Sunday, April 6, 2008

MokaFive moves desktop virtualization into the cloud

MokaFive, a three-year-old company from Redwood City, Calif., has driven a stake in the ground in the virtualization market with the introduction of its desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) innovation Virtual Desktop Solution.

Combining cloud computing with local execution on a variety of platforms, including a USB flash drive, the solution allows administrators to centrally manage desktops for thousands of employees worldwide.

By creating a "Live PC" desktop, which contains the operating system and application stack, and having it hosted by MokaFive, administrators can distribute, manage, and update the desktop from a single copy on the host computer. Large companies can host the LivePCs on their own servers, if they desire.

Users sync their local desktop with the copy in the cloud, allowing them to always be able to access the latest pristine version. When synced with the Live PC, the desktop is loaded onto the local device, whether a PC or even a flash drive. It then runs as a virtual machine on that device and users can work online or offline. Because execution is local, it reduces the demand on servers and networks.

Changes made by administrators are reflected in the local device whenever users connect to the Live PC. By using a flash drive, users can access their desktop on any x86 -based machine, having all their productivity tools at their fingertips, but leaving no footprint behind once the flash device is unplugged.

While not a household world yet, DaaS isn't brand new. I wrote about it last summer when Desktone announced its virtual desktop platform, with its emphasis on service providers. However, the MokaFive offering focuses on the longstanding problem of managing desktops in mid-sized to large organizations, especially those with remote employees.

The DaaS approach means that companies no longer need to set up their own desktop management infrastructure. MokaFive Virtual Desktop Solution is already in use by customers for disaster recovery, software testing in sandbox environments, secure remote access and lab management. Features of the MokaFive solution include:
  • Faster launches: Predictive Fetch technology makes virtual computers start up faster and update quicker, and users can start using a LivePC before it has finished downloading.

  • Automatic updates: Auto Subscription pushes administrator security updates and application patches to users in a process similar to subscribing to RSS feeds.

  • Self-healing: "Rejuvenation" technology allows users to recover from malware by simply shutting down and restarting a LivePC. On reboot, the operating system and all applications are automatically restored to their original, clean state.

  • Cross-platform and OS flexibility: LivePCs can be installed on a desktop, laptop or any portable storage device like an encrypted flash drive or even an iPod.

  • Enhanced security with BareMetal: This customized Linux distribution runs on bare computer hardware without an underlying operating system, making it optimal for security-critical applications.
Administrators can also send "poison pills" to individual remote devices, allowing them to remove the virtual machine in the case of machines that are lost or stolen, or to remove functionality from contract workers when the contract has finished.

MokaFive offers the product in two flavors: Express Solution is free and gives users an opportunity to create and use public desktops from the MokaFive community lab. The Professional Solution is designed for enterprise use to allow companies to create and distribute private desktops. It also provides technical support.

Pricing, still pending, will be on a per-user basis. A 30-day free trial is available from the MokaFive site.

'Platform as a Service' enables cloud-based software development and deployment lifecycle

Read a full transcript. Listen to the podcast. Sponsor: Bungee Labs.

On demand applications and cloud computing often mean different things to different people. For developers, software as a service (SaaS) is quickly evolving not only as a means to deliver applications -- but as the means to develop them, too.

Taking the notion of "development as a service" to its full potential is the logic behind Platform as a Service (PaaS). To help understand the power of PaaS, we speak in this sponsored podcast to one of the early PaaS pioneers and providers, Bungee Labs.

Learn how software development is entering a new era in this discussion with Phil Wainewright, independent analyst and fellow ZDNet SaaS blogger, as well as with Alex Barnett, the vice president of community and blogger at Bungee Labs. Moderation from yours truly.

Here are some excerpts:
Everything we know is moving to the Web. And what that means in tangible terms is that businesses and service providers and software companies are providing layers of functionality and data that are native to the Web or are Web-oriented.

It’s important when we look at the speed of development to appreciate that three or four folks in a garage in Northern California can come up with a mashed-up service and go out and create a social networking company, for example, quick and easy -- and at low expense. And then, here you are in an enterprise, taking six months to work through a requirements process. It seems as if something has got to change.

IT managers feel the pressure to be able to more rapidly to develop applications and access the data that are based on and being made available through Web APIs. And developers are able to then connect, develop, and build-out new applications based on distributed data, on distributed functionality and react to the business needs.

If you think about customer relationship management (CRM) systems or a certain kind of database -- they are in silos, they are disconnected, or they are very expensive and require lots of proprietary knowledge in order to be able to access the data, and therefore the value. What we are seeing with things like Web oriented architecture (WOA) is a materialization of how we get out of that frustration as an industry -- how we get out of that frustration from business. We want the data and the business intelligence from it, and to be able to get at that from a business perspective.

What we're seeing develop at the moment is kind of a two-tier information technology. On the one hand, you have all of the existing on-premise, legacy applications and all that data that Alex was describing. It's locked away, and IT managers are really puzzling over and grappling with the issue of how to unlock that data. How do they make it more accessible? How do they build more agility into applications infrastructure?

They are looking at things like service-oriented architecture (SOA) and other ways of connecting and integrating the data, while automating business processes within the organization. So that’s one tier.

The other tier that’s developing is this Web-oriented tier, all of these APIs and in-the-cloud resources and applications that are out there on the Web. To take advantage of those connections, you need to build a completely new infrastructure, which is different from the existing infrastructure within the firewall. It has to cope with connecting to external resources, and it has to have different kinds of security, different kinds of identity management.

Building a robust infrastructure to do this is very, very hard. That’s one of the reasons why a lot of enterprises are holding back, and are therefore missing agile opportunities. That’s one of the roles that the PaaS can provide.

[And] that’s what we are trying to define at Bungee Labs. PaaS is one of those terms that we’re going to be hearing more and more. And they are going to be different -- varying levels of definition and interpretation of what that means.

But what we’ve done is put a stake in the ground in this respect, and then saying that in order to really be a PaaS -- and not just any one of those single pieces that you’ve mentioned plus more individual pieces -- that you need to be able to provide the end-to-end services to really call it a "platform."

From the developer’s standpoint, which is the development cycle, this means the tools that they need to develop applications, to be able to then test those applications, to be able to connect to Web services and to combine them, and to have all those kinds of capabilities -- and to then deploy and to make those applications instantly available to the business users. Literally, we mean a URL that is the end-point for the end-user. From that, they can start consuming the application.

The on-demand CRM providers like NetSuite,, Oracle, and now we’re hearing Microsoft Dynamics, are providing Web services layers over the functionality that they provide to the end users.

We’ve always been able to do a certain level of functional customization around those applications, but when you have the Web services that provide access to the data -- on the programmatic level -- you gain a whole new opportunity to merge, in terms of levels of customization against an existing CRM application, or ERP systems.

This pushes out the expansibility and the increased functionality of the investments that they’re making. It allows for those services to be able to expand that further in a cloud-orientated, Web-orientated way.

You really destroy the misconception that if you go to SaaS you can’t do customization and you can’t do integration. It means that we’re actually doing better customization and better integration than you are capable of doing with many on-premises systems, because it’s actually a more flexible customization. It’s more cost-effective integration because it’s a shared service.

What previously seemed like disadvantages of the SaaS model can be turned on their head and turned into advantages.
Read a full transcript. Listen to the podcast. Sponsor: Bungee Labs.

IT search and SCM search may together bridge the design time-run time divide

Productivity improvements in software development and deployment strategies will ultimately have to reckon with the lingering lack of feedback between design time and run time.

Software is still a hand-off affair, with developed applications getting tossed into production with little collaboration between the builders and the operators -- before or after the hand-off.

Things could and should be different. Thanks to search-based technologies and services now entering the market, we may be on the verge of a new productivity boomlet that leverages more needles from more haystacks.

With proper access to information about how code actually behaves in real-world use, developers could better produce reliable applications and infrastructure. Architects and systems operators could better anticipate how to meet the demands and service level agreements (SLAs) of quickly provisioned applications if they had greater visibility into the hit on resources -- and potential disruptions -- from newly minted applications and services. Virtualization will only exacerbate the deployment complexities.

Wouldn't it be beneficial then if the information about what goes on "on the other side" were made available proactively to each side of the equation? Search functions applied directly to both sides of the development and deployment fence would allows those open a bright new window into what remains murky and mysterious from the outside.

Developers with proper access to indexes and meta data could use search to quickly find highly specific information about run time environments and stacks as they write and test their code, and as they seek out the best components, objects and methods suitable for specific runtime scenarios.

Conversely, operators faced with slow-running applications -- or worse -- could search into the source code for clues about root causes of glitches, and much easier and faster identify and remediate the problems. They could also clearly point out the impactful issues back to the development and test teams, to prevent the glitch from recurring in the future.

We're already seeing a great deal of value from operations-side search, and the extension of that value due to platform approaches, APIs and open collaboration. Splunk is providing a path on IT search as a platform. [Disclosure: Splunk is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts, including this one on Splunk Base.]

Other vendors are emerging to fruitfully employee search to the source code management (SCM) space, such as Krugle. Krugle offers a search benefit for open source assets, as well as enterprise development assets.

Now when we can jibe software characteristics and collaborate across the design time-run time divide based on the type of insight that the likes of Splunk and Krugle provide, well then we'll be in a better software age. It may be sooner than we think.

I'm dying to blog on the NYT story, but it's nothing to lose sleep over

The blogosphere is having a field day with The New York Times page one Sunday story on killer blogs. (They came from Africa via South America, and are moving north from Texas right now!)

Funny that the passing of NRA chatterbox Charlton Heston (Let my Ammo Go!) was the NYT story for metro edition, replacing the blogs kill story from the national edition on page one.

So let's honor Charlton by taking a lesson from the NRA: Guns don't kill people, blogs do.

Or perhaps it's, Blogging doesn't kill people, computers do. (I'll give up my laptop when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!)

No, no, wait ... it must be: Heart attacks don't kill people, Mike Arrington does ... or wants to, at least Demo, mainstream media, CNET, and all the other bloggers who take speculative investments and still don't put in the torturous hours he does.

Let's hereby make today, National Tuck a Blogger In For a Nap Day. Sweet dreams, Mike.

Friday, April 4, 2008

WOA may soon eclipse SOA as most impactful business transformation agent

In a recent blog post I questioned whether services oriented architecture (SOA) was driving substantive transformation inside of enterprise IT. My conclusion is that something is not quite right in SOA-ville.

The uptake of general-purpose service enablement is by no means a hockey stick trend line. The adoption patterns some five years into the SOA evolutionary path do not show a "slam dunk" demand effect. The role, impact and importance of SOA is, in fact, ambiguous ... still. Many see it as merely an offshoot of EAI, rather than a full-blown paradigm shift.

Meanwhile, some other trends that do demonstrate more of a hockey stick adoption pattern -- social media, Ruby/Phython, RESTful interactions, and RIAs -- are worth a fresh look in the context of SOA. The new kids on the innovation block are experimenting at break-neck speed with social media, social networking, Ruby on Rails, SaaS, Python, REST and the vital mix of rich Internet application (RIA) approaches.

Something is going on here that shows the compelling attraction of better collaboration and sharing methods, of self-defining social and work teams, of faster and easier applications development, of not moving old systems to the Web but just moving to the Web directly, and the recognition that off-the-wire applications with fine UIs are the future.

A lot of these issues surfaced in a face-off last night between CEO Marc Benioff and SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner.

So who's on first, SOA or Web oriented architecture (WOA)? These Web-facing trends for the time being may remain outside the strict boundaries of enterprise IT -- but they are of great interest to developers, ISVs, welling Web 2.0 services start-ups, and cloud compute purveyors.

These technologies and techniques are also clearly on the radar of forward-looking innovators inside of businesses large and small. Indeed, those non-IT influencers inside of corporations with a keen eye on the all-important Internet growth opportunity are the constituency to win over, and they are not sold on SOA.

If these methods and tools work for a handful of developer entrepreneurs in proverbial garages with credit-card balance-sized investment requirements, then why wouldn't the same solutions be scalable and relevant to the more established business world? Reaching customers quickly with compelling products and services that exploit and leverage the Internet -- this is the same for General Motors, Sprint and Dick-and-Jane startups alike.

The startups often have advantages -- because, among other things, they don't need a SOA, they don't need to integrate with 15 different back-end systems, they don't need to wield the political power inside a bureaucracy necessary to get anything done. Success requires the best of start-ups and the best of what large, well-capitalized corporations can do. But the balance may be shifting to the fleet and Agile side of the equation.

So I'm wondering now whether the window for holistic SOA deployment and value, as it has been classically defined, is being eclipsed. Is it possible that Web interfaces and data disintermediation for legacy applications will be enough? Is it possible that exposing the old applications, and reducing costs of IT support via consolidation and modernization is enough?

In short, is the path of least resistance to business transformation one that necessarily requires a fording of the SOA stream? Or is there a shorter, dry path that goes directly to Web oriented architecture? Is SOA therefore the impediment or empowerment to transformation on the right scale and at Internet time?

Is it better to seek business transformation, or perhaps to seek just enough transformation that creates better services for my employees and customers, ones that rely on the Web as much as possible? And if you don't need to go full-bore SOA on the infrastructure side to enjoy lower cost with better extension of application logic and data value, they why do it? Or why do it first?

And if you can build new applications of code, not components, and the interactions are all loosely coupled from start to finish, and the Web GUIs are what become automated -- rather than the middleware -- then doesn't that make sense, too?

What seems most important from the legacy IT installations is better access, control and extension of the application-specific data. And we can do that without full-bore SOA. And we can access that data from these WOA applications.

Maybe we don't really need a unifying theory of datacenter assets and resources after all. Maybe we can recognize that particle physics is particle physics and gravity is gravity, to use a matter-of-fact analogy. Why boil the ocean, when you can fry up a few fish and serve them up fast to the highest bidders?

I'll be seeking answers to these questions next week at the IBM Impact WebSphere conference in Las Vegas. The same questions will no doubt be on a lot of minds, and as well for those evaluating Oracle, BEA, SAP, HP, and Microsoft when it comes to SOA and WOA values.

I'm seeing a lot of good productivity being created from both legacy modernization and new Web development-and-deployment efficiencies -- and they are by no means mutually exclusive. Indeed, data integration advances and Web oriented architecture together may be the real SOA adoption path.

So let's keep an eye on how social media and networks enable workers inside of companies and users outside of companies to relate in ways that help them find what they want and what they need -- and to with quite impressive ease combine and unite as teams -- for fun and productivity. Business process efficiency may come from business-oriented social networks than from business analysts-driven services repositories and governance-enabled policies engines.

And composite applications may come from rapid Ruby development and Agile team practices -- perhaps deployed lickety-split to a public or private cloud -- than from a BPEL orchestration approach.

Services reuse may not matter as much as the kinds of use that drives constant iterative improvement on Web-facing online widgets and mashups. The real goal is to get work done and to make business and consumer services quickly and dependably available to the online and physical markets. For these real results, is SOA an impediment or empowerment?

SOA's aims have been worthy -- light-weight development, fleet compositing of services and applications, easily customizable processes, flexibly deployment options, reduced total costs, and legacy assets extensions. But there does seem to be more than one way to skin a cat.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

ZapThink's Linthicum takes reins as CEO of data services provider StrikeIron

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) consultant and author Dave Linthicum has taken over as CEO at data services provider StrikeIron, just six months after Linthicum sold his consulting firm to and became a managing partner of SOA analysis firm ZapThink.

On April 2, Linthicum was identified as CEO of StrikeIron in an article on, "RIA, SOA & Web 2.0 Mashups - Mash What?" StrikeIron is also conducting analyst briefings this week on Linthicum's new role as new CEO, though no news releases have apparently been issued.

Linthicum will continue as a ZapThink contributor and associate, said Ron Schmelzer, ZapThink managing partner and senior analyst. "Actually, it's a very positive thing happening.

"Technically, Dave Linthicum is still a ZapThink contributor and associate. We had negotiated something as part of our acquisition that would allow him to also serve as a CEO if an opportunity so presented itself. And one did. So, we're all still one big happy family,"said Schmelzer.

“I’m still a ZapThinker at heart, however I also have passion around what StrikeIron is doing and wanted to be a part of it,” said Linthicum. “I loved working with/at ZapThink. I will still be a contributor, adviser, and friend of ZapThink.”

Linthicum has offered his expertise on Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), SOA and Web 2.0 through speaking, consulting, advisory services, and prolific blogging and writing. In September, ZapThink acquired The Linthicum Group, making its founder a major partner in the SOA services firm.

Before forming Linthicum Group, he had been the CEO of BRIDGEWERX, former CTO of Mercator Software, and has held key technology management roles with a number of organizations including CTO of SAGA Software, Mobil Oil, EDS, AT&T, and Ernst and Young.

StrikeIron provides several on-demand web services offerings, mostly for data integration functions, as well as provides a marketplace for web services.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Apple makes headway on PC vs Mac front, but isn't that the old war?

The writing is clearly on the wall. The iPhone will grow into a significant enterprise end-point role, and OS X Macs will quickly advance beyond the now 20 percent share (estimated) of the total non-enterprise fat client compute device market. This is all but done.

Problem is that Apple is winning in the old war -- the PC vs the Mac, and the smartphone vs the mobile Internet device (MID) battles. The larger, more long-term opportunity has moved upward and outward into the realm of the services cloud. Becoming the funnel through which to acquire, access and pay for the cloud-spewing services is the new war. Client hardware isn't going to matter that much very soon, and will likely become free.

Just as Google Docs gains an offline capability, more of what will make people and workers productive will be what they get as pure services from cloud-based hosts. The next war is the cloud war, and the battles will be fought around software as a service, desktop as a service, integration as a service, infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, development as a service, content management as a service, and so on.

The new money will made through a combination of access subscriptions, direct payments for digital and media objects downloads, advertising, revenue sharing from online retail transactions, and B2B lead generation motifs.

Apple is in a good position to grab a portion of these revenues, but only a portion. Google is in a better position. And the Microsoft-Yahoo conglomeration may be in the very best position, but nothing is set in stone.

That means we should expect quite a bit of news out of Apple soon that has nothing to do with client-side hardware, and much more to do with the iTunes funnel and the .mac services cloud.

Microsoft seems to gets this. Because it does not have a client hardware business (mice and keyboards not withstanding) it can race to the next big thing on software, better than, say, Dell. Microsoft has all but given up on the the fat PC business for its future growth. Fat PC clients are a maintenance business now for Redmond.

As long as the packets make it down to the end point and get rendered, Microsoft can find new ways to grow, which are all about the cloud, integrated services, single sign on, virtualized CALs, and advertising. They call it software plus services, but it's all about the services and the dollars.

Microsoft may lose the installed Office business cash cow, but it can gain far more variety of services ... with ultimately a larger addressable market. Microsoft has figured out, thanks to Google, that the Internet business is bigger than the PC business. And these services may well represent a 50-year business trend line, instead of the fat client 20-year business that is now topping out.

Apple surely gets this too, and it's already engaged accordingly. So let me make some predictions. Apple will only have a handful more of meaningful product generations on client-side hardware. Yep, that's right, the iPhone and the Air are the beginning of the end, just because there's not too much more innovation needed down there in the hardware space. Please just add more flash memory capacity and build in the multi-protocol broadband network connectivity to the chip, and we can wrap it all up.

There's only about two to three more years left in the client hardware innovation business before the end-points go pure commodity, even with Apple's intellectual property. The hardware becomes a basic catcher's mitt for the packets, a single chipset that grabs the several important signals and processes them into a basic Web UI and supports the runtime, virtualized most likely. I, for one, don't want to see native iPhone apps; just use the browser and great UI.

But the software layer on top of the hardware, now that's a different story. And it's not a Windows domination segue guarantee, no sir. Too much baggage to support. Microsoft needs a standalone lightweight client story, and neither Vista nor CE is it. Microsoft needs to practically start from scratch on the client software of the future.

And so Apple needs to exploit this "window" of opportunity, and to take iTunes to a much larger role: The new lightweight operating system for the modern cloud services and commerce end-point. This new layer can very quickly emerge from iTunes-as-cash register for music version -- and grow into the everything else under the sun as a service (and cash register) layer.

And that's why Safari on Windows is a massively important campaign for Apple. For Apple to be a player in the cloud-based future, it must parley its iTunes hegemony into a Safari critical mass -- and that has to come at the expense of Internet Explorer and (sorry to say) Firefox.

Next, Apple will then need to munge together Safari and iTunes into a uber client layer for cloud computing-generated services reception and payments -- on mobile, PC, MID, anything that can catch the packets and support an iTunes browser. This is the funnel play, and Apple probably can do it better than anyone.

And so then comes the big question. Will Apple use this new software client model to make the services tie-in closed, open, or how open? Will Apple try and do on the Safari/iTunes client model what Microsoft has so far failed to with Windows? Will Google keep Apple open enough on all of this?

Microsoft, with the massive Yahoo audience it may soon own, will try and hold on to the client software chokepoint -- even as Apple makes a mad dash for it. This is the new war, and it has little to do with the difference between a Mac and a PC. It about both and how they access the clouds.

I suspect an Apple-Google partnership could outfox the Microsoft-Yahoo hairball, and that the Safari-iTunes-Android trifecta looks pretty interesting as the new client platform. What do you think?

Monday, March 31, 2008

WSO2 launches Web Services Framework for Spring 1.0

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

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

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

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

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

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