do it.

Microsoft used to want to prevent the need for a web monopoly play (almost impossible by definition) by embracing and extending its way to keeping its monopoly as the gatekeeper to the business and commerce Web. Now it making the bold move to convert its old monopoly into the new largest comprehensive web player. It may not be number one in all things web, but it might be in the top three for most everything web -- and that is also the bad news.

Microsoft, the violator of anti-trust laws and the consent decrees and EU rulings, is now poised to become the second source to Google in the ad-supported media world. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

And that raises the same old questions. Will the power increase to a point where the openness declines? Will the standards over time be increasingly set by the de facto marker leader? Will the Internet and its efficiencies work best for consumers and users, or those that can manipulate it best?

On the other hand, has Microsoft shot itself in the foot by going so open that they can never go back? Is the lock-in on the web no longer possible, for one vendor to create a choke-hold with critical mass with enough influence to reinstall the Church and shut down the bazaar?

These are the questions we'll need to revisit in three years. Seriously.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cloud computing for enterprises, work it through your head

Here are some great quotes from a Hiperware white paper I just read:
In combination, cluster computing and multi-core computers have the potential to provide unprecedented performance, scalability and reliability for enterprise software.

Much of the significant benefit evident in the ideology of multicore and cluster computing -- lower costs, higher availability and scalability -- is effectively negated by the cost, time, risk and complexity involved in developing and deploying software that can run on these systems.

... What hinders businesses from taking advantage of multicore and clustered hardware is the lack of a simple means – such as a Rapid Application Development (RAD) method – so that software developers can quickly develop, test and deploy
enterprise software on these systems.

By taking the engineering complexity away from multi-core and cluster-computing, Hiperware Platform makes it significantly easier for developers to write software that can be partitioned across multiple computers or CPU-cores or virtual machines.
The new paper goes on to detail several enterprise computing use-case scenarios that show how cloud computing architectures and methodologies, if enterprise developers can exploit them, will rapidly advance cost-benefits.

Cloud computing is not just for Google and Amazon, folks. It will be synonymous with high performance and then good old enterprise mission-critical computing, in all its forms, in the coming years.

The new neat trick will be managing how the clouds and SOAs relate and interact. And that spells more integration as a service, and more federated policy management and enforcement as a service. It's a whole new abstraction for middleware.

Cloud computing could be the next big opportunity for middleware.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Splunk goes 'platform' to extend IT search benefits across more IT management functions

Gaining more insights early and often into what vast arrays of servers, routers and software stacks are actually doing has long been on the top of the IT wish list. Traditional IT management approaches force the trade-off been depth and comprehensive reach, meaning you can't get the full, integrated picture across mixed systems with sufficient clarity.

Splunk's approach to this problem has been to index and make searchable the flood of constantly generated log files being emitted from IT systems, and then aligning the time stamps to draw out business intelligence inferences about actual IT performance.

The San Francisco company took the IT information assembly and digestion process a step further two years ago by creating Splunk Base, an open reservoir of knowledge about IT searched systems for administrators to share and benefit from. [Disclosure: Splunk is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts, including this one on Splunk Base.]

Now, recognizing the power of mashed up services and Enterprise 2.0 tools for associating applications, services, and data, Splunk has gone "platform." Instead of only providing the fruits of IT search to sys admins and IT operators, Splunk has created the means to offer developers easy access to that data and the powerful inferences gleaned from comprehensive IT search. That means the data can go places no log file has gone before.

Through a common set of services and APIs, the Splunk Platform now allows developers and equipment makers to build and integrate applications that include IT-search generated data. Because Splunk collects and manages logs, configurations, messages, traps and alerts -- compiling statistics from nearly every IT component -- the makers of IT equipment can build better management and maintenance applications (not to mention billable services).

In trial use, the Splunk Platform has already been leveraged by OEMs and systems integrators in the form of bundling and embedding Splunk with their own hardware, software and services. The opportunity there is for these OEMs and systems integrators to seek new business opportunities for offering ongoing maintenance and support values for their products and services.

What's more, the applications that the various OEMs, service providers, hosting organizations, and service bureau outsourcers build on Splunk, the more the applications can be used in coordination together, and the findings then integrated for faster problem solving, greater threat response, heightened compliance reporting, and for gaining business intelligence insight into user activity and transactions.

I like this approach because gaining an insight into total datacenter behavior in near real-time has been so difficult, but its importance is growing with the advances in virtualization, mixed-hosting arrangements, co-location, and SOA-based systems and infrastructure. In effect, both the complexity and heterogeneity of systems has kept growing, while the ability to gain common-denominator meta data about systems behaviors hasn't kept pace. We've long needed a way to make all systems "readable" in common ways.

With Splunk Platform and the applications it will spawn, IT information can now much better support and interact with distributed management applications. And we certainly need more innovative applications that can leverage this common meta data about systems to produce better management and quick feedback from systems and users.

Taking this all a step further, many of these applications and services can and should support an ecosystem. By easily distributing their applications and gaining the ability to download other applications created by anyone in the Splunk ecosystem, IT managers and the makers of IT equipment will benefit. To kick-start the effort, the first Splunk-built application on the platform was announced this week. Splunk for PCI Compliance is available for download from SplunkBase.

The application provides 125 searches, reports and alerts to help satisfy PCI requirements, including secure remote access, file integrity monitoring, secure log collection, daily log review, audit trail retention, and PCI control reporting, says Splunk. The goal is to make it simpler and faster for IT managers to comply, to answer auditor questions, and to control access to sensitive systems data. Splunk has taken pains to provide security and access control to the sensitive data, while opening up access to the non-sensitive information for better analysis.

Consequently, Splunk's foray into the developer world and applications ecosystems coincides with the company's release of Splunk 3.2, which now includes a Splunk for Windows version (on the same single code base that runs on Linux, Mac OSX, Solaris, FreeBSD and AIX). New features in Splunk 3.2 include transaction search and interactive field extraction to create easier ways for end users to generate their own applications. The update also extends the platform's capabilities with filesystem change monitoring, flexible roles, data signing and audit trails. A new REST API and SDKs for .Net and Python further opens the platform for more developers.

The Splunk Platform and associated ecosystem should quickly grow the means to bridge the need for transparency between runtime actualities and design-time requirements. When developers can easily know more about what applications and systems do in the real world in real time, they can make better decisions and choices in the design and test phases. This obviously has huge time- and money-saving implications.

The need for such transparency will quickly grow as virtualization and a services-based approach to applications gains stream and acceptance. We have seen some very powerful productivity improvements as general enterprise data has been mined for business intelligence. Now its time to better mine systems data for better IT intelligence.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Nexaweb Advance takes RIA value to the enterprise application modernization imperative

There are so many good reasons to modernize legacy and 3GL/4GL applications that enterprises are moving wholesale to modernization activities, changing entire classes of applications, and aligning them with SOA, SaaS, data center consolidation, ITIL, and energy-conservation/green initiatives.

Oh, and modernization allows you to gracefully get out of the costly fat PC client software support business and focus on the browser-only end points.

The building interest in virtualization is also a spur to getting out the client/server business and making more applications Web-facing and services-based. These moves, in turn, allow for better organizing data into common warehouses and SANs, allowing for BI and other benefits, while reducing storage and back-ups costs. Business continuity also gets a boost, because everything is on the server-side (often of low-cost x86 Linux).

In short, what enterprise's are really up to these days is datacenter transformation, the whole ball of wax, and in which applications modernization is an early and essential ingredient to begin enjoying the larger holistic productivity and costs benefits.

The trick is to keep those same older (and often mission critical) applications performing well, with the rich GUIs that users expect, and quickly leading to the back-end integration flexibility to make the legacy logic also part of any enterprise's SOA patterns.

For those applications deemed no longer mission-critical, application modernization allows for proper sunsetting. It is often worthwhile to cull out the still valued logic, transactional mappings, and data -- and apply them anew to other applications or processes -- before pulling the plug.

Yep, so many reasons to modernize, so few ways to do it without pain, confusion, and cost. And so into this gapping need, Nexaweb today takes its rich Internet application (RIA) solution value with Nexaweb Advance. [Disclosure: Nexaweb is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

For more on the whole rationale and business case for application modernization, check out a sponsored podcast I did with HP Services. ITIL v3 factors into this in a big, so here's some background on that, too.

For Nexaweb, the end game for enterprises is flexible composite workflows, and so the newest offerings are more than tools and platform, there's a professional services component, to take the best practices and solutions knowledge to market as well. The process includes applications assets capture and re-factoring (sort of like IT resources forensics), re-composition, deployment and then proper maintenance. In the bargain, you can gain a enhanced platform, increased automation, and services orientation.

The goal is to harvest all those stored procedures, but target them to newer architectures -- from Struts to Spring -- and move from client/server to Enterprise 2.0, is a leap-frog of sorts. The re-use of logic then allows those assets to be applied to model-driven architectures and the larger datacenter transformation values.

Nexaweb Advance pairs Nexaweb’s Enterprise Web Suite with automated code generation tools and professional services to deliver a model-driven architecture approach to the transformation of legacy PowerBuilder, ColdFusion, C++, VisualBasic, and Oracle Forms applications, according to the Burlington, Mass. company.

We have seen quite a bit of associating RIA values with SOA in the past few years, so I'm happy to see RIAs also becoming essential to other mainstream enterprise imperatives, like datacenter transformation.

Microsoft opens Pandora's box on online services, betting convenience is the killer app

Now that Microsoft has shown how online productivity applications and communications/groupware should be properly packaged, we can enter the new era of worker choice.

It's not that different from the choices developers have been making for years: Do you want the convenience of neat packaging (at the cost of flexibility and choice) or do you want to pick ala carte components that may best meet your needs and avoid lock-in?

Microsoft Online Services (MOS) is being launched for the U.S. today by Bill Gates at the annual Microsoft Office SharePoint Conference. The bevy of applications is designed to appeal to many kinds of users, and businesses of most sizes and character. A limited beta has been set up, with general availability during the second half of this year.

Core services will include Web-based e-mail, calendaring, contacts, shared workspaces, and webconferencing and videoconferencing over the Web. Microsoft is characterizing the services as part of its "software plus services" drive, so it's hard to tell how much of the "software" (that stuff installed on the PC or server) you'll need to use MOS.

Microsoft says these services will be "managed through a single Web-based interface," which sounds like a portal you'll need to log in to to add or manage users. "IT professionals can monitor the performance of the services, add and configure users, submit and track support requests, and manage users and licenses," says Microsoft.

As in development, some shops like a nice big package, with per developer seat licenses. Others give their developers more choice on tools, utilities, desktop OS, frameworks. They seem more interested in the work the developers do, than in how they do it.

We could see a similar breakdown among more general computing users, given the MOS versus Google services offerings so far. This is more than a matter of style or taste, one model is born of and imbued with client/server, and the other is of and imbued with the Web. You know which is which.

So, in effect, Microsoft is placing a Web shell on its old model, just like it put a GUI shell on DOS with DOS 5, and another shell on that with Windows 95.

Of course on costs, the beauty and/or devil is in the details. This is a subscription service, designed for businesses. Those businesses will pay on a per-user subscription basis. Those Microsoft shops, existing customers with Software Assurance on their Microsoft Client Access Licenses (CALs) will get a discount.

So there are two big issues here: Total cost, and convenience. And those will break down differently if you're a Microsoft "Assurance"-level user or a non-Microsoft user. We don't know the numbers yet, but it's going to be the real nut in this.

Microsoft will need to skate delicately on thin ice to make the total cost close enough to the way assurance users pay to prevent them from moving too quickly. But, the total cost will need to be low enough so that the Microsoft way to online SaaS will be marginally competitive against Google and other providers of online productivity applications and communications/groupware as services.

And they way this is set up, it's almost as if Microsoft has given up on competing for individuals, students, SOHOs, and perhaps businesses of less than 50 people. It's almost as if they don;t think they can compete with Google there -- at least not for the foreseeable future.

This is, then, about maintaing the base of the small businesses and department-level buyers of Microsoft products. In essence, this is defense. It is designed to make it confusing or economically difficult to calibrate total costs, given the complexity of factoring installations, older apps, licenses, and the entire 20-year-old hairball.

And what Microsoft must do, in addition to making the true cost-benefits analysis murky, is to absolutely win on packaging and convenience. And this is where Google is vulnerable. Google has still to show, aside from costs, how businesses of all sorts can adopt their services and approach in an easy to manage way, that packages things up neatly for the IT folks, and that make a transition from the hairball easy, convenient, and well-understood.

And so Google continues the march into businesses via the organic, user-generated interest and convenience level. Google takes the early lead on the individuals and younger, greenfield companies.

And Microsoft places a bulwark around its empire This could be a long slog.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

OpSource releases OpSource Connect for better integrating SaaS and Web services

OpSource, a software as a service (SaaS) delivery company, is making it easier for SaaS and Web companies to consume and publish multiple Web services with the announcement of OpSource Connect, which will a core component of the OpSource On-Demand Summer 2008 release.

OpSource Connect, which is available immediately, provides a common platform -- the OpSource Service Bus (OSB) -- that will enable integrating SaaS applications in the cloud with legacy enterprise applications behind the firewall, freeing SaaS applications from silos.

OpSource, of Santa Clara, Calif., says that its multi-tenant OSB will change the way companies build and deploy SaaS applications, as well as the way in which those applications interact with and reach new markets. According to OpSource, the OSB provides a "write one, integrate with all" capability for all SaaS applications and Web services.

SaaS is where the growth is expected to be for the foreseeable future. Gartner, for example, sees SaaS growing at a 22.1 percent compound annual rate, which is roughly double the growth of enterprise software as a whole.

Rumor has it that Microsoft isn't waiting around for Gartner to be proven right or wrong and is ramping up its cloud-based applications to mimic its shrink-wrapped offerings.

OpSource Connect APIs provide integration capability for any application. Companies can also use Boomi for OpSource Connect, a visual drag-and-drop application integration environment from Boomi, Inc. This allows integrations with popular non-OSB applications including Salesforce and NetSuite.

Behind the firewall integrations use OpSource Sockets, which provide integration with legacy enterprise applications such as SAP and Intuit QuickBooks. The first OpSource Sockets are based on Boomi Atoms, agents that reside behind the firewall that enable integration without the need for specialized software packages or hardware appliances.

OpSource Connect APIs, Boomi for OpSource Connect and OpSource Sockets are available immediately.

When OpSource On Demand Summer 2008 is released, OpSource Connect will add the ability to use the OSB to not only consume, but publish applications as Web services, allowing each application to become a platform in its own right.

OpSource is also creating a range of services to assist companies in integration and enabling applications. Among these are:

  • Web Services Enablement Program: To assist with enabling applications as Web services.
  • Certified Integrator Program: To provide assistance in integrating applications in the cloud or behind the firewall.
  • Application Directory: To make it easier for companies to find Web services that use the OSB.