Friday, November 9, 2007

Looks like the The Gang, rounded up by Steve Gillmor, is back in the saddle

Jason Calacanis is blogging about the latest debut of The Gang, aka Gillmor Group, aka Bad Sinatra, aka Gillmor Gang. The first episode is on Facebook, in four parts. I was happy to be a part of this, nearly a year since the last real Gang recording.

It actually came out quite good, just like the olden days. And a critical mass of the original gang is on the call: Steve Gillmor, Nick Carr, Mike Arrington, Doc Searls, Robert Anderson, Jason Calacanis, Mike Vizard, and yours truly. Expect more.

At least this first weekly and lively discourse on the really important things in life is not in 18 revolting segmentations, as was the norm in some past iterations. I can only surmise that Steve is out hustling up some underwriters for the podcast. Why else break it up at all?

Anyone care to cut a check on this? Six figures? Jonathan? I'm sure Steve's voice-overs on your introductions will be inspiring. ... ("He'd never be in blogging if it weren't for me!") Actually, I'd probably not be in blogging if not for Steve either. Thanks, pal.

True to his attention-deficit marketing mentality, there is virtually no promotion of the new The Gang. Links are dead after all. It's all about negative gestures, don't ya know. Ya, and I buried Paul, you expert textpert.

I'm very glad to see that Steve is producing this independently. No more Pod.*. And Facebook will make a fascinating viral platform. It's good to experiment. Just open enough. He might even be able to measure the audience; might even be able to define the audience members, might even be able to invite the audience individually. Ah, the good old days of controlled circulation ... much better rates that way. And the list -- My God, he could sell the list! Elitism has its advantages.

And I'm glad it's not video either, leave that to the infomercials. See Gate, et al. Voice is plenty. Just repurpose it on iTunes and monetize on the Facebook picket-fence garden. Screw the rest of 'em.

And so, how do you post "music" to Facebook? Is that an application, or a feature?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Red Hat partners with Amazon for Enterprise Linux fabric in Elastic Compute Cloud

Seeking to make ISVs an offer they can't refuse, Red Hat has teamed with Amazon to provide Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.x instances in the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) infrastructure as a service offering.

The beta Amazon-hosted monthly payment subscription service will allow developers -- be they in ISVs or enterprises -- to develop to RHEL and then deploy the applications as a service. The applications owners will then only pay for the hosting of those applications and services based on their use and support infrastructure demand -- known as pay as you drink.

Red Hat also announced Wednesday the release of RHEL 5.1, which follows from RHEL 5.0's arrival last March. The newer point release provides an even deeper and aggressive reach into virtualization benefits, including significant performance boosts.

Additionally, Red Hat plans in mid-2008 to debut a series of software appliances, beginning with Red Hat Appliance OS and an associated development kit. This will allow entire packages of platform, middleware and applications to be crafted into an easily deployed functionally targeted and optimized appliance.

The goal is to allow developers and ISVs myriad choices on how to deliver their applications and services, as long as they deploy to the RHEL stack of open source infrastructure. Red Hat then charges for maintenance and support, or via on-demand subscriptions. By targeting just RHEL, developers can then deploy directly to dedicated servers, to virtualized instances of Linux, via optimized software appliances (apps plus OS plus required stacks), as well as via several choices for on-demand hosting (including Amazon).

Red Hat calls this plethora of deployment models and approaches as its new Linux Automation strategy. Red Hat is also interestingly getting chummy with Sun Microsystems on enterprise Java support, now that Java is open source.

What's more, through its burgeoning embrace of virtualization options, Red Hat plans to aggressively support Windows instances on Red Hat, so that any Windows 32-bit applications (from across many versions of Windows) can be supported virtually on RHEL. The leading Linux supplier also plans to work inside of Microsoft's pending Viridian hypervisor, which is based on the Linux-based Xen hypervisor (at least for now).

On a large business level, Red Hat is seeking to bring more open source deployment options to global developers of nearly every ilk. For operators, Red Hat hopes to simplify their infrastructures while offering strong performance and lower total costs through higher utilization and capacity management on top of lower licensing and hardware costs. Red Hat says that RHEL is gaining ground quickly on mainframes, including IBM's System Z.

My take on these announcements is that Red Hat wants to take its Linux distribution clout far beyond the market for dedicated servers and blades at individual enterprises, and become the de facto industry standard for how hosting organizations, telecommunications providers, entertainment providers, and on-demand ISVs deploy all their applications over the next 10 years.

Red Hat is banking on the trends around virtualization, clustering and utility computing, multi-core hardware/parallelism, and the increasingly advantageous on-demand subscription economic models to become the low-cost, high-performance enough foundational supplier.

With virtualization performance gaining ground, and allowing many types and kind of server applications to run on instances of many OSes, then more (and nearly) all things become equal such that a pure price-performance comparison can be made for providing applications and services. Whether you are building, hosting, providing, or monetizing around those services -- you will eventually move to the best price-performance deal.

The race is on then: Windows, Solaris/Open Solaris, Red Hat Linux -- on various types of platform iterations -- for the best story when it comes to hosting price-performance and deployment ease experience. Red Hat is aiming high on this one. And it has a pretty good shot at it doing very well.

Red Hat is boldly predicting it can, by 2015, double its market share and support more than half the worlds server instances. And they didn't even use the "grid" or "utility" words, not once.

Enterprise mobile remains up for grabs despite Google, Android and OHA

What do the major players missing from the Google Android and Open Handset Alliance (OHA) have in common? An abiding interest in enterprise mobile, and effectively integrating IT back-end resources for delivery to mobile B2E, B2B and B2C endpoints.

So-far, the non-OHA-committed players include Apple, Microsoft, Sybase, Adobe, Oracle, BEA Systems, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems, IBM, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, SAP, and HP. When viewed through this prominent global crowd, the OHA roster seems a bit flimsy for satisfying the major business activities/corporate opportunity.

Many questions arise on what will happen in an OHA world on the business side of the aisle. For example, should Google and the OHA members be satisfied with the B2C play? Will the current B2C OHA, if successful, play a coalescing role for B2B and B2E architectures? Could a separate business-oriented OHA or equivalent be in the offing?

For mobile especially, why have separate architectures for B2C and B2B? Why should enterprise mobile SaaS be constructed any differently from mobile Web SaaS? Fragmentation is the problem, not the solution.

If Android is to progress as an open environment into PC-like devices, then the architectural approach should be common. Respondents to my ZDNet blog poll say 58% to 42% that open mobile devices threaten closed PC models.

Well, of course, many things need to happen for an "open" business-ready mobile architecture: security, control, management, governance and mission critical reliability come to mind. The level for such risk-avoidance measures would be lower for a B2C and mobile commerce approach, at least at the outset.

So perhaps what is needed is a two-tiered approach to Android/OHA. One level, for Web-facing and consumer-type activities (supported increasingly by ad and mobile commerce revenues), will arrive Nov. 12. But how about a second level for a more enterprise-calibre stack, one with the concerns of CIOs addressed (supported more by a licensed, royalty, maintenance/support or subscription revenue model). Come on, guys, let's see the business version!

In fact, this could well mirror what has happened with free open source and so-called commercial open source. You take the same code base, the same adherence to openness, standards and interoperability -- yet take it to market on two levels. Android may very well need an more mature brother: Robot.

Android can be the mobile consumer-facing approach. Robot can be the workhorse for the business-class needs. This makes a great deal of sense and would allow for the common community of development while satisfying two quite different architectural integrity needs. It also allows for more traditional business monetization for Robot, one that would jibe with enterprise licensed and commercial open source selling. The Apache license could work for both, another essential commonality.

I think that Sybase, IBM, Oracle, Apple, Sun, Red Hat and the business revenue-hungry networks might go for it. Only Microsoft might be left trying to figure what in heaven's name to do about this whole thing. (What? Windows Mobile Open Live Software and Services .NET?)

Make no mistake. There is growing demand for enterprises to get mobile to their employees, partners, and customers. Sybase is betting the company on it. Based on a poll I presented in a recent ZDNet blog here, a whopping 78% of respondents think that IBM and Apple should work together to bring a Lotus Notes client to the iPhone.

I say three cheers for Notes on iPhone! It would be a great solution and drive Apple deeper into enterprises, while extending the shelf life of Notes/Domino. But why not build it via a Robot architecture, with Android at the core, and allow these mobile devices to be common endpoints for corporate and consumer activities, such as Notes/Domino, based on a common -- yet two-tired -- open/commercial middleware stack?

Windows Mobile didn't get the job done. Java ME did not get the job done. Embedded Linux did not get the job done. How about a Robot brother to Android?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Google's Android approach threatens no less than the personal computer itself

Google's announcement of mobile software platform Android pretty much disrupts and disintermediates a large swath of the edge of the Internet that connects via closed, non-PC devices to ... well, a fairly limited amount of content, apps, and data.

Google with Android and the Open Handset Alliance, however, may blow open a marketplace through a common open platform that can then provide a lot more content, apps, data, media, and services. And that will feed the demand by developers, users, and ultimately advertisers that open platforms be provided on mobile devices.

At the same time, the boundaries between laptop, PC, converged device, entertainment device are eroding and blurring. What will determine what the use will be for the content and apps, the services and the media? Not the location. Not the network. As the device user goes, so goes the options for its use. As long as there is broadband, a critical mass of apps and open services -- the device can be the size of an iPhone and do it all.

And that gives it serious advantages over a PC. The PC is locked down, and not nearly as versatile as a fully open, full-function mobile converged device. What's more, the services and content will begin to matter more, and drive the user behavior -- not the device itself, once it's made open (and maybe even free). The business model that favors the media over the closed platform will usually win. The business model that favors the platform over the limited and choked content will not.

Google through the Open Handset Alliance plans on Nov. 12 to unveil an operating system, middleware and mobile applications (and early look at the Android SDK). The goal is to foster ease and volume in binding together content providers and devices aka users. It's write once-run anywhere all over again. Not all the carriers are in, as TechCrunch points out, and most that are come from outside the U.S. where handset choice has been greater.

The crowd of members to the alliance is impressive. It will also be curious to see how Apple groks Android, and if its open API plans will marry or mesh with Open Handset Alliance plans. My guess is that Apple will need to adopt this, but may take its sweet time.

The energy and potential here with Android and community reminds me a lot of Java in the early days, and that's not a surprise given where Google honcho Eric Schmidt spent considerable time in the 1990s: inventing and promoting Java. Eric must love the very notion of "disrupts and disintermediates." Only this time its not to ward off just Microsoft, but to ward off the possibilities of future Microsofts.

No one provider, handset maker, or carrier is a kingmaker in the mobile market, not even Microsoft. The Win-Tel monopoly never made it to the handheld. The mobile market in many regions is unformed enough that Google and its partners can have a chance at keeping it open enough so that the loosely coupled content model may ultimately outshine the current dominant PC model as defined by Microsoft for some 20-plus years.

And the Java connection is more fitting than Eric's dual roles: Android and the Open Handset Alliance may very well presage -- if successful -- the disruption and disintermediation of the PC itself. It also explains why readers think that Java SE (and not ME) on converged devices makes sense.

So over the next couple of years, Android-supported mobile devices will spawn the applications ecology that creates all the hens to lay all the eggs that will best hatch into the chickens that come home to roost. The Google Trojan Horse Android could make it a lot easier for developers to thrive in the mobile space. An open iPhone or similar type of device can grow in its category to encroach on the PC. PCs will become notebook PCs that begin to act a lot more like an Android, or ... lose developer and media outlet (and ad dollars) allegiance.

If my vision is nearly correct (timing is always a tough one to call), more of the content designed for an Android and Open Handset Alliance-type device will also be used on a PC, the UI can be really all about Web services. And Microsoft will, as with the Web, Java, and SaaS, have to capitulate and adopt or support Android.

We're already seeing encroachment of what's known as the converged mobile device -- personified best so far by the Apple iPhone -- into the domain of the PC. If you were to hook up an iPhone to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard ... well, you have a PC. As long as it connects via wireless broadband, uses a browser to reach all the rest of the Google-navigated web content, and Google apps, and Apple's content (per per click) too.

Desktop PCs will be for large enterprises and the un-imaginative. A successful Android approach means that Windows Mobile will face daunting and probably insurmountable odds. It means the Windows PC will face new competition, and not just like Mac OS X -- the Windows franchise will face competition of a categorical nature, a game changer: The open mobile device ecology. And it's because Microsoft was not able to capture enough of the mobile market and lock it into Windows and its Visual Studio developers in time.

As Linux is at the core of Android, there's already an open source approach. That should be extended up and down the Android stack, and also account for a share of the applications. Google should make sure that money can be made by content producers, and that Google's ad revenues are shared, just as with AdSense on the web. Carriers will need to move to these Android devices and find a model based on content subscription and use. In effect, the mobile platform goes to the Internet model, and not just for limited browsers use.

The Google Android platform and the Apple iPhone have a lot in common. In effect, the two global innovators of Apple and Google are placing different bets on diverging paths to a similar end point. As such, they probably are complementary in the long run. And that spells trouble for Microsoft, the mobile carriers, and the closed handset makers.

It's also possible that Apple's best interests and Google's will diverge at some later point. How open will they go? If it threatens the PC, it could also mean Apple's platform model comes under pressure.

Meanwhile, however, an Android-supporting iPhone may be about the best mobile experience on the planet for a long time in the not too distant future. Hook it up to a dock and its the best PC experience too. Write once, run anywhere, do anything, anywhere -- that's the potential we're looking at. It's hard to see how a closed Microsoft Windows Everywhere approach -- while still hugely successful on the PC for now -- can lock in at the required level on the mobile device. It's easier to see open mobile devices usurping the PC.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

UPS debuts customs clearance and international returns solutions for small businesses

Listen to the podcast. Read a full transcript of the discussion. Sponsor: UPS.

As the world becomes "flatter" and globalization drives new opportunities for international commerce, how do small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs) jump on the bandwagon?

The Internet allows any business to gather orders and process them across borders very easily at low cost. For SMBs in the U.S., currency fluctuation are working in their favor for overseas commerce. And such free-trade drivers as the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), and World Trade Organization (WTO) measures are making it easier for goods to flow around the globe -- at least in theory.

The reality is that small business operators need to jump through complex hoops -- especially in a post-9/11 world -- to actually move their goods across borders, and back again the event of returns. Recognizing the opportunity and the challenge, UPS in early 2008 is debuting several new services to help SMBs join the Fortune 500 when it comes to expanded markets and international commerce.

I had the opportunity to moderate a sponsored podcast discussion on the global trade landscape for SMBs, and to learn more about the latest UPS solutions for expanding trade while reducing complexity and risk. Listen as global trade experts and UPS executives explore how (SMBs) can better market their goods internationally, deal with customs and border rules at increasing scale and with reusable automation, while further leveraging the Web for added efficiency.

UPS is helping to change the face of global shipping by being a market innovator with a solution called UPS Paperless Invoice. It uses UPS applications and the Internet to define commercial shipment invoice data for border clearance, eliminating the customer's chore of manually applying three paper invoice copies to each shipment. UPS will also soon deliver UPS Returns in 98 countries so shippers can use digital technology and UPS solutions to prepare the proper return labels so goods can be easily returned back across borders when necessary.

Join Laurel Delaney, founder and president of, and Stu Marcus and Scott Aubuchon, both directors of new product development at UPS, for this SMB globalization opportunity podcast.

Here are some excerpts:
If you’re an American tourist and you're vacationing in Paris, your dollar buys fewer Euros right now. So you’d probably end up spending $7 for a cup of coffee, or even $50 for a taxi ride. A weak dollar can be good for the U.S. economy, though, because it makes American exports cheaper.

International shipping is at an all-time high. The Internet is making it easier for SMBs to trade internationally. Many of the free-trade agreements have helped, as well. But there’s still a lot of complexity involved in shipping across borders, and that’s something that we at UPS are very interested in helping our customers deal with and overcome.

For anything that’s not a document or a letter moving internationally, a commercial invoice is required to go with that shipment, in order to define what is contained in the shipment. So, for example, if you were shipping a cotton shirt, you’d need to document what type of shirt it is, where it was made, and what the fabric is. That process can be fairly complex and somewhat daunting, especially to folks who don’t do a lot of international shipping.

The U.S. Customs Bureau used to be part of the Treasury Department. It’s now called U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and it’s part of the homeland security function. So even though there’s freer trade, the documentation required for trade security purposes is still very important, and may be more important than ever.

UPS Paperless Invoice ... enables our customers to provide us with electronic data defining what’s in the international shipment -- that would be the commercial invoice data -- and provide that seamlessly and electronically, so that we can transmit it and use it for clearance on the other end. ... From the customer's perspective it really is completely paperless. They can take the data regarding the commodities they're shipping and either apply it within, or connected to, their shipping system.

Then, when they prepare the shipment, they simply designate the commodities that are in the shipment, transmit that information with the shipment upload, and we will use that information at the destination to clear the shipment. The customer doesn’t need to print and apply any paper at all in that process. This helps by saving them time, money, and paper.

One of the keys to dealing with duties, taxes, and a proper treatment of shipments is, in fact, the documentation. So getting that commercial invoice data correct, and consistently applied to each shipment, will be a big help with that. ... Because the data is moving electronically to its destination, it's not susceptible to being marred or lost in transit, as a piece of paper might. It’s also helped them to get their shipments cleared more seamlessly. We've seen that for a couple of our customers -- and we expect that the same will be the case for our customers who start using UPS Paperless Invoice in January.

How do we deal with returns? We hear that for some 70 percent of international returns, there is no standard operating procedure. They’re just done on an ad hoc, exception-by-exception basis.

... The research that we have done with our customers indicates that the most important reason customers want to have an efficient return process is for their own customer service. Exporting goods and shipping items globally is only one part of building your business. Offering customer service when things are wrong or customers need to replace items is really key to building customer loyalty and gaining additional business.

Customers know that, in the past, having items returned internationally was really a time-consuming and burdensome process. You have receivers who need to return items internationally, and they may not be familiar with shipping internationally. The shipper who sent it out really has a knowledge base in doing global commerce. Now, the receiver has these items and no way to efficiently get them back.

With UPS Returns, which we are expanding to 98 countries, UPS is going to be the first carrier to offer this type of solution to shippers. Now shippers can use the same UPS technology with which they export goods to prepare the return label and get it to their receiver to initiate the return process. A shipper can now prepare a label and a commercial invoice and have it e-mailed directly to the receiver. Where in the past you would only be able to fill out a manual label and put in the mail, now the receiver can get it immediately, and then use the label and the invoice to initiate the return process. ... This is going to begin in January 2008.
Listen to the podcast. Read a full transcript of the discussion. Sponsor: UPS.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Another option for BEA: Sell yourselves to a big, honking telco

While the potboiler of the Oracle-solicits-BEA story simmers on the front burner, there could be another option for BEA's board. Rather than BEA -- which states it will be happily acquired for $21 per share -- awaiting another software vendor to rescue it from the flinty grips of Oracle, why not seek out an entirely different sort of buyer?

A handful of the world's largest telecommunications carriers, I should think, ought to give serious consideration to BEA's plight. BEA would would do well to become the R&D arm, underlying infrastructure differentiator, integration hub, and sales/marketing channel lead into leading enterprise accounts for any carrier that needs to jump-start its business services offerings.

Now, I have suggested Microsoft might broaden its appeal to datacenter architects the world over by buying BEA, but Microsoft remains drunk on its growth potential as a Windows Everywhere vendor. And Microsoft would, seemingly, rather be late to the Web 2.0 bubble with a Facebook stake than late to the heterogeneous enterprise IT environment with a BEA-enabled segue to full IT and SOA solutions offerings.

Be that as it may, consider how a BEA would fit into a full-service telecommunications carrier's dominion in this pending new world of services, SaaS, subscriptions and the need for technology differentiation as carriers increasingly find themselves competing against Google, Apple, Microsoft,!, Amazon and eBay.

Right. So if a Verizon, at&t, Sprint, Deutsche Telekom, Orange (France Telecom), or other large carriers were to consider having BEA as part of their organization, what would they get? First, consider that carriers were behind a lot of purely technical advances in computing, with Unix, networks, patents, and R&D emanating from such places as older AT&T, Bell Labs, Westinghouse, and even General Electric. So the precedent of carrier conglomerates being in the IT supplier and R&D business is fairly well established, and the recent history of these global giants outsourcing their IT is the exception over the past 50 years. IBM and Microsoft would not be where they are otherwise.

We also hear the lament that carriers are bit pipes that perform the commodity work of building the networks and engaging and servicing the end users while the content, infrastructure and software developers earn the higher margins and jump first on the new opportunities. There is truth there.

Nowadays carriers are shouldering the mammoth costs of making the world ready for TCP/IP everything while trying to integrate for a triple and quad play offering of Internet, phone/voice, entertainment, and mobile. And for what? So others like Google or Disney can monetize the new advertising models, Apple can sell the music and (maybe) video/TV, and Amazon can sell the rest. And so Microsoft can follow their lead and carve out the industry?

Well, what if the carriers returned to their technical roots, and began the IT pioneering work again that would allow them to keep (and sell) faster, better, cheaper underlying technology (like Google and Amazon have done so well) while leveraging standards and open source as appropriate, and while also providing strong software infrastructure products (and increasingly services) to the large enterprise BEA-type, leading adopter accounts. I think many large businesses would welcome buying software, services and support from their largest networks, telecom, and mobile providers. There's one throat to choke, and the efficiencies and discounts of volume, global purchasing. Of course, they would have to execute very well, which means they need excellent technology and technologists -- and BEA has certainly been that.

A savvy carrier that executes well -- and exploits IT rather than be disintermiated by it -- could offer some fascinating bundles of BEA-type solutions (on premises, off premises, hybrids, lo-cations, grid, virtualized) with their other business-class offerings. They could build BEA middleware-empowered appliances or platforms that could drop into these accounts and tie-in back to the optimized networks and datacenter services.

These carriers could race to SOA and SaaS benefits quickly and directly, in ways that benefit their futures -- rather than be held in the waiting as Microsoft figures out the Live world and IBM deliver business services via SOA that further disintermediates the carriers and networks providers.

I know it's a stretch, and it bucks current thinking. But something like a BEA-at&t mashup -- as long as BEA stands alone inside the maw to well-service its current and new direct software customers -- has some very interesting synergies. Remember that at&t owns Sterling Commerce, which has been doing quite well at a higher level of SOA and supply chain efficiency work.

A BEA-at&t-Sterling mashup -- an integrated and optimized hub of business ecologies and commerce -- is rather attractive on many levels. Meanwhile, the BEA software intellectual property remains to be harvested, and could be quickly expanded upon with a flush R&D budget. An acquired BEA could be the tail that wags the at&t (or other carrier) dog.

Yes, Oracle's synergies with BEA are formidable and may be worth $17 per BEA share. But an innovative, imaginative telco with a 20-year business and consumer services development horizon (with both built on a common yet differentiated technical foundation), may enjoy synergies that do place BEA at $21 per share, comfortably. It's time for telcos to master the entire IT spectrum (again) and provide full solutions, at aggressive prices. It is, after all, about the ability to deliver the goods through the pipe that counts.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Time appears on Oracle's side in increasingly spooky BEA bid

It's getting late, many couples have embraced and moved on to the snug parlor. One pretty but aging player stands on the dance floor, and only one partner so far has stepped onto the parquet with an outstretched hand.

As the music winds down, as the richer prospects don't appear at the ball, our player still chooses to wait for sweeter succor. The grinning suitor pulls the hand back a bit, yet remains poised on the floor ... waiting as the night grows cold, waiting as the crowd thins, knowing that time must surely be on their side.

And so we have the Oracle solicitation of BEA Systems. By its actions, the BEA board's decision not to take Oracle's offer of $17 per share -- yet not to entirely dismiss the offer -- has left BEA in a limbo state that will only deteriorate its chances as time goes on. Activist investor Carl Icahn holds the orchestra's baton, and has let it be known that the music cannot go on much longer.

Even as ICahn has called to place our belle up for crass auction, another bell tolls for BEA. That is, as the quarter wears on and BEA's sales and business development activities are soured by the specter of a pending ownership change, the value of the company will probably begin to trail off, and could plunge.

Why? Because all of BEA's competitors -- not the least of which are IBM and Red Hat -- will be making merry mischief in the enterprise accounts. While Oracle and BEA stare each other down on the metaphorical dance floor, the whisperings of FUD are getting louder and clearer in the background.

How many contracts will be put on hold until this clears up? How many fewer BEA salespeople will make their numbers this quarter while the intrigue persists? How many savvy IT buyers will demand aggressive terms to close sooner rather than later?

BEA is between a rock and hard place, and time will only benefit Oracle, which knows the game well and has proven its tenacity and cunning in the not-distant past with PeopleSoft and Siebel. Tick tock, The Raven ... Poe's slow creep of inevitability and the dank chill of nevermore harsh reality.

If BEA spurns Oracle too much, and any deal appears entirely lost, the BEA stock plunges back down toward $11 per share, or an awkward auction. That's the rock. The hard place is that as Oracle stays in the game but refuses to budge from its $17 per share offer for weeks and weeks, with enough time for the short-term market conditions to work their decomposition effects against BEA. If its sales and pipeline numbers flag as it nears its next quarterly SEC filings, Oracle may be able to set its offer even lower. Investors may flee, driving the price down more. Oracle retracts and offers lower. And so on. BEA will simply be worth less over time. Investors will demand clarity.

To rescue itself from this fate, if BEA works the street hard to prop up sales in the near terms, it will have to do so with incentives and price-cuts -- which will hurt revenues while propping up contracts and deals. Tick Tock ... nevermore. The result in investors eyes will be nearly the same.

Yes, BEA only has a limited period of time to play hard to get. And that time is only in the matter of weeks or very few months. During that time, Oracle has no downside but to wait, watch, make mischief in the field -- and let IBM, TIBCO, Red Hat, and Microsoft do the rest ... nevermore.

The BEA salesepeople, whose near-term diligence may only pay off in the form of a pink slip anyway, are especially vulnerable. How will they respond? Is this dance actually on the parquet of the Titanic for them?

Without the outside chance of a white knight swooping in to pluck Belle BEA off of the dance floor of discontent, Oracle is a Halloween trick that remain less likely to further tempt with additional treats. And Oracle will still get what it wants, probably at an even better price. It is a spooky time for BEA, to be sure ... nevermore.

Friday, October 26, 2007

SOA Insights analysts view IBM's information umbrella, explore SAP's Business Objects grab and define 'Guerilla SOA'

Read a full transcript. Listen to the podcast.

The latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Vol. 26, provides a roundtable discussion and dissection of Services Oriented Architecture (SOA)-related news and events with a panel of IT analysts and experts.

In this episode, our group examines the relationship and tension between enterprise-wide SOA and more discrete Web-Oriented Architecture -- what we like to call Guerilla SOA. We also look at the probable acquisition of Business Objects by SAP, and the recent Information On Demand conference from IBM.

Join noted IT industry analysts and experts Jim Kobielus, principal analyst at Current Analysis; Tony Baer, principal of onStrategies, and JP Morgenthal, CEO of Avorcor. Our discussion is hosted and moderated by me, Dana Gardner.

Here are some excerpts:
On WOA and 'Guerilla SOA'

You always have two different communities -- one very active, very leading-edge groups like financial services, and then there are always on the lookout for new technologies that are going to help them do their business faster and better, doing lots of more. They are not risk averse they are willing to throw some additional capital at those projects and see what they’ll bear. Right now they are the primary community that I see that’s really gung-ho on this. ... The other group, let’s call them the moderates or the laggards, definitely view this technology as questionable. ... They still lean towards, "I want a complete application. I really don’t want to play with this stuff."

Therefore, people might be pushing it off, which relates to what IBM is doing, which is trying to make this comprehensive, more simplified, and more integrated, so that, in addition to those cutting edge organizations in such fields as financial services, this could be more palatable for the larger bell curve of enterprises. ... My concern for the industry as a whole is that people are going to view it as throwing a lot of consulting dollars down the drain and not seeing any value for it. I’ve recently joined the camp, at least academically, not in any way physically or throwing my weight behind it, but Guerrilla SOA is what I have been doing in my business. I just haven’t put a title to it.

A year or year-and–half-ago, we started seeing WOA ... and it’s also been called Enterprise Web 2.0 or Enterprise 3.0. But, it’s really putting emphasis on REST, as a way of leveraging HTTP as a Web service. And now WOA is becoming more of an emerging best practice. Guerrilla SOA better captures what it’s up to or about than WOA. ... So, this notion of an application with a REST style for building Web services based on straight HTTP and XML sort of applies to what JP has been talking about.

I'm much more in favor of small, non-enterprise oriented, focused projects that deliver value within 30 to 90 days. I see that’s the greatest value right now for using these technologies based on SOA, Web services, and the like, because the enterprise stuff is nice, but right now it is too fluid for the industry to grab hold of. It’s resulting in potential large-scale problems for companies that have no idea how to build the distribution. ... The problem with distributed environments is that very few people actually know how to manage them.

In IBM’s case, they are one of the founders of distributed computing. At their core, they understand it well, but they buy too much into their own marketing hype and don’t tell customers well enough, "Hey, look, at the core of all this, of what you’re trying to do, trying to get more agile, we lived there. We built the first computers that became agile and communicated across network."

Parts of this argument we could have had 10 years ago, the whole idea of the big umbrella vendor. If nobody wanted a big umbrella vendor and wanted best of breed, SAP would not be what it is today. I remember during the emergence of the ERP market about 10 or 12 years ago, there was a debate: “Shall we go best of breed, versus an umbrella approach?" The market has clearly spoken.

However, what you've gotten at the same time is a revolution that picked up steam with the original Borland IDEs and the popularity of bottom-up development, and was energized by the original Visual Basic. There is a powerful constituency of organizations that need Guerilla SOA and need to get it done now. It’s also behind the rise of agile development.

When you look at just the difference in style between conventional Web service and RESTful, there is a little bit of an irony. Conventional Web services were touted as a simpler alternative to an earlier incarnation of SOA, which was CORBA. This reflects a growing maturity in the field. As we started getting a little more experience working with some of those Web-services technology, we realized that maybe we didn't always need those complicated SOAP headers. So, why not dispense with that, because most of our needs right now are for simple things like fetching data.

Everybody is going to run around the corporate standard, if the corporate standard doesn’t meet their needs. It’s the actual knowledge workers, the end users. If IT can't give them what they need, they are going to find it some other way. If what the knowledge worker needs is not being funded out of capital budgets and being supported by IT, they're going to pay for it our of their monthly expenses. They are just going to grab it for free on the Internet and mash it up.

I've been focusing more on the small and mid-sized market, and these guys just want to get something done. The interesting thing is that they don’t spend their time sitting there wondering, whether they're going to do Web services or SOA. It’s more like 1,500 calls coming in a day, they’re being bombarded, and yet they still have to get stuff done. So, it’s the backlog.

Then you come in and you tell them, "Hey, in three weeks I can give you a completely new wrapper around everything you have, leave exactly what you have in place, but allow you to do everything you wanted to, the way you want to do it." At first, they say, "Right, show me." Once you show them, it opens up a non-stop flow. They get it the minute they see it.

The Web itself and the WOA and the Guerilla SOA are all part of the same trend, which is away from the need for a large corporate IT umbrella, but that you can get things done, satisfy customer needs, be innovative and agile in new markets, and can go global -- all based on not needing one big umbrella, but leveraging what’s able across a rich, fertile, open ecology.

On IBM's Information On Demand Conference

About two years ago, IBM established an organizing framework for their data management, database integration, and other data solutions, called Information On Demand, and it’s just a big catch-all for the products they already had, as well as lots of new projects they’ve been developing to address data management under the SOA big top.

IBM released 10 press releases
, and even those press releases didn’t capture every nuance of every product announcement, enhancement, and initiative they've got going on. ... They announced upgrades or enhancements to their databases, data warehousing products, their master data management (MDM) products, their data integration products under the Information Server portfolio, their enterprise content management products, the FileNet products, plus the preexisting IBM content management products.

What's really interesting is the whole idea of IBM biting of more than they can chew. IBM and Oracle are among the few organizations that could pull off something like this and not be overwhelmed by it. You and I saw this several years ago when Ascential had it’s analyst conference right after the acquisition by IBM and they revealed the roadmap. What's impressed me is that it’s been a very deliberate plan.

A cornerstone of that was Information Server, the whole information-server strategy. Ascential itself was kind of a mini IBM, a company that was glued together by acquisition. What they realized was they had all these disparate tools that ultimately related to the lifecycle of data in all those different forms, and, prior to the acquisition by IBM, they had a roadmap which, I believe, was called Hawk and Serrrano.

The interesting part was that it was all going to become metadata driven and that would drive all the data-integration and data-access strategies. So, I see that as the unsung hero of all this. It provided a more global perspective IBM needed and rationalizes all of these other initiatives. It’s not that everything is acting off of Information Server as a hub, but it provides a logical core or gut unification theory.

On Business Objects and SAP

The big news there of course was the pending acquisition by SAP. One of the good things was, at the very start of the keynote, Bernard Liautaud, the founder of the Business Objects, reassured the customers, employees, and partners that Business Objects will be a standalone product group under SAP. It will autonomous. It can continue to pursue its vision. ... It will up to Business Objects whether it makes sense to use a particular piece of SAP technology in any given product, but he reassured everybody that there will be growing integration between Business Objects and SAP offerings.

But [Henning Kagermann, the Chairman of SAP] intends to have it both ways, because he then said, “We will also make sure that Business Objects maintains an equivalent level of tight integration with all of our competitors.” He's trying to have it both ways, but at least Kagermann was speaking the right speak. From my discussions afterwards, everybody said, "Yeah, I think they are speaking in good faith. So far, so good. We’ll wait and see." The deal has not been closed yet, and it will be a couple of months.

I see the convergences that are going on are all being driven by SOA mega brands that are continuing to bulk up on the full range of best-of-breed tools that enterprises are asking for. SAP, although it has BI, data warehousing, and data integration under NetWeaver, none of that is best of breed. It’s all primarily just in the box when you license their CRM or ERP applications.
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