Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Progress gives CEP a performance boost with multi-core support on Apama

Progress Software this week announced the release of an enhanced Parallel Correlator for its Apama Complex Event Processing (CEP) platform so it can take advantage of multi-core, multi-processor hardware.

Progress claims a seven-fold increase in CEP performance on an eight-core server in the company’s internal benchmark testing of this version of the Parallel Correlator in what the company described as “real-world customer scenarios.” [Disclosure: Progress is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

John Bates, who founded Apama in 1999 to build out technology based on his research at Cambridge University in the UK, believes CEP is an easier technology sell to business users than service oriented architecture (SOA) because a clear case can be made for the ability of a product like Apama to execute high-speed transactions based on the identification of millisecond movements in the business enivronment. It can also provide business managers and executives with split-second snapshots of how they are doing in their markets.

I guess we can think of CEP as SOA for high octane business intelligence (BI) for transactional and real-time insights and inferences from tremendously complex and often massive streams of services (and more). Mostly traditional BI comes from read-only agglomerations of fairly static SQL data, some of which needs a lot of handholding before it gives up its analytics gems.

Incidentally, I also spoke this week with Cory Isacsson at CodeFutures, busy at the MySQL show, who has a lot to say these days about database sharding and how applying it to OSS databases like MySQL gets, among other things, more BI love from transactional read/write SQL data. More here.

Back to CEP ... This is being newly perceived by some as much more tangible to business users than the more nerdy benefits of SOA, such as reuse of services for more agile programming of new applications. Talk about the benefits of CEP and business users eye light up. Talk about the benefits of SOA and even business process management (BPM) and their eyes can glaze over.

I should point out that my buddy at ActiveEndpoints Alex Neihaus (another disclosure on their sponsorship of BriefingsDirect podcasts) would argue that CEP and SOA are the real somnolence inducers, and that BPM and visual orchestration form the far better point on the business value arrow around service swarms. Talk among yourselves ...

In making the latest Apama announcement, Progress touts an IDC report on CEP (excerpts) that included evaluation of the 2008 version of the Apama platform. IDC gave the Progress product high ratings in the categories of “Low Latency,” the speed of event processing, “Business User Control,” how it works for the business people, and “Deterministic Behavior,” the predictability and repeatability of the event processing programs.

Lo, and although it is not mentioned in the Progress announcement, Apama did not get such high scores in the two other IDC categories, “Data Management,” and “Complex Event Detection.”

IDC does non-metaphysical squares, rather than Magic Quadrants, we should gather.

In the real world, the major market for CEP appears the beleaguered financial services industry and the government watchdog agencies that are overseeing them. This appears reflected in the Apama customers listed in this week’s announcement, including JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, and FSA (Financial Services Authority) of the UK.

Written in the midst of this recession, the IDC report worries: "Because Apama is so closely identified with the financial markets, the current downturn is likely to negatively impact Apama's opportunity and growth prospects in the near term. Therefore, it is incumbent that Progress figure out how to cost effectively apply the technology to new markets with better short-term growth prospects."

At the beginning of last fall’s financial system meltdown, Bates told a reporter that there may be a silver lining for CEP even in the midst of a banking crisis. He foresees potential for greater use of CEP by both government regulators as well as the financial institutions that need to supply more and more detailed data to show how they are complying with new regulations now being formulated, as well as old regulations now being more rigorously enforced.

Too bad they can't apply it to card counting or my wife's algorithmic-rich shuffling of copius coupons for generating a simple groceries list. Just start with the old one, I keep telling her.

Other industries that both Progress and IDC agree might provide new markets for CEP include transportation and inventory control systems based on RFID, and ERP systems for manufacturing. I continue to be intrigued too by mobile commerce (Google Voice, anyone?), laced with locations services and other varibles like weather.

CEP is going to advance the competitive capabilities for a lot of companies. What's less clear is how they will manage that along with their BI, SOA, cloud, and other must do somedays on the IT groceries list.

Rich Seeley provided research and editorial assistance to BriefingsDirect on this blog. He can be reached at Writer4Hire.

Monday, April 20, 2009

TIBCO CEO worries about Oracle-Sun deal's impact on IT industry

BriefingsDirect contributor Rich Seeley interviewed Vivek Ranadive, CEO of TIBCO Software, on the day the Oracle-Sun proposed deal was announced. Here's his report.

Will there be confusion and even fear in the Java community? Can Microsoft take advantage of that? Will there be disruption in the hardware server business that works to the advantage of Cisco? Vivek Ranadive, CEO of TIBCO Software, sees a lot of question marks around Oracle’s proposed acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

“I’m sure there’s nervousness in the Java community,” Ranadive said in an exclusive interview with BriefingsDirect. “Can they trust [Oracle Chairman and CEO] Larry Ellison? What’s he going to do with this control? Is he going to manipulate Java so he gets an advantage? Is he going to make it less open? Is he going to find ways to start charging customers for it? There are a lot of question marks.”

[Disclosure: TIBCO is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Sun, as a hardware company, was committed to open source and Java, in the TIBCO CEO’s view, whereas Oracle is a software company “that has been notorious at exacting money from customers.”

In Ranadive's view Microsoft is a beneficiary of any fear, uncertainty and doubt about the future of Java and open source.

“It helps Microsoft,” Ranadive said. “If you’re a customer and you’re wondering about Java, you might just say the heck with it, I’ll go with Microsoft.”

Microsoft also has a cloud computing initiative while Oracle has been reticent, he noted.

“Larry Ellison has been on record as saying he doesn’t believe in the cloud,” Ranadive said, “whereas Microsoft jumped on the virtualization bandwagon and is going to head up the parade on that.”

While TIBCO as a middleware vendor maintains “Swiss-like neutrality” between the Java and .NET worlds, Ranadive said he has been impressed with the cloud technology coming out of Redmond.

Noting that in the midst of the recession TIBCO continues to report record earnings, Ranadive said that in an IT market where Java and .NET co-exist in many shops, his company is positioned as the “trusted arbiter in the middle.”

Using the example of the suitor Sun spurned, he notes the TIBCO competes with IBM, works with IBM and runs on IBM servers.

Ranadive said he is not concerned about what Oracle will do with the Sun hardware servers. But he noted that the “plot thickens” for the other server vendors including IBM, HP, Dell, and now Cisco.

“We don’t know what is happening with the server business,” he said. “Is Oracle going to keep it? Are they going to shut it down? Is Oracle going into the hardware business?”

But he sees Cisco possibly benefiting from any disruption in the hardware market.

“We have customers that are looking at Sun, and they may look at this and say maybe we’ll go with Cisco,” he speculated.

Ranadive also lists his own company as a beneficiary from whatever disruption arises from Oracle’s latest acquisition.

“Our customers are already rebelling against putting more eggs in the Oracle basket,” he said. “As the Swiss-neutral party that integrates everything with everything, it helps us a great deal.”

Noting that he got his own start in the businesses with a workstation borrowed from Sun, Ranadive did say he was sorry for the loss of what Sun once represented as the home of the innovators who created Java. But he doesn’t believe Silicon Valley has lost its innovative spirit.

“The innovators will show up at other companies, including ours,” he said. “Innovation is here to stay in the Valley.”

On the lighter side, the TIBCO CEO was speculating that Ellison might acquire Best Buy next.

“He seems to like commodity products that can be accretive,” Ranadive quipped. “So maybe Best Buy will be his next purchase. He could even start selling servers in his shop.”

In a more serious analogy, Ranadive noted that the accretive model has been used before in the software business, most notably by Computer Associates, which steadily acquired mainframe software companies in the 1980s and the 1990s.

“Oracle has become the CA of the present era,” he said.

Rich Seeley provides research and editorial assistance to BriefingsDirect. He can be reached at Writer4Hire.

Hooray! Oracle acquisition of Sun makes perfect sense

The reported acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle today makes a ton more sense than IBM's earlier failed bid. This new compact, if it succeeds, will bring as good an end to an independent Sun as the pioneering (yet long flagging) IT vendor could have hoped for at this sorry stage in its history.

But there are much larger implications in Oracle's latest super-grab than Sun's demise and assimilation. Among them is the fact that IBM now -- for the first time, really -- has a true, full and global counter weight to its role and influence. Oracle plus Sun aligned with Hewlett-Packard (which I fully expect) meets and begins to beat IBM at all the important full-service IT games.

This is truly healthy for IT and the global IT marketplace. IBM's earlier purported bid for Sun always smelled bad to me. I was, it turned out, mostly a red herring. Perhaps Oracle needed the IBM roller coaster ride to focus its intentions. Nonetheless, the outcome is optimal. It bodes well for cloud computing too, as Oracle just about overnight becomes a cloud force to reckon with. I always thought Larry Ellison was just biding time on this one. The recession has hastened the timetable.

Other than IBM's unassailed hegemony, the other losers in this are Microsoft (actually possibly creeping to irrelevancy faster than anyone could have imagined three years ago), SAP, and Cisco Systems. Amazon may also get getting more competition soon on the platform as a service front. Using Sun's cloud investments, implementations and plans, Ellison can also quickly forge together his own counter-weight to No need to buy it now (for a while).

Open source in general, too, may take a hit, as I don't expect Unbreakable Linux to remain Oracle's point on the operating system arrow. Solaris will be the prime Oracle OS for performance, meaning Oracle's channel pipeline to Red Hat will shrink. And MySQL will be a means and not an ends for Oracle, which would, of course, prefer an Oracle 11g cloud instead.

Suffice to say that whatever momentum Sun had behind open source everywhere will be muted to open source some times as a ramp to other Oracle stuff, or to grown the community and keep developers happy.

Like IBM, Oracle will have little interest or need for open source middleware or service oriented architecture (SOA) components. Further, given Oracle's early and deep interest in Eclipse and OSGi, the Java tools will stay free and open (with a lot of Oracle wizards embedded across the database and other middleware). The tussle for influence between Oracle and IBM in Eclipse and the Java Community Process (JCP) will be great fun to watch in coming years. Again, this is healthy. (Good thing Sun opened this up, eh?)

No other company has shown an ability to merge and integrate at the massive scale and complexity that Oracle has. It's acquisition spree that began five years ago is unprecedented in its scope and level of success. We have no reason to suspect that the way it handles Sun will be any different.

Winners on the deal include Java itself in the fullest and broadest sense. Oracle and IBM are the premier Java vendors, and the might of IBM (and its customers and developers) in the market will force Oracle to keep Java open and vibrant, while Oracle's penchant for control and commercial success will keep Java safe and singular. I expect the old BEA WebLogic implementations now at Oracle to gather some minor bundles from Sun's software portfolio, but Sun's enterprise software stack (for all intents and purposes) is history. I can't see Glass Fish or Net Beans going anywhere but bye-bye. Same with the Sun SOA stuff.

Most interesting will be the way that Oracle matches the Sun assets against HP's burgeoning partnership with Oracle. Will HP perhaps buy Sun's hardware, storage and integrated cicuits intellectual property outright after the Oracle acquisition is final? I'd bet on it. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDIrect podcasts.]

The Exadata announcement last fall is a good example of what to expect. Business intelligence is the killer enterprise application of the day (era), and Oracle and HP aim to win. Coupling Oracle BI and business applications is something special ... better potentially than what IBM and SAP can do. Should we expect from this Oracle-Sun merger some more love or more between IBM and SAP. Oh, ya!

We should expect to see a major go-to-market push by HP and Oracle, with all kinds of appliances and solutions portfolios. Both Oracle's and HP's love of virtualization allows all kinds of neat packaging. Expect some of the industry's premier on-premises cloud solutions ASAP.

Indeed, we now have a land grab race for the modernized data center/private cloud between Oracle/Sun/HP and IBM. What's more, HP with all the old DEC stuff, plus Sun's Unix, may keep Unix alive and well while keeping IBM at bay with its everything mainframe lust.

On the blue sky front, consider if Apple and Google get closer to the Oracle-Sun-HP trifecta? Wow. Cloud city.

Larry Ellison correctly predicted a few years ago that only a few IT companies would remain. Maybe we should just remove the "IT" and keep it at only a few companies will remain -- and Oracle will be one of them.

Talk about pure irony ... It was when Oracle turned its back on Sun four years ago with the unbreakable Linux and Java process business (Eclipse over NetBeans, OSGi support, etc.) that Sun's nosedive deepened. In a sense, you could say that Oracle pushed Sun off a cliff in slow motion, only to catch the pieces at fire sale prices.