Wednesday, April 22, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 20, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hooray! Oracle acquisition of Sun makes perfect sense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 17, 2009

HP teams with Microsoft, VMware to expand appeal of desktop virtualization solutions

As the sour economy pushes more companies into the arms of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for cost cutting, the vendor community is eagerly wiping out obstacles to adoption by broadening the appeal of desktops as a service for more users, more types of applications and media.

This became very clear this week with a flurry of announcements that package the various parts of VDI into bundled solutions, focus on the need to make rich applications and media perform well, and expands the types of endpoints that can be on the receiving end of VDI.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) expanded its thin-client portfolio with new offerings designed to extend virtualization across the enterprise, while providing a more secure and reliable user experience. The solutions bundle software from Microsoft and VMware along with HP's own acceleration and performance software, as well as three thin client hardware options.

I can hardly wait for HP to combine the hardware and software on the server side, too. I have no knowledge that HP is working up VDI appliances that could join the hardware configurations on the client side. But it sure makes a lot of sense.

Seriously, there are few companies in the better position to bring VDI to the globe, given what technologies they gain with Mercury and Opsware, along with internal development ... Oh, and there's EDS to make VDI hosting a service in itself. Look for a grand push from HP into this enterprise productivity solutions area.

Leading the pack in this latest round of VDI enhancements are the three thin clients -- the HP gt7720 Performance Series, and the HP t5730w and t5630w Flexible Series. These offer new rich multimedia deployment and management functionality -- rich Internet applications (RIA), Flash, and streaming media support -- that enhance the Microsoft Windows Embedded Standard. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

The Palo Alto, Calif. company also announced several other new features:
The thin clients feature Microsoft Internet Explorer 7, Windows Media Player 11 and the ability to run applications locally, they also include Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol 6.1, which enables devices to connect and take advantage of the latest security and enterprise management technologies from Windows Server 2008.

RDP Enhancements multimedia and USB redirection enable users to easily run web applications, videos and other files within a virtual desktop environment, while avoiding frame skipping and audio or video synchronization issues. The software downloads the processing directly to the thin client, creating an enhanced multimedia experience while lowering the load on the server, which results in increased server scalability.

This also creates a near-desktop experience for VMware View environments, including support for the latest VMware View Manager 3 broker with no need for additional employee training. Users simply log in on the thin client to take advantage of its multimedia features, such as training videos, and USB device support.

HP and VMware also are working together to enable VMware View Manager’s universal access feature to leverage RGS for remote desktop sessions.

RGS is designed for customers requiring secure, high-performance, collaborative remote desktop access to advanced multimedia streaming and workstation-class applications. The software includes expanded, real-time collaboration features to allow multiple workers from remote locations to see and share content-rich visualizations, including 2-D design, 3-D solid modeling, rendering, simulation, full-motion video, heavy flash animation and intense Web 2.0 pages.

Not surprisingly, a lot of the technology being used in these VDI bundles originated with secure CAD/CAM virtual workstation implementations, where graphics and speed are essential. If it works for developers in high-security areas, it should work for bringing ERP apps and help desk apps to the masses of workers who don't need a full PC on every desktop. They just need an interactive window into the apps and data.

Expected to be available in early May, the new thin clients will be priced from $499 to $799. More information is available through HP or authorized resellers or from I would expect that EDS is going to have some packages that drive the total cost down even more.

Research and editorial assistance by Carlton Vogt.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

CollabNet rebrands ALM product to better support distributed development and cloud applications

As companies are being drawn -- or nudged -- into cloud computing, tools are emerging to make distributed services lifecycles more secure and efficient. The latest entry into the field is CollabNet's newly rebranded TeamForge 5.2, which greases the skids for Internet-based software development and deployment.

Formerly known as SourceForge Enterprise, the Brisbane, Calif. company's flagship application lifecycle management (ALM) product now helps developers define and modify profiles and software stacks and provision these profiles on both physical and virtualized build-and-test servers, including from public or private clouds.

Users can access servers from CollabNet's OnDemand Cloud, Amazon's EC2, as well as their own private cloud implementation. TeamForge 5.2 also includes Hudson's continuous integration capability, allowing Hudson users to provision and access build-and-test servers from any of these clouds.

CollabNet also announced Tuesday a relationship with VMWare to help deliver an integrated development environment so independent software vendors (ISVs) and developers can use TeamForge and VMWare Studio to create applications for deployment in internal and external clouds.

CollabNet said it renamed its product to reflect the company's support of modern software development, and elevated Subversion management, across widely distributed project teams. We can expect that the cloud shift will move development to multiple cloud development and deployment environments, and so require heightened management and security capabilities. As platform as a service (PaaS) gains traction, complexity could well skyrocket.

Just as complexity in traditional development projects has benefited from Subversion and ALM, so too will the cloud-impacted aspects of development and deployment. I wonder when the business process management (BLM) functions and ALM functions will intercept, and perhaps integrate. Oh, and how about a feedback loop or two to services governance and a refined requirements update wokflow stream. Now that's a lifecycle.

TeamForge 5.2 also provides role-based access control for distributed teams via increased management visibility, governance, and control of mission-critical software in Subversion repositories. The new release provides granular, path-based permissions for flexible Subversion access control, said CollabNet.

Lastly, the Agile software development method gets a nod with the integration of the Hudson continuous integration engine through a CollabNet plug-in. TeamForge also supports a wide variety of development methods, environments, and technologies.

TeamForge 5.2 is available for download as a free trial at

Research and editorial assistance by Carlton Vogt.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Open Source and Cloud: A Curse or Blessing During Recession? BriefingsDirect Analysts Weigh In.

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The productivity and perils of open source software has been a topic pretty much beaten to death. Yet the landscape in IT, as always, is shifting -- because of the recession and because of a white hot interest in cloud computing.

It's time again, then, to look at the pluses and minuses of open source software models in the context of tight IT budgets and the advent of cloud-based services for enterprises. Our latest BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights roundtable discussion, vol. 39, therefore examines open source in the context of economics, complexity, competition, and the disruption of the shifting business models in software.

The major question is: Does using open-source software pay off in a total cost sense, compared to commercial offerings today? Furthermore, how will this change over the coming several years as cloud models take hold?

Please join noted IT industry analysts and experts Tony Baer, senior analyst at Ovum; Jim Kobielus, senior analyst at Forrester Research; JP Morgenthal, independent analyst and IT consultant, and David A. Kelly, president of Upside Research. Our guests are Paul Fremantle, the chief technology officer at WSO2 and a vice president with the Apache Software Foundation; Miko Matsumura, vice president and deputy CTO at Software AG, and Richard Seibt, the former CEO at SUSE Linux, and founder of the Open Source Business Foundation. Our discussion is hosted and moderated by me.

Here are some excerpts:
Morgenthal: I believe that open source and noncommercial licensing is a good thing and has been very positive for the industry as a whole. My concern is for the proliferation of free software, that is, the commercial software that businesses use without paying any license and, optionally, only have to pay maintenance for to run their business. They earn their profit using that software to run their business, and yet nothing is given back to the software industry.

In my opinion, it's like a flower that's not getting fed through its roots, and eventually that flower will wither and die. To me, it’s almost parasitic, in that there are good parasites and bad parasites. Right now, it's proving itself to be a little bit on the good parasite side, but with a slight permutation, this thing can turn around and kill the host.

... Anytime you have a model where something is given away for free, at some point the free stops. It's very difficult to monetize going forth, because every buy is a buyer's remorse. "I could have had that for free."

... Economically long-term, I don't believe anybody has thought about where these changes stop and what they end up cannibalizing. Maybe we end up with a great market, and maybe we don't. I'd just love to see some attention paid to detail before people just willy-nilly go do these things. What is the long-term impact here?

Kobielus: There's a broader range of options for the buyer in terms of how they can acquire this functionality through open-source or commercial licenses, appliances, cloud, and so forth. ... Open source has been a good parasite. ... Innovation is going like gangbusters, but the business model of being a pure software vendor based on pure commercial licensing is dying out.

Matsumura: Complexity is a really powerful force in the economy and in enterprise software in general. One of the things that open source is doing is helping to simplify some of the infrastructural components and to decrease the overall condition of heterogeneity. ... We have learned that in the business of service-oriented architecture (SOA) and business process management (BPM) -- which are called middleware businesses -- is that chaos is perpetual, in the sense that there are two major driving forces in the economy: competition and consolidation.

Sure, there is commoditization in the IT platform, which is advanced by open source. Contrary to what JP was saying, one of the great things about open source is that it forces IT organizations like Software AG to selectively pick where they make their investment. They will put their investments in at the leading edge of complexity, as opposed to where things have slowed down and are not changing quite as fast.

Open source for quality innovation

Fremantle: There's a change in the marketplace. ... What I see is what you might call "managed commoditization." In a way we've had commoditization of all sorts of things. No one pays money for the TCP/IP stack. That's a piece of open-source software that has now become ubiquitous. It's not of interest to anyone. It's just a commodity that's free. ... I don't think we need innovation in that space. [Disclosure: WSO2 is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

If you do something interesting and innovative, whether you are open source or not, if you partner with your customers and really add value, then they will pay you, whether or not your license forces them. The license is a blunt instrument. ... To me, that's something that was abused by software companies for many years.

What open source is doing is sorting the wheat from the chaff. It's sorting out, "Is this something that is a commodity that I don't want to pay for, or is this something that has real value and is innovative, and that I need the support, the subscription, and the help of this company to help me implement?"

Seibt: It's absolutely true that open-source companies are very innovative. If you look at SaaS or even cloud computing, there are many startups that probably lead the way. For open source, we look at that market from a customer perspective. They use the software because of its innovation, its quality, and its cost, and they wouldn't use it for any other reason. It is the innovation, quality, and cost.

Open source is moving up the stack and has reached the SOA level. Large corporations are using open-source SOA frameworks, because they want to be fully independent from any vendor. They trust themselves to develop this piece of software together with the bigger community, which becomes a community of enterprises. Innovation is not only from startups, but it's from large corporations, as well.

Cloud masks use of open source

Kelly: I'm not sure that cloud computing necessarily opens up the field for open-source computing. To some extent, it almost shuts it down, because it then becomes cloud as a series of application programming interfaces (APIs) or a series of standardized connections or services out there that could be supported by anything. Open source is one solution. The one that's going to win is going to be the most efficient one, rather than the lowest cost one, which may or may not be open source.

As you look at cloud computing, some of the initiative that we saw with original open-source roll outs over the past 10 years has been almost mitigated. ... My question really is how far can the open-source innovation go. As organizations move into business processes and business-driven value, all the executives that I talk to don't want to focus on the lower-level infrastructure. They want to focus on what value this software is giving in terms of supporting my business processes. ... They don't want to be in the software-development business.

How far can open source go up that stack to the business process to support custom applications, or is it always going to be this kind of really lower-level infrastructure component? That's the question that I think about.

Morgenthal: The cloud actually hides a whole other layer of the "what and the how" from the user and the consumer, which could work in favor of open source or it could work against open source. ... As long as that thing works, it's reliable, and can be proven reliable, it can be put together with chewing gum and toothpicks and no one would know the difference.

Gardner: JP brings up an interesting issue. It's about risk. If I go down a fully open-source path as an enterprise or as a service provider, is that going to lead me into a high-risk situation, where I can't get support and innovation? Is it less risky to go in a commercial direction? Perhaps, the best alternative is a hedged approach, where there is a hybrid, where I go commercial with some products and I go open source with others, and I have more choice over time.

Matsumura: We're already beginning to hybridize. Even with customers who are acquiring our technology, our technology takes advantage of a lot of open-source technologies, and we have built components. As I said, we're very selective about how we choose to make our investments.

We're investing in areas that obviously are not as commoditized, just because a rolling stone doesn't gather any moss. The big sections of the market, where things have cooled off a lot, where open source can kind of create pavement, is somewhat irreversible.

Our customers need to be able to successfully compete in the market, not just on the basis of lowering the cost of operations through free stuff, but really to be able to differentiate themselves and pull away from the pack. There is always going to be a leading edge of competitive capability through technology. Companies that don't invest in that are going to be left behind in an uptick.

Collaboration between provider and user

Fremantle: Most open-source software is not free. If you want the same things that you get from a proprietary vendor -- which is support, bug fixes, patches, service packs, those kind of things -- then you pay for them, just as you do with a proprietary vendor. The difference is in the partnerships that you have with that company.

What a lot of this has missed is the partnership you have in an open-source project is not just about code. It's about the roadmap. It's about sharing user stories more openly. It's about sharing the development plan more openly. It's a whole ecosystem of partnership, which is very different from that which you have with a standard commercial vendor.

There is an opportunity here to build frameworks that really scale out. For example, you may have an internal cloud based on Eucalyptus and an external cloud based on Amazon. You can scale seamlessly between those two, and you can scale up within your internal cloud till you hit that point. Open-source software offers a more flexible approach to that.

Kobielus: In many ways, the cloud community, as it grows and establishes itself as a viable business model, will increasingly be funding and subsidizing various open-source efforts that we probably haven't even put on the drawing board yet. That will be in a lot of areas, such as possibly an open-source distribution of a shared-nothing, massively parallel processing, data warehousing platform for example. Things like that are absolutely critical for the ongoing development of a scale for cloud architecture.

If there is going to be a truly universal cloud, there is going to have to be a truly universal open-source scale-out of software.
Read a full transcript of the discussion.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Google Apps charges ahead with improved data security and long-awaited Java support

Cast Iron Systems and Google have teamed up to overcome one of the biggest hurdles to cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) in the enterprise -- concerns over data security.

Cast Iron for Google Apps, which was announced today, includes the Google Secure Data Connection, enabling the encrypted exchange of data between a company's enterprise applications and Google's cloud offerings. This makes it easier for companies to integrate their Google Apps and Google App Engine applications with on-premises and cloud apps.

Cast Iron, Mountain View, Calif., is a SaaS and cloud applications provider, and offers pre-configured connectivity with hundreds of other applications, as well as a library of integration templates with pre-configured gadget data maps. Cast Iron for Google Apps offers a portfolio of deployment options, including integration-as-a-service through Cast Iron Cloud, and on-premise physical and virtual appliances.

In a recent survey, IT executives displayed considerable hesitancy in switching to cloud-based applications. A main reason for holding back, cited by many of these executives, was the concern over data security.

Not everyone is squeamish about using cloud apps. Schumacher Group, a $250-million U.S. emergency medicine practice management firm, has created a web portal for its medical providers using a set of custom gadgets and a Google site. The company manages 2,500 physicians who care for 2.5 million patients each year in over 150 emergency rooms across 20 states.

Cast Iron for Google Apps helps enable the extraction and secure exchange of data from Schumacher Group’s MS SQL Server data warehouse to Google Enterprise Gadgets in real-time. Providers and doctors in the Schumacher network now have more secure visibility into emergency room data from anyplace, anytime.

In other Google Apps news, the long-awaited Java support for App Engine has been announced, and the first 10,000 developers to sign up will be given a first look and a chance to comment.

With the new support, developers can build web applications using standard Java technologies and run them on Google's scalable infrastructure. The Java environment provides a Java 6 JVM, a Java Servlets interface, and support for standard interfaces to the App Engine scalable datastore and services, such as JDO, JPA, JavaMail, and JCache.

Also included is a secure sandbox, which will allow developers to run code safely on Google servers, while being flexible enough to allow them to break abstractions at will. More information is available at

These two developments continue the march toward enterprise-ready cloud activities. Can we still really call cloud just a fad or hype?

HCM SaaS provider Workday's advanced architecture brings cloud business agility benefits to enterprises now

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The paybacks from designing a strong IT architecture can now be enjoyed by more than the enterprises that build them. Increasingly, enterprises are reaping the fruits of modern IT architectures that their software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud providers have developed.

Think of it as a multiplier effect of IT modernization -- everyone using the services benefits. In essence, by building good applications and infrastructure, SaaS providers are providing more than standalone applications and services -- they are delivering business agility through integration as a service but without having to upgrade your data center.

By using a unified SaaS service as a way to achieve integration across many far-flung services and processes, the so-called "cloud of clouds" principle can be achieved early. This drives down complexity and cost. It allows enterprises to exploit cloud productivity benefits without building a cloud, and to integrate via cloud advancements without mastering cloud-level integrations.

To learn more about IT architectural best practices at a SaaS provider can achieve these added benefits for the users now -- at greatly reduced total costs and little or no capital outlays -- I recently examined the experiences and approaches of Workday, a human capital management (HCM) SaaS provider. Listen as Stan Swete, CTO of Workday, explains how advanced SaaS providers be an effective core to reach and obtain cloud computing business benefits early and meaningfully.

Here are some excerpts:
It's our belief that enterprise applications have driven a lot of success and a lot of value in enterprises, but that success and value has come at a very, very high cost. Essentially the systems come down to being very hard to use, hard to change, and hard to integrate.

At Workday ... we started our company with a lot of background in what had gone before in terms of architectures to support enterprise resource planning (ERP). ... [We knew] what worked and what didn't work so well with previous client-server architectures.

From the beginning, we thought about a system that would be able to deal natively with producing Web services to get data out of and back into the application and would treat the conversation with other systems as a first-class conversation, just like the conversation with individual users.

In IT today, people are in a difficult spot. They have complex environments. The complexity has grown for a variety of reasons. Everyone sees the opportunity to modernize and to improve efficiencies, but how do you do that in the midst of a complex environment that is constraining just how aggressive you can be?

If you have a SaaS provider like Workday, or someone who's able to take a clean approach, ... instead of having to deal with the complexity of managing all the multiple instances and different architectures you might have, you can use the unified SaaS service as a way to achieve some integration and cut costs. ... Today, it's all about cost.

We have the religion of service-oriented architecture (SOA), and firmly believe that the right way for us to tie into other systems in the cloud and other systems on-premise of our customers is via SOA and an embrace of Web services. We embrace that and we think to some extent that it can accelerate SOA adoption within enterprises. They all see the appeal of newer SOA architectures ... [but] they have the whole other set of architectures that they've got to be concerned about maintaining.

We think the rigidity in these architectures comes from the fact that you've got a complex logic layer. ... Millions of lines of code, in most cases, are backing the logic layer of enterprise systems. That layer has a complex conversation with the relational database, which also has its own complex structure -- typically thousands of relational tables to model all of the data.

We decided to take an entirely new approach in this area and embrace an approach that leveraged the concept of encapsulating data with some of the logic into an object. ... At Workday, the primary logic server is what we call our Object Management Server. It's a transaction processing system, but it's entirely based on an object graph, and that is just a class structure that represents not only the application and its data, but also the methods that process on that data.

The important difference is that we have that layer and we don't have a correspondingly complex and changing data layer. We have a persistent data store that is a simplified version of a relational database that can persist changes that happen from the object layer. ... It's an unchanging relational schema that can persist, even as we make changes up in the object layer.

[Furthermore] we have some of the transformational and delivery options in multiple formats available to us in our data center, so that the Workday applications can generate Web services. Beyond that, we can transform those Web services into other data formats that might be more meaningful to legacy applications or the other applications we need to tie to. We did a lot of work in that area and came up with the need to embrace Web services and embed in an enterprise service bus (ESB).

When you combine the architecture we talked about with the SaaS delivery model ... There are definitely benefits for the customers that we're serving and, frankly, we think that in the approach there are tons of benefits for us, as a vendor, to take cost out of what we're doing and pass those savings on to our customers.

... If you combine that architecture with a cloud-based approach or delivery of SaaS, you get what we at Workday call "hosted integration" or "integration on demand." ... We take the ESB and package up integration so that it can be reused across a wide set of customers.

Built-in business intelligence, as we call it, is also absolutely an advantage of our offering. ... Having an object model that allows us to link more data attributes together than a classical relational database to establish relationship is a lot lighter weight than having to build the foreign key into another table. We're able to cross-link a lot of information that we're tracking inside the object model that we have, and so we're able to offer unusually rich reporting to the customers.

Our transactional application is facilitating multi-dimensional analysis without the need to have to take the data, off load it into an OLAP cube, and then, by a third-party tool, query that cube. ... [This] information can be more interesting to the people who are not just back-office human resources professionals, but maybe managers who wanted to get information about their workforce. That is all built into the application, and that's the level of increased business intelligence we're delivering today.

There is just a large world of opportunity to expand into. ... We're growing to provide business intelligence without the need to buy third-party tools to do it.

[Additionally] you're going to have people who want to use your application without getting into the pages that your application actually renders. Mobile is a great example of that. We absolutely see widening out access to Workday on the mobile devices.

We've been very quickly able to extend the business-process framework that we have ... so that approvals that are done within that framework can now be completely processed on a mobile device. We’ve picked the iPhone as the first starting point and we'll be expanding out to other devices. ... There is a lot of information that is currently presented well within Workday, but it could be presented just as well within a gadget and someone else's portal.

We're able to mark-up a subset of our data and have that appear in a native client on the iPhone that you can get on the App Store, just like you get any other iPhone application. Then, with security, you're just utilizing a native app, which is acting on Workday data. We use that for manager approvals, the management of to-do lists, and for enterprise search of the workforce. That's been a successful example of leveraging this modern architecture. We didn't have to go in and rewrite our applications.

[There are] new options for enterprises to look at in terms of offloading some of the applications that they're trying to support in their existing environment. It's a vehicle for consolidating some of the complexity that you have into a single instance that can be managed globally if you have architected globally, as Workday has done.

We talked about a lot of the value of leveraging new technology to deliver enterprise applications in a new way and then combining that with doing it from the cloud. That combination is going to profoundly change things going forward.

If you think about the combination of modern architectures and cloud-based modern architectures, what will happen when two vendors that have taken that similar approach start to partner in terms of integrated business processing is that the bar will get raised significantly for how tight that integration can become, how well supported it can be, and how it can functionally grow itself forward, without causing high cost and complexity to the consuming enterprise that's using both sides.

As I look in the future, I think enterprises will see an ecosystem of their major application providers be cloud-based and be more cohesive than a like group of on-premise vendors. Instead of having a collection of different architectures and different vendors all in their data center, what they will see is an integrated service from the set of providers that are integrating with Web services in the cloud.

It allows for a lot more integrated processes.
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