Wednesday, March 19, 2008

SpringSource releases tool suite based on Eclipse Mylyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sybase releases iPhone enterprise email solution

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 17, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sybase readies means to make iPhone a Lotus Notes client

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sun waits out Microsoft, gets some interoperability bang after all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 8, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 6, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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