Friday, September 21, 2007

Developing enterprise applications for mobile devices remains way too hard

A logjam exists between developers and their ability to productively deliver enterprise applications and data to mobile devices, such as cell phones, PDAs, and so-called converged devices like the Apple iPhone.

The logjam is complexity and too many obnoxious variables. To develop applications that reach even a small number of major handset environments means big-time custom plumbing, from the various data sources, to the mixture of networks, to the choices on synchronization, to the various security needs, to the many user interfaces and mobile client operating systems. Managing all these variables requires a high degree of skill across many different skill sets. There are not many developers that fit this bill in your average enterprise.

And this all means a lot of time and money is required to bring just a few basic applications to just a few basic mobile clients. No wonder enterprise mobility stubbornly remains below the radar for IT leadership. Mobile remains relegated to the crowded back burner of IT imperatives.

And given all the variables and high degree of required customization, few ISVs have emerged to try and make a living at producing mass-market mobile applications. The subsequent lack of killer applications, other than standards-based email and text messaging, reduces the appetite to take on the infrastructure complexity for taking the corporate datacenter out to the mobile client across commercial mobile networks.

Also impacting the complexity is the diversity in how mobile devices work from geographic and regulatory market to market. It's nearly impossible to envision a global approach to mobile wireless computing, as we've seen for desktop and web computing. Designing for one mobile market does not give you much of a leg-up in reaching many others.

The "inclusive platform" approach of dictating the exact device and/or runtime environment up and down the stack that mobile applications play in is itself stifling given the inability to take advantage of the low-cost devices and services available via commercial mobile service carriers. What's more, aligning the back-end and front-end infrastructure does not necessarily align with how the mobile telecommunications carriers and handset operators, well ... operate. They don't like the idea of losing control of what their clients do on their networks.

Clearly, wireless handheld delivery of enterprise data and applications has yet to reach its untapped and vast potential.

Microsoft for years has been grappling with these issues, with many fits and starts. There have been some impressive successes with Windows Mobile, but Microsoft has by no means sewn up the field of mobile enterprise applications design and delivery. Microsoft with its Windows Mobile approach has not yet achieved a critical mass for how business applications and data can be driven out to a field-based workforce. And it's likely that today's widely heterogeneous environment for end points and devices will be with us -- at least in the U.S. -- for a long time to come.

These seemingly intractable roadblocks to wider mobile business use are one reason we're seeing what amounts to appliances for the client devices. The Apple iPhone, which launched with great fanfare in late June, is a prime example. Apple has fused hardware, software and applications -- as well as a few critical APIs -- and has picked one opening-inning carrier, AT&T, as well as Wi-Fi generally, for connectivity. And that combination of attributes, along with what should soon be more APIs, makes the converged device/appliance approach not just a consumer affair -- it begins to help reduce the complexity for enterprise mobility too.

Microsoft in the summer said that it likes the idea of such fused mobile clients -- the appliance on the client -- so much that it has hinted it will produce such integrated devices too. Rumors persists that Google also has its sights on a mobile handheld appliance of some sort. Things are clearly heating up.

These nifty clients should go quite a way to making enterprise mobility far easier by allowing developers to exploit them with fewer interface and connectivity variables to manage. But the converged client still needs a back-end or middleware counterpart to help coordinate an enterprise's data, logic, and security needs. Sybase is hard at work on what may prove to be a game changer for such enterprise mobility middleware -- especially when coupled with a converged device such as the iPhone.

Sybase has bet its future growth on mobility. And while the Dublin, Calif. company has not yet announced the details of its full stack, the Sybase vision makes a lot of sense. Expect in the next year to see what amounts to a distributed middleware system approach to enterprise mobility from Sybase that may break the current logjam in enterprise mobile development and deployment. If Sybase can shake up the enterprise mobility infrastructure industry -- and partner effectively with the likes of Apple's iPhone -- then Microsoft's response will need to be swift and significant.

Dare I say it? What the heck: Look to 2008 to be the year that enterprise mobility finally gets some legs.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Survey uncovers heightening reliance on search across business purchasing

Listen to the podcast. Or read a full transcript. Sponsor: ZoomInfo.

It seems that businesses, whether they're small or global 2000 concerns, are buying more supplies using search at some point in the B2B procurement process. Some people begin and end a procurement journey with search. They actually buy the products through a strictly search-dependent process.

Yet many still use a combination of word-of-mouth, search, and traditional information gathering to guide them to the best deals on the most goods.

To find out just how much B2B buying behaviors are shifting, Enquiro Search Solutions conducted a survey earlier in 2007. They found that online search was consistently employed throughout the entire buying process, from awareness right through to purchase.

There’s still a lot of back and forth: Offline factors influence online activity, and vice-versa, for a merging of the online and the offline worlds. In an audio podcast discussion, as well as the accompanying BriefingsDirect multi-media video-podcast, I helped plumb the depths of Enquiro's findings and then vetted them through the experiences of B2B search engine ZoomInfo.

Join Gord Hotchkiss, President and CEO of Enquiro, and Bryan Burdick, COO of ZoomInfo, with moderation by myself, Dana Gardner, for a deep dive on B2B search trends and analysis.

Here are some excerpts:
We did the original survey in 2004 and, at the time, there wasn't a lot of research out there about search in general, even on the consumer side. There was virtually nothing on the B2B side. The first survey ... certainly proved that search was important. We found that online activity, in particular that connected with search activity, was consistent in a large percentage of purchases. In 2007, we added more insight to the methodology. We wanted to understand the different roles that are typical in B2B purchases -- economic buyers versus technical buyers versus user buyers. We also wanted to get more understanding of the different phases of the buying cycle.

As far as the main takeaways from the study, obviously online activity is more important than ever. In fact, we asked respondents to indicate from a list of over 30 influencers what was most important to them in making the purchase decision. Online factors, such as interaction with the vendor Website and interaction with the search engine were right up there with the traditional winner, word of mouth. What we see is a real link between those and looking for objective information and specific detail.

We did notice an evolution of behavior as you move through the funnel, and the nature of the interactions with the different online resources changes how you navigate to them and how you go to different sites for information. But, online research was consistent through the entire process, from awareness right through to purchase. There’s a lot of back and forth. ... We saw a merging of the online and the offline worlds in making these decisions and trying to come to what’s the right decision for your company or what’s the right product or service.

We just found increased reliance on online to do that research. When we say "increased reliance," we're probably talking 10 percentage points up over the three years. So, if 65 percent of the people were doing it in 2004, 75 percent of the people are doing it now. That’s primarily where we saw the trends going.

When we looked at the different phases of the buying cycle, it starts with awareness. You become aware that you need something. There was a high percentage of people -- in the high 60-percent range -- who said, "Once I become aware that I need something, the first place I'm going to go is the search engine to start looking for it." A lot of that traffic is going to end up on Google. It was the overwhelming choice among general search engines for B2B buyers.

But, as you move through the process, you start doing what we call a "landscape search." The first search is to get the lay of the land to figure out the information sites that have the information you are looking for. Who are the main vendors playing in this space? Where are the best bets to go and get more information to help make this purchase decision?

So, those first searches tend to be fairly generic -- shorter key phrases -- just to get the lay of the land to figure out where to go. As you progress, search tends to become more of a navigational shortcut, and we’ve seen this activity increase over the last two to three years. Increasingly, we're using search engines to get us from point A to point B online.

We also wanted to get a retroactive view of a successful transaction. So, in the second part of the survey, we asked them to recall a transaction they had made in the past 12 months. We wanted to see whether that initial search led to a successful purchase down the road, and, at the end of the road, how the different factors influenced them. So, we actually approached them from a couple of different angles.

Now, 85 percent of these people say they're using online search for some aspect of this purchasing process. It strikes me that this involves trillions of dollars worth of goods. These are big companies and, in some cases, buying lots of goods at over a hundred thousand dollars a whack. Do you concur that we're talking about trillions of dollars of B2B goods now being impacted significantly by the search process?

Absolutely. The importance of this is maybe the most mind-numbing fact to contemplate. Traditionally, the B2B space has been a little slow to move into the search arena. Traditionally, in the search arena, the big advertisers tend to be travel or financial products. B2B is just starting to understand how integral search is to all this activity. When you think of the nature of the B2B purchase, risk avoidance is a huge issue. You want to make sure that whatever decisions you make are well-researched and well-considered purchases. That naturally leads to a lot of online interaction.

The business information search is a primary factor driving [ZoomInfo's] growth. Our company right now is growing on two fronts. One is our traditional paid-search model, where we have subscription services focused on people information that is targeted at salespeople and recruiters as a source for candidates and prospects.

The more rapidly growing piece of our business is the advertising-driven business information search engine, which I think is a really interesting trend related to the concept you guys were just talking about. Not only does the B2B advertiser spend lots of money today trying to reach out, but the B2B searcher has new tools, services, and capabilities that provide a richer, better, more efficient search than they’ve had through the traditional search engines.

Everybody needs to be focused on search. I can’t see an exception. You mentioned the percentage that said they would go online. We segmented out the group that didn’t indicate they go online to see what was unique about them. The only thing unique about them was their age. They tended to be older buyers and tended to be with smaller organizations, where the CEO was more actively involved in the purchase decision. That was really the only variants we saw. If it’s a generational thing, then obviously that percentage is going to get smaller every year.

... From a vertical business information search perspective, that we’re really in the first inning here. A lot of interesting trends and enhancements are going to be coming down the road. One in particular that may have an influence in the next year or two is the community aspect within the search. ... I think that you’ll start to see a marriage of, not only B2B search, but also online community and a factoring into that whole process. Then, who knows where we’ll go from there? ... The word of community.
Listen to the podcast. Or read a full transcript. Sponsor: ZoomInfo.

Book review discussion: 'Total Architecture' elevates SOA to its business benefits potential

Listen to the podcast. Or read a full transcript of the discussion. Sponsor: TIBCO Software.

The impact that Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) has on an organization is deep and wide. The changes required to bring SOA to fruition and make it as productive as possible affect the way both IT leaders and business managers think and operate.

To provide a solid foundation on how SOA impacts a business, Dr. Paul Brown, a principal software architect at TIBCO Software, recently wrote "Succeeding with SOA: Realizing Business Value Through Total Architecture." The book emphasizes a "Total Architecture" perspective for SOA and advocates how business processes are the real focus for enterprises to prosper.

Many activities that used to be done manually either completely or partially now ingrained in IT systems. SOA helps elevate those activities into loosely coupled services with standard interfaces so they can be used and reused flexibly within business processes, while leveraging the underlying IT assets and automation benefits.

Brown calls on businesses to define, fully grasp, control, manage and adjust the processes as rudders that steer overall business agility, powered by SOA methods. However, enterprise business processes and enterprise IT systems are so intertwined that you can’t really talk about designing one without designing the other -- hence the need for "Total Architecture."

In this podcast, Dr. Brown is interviewed about his book and the concepts of Total Architecture by enterprise architect Todd Biske, with moderation by myself, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. I do hope that people take a look at this book. I think it has a lot to offer.

Here are some excerpts:
The structure and organization of IT is very often not completely aligned with the business. The care and feeding of the IT infrastructure has become a focal point of a lot of the IT investment. What we’ve lost is the connection between what’s going on in IT and what’s going on in the business.

The structure of our IT solutions are difficult to map onto the structure of the business processes. It’s that realignment that we’re trying to address with SOA. Ideally, the services that we’re building -- that have technical implementations -- are building blocks of business processes.

The real business value comes out of having a portfolio of business functionality in the form of services that you can quickly reorganize and re-orchestrate to build new business processes or to modify your existing processes. That’s where the big business win comes in.

Dr. Brown points out that a lot of times IT may be misaligned and not be able to see the business processes that are spanning the silos. It may also be the case that the business isn’t either. So, you’re really setting up challenges, when you’re trying to view things from more of an enterprise perspective.

... The pressures of globalization make viewing your entire enterprise and your business as a whole even more important. It’s hard to continue to operate in a niche and continue to sustain that organization for many years, whether it’s from the IT aspect or the business aspect.

It’s distressing, when I go into a company, how infrequently I find anybody who can articulate what the end-to-end business process is that produces the key results or can tell me what the entire order-to-cash cycle looks like. There are lots of experts for fragments of it. The IT focus has traditionally been on fragments of the processes.

The pressure these days is to improve the overall business process, the response time to the customers and partners, and the overall quality of what’s going through. So we need this focus on end-to-end business process and the focus on the end-to-end system interaction that helps bring that business process to life.

What we need to introduce into the picture is more thinking in terms of how these different silos play together to make the business work. That has to happen on both the business side, looking at business processes, and the technology side, looking at systems.

... We need a proactive enterprise architecture group that’s willing to roll up its sleeves and get its hands dirty, touching the individual projects that are going on. They really need to coordinate their work, so that we don’t end up with the chaos that we’re in today, and so that we have pieces that elegantly fit together and can be rearranged to achieve new business goals.

When you design a business process, you’re making assumptions about what systems are going to do and what people are going to do. You can’t validate the assumptions until you actually start doing the technical design. You need to have a systems architect involved when you are planning business processes.

Conversely, you can’t really make modifications in the system without inadvertently changing the business processes. So it doesn’t make sense to separate these activities. You really have to treat them as if you're architecting the business, which consists of both business processes and systems.

One of the things that was impactful for me was the notion that SOA can be a catalyst to thinking about things differently and bridging this business-IT chasm. And also that SOA can be a precursor to a whole new conversation about how to think about businesses from this perspective of "Total Architecture."

... Your business processes and your systems are intertwined, and the design of one affects the other. That’s reality. You can choose to ignore your business processes and let them evolve by accident, as Todd was talking about earlier. That’s how we got in the bind we’re in right now. To a large extent, we’ve been focused on individual profit centers and driving down cost in individual functions. We’ve lost sight of the end-to-end business processes.

The resurgence of interest in customer loyalty, customer service, and all of that is really a reflection that, as a business, we need to stand back and look at what we’re doing to our customers and our partners. The investments we’re making and the individual activities in the business processes are fine, but in order to remain competitive we need to stand back and take the holistic view. The holistic view simply means you need to understand what that business process looks like before you can improve it.

I’ve seen horror stories of people who have tried to improve a business process by examining a small portion and making some changes, without realizing that the changes that they’re making are having an adverse impact on the bigger business process. So while they thought they were improving things -- they actually made them worse. You can’t live with that.
Listen to the podcast. Or read a full transcript of the discussion. Sponsor: TIBCO Software.

SaaS adds up better with eXpresso's hosted solution for Excel collaboration

With over 150 million business users worldwide, Microsoft's Excel has become a de facto standard for vast sets of business information and collaboration points.

Problems arise, however, when users and managers try to share spreadsheets and coordinate updated internal Excel information, sometimes from hundreds of far-flung users. Those seeking ease in distributing the contents of spreadsheets often bemoan the closed and brittle nature of "spreadmarts" -- the burgeoning assemblages of spreadsheets, usually amid multiple versions of each.

eXpresso Corp., Menlo Park, Calif., has introduced what it says is a unique hosted solution that provides broad functionality while eliminating the cost and need for the IT department's involvement for even minor Excel support, access and customization.

Using native Excel components, eXpresso's product allows the spreadsheet owner to invite other users to view, edit, and update a spreadsheet, while retaining control over the permissions that each user has, right down to the cell level -- something current online collaboration tools, such as Google spreadsheets, don't currently offer.

Because it's a SaaS, hosted system, users don't need to download software or involve IT departments, something that would be required with such solutions as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server. The hosting also allows collaboration outside the firewall, something that can present problems with in-house collaboration solutions.

A bonus comes with eXpresso's ability to track changes, provide an audit trail of who changed what and when, and even to allow the spreadsheet owner to roll back the data to a previous version on an individual user basis. Email alerts can notify users when changes are made.

Currently a free offering, in October eXpresso will begin charging $15 a month per user for advanced features, while the core functions will remain free.

As more features and utilities, rather than the usual whole applications, become available via SaaS, the productivity and acceptance of on-demand services grows and propels even more entrants to the ecology.

eXpresso provides a great example of potentially high productivity at high convenience and low cost. We should expect to see a lot more services and widgets like this. I wonder if they could use FaceBook -- or other social networks -- to distribute knowledge and even the use of this service?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

More obvious misgivings about Microsoft and SOA

InfoWorld blogger and MuleSource CEO Dave Rosenberg has some thoughts on Microsoft and SOA in light of, and in advance of, the recent spate of BizTalk announcements and partnerships. Like myself, he takes exception to Microsoft's claims of SOA support and affinity.

Here are some excerpts from an interview Rosenberg did with ITBusinessEdge:
Question: So. You're among those who feel Microsoft doesn't "get" SOA? Why do you say so? Do you think they don't get it -- or don't want to get it?

Rosenberg: I would say that not only does Microsoft not get SOA, they purposely are trying to usurp the whole concept for their nefarious doings. Microsoft offers nothing in the way of architectural development tools or infrastructure that supports the ideas behind an SOA. The Microsoft architecture of .NET is not designed to be service-enabled and when you try to service-enabled it yourself -- when you try to build the infrastructure so you can take advantage of reuse, you find yourself in a very customized system having defeated the purpose.

If you look at Microsoft infrastructure, it's all about trying to lock people into their hegemony and SOA is all about giving control to the user.

Question: Did you see Microsoft's 100-something page thesis on SOA, titled "SOA in the Real World?"

Rosenberg: I can't tell you I've sit there and poured over every word. It's not unlike their "Get the Facts" anti-Linux campaign -- it's simultaneously interesting and full of crap at the same time.

What's interesting to me about Microsoft's approach is the obvious thing to do with SOA is to say, "Of course we have a strategy -- here's what you do now and here's what we'll do in the future." What should've been very easy for them to say, "Yes, we'll be a part of this and we want to start to think about our way of doing [SOA]" -- that would be acceptable. Instead they take this bizarre approach.

There's no clear answer from Microsoft on what their vision for SOA is or how their products or things you'd buy from them would participate in a SOA. For that matter, there's nothing from Microsoft that would say to someone, "I should use these products for my SOA."

All of the sudden .NET went from being a language, to an application framework, to being a "Windows platform" again.

Developers are quick to shun things that they don't trust and I think Microsoft sets the tone for how their development community thinks about larger scale concepts and so far they've succeeded in making SOA confusing.

Question: So, is Microsoft's talk about SOA a barrier to its acceptance among developers?

Rosenberg: From what I can tell, they're not doing themselves any favors. The whole sort of wait-and-see approach is not great. What's interesting is developers do eat that Microsoft dogfood pretty fiercely. They wait for Microsoft before they make choices.

It's a challenge for architects in terms of being flexible and having agility in their work. If you look at IBM or BEA, it's very clear what their vision of SOA is. With Microsoft it's just not clear.

I think some of that is related to the fact that .NET was not built to be a SOA or a services platform. They don't want a heterogeneous environment, they want the entire Microsoft suite everywhere. For instance, a couple of months ago they were calling it service-oriented infrastructure. What is the rationale with not going with the industry standard terms?

Before I started this company [MuleSource], I was the CIO of financial services firm. Initially we had an all LAMP and Java infrastructure. Prior to my getting there, they outsourced the development of a .NET application. We went from having a highly scalable, flexible infrastructure that was able to consume data and services across the enterprise and added a .NET application into the infrastructure -- it was a complete and utter silo.

It was built around this framework that was not meant to go in a services direction, and we basically had to adjust everything else in the enterprise for this one application that couldn't align itself with the rest of the business.

And that is the unfortunate side of what .NET has done to development. Conceptually, Java guys are more likely to understand the SOA model than the .NET guys are -- developers are not trained to think about other applications in .NET. They aren't trained to think about wanting to consume or expose a service to another application. That has so far been a barrier to using .NET as a platform to do SOA.

For better or worse, this development style is what .NET developers live and breathe. If Microsoft doesn't have a component, it doesn't exist. But in the real world, you still need to solve that problem.

How can a company that in-the-know be so clueless about as an important concept as this? This is the world's largest technology company and it's proven to be completely impotent and useless with SOA so far.

Question: So, do you think this is a sort of marketing ploy by Microsoft or just because they didn't anticipate that SOA would take off?

Rosenberg: I think it's a bit of both. What I'd tell you is that they should embrace SOA. Open source, you can see why they don't embrace it -- but SOA, they should say it's awesome and encourage it. It doesn't make a lot of sense.

In the real world, we see people who have similar situations to the one I described, with one or two .NET applications that they want to get on the [enterprise service bus (ESB)]. Does Microsoft give you an obvious answer? Kind of, but not really.
My take is that inside of Microsoft its aggressor A-types are all about dissing SOA and promoting .NET ad nauseam. At the same time the Microserfs and developers must understand the inevitability of SOA for at last a portion of the most advanced and innovative enterprises' and service providers' architectures.

And so, as the world turns toward SOA, Microsoft will fight quietly inside of itself about what it really is as a company -- a partner to its customers, or a parasite on the hide of productivity.

Ultimately the marketplace will determine Microsoft's end-game role. If there's an advantage to SOA for those that embrace it broadly and effectively -- and I believe without question that there is -- then there will be a penalty for those that do not embrace SOA principles. This will become apparent first as SaaS and hosted, on-demand applications providers.

For those IT shops that throw their infrastructure fates to Microsoft's software development and business development competencies (where the latter is the strength), they may encounter cost and agility disadvantages.

If I and Dave Rosenberg are wrong on SOA benefits and n Microsoft's lack of general support for SOA, then the more purely .NET shops should demonstrate market strength via lower TCO and greater business agility over time. The .NET-based businesses should play better amid complex, global business ecologies, and be able to take advantage of mixed sourcing across a waterfront of available services.

Under the dictates of comparative advantage, .NET and its Microsoft-oriented progeny should not create greater value and higher productivity for its customers than more general alternatives, such as open SOA. A choice of the best service for the job will dominate a choice over only the .NET service available.

I'll be waiting and watching, though my risk is an observer is much lower than the architects placing their bets in the coming years. The ante, incidentally, is the very survival of their companies as we enter an "flattened world" era of increased globalization, lower barriers to entry, open trade, and lightening fast market disrupters.

For those with an inclination to hedging bets -- banking on general SOA while supporting service-enabled .NET might be more secure and auspicious than banking on .NET while trying to support SOA objectives from a comparative disadvantage.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

BEA, Adobe flex their muscles in pushing toward RIAs on the enterprise desktop

BEA Systems Inc. and Adobe Systems Inc. are teaming up to give enterprise customers a design environment for rich Internet application (RIA) development. The two companies announced Tuesday that BEA will bundle Adobe's Flex Builder 2 software with BEA Workshop Studio. This move will let developers build cross-platform RIAs that integrate with services oriented architecture (SOA) and Web 2.0 infrastructures for enterprise mashups.

Under Tuesday's agreement, announced at BEAWorld in San Francisco, the BEA-Adobe bundle will include Flex Builder 2, as well as the Adobe Flex SDK, which operates under the Mozilla Public License.

In April, I predicted that Flex -- especially operating under open source -- could become an industry standard for RIAs, and this latest announcement might be an indication that prediction is coming true. What I said back then was:

"With Adobe bringing its Flex and possibly Flash into open source — and perhaps creating unassailable de facto global standards as well — then the Web 2.0 red shift to RIAs and away from other models could be complete."

Using the Adobe Flash Player, which is nearly ubiquitous in home user applications, developers will be able to build interactive data dashboards, customer and employee self-service applications, and B2B applications that will be agnostic as far as platforms or operating systems.

The applications created with Flex can then be integrated with other BEA products -- including those from the WebLogic and AquaLogic families -- and to deploy the applications with Adobe's Intergated Runtime, a cross-operating system app runtime that allows developers to extend RIAs to the desktop.

As part of the agreement, Adobe will distribute an evaluation license of BEA's WebLogic Server with Adobe's LiveCycle Enterprise Suite (ES) software, giving customers a turnkey infrastructure to deploy LiveCycle applications using WebLogic characteristics.

In other news from BEAWorld, BEA released the AquaLogic Registry Repository 3.90, the first product component of WorkSpace 360º, which in turn is a building block of BEA's newly announced dynamic business application platform initiative -- code-named Genesis.

Genesis is expected to converge SOA, business process management (BPM), social computing, and other technologies to better manage the service creation lifecycle across the enterprise. Tony Baer has some good thoughts on Genesis and BEA's actions this week.

The goal of Genesis is to allow businesses to adapt to changing market conditions without the constraint of old IT models, allowing the enterprise to assemble, change, and deploy dynamic business applications. Look for BEA to unveil the roadmap for Genesis at BEAWorld in Shanghai in December.

Registry Repository 3.0, which was announced Tuesday is designed to improve the management and governance of SOA deployments, combining the governance capabilities of BEA's AquaLogic Enterprise Repository and Service Registry, providing governance throughout the SOA lifecycle.

Among the features of the new repository are:

  • A central repository for sharing and managing metadata to enable a more seamless flow of information across the stages of the lifecycle.
  • Embedded workflow to provide a structured process for managing assets as they are developed.
  • Unified tooling to create a seamless navigation.
  • Open metadata interoperability framework for integration by third-party technologies.
  • Embedded governance and control throughout the lifecycle to help ensure that dynamic business applications are defined, designed, built and run in alignment with business goals and objectives.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Analysts 'debate' to focus on SOA management issues and outlook

I'm really looking forward to this Friday, Sept. 14, in Boston when I join up on the podium at the Harvard Club with Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst with ZapThink, to dig into the current and future landscape of SOA management.

Jason and I will be examining such questions as:
  • What should management look like in the world of service-based applications?
  • Can traditional monitoring tools be effective at managing tomorrow’s SOA deployments, or is something new needed?
  • What standards are needed to make SOA adoption a success, or do they already exist? What role do they play, and what are the alternatives?
  • As enterprises increasingly deploy SOA-based applications and infrastructure, the lingering question remains: how do current plans and approaches to application management stack up to managing these mission-critical deployments?
Tidal Software is hosting the lunch gathering -- they're calling it debate -- and then sponsoring the production of a BriefingsDirect podcast from the discussion. Tidal CTO Martin Milani will be the moderator. We'll point to the podcast here when it's available.

Tidal, incidentally, provides IT managers visibility into, and offers control over, how newer SOA-based composite solutions perform. This means management for both packaged applications and custom components in Java and .NET. I'm very interested in how SOA management interfaces (or not) with other forms of business management. That is, what are the next steps?

Can we go from SOA management to larger-abstraction management with a language and interfaces that appeal to both business managers and IT planners/operators? Is there, after all, a larger architecture of management in the offing, one in which SOA management acts as a catalyst toward business management and operational change management? Also, are we in need of standards, or a commercial best-of-breed approach, to begin this process?

I don't think that IT as a corporate resource can continue to avoid the huge opportunity for providing value to the corporate leadership by being the automated and integrated means to execute on the outcomes from various disjointed facets of business management. Some day, perhaps, to manage the SOA is to invoke change and agility across IT resources comprehensively, top-down and bottom-up.

And perhaps SOA management will therefore be a valued steering wheel on the dashboard that actually runs and changes a business. CEOs and COOs, I'm quite sure, would rather use technology as the rudder to business agility, rather than consider it a high-cost handicap to change.

The launch into this topic, by the way, began with some seemingly opposing quotes from Jason and myself in a article earlier in the summer.

So, if you're in Back Bay and care to dive in with us on all things SOA management, come on by. The luncheon event is at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 14 at the Harvard Club of Boston, Estabrooks Room, Main Clubhouse, 374 Commonwealth Ave., Boston.

You can RSVP at 650-475-4645, or via See you there.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Analysts on RIAs, Microsoft Silverlight and Enterprise 2.0 trends

Read a full transcript of the discussion. Listen to the podcast.

The still-maturing technology around Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) and rich media interfaces and video players was jolted last spring when Microsoft's Silverlight offering was unveiled. Already a Linux version is in the offing called Moonlight. The RIA news hit about the same time as the JavaOne and Web 2.0 Expo events were in full swing as well.

We used the timing to bring some IT analysts and experts together for a podcast discussion to examine the role of RIAs and rich media with SOA and the impact on the Enterprise 2.0 space. Join noted IT industry analysts Joe McKendrick, enterprise architect Todd Biske, and independent blogger Barb Darrow for our discussion, hosted and moderated by your's truly.

Here are some excerpts:
We seem to be moving beyond just the notion of an RIA into specific platforms, and/or approaches for doing this. We now have a slate of new products and approaches from Microsoft around the Silverlight brand. We also have news from Adobe about open-sourcing the Flex toolset that helps create content that’s supported on the ubiquitous Flash seamless download client through browsers. And, we've also seen Sun Microsystems pony up with the JavaFX scripting language, also designed for RIAs.

Are RIAs are more than a sideline, and are they becoming a mainstream way of bringing content, data, and applications to users?

It’s a nice step up from the browser interface that we've all been accustomed to for the past decade now and very competitive with the fat-client concept of Microsoft Windows, which is still Microsoft’s bread and butter. To a large degree, they should feel threatened by this.

Two or three years ago, I was invited to a Microsoft technology summit, and they collected about 40 of us in Redmond. It was just a general discussion around some of the things that they were doing, but it was a series of diehard Java advocates, diehard Flash advocates and diehard Linux advocates. It was an interesting exercise just to listen to what they had to say. Microsoft was really trying to hear what would make Microsoft more attractive.

I don’t know whether coming out with a direct competitor to Flash is going to make it any more attractive in the eyes of the Flash developers, but I think certainly playing to their strengths in the existing Microsoft development community, and bringing in some of the best practices of the other development communities, is a smart move on their part. That’s why I think Silverlight will continue to play a role.

We went from green screens all the way to these rich desktop environments. Then, we went back to just the HTML forms, and you knew that pendulum was going to start to shift back towards the center again, that users were going to need higher levels of interaction and capabilities on that Web-based platform. I think this is just indicative of that trend.

In enterprise circles, it’s much more about AJAX than it necessarily is about Flash. Then, you have Silverlight, and now JavaFX Script, which I think are more in the same category as Adobe Flash, than targeting the AJAX world. I've yet to see an enterprise application focused on Flash development. It seems to have much more of a place either in content distribution or the general Internet space. Still, it’s gaining at least mind share, and so we’ll have to see whether this begins to make a push more to the corporate enterprise world.

This whole move to rich clients is interesting. I cover IBM software, and I've got to give them credit. IBM has been talking about this for a while. There’s this kind of contention between new kids coming up, who are used to downloading everything they want and doing mashups -- they grew up this way. And then there's this traditional IT environment that constrains from above what you can do. In that spot, IBM has a little bit of credibility. IBM is trying hard to adopt this mashup/social networking thing going forward, but I'm just wondering. Are they a player here?

IBM does things in a big way, and I've seen them doing a lot of work in this area, in terms of Wikis and blogging. They're even getting involved in the whole second-life scenario. They have a way of moving into these markets in a very big way, and I don’t see them ignoring the whole Web 2.0. Like everyone else, they're piloting things, seeing how it fits in with the enterprise.

IBM probably needs to have some activity in this place soon, because, on one hand, we can look at Microsoft and Google, and they are both application providers outside of the Lotus space. IBM is not an application provider in the same sense. So, some of the things that you see Microsoft doing with Microsoft Live and the Google applications, I wouldn’t expect to see any big push from IBM.

Another thing that struck me at JavaOne this year was the dearth of announcements from other major Java-oriented vendors, and I'm thinking of IBM, BEA, and Oracle. It was really a silence, and what I think has happened is that Sun waited for so long to declare its intention for Java, and then to open-source it under GPL Version 2, that they lost the community. Now, the community is off doing things under Eclipse, Apache, SourceForge, OSSI, or whatever. So, the momentum of the community and the ecology for Java was lost, as Sun basically sat on the fence, trying to figure out how to make more money from Java. I don’t think it’s something they're going to recover from.

This comes back to the whole notion of the client side of this. Will Java, as a development platform, have a role in the development of the client side? It’s well established on the server side, and that’s not going to change any time soon, but what is the future of the client platform, and will it be a case of these RIAs coming down into the enterprise?

Or, will we continue to see a separation of "Here are things down in the content-heavy world of the Internet" and "Here is the corporate world?" Even in the corporate world, either you’re building Microsoft applications, because that’s what’s on everybody’s desktop, or you're building Web-based applications. More and more of the presentation technologies are going towards AJAX, rather than anything you're doing in Java JSP.

Maybe there's a third way on this, and that would be that you go for the minimalist, when you are dealing with data, transactions, and workflow issues, but there is a whole other side of enterprise productivity around collaboration, learning, discovery, and knowledge transfer. These videos and rich media, be it text, audio, or video, whichever you choose, or all three, could be very powerful. We could see instances where we are going to get both. We are going to get a lot of minimalist widgets, but we’ll also get lots of rich, movie-grade video, when it comes to the other side of the equation, which is not dealing with machines and data, but dealing with people.
Read the full transcript for more IT analysis and SOA insights. Listen to the podcast here.

Produced as a courtesy of Interarbor Solutions: analysis, consulting and rich new-media content production.