Friday, October 30, 2009

Business and technical cases build for data center consolidation and modernization

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and View a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Akamai Technologies.

Data-center consolidation and modernization of IT systems helps enterprises reduce cost, cut labor, slash energy use, and become more agile.

Infrastructure advancements, standardization, performance density, and network services efficiencies are all allowing for bigger and fewer data centers and strategically architected and located facilities that can efficiently carry more of the total IT requirements load.

But to gain the benefits of these large and strategic infrastructure undertakings, the impact on the network beyond the firewall has to be considered. User expectations for performance and IT requirements for reliability need to be maintained, and even improved.

Fewer data centers means longer distances between servers and users. Network services and Internet performance management therefore need to be brought considered to produce the desired effect of topnotch applications and data delivery to enterprises, consumers, partners, and employees at far lower cost.

Here to help us better understand how to get the best of all worlds -- that is, high performance and lower total cost from data center consolidation -- we're joined by James Staten, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research; Andy Rubinson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Akamai Technologies, and Tom Winston, Vice President of Global Technical Operations at Phase Forward, a provider of integrated data management solutions for clinical trials and drug safety. The panel is moderated by me, BriefingsDirect's Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:
Staten: Oftentimes, the biggest reason to do [consolidation] is because you have sprawl in the data center. You're running out of power, you're running out of the ability to cool any more equipment, and you are running out of the ability to add new servers, as your business demands them.

If there are new applications the business wants to roll out, and you can't bring them to market, that's a significant problem. This is something the organizations have been facing for quite some time.

As a result, if they can start consolidating, they can start moving some of these workloads onto fewer systems. This allows them to reduce the amount of equipment they have to manage and the number of software licenses they have to maintain and lower their support costs. In the data center overall, they can lower their energy costs, while reducing some of the cooling required.

... Most applications actually end up consuming on average only 15-20 percent of the server. If that's the case, you've got an awful lot of headroom to put other applications on there.

We were isolating applications on their own physical systems, so that they would be protected from any faults or problems with other applications that might be on the same system and take them down. Virtualization is the primary isolating technology that allows us to do that.

... More and more applications are being broken down into modules, and, much like the web services and web applications that we see today, they're broken into tiers. Individual logic runs on its own engine, and all of that can be spread across some more monetized, consistent infrastructure. We are learning these lessons from the dot-coms of the world and now the cloud-computing providers of the world, and applying them to the enterprise.

... On average, across all the enterprises we have spoken to, you can realistically expect to see about a 20 percent cost reduction from doing this. But, as you said, if you've got 5,000 servers, and they're all running at 5 percent utilization, there are big gains to be had.

Rubinson: I focus mainly on delivery over the Internet. There are definitely some challenges, if you're talking about using the Internet with your data center infrastructure -- things like performance latency, availability challenges from cable cuts, and things of that nature, as well as security threats on the Internet.

It's thinking about how can you do this, how can you deliver to a global user base with your data center, without having to necessarily build out data centers internationally, and to be able to do that from a consolidated standpoint.

... From the cost perspective, we're able to eliminate unnecessary hardware. We're able to take some of that load off of the servers, and do the work in the cloud, which also helps reduce them.

... In terms of responsiveness, by using the Internet, you can deploy a lot more quickly. It allows us to give that same type of performance, availability, and security that you would get from having a private WAN, but doing it over the much less expensive Internet.

This is really important, as we have seen more and more users that are going outside of the corporate [networks]. People are connecting to suppliers, to partners, to customers, and to all sorts of things now.

... By optimizing the cloud, we're able to speed the delivery of information from the origin as well. That's where it's benefiting folks like Tom, where he is able to not only cache information, but the information that is dynamic, that needs to get back from the data center, goes more quickly.

Winston: When I joined [Phase Forward], it had two different data centers -- one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. We were facing the challenge of potentially having to expand into a European data center, and even potentially a Pacific Rim data center.

By continuing to expand our virtualization efforts, as well as to leverage some of the technologies that Andy just mentioned ... Internet acceleration via some of the Akamai technologies, we were able to forgo that data center expansion. In fact, we were able to consolidate our data center to one East Coast data center, which is now our primary hosting center for all of our applications.

So it had a very significant impact for us by being able to leverage both that WAN acceleration, as well as virtualization, within our own four walls of the data center.

We run electronic data capture (EDC) software, and pharmacovigilance software for the largest pharmaceutical and clinical device makers in the world. They are truly global organizations in nature. So, we have users throughout the world, with more and more heavy population coming out of the Asia Pacific area.

... We have a very large, diverse user base that is accessing our applications 24x7x365, and, as a result, we have performance needs all the time for all of our users.

... Our primary application, our flagship application, is a product called InForm, which is the main EDC product that our customers use across the Internet. It's accelerated using Akamai technology, and almost 100 percent of our content is dynamic. It has worked extremely well.

Staten: ... Users are all over the place. Whether they are an internal employee, a customer, or a business partner, they need to get access to those applications, and they have a performance expectation that's been set by the Internet. They expect whatever applications they are interacting with will have that sort of local feel.

That's what you have to be careful about in your planning of consolidation. You can consolidate branch offices. You can consolidate down to fewer data centers. In doing so, you gain a lot of operational efficiencies, but you can potentially sacrifice performance.

You have to take the lessons that have been learned by the people who set the performance bar, the providers of Internet-based services, and ask, "How can I optimize the WAN? How can I push out content? How can I leverage solutions and networks that have this kind of intelligence to allow me to deliver that same performance level?" That's really the key thing that you have to keep in mind. Consolidation is great, but it can't be at the sacrifice of the user experience.

... The right location [for data centers] has to be optimized for a variety of factors. It has to be optimized for where the appropriate skill sets are. It has to be optimized for the geographic constraints that you may be under.

We're able to take some of that load off of the servers, and do the work in the cloud, which also helps reduce them.

You may be doing business in a country in which all of the citizen information of the people who live in that country must reside in that country. If that's the case, you don't necessarily have to own a data center there, but you absolutely have to have a presence there.

Winston: ... We had users in China who, due to the amount of traffic that had to traverse the globe, were not happy with the performance of the application. Specifically, we brought in Akamai to start with a very targeted group of users and to be able to accelerate for them the application in that region.

It literally cut the problem right out. It solved it almost immediately. At that point, we then began to spread the rest of that application acceleration product across the rest of our domains, and to continue to use that throughout the product set.

Rubinson: ... We recently commissioned a study with Forrester, looking at what is that tolerance threshold [for a page to load]. In the past it had been that people had tolerance for about four seconds. As of this latest study, it's down to two seconds. That's for business to consumer (B2C) users. What we have seen is that the business-to-business (B2B) users are even more intolerant of waiting for things.

It really has gotten to a point where you need that immediate delivery in order to drive the usage of the tools that are out there.

... Just putting yourself in the cloud doesn't mean that you're not going to have the same type of latency issues, delivering over the Internet. It's the same thing with availability in trying to reach folks who are far away from that hosted data center. So, the cloud isn't necessarily the answer. It's not a pill that you can take to fix that issue.

... For Akamai, it's really about how we're able to accelerate. How we are able to optimize the routing and the other protocols on the Internet to make that get from wherever it's hosted to a global set of end users.

We don't care about where they are. They don't have to be on the corporate, private WANs. It's really about that global reach and giving the levels of performance to actually provide an SLA. Tell me who else out there provides an SLA for delivery over the Internet? Akamai does.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and View a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Akamai Technologies.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Separating core from context brings high returns in legacy application transformation

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and View a full transcript or download the transcript. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Gain more insights into "Application Transformation: Getting to the Bottom Line" via a series of HP virtual conferences Nov. 3-5. For more on Application Transformation, and to get real time answers to your questions, register to the virtual conferences for your region:
Register here to attend the Asia Pacific event on Nov. 3.
Register here to attend the EMEA event on Nov. 4.
Register here to attend the Americas event on Nov. 5.

his podcast is the second in a series of three to examine Application Transformation: Getting to the Bottom Line. Through panel discussions we examine the rationale and likely returns of assessing the true role and character of legacy applications, and then further determine the paybacks from modernization.

To gain the most return on modernization projects, many enterprises are separating core from context when it comes to legacy enterprise applications and their modernization processes. As enterprises seek to cut their total IT costs, they need to identify what legacy assets are working for them and carrying their own weight, and which ones are merely hitching a high cost -- but largely unnecessary -- ride.

A widening cost and productivity division exists between older, hand-coded software assets and replacement technologies on newer, more efficient standards-based systems. Somewhere in the mix, there are also core legacy assets distinct from so-called contextal assets. There are peripheral legacy processes and tools that are costly vestiges of bygone architectures. There is legacy wheat and legacy chaff.

With us to delve deeper into the high rewards of transforming legacy enterprise applications is Steve Woods, distinguished software engineer at HP, and Paul Evans, worldwide marketing lead on Applications Transformation at HP. The discussion is moderated be me, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:
Evans: This podcast is about two types of IT assets: core and context. That whole approach to classifying business processes and their associated applications was invented by Geoffrey Moore, who wrote Crossing the Chasm, Inside the Tornado, etc.

He came up in Dealing with Darwin: How Great Companies Innovate at Every Phase of their Evolution with this notion of core and context applications. Core being those that provide the true innovation and differentiation for an organization. Those are the ones that keep your customers. Those are the ones that improve the service levels. Those are the ones that generate your money. They are really important, which is why they're called "core."

When these applications were invented to provide the core capabilities, it was 5, 10, 15, or 20 years ago. What we have to understand is that what was core 10 years ago may not be core anymore. There are ways of effectively doing it at a much different price point.

As Moore points out, organizations should be looking to build "core," because that is the unique intellectual property of the organization, and to then buy "context." They need to understand, how do I get the lowest-cost provision of something that doesn't make a huge difference to my product or service, but I need it anyway.

The "context" applications are not less important, but ... you should be looking to understand how that could be done in terms of lower-cost provisioning [of them].

Woods: [A lot of the interest in separating core and context in legacy IT applications] has to do with the pain users are going through. We have had customers who had assessments with us before, as much as a year ago, and now they're coming back and saying they want to get started and actually do something. So, a good deal of the interest is caused by the need to drive down costs.

Also, there's the realization that a lot of these tools -- extract, transform, and load (ETL) tools, enterprise application integration (EAI) tools, reporting, and business process management (BPM) -- are proving themselves now. We can't say that there is a risk in going to these tools. They realize that the strength of these tools is that they bring a lot of agility, solve skill sets issues, and make you much more responsive to the business needs of the organization.

... What I created at HP is a tool, an algorithm, that can go into any language legacy code and find the duplicate code, and not only find it, but visualize it in very compelling ways. That helps us drill down to identify what I call the unintended design. When we find these unintended designs, they lead us to ask very critical questions that are paramount to understanding how to design the transformation strategy.

... When you identify the IT elements that are not core and that could be moved out of handwritten code, you're transferring power from the developers -- say, of COBOL -- to the users of the more modern tools, like the BPM tools.

So there is always a political issue. What we try to do, when we present our findings, is to be very objective. You can't argue that we found that 65 percent of the application is not doing core. You can then focus the conversation on something more productive. What do we do with this? The worst thing you could possibly do is take a million lines of COBOL that's generating reports and rewrite that in Java or C# hard-written code.

We take the concept of core versus context not just to a possible off-the-shelf application, but at architectural component level. In many cases, we find that this is helpful for them to identify legacy code that could be moved very incrementally to these new architectures.

... A typical COBOL application -- this is true of all legacy code, but particularly mainframe legacy code -- can be as much as 5, 10, or 15 million lines of code. I think the sheer idea of the size of the application is an impediment. There is some sort of inertia there. An object at rest tends to stay at rest, and it's been at rest for years, sometimes 30 years.

So, the biggest impediment is the belief that it's just too big and complex to move and it's even too big and complex to understand. Our approach is a very lightweight process, where we go in and answer to a lot of questions, remove a lot of uncertainty, and give them some very powerful visualizations and understanding of the source code and what their options are.

... When you go to the legacy side of the house, you start finding that 65 percent of this application is just doing ETL. It's just parsing files and putting them into databases. Why don't you replace that with a tool? The big resistance there is that, if we replace it with a tool, then the people who are maintaining the application right now are either going to have to learn that tool or they're not going to have a job.

If we get the facts on the table, particularly visually, then we find that we get a lot of consensus. It may be partial consensus, but it's consensus nonetheless, and we open up the possibilities and different options, rather than just continuing to move through with hand-written code.

If you look at this whole core-context thing, at the moment, organizations are still in survival mode.

Evans: If you look at this whole core-context thing, at the moment, organizations are still in survival mode. Money is still tight in terms of consumer spending. Money is still tight in terms of company spending. Therefore, you're in this position where keeping your customers or trying to get new customers is absolutely fundamental for staying alive. And, you do that by improving service levels, improving your services, and improving your product.

... The line-of-business people are now pushing on technology and saying, "You can't back off. You can't not give us what we want. We have to have this ability to innovate and differentiate, because that way we will keep our customers and we will keep this organization alive."

That applies equally to the public and private sectors. The public sector organizations have this mandate of improving service, whether it's in healthcare, insurance, tax, or whatever. So all of these commitments are being made and people have to deliver on them, albeit that the money, the IT budget behind it, is shrinking or has shrunk.

The leaders must understand what drives their company. Understand the values, the differentiation, and the innovations that you want and put your money on those and then find a way of dramatically reducing the amount of money you spend on the contextual stuff, which is pure productivity.

Woods: ... Decentralizing the architecture improves your efficiency and your redundancy. There is much more opportunity for building a solid, maintainable architecture than there would be if you kept a sort of monolithic approach that's typical on the mainframe.

... The problem is sometimes not nearly as big as it seems. If you look at the analogy of the clone codes that we find, and all the different areas that we can look at the code and say that it may not be as relevant to a transformation process as you think it is.

The subject matter experts and the stakeholders very slowly start to understand that this is actually possible. It's not as big as we thought.

I do this presentation called "Honey I Shrunk the Mainframe." If you start looking at these different aspects between the clone code and what I call the asymmetrical transformation from handwritten code to model driven architecture, you start looking at these different things. You start really seeing it.

We see this, when we go in to do the workshops. The subject matter experts and the stakeholders very slowly start to understand that this is actually possible. It's not as big as we thought. There are ways to transform it that we didn't realize, and we can do this incrementally. We don't have to do it all at once.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and View a full transcript or download the transcript. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Gain more insights into "Application Transformation: Getting to the Bottom Line" via a series of HP virtual conferences Nov. 3-5. For more on Application Transformation, and to get real time answers to your questions, register to the virtual conferences for your region:
Register here to attend the Asia Pacific event on Nov. 3.
Register here to attend the EMEA event on Nov. 4.
Register here to attend the Americas event on Nov. 5.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Linthicum's latest book: How SOA and cloud intersect for enterprise productivity benefits

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Welcome to the latest BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition, Volume 45. This periodic discussion and dissection of IT infrastructure related news and events with industry analysts and guests, looks at a new book on cloud computing, a step-by-step guide on figuring out the right path to combined cloud and SOA benefits.

Dave Linthicum's new book, Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise: A Step-by-Step Guide, has just arrived and digs into the conflation of SOA and cloud computing. Our discussion with Linthicum on his findings is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:
Linthicum: SOA is the way to do cloud. I saw early on that SOA, if you get beyond the hype that's been around for the last two years, is really an architectural pattern that predates the SOA buzzword, or the SOA TLA.

It's really about breaking down your architecture into a primitive state of several components, including services and data and processes., Then, it's figuring out how to assemble those in such a way that you can not only solve your existing problems, but use those components to resolve problems, as your business changes over time or your mission changes or expands.

Cloud computing is a nice enhancement to that. Cloud doesn't replace SOA, as some people say. Cloud computing is basically architectural options or ways in which you can host your services, in this case, in the cloud.

As we go through reinventing your architecture around the concept of SOA, we can figure out which components, services, processes, or data are good candidates for cloud computing, and we can look at the performance, security and governance aspects of it.

Architectural advantages

We find that some of our services can exist out on the platform in the cloud, which provides us with some additional architectural advantages such as self-provisioning, the ability to get on the cloud very quickly in a very short time without buying hardware and software or expanding our data centers, and the ability to rapidly expand as we need to expand basically on demand.

If we need to go from 10 users to 1,000 users, we can do so in a matter of weeks, not having to buy data-center space, waves and waves of servers, software, hardware licenses, and all those sorts of things. Cloud computing provides you with some flexibility, but it doesn't get away from the core needs to architecture. So, really the book is about how to use SOA in the context of cloud computing, and that's the message I'm really trying to get across.

... As we move toward cloud computing, there are more economical and cost-effective architectural options. There is also the ability to play around with SOA in the cloud, which I think is driving a lot of the SOA. In fact, I find that a lot of people build their first initial SOA as cloud-delivered systems, be it Amazon, IBM, Azure from Microsoft, and some of the other platforms that are out there.

Then, once they figure out the benefits of that, they start putting pieces of it on premise, as it makes sense, and put pieces of it on the cloud. It has the tendency to drive prototyping on the cheap and to leverage architecture and play around with different technologies without the investment we had to do in the past.

... We've got to stop the insanity. We've got control IT spending. We've got to be much more effective and efficient with the way in which we spend and leverage IT resources. Cloud computing is only a mechanism, it's not a savior for doing that. We need to start marching in new directions and being aggressively innovative around the efficiency, the expandability, and ultimately the agility of IT.

... When you're doing SOA and considering SOA within your enterprise or agency, you should always consider cloud as an architectural option. In other words, we have servers we're looking to deploy in middleware, we're looking to leverage in databases we're looking to leverage in terms of SOA. It's governance systems, security systems, and identity management.

Cloud computing is really another set of things that you need to consider in the context of SOA, and you need to start playing around with the stuff now, because it's so cheap. There's no reason that anybody who's working on an SOA shouldn't be playing around with cloud, given the amount of investment that's needed. It's almost nothing, especially with some of the initial forays, some of the prototypes, and some of the pilot projects that need to be done around cloud.

... Software as a service (SaaS) is probably the easiest way to get into the cloud. It also has the most potential to save you the greatest amount of money. Instead of buying a million-dollar, or a two-million-dollar customer reliationship management (CRM) system, you can leverage for $50-60 a month.

After that, I would progress into infrastructures as a service (IaaS), and that's basically data center on demand. So, it's databases, application servers, WebSphere, and all those sorts of things that you are able to leverage from the data center, but, instead of a data center, you leverage it from the cloud.

Guys like Amazon obviously are in that game. Microsoft, or the Azure platform, are in that game. Any number of players out there are going to be able to provide you with core infrastructure or primitive infrastructure. In other words, it's just available to you over the 'Net with some of kind of a metering system. I would start playing around with that technology after you get through with SaaS.

. . . Instead of having to buy infrastructure and buy a server and set it up and use it, we could go get Google App Engine accounts or Azure accounts.

Then, I would take a look at the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technology, if you are doing any kind of application development. That's very cool stuff. Those are guys like Force, Google App Engine, and Bungee Labs. They provide you with a complete application development and deployment platform as a service. Then, I would progress into the more detailed stuff -- database, storage, and some of the other more sophisticated services on top of the primitive services that we just mentioned.

... PaaS with that Google App Engine is driving a lot of innovation right now. People are building applications out there, because they don't have to bother existing IT to get servers and databases brought online, and that will spur innovation.

So, today, we could figure out we want to go off and build this great application and do this great thing to automate a business and, instead of having to buy infrastructure and buy a server and set it up and use it, we could go get Google App Engine accounts or Azure accounts.

Huge potential

Then, we can start building, deploying, defining the database, do the testing, get it up and running, and have it immediately. It's web based and accessible to millions of users who are able to leverage the application in a scalable way. It's an amazing kind of infrastructure when you think about it. The potential is there to build huge, innovative things with very few resources.

... Ten years ago, it was very difficult to do a start up. You'd have a million dollars in investment funds just to get your infrastructure up and running. Now, startups can basically operate with a minimal amount of resources, typically a laptop, pointing at any number of cloud resources.

They can build their applications out there. They can build their intellectual capital. They can build their software. They can deploy it. They can test it. Then, they can provision the customers out there and meter their customers. So, it's a great time to be in this business.

... There needs to be a lot of education about the opportunities and the advantages of using cloud computing, as well as what the limitations are and what things we have to watch out for. Not all applications and all pieces of data are going to be right for the cloud. However, we need to educate people in terms of what the opportunities are.

The fact of the matter is that it's not going to be a dysfunctional and risky thing to move pieces of our architecture out into cloud computing. Get them around the pilot. Get them to go out there and try it. Get them to basically experiment with the technology. Figure out what the capabilities are, and that will ultimately change the culture.

... We're going to get to a point where the data is going to be a ubiquitous thing. It doesn't really matter where it resides and where we can access it, as long as we access it from a particular model. It's not going to make any difference to the users either. I just blogged about that in InfoWorld.

In fact, we're getting into this notion of what I call the "invisible cloud." In other words, we're not doing application as a service or SaaS, where people get new interfaces that are web-driven. We're putting pieces of the back-end architectural components -- processes, services, and, in this case, data -- out on the platform of the cloud. It really doesn't matter to them where that data resides, as long as they can get at it when they need it.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Download a transcript. Charter Sponsor: Active Endpoints. Also sponsored by TIBCO Software.

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Take the BriefingsDirect middleware/ESB survey now.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Application transformation case study targets enterprise bottom line with eye-popping ROI

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and View a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Gain more insights into "Application Transformation: Getting to the Bottom Line" via a series of HP virtual conferences Nov. 3-5. For more on Application Transformation, and to get real time answers to your questions, register to the virtual conferences for your region:
Register here to attend the Asia Pacific event on Nov. 3.
Register here to attend the EMEA event on Nov. 4.
Register here to attend the Americas event on Nov. 5.

This podcast is the first in the series of three to examine Application Transformation: Getting to the Bottom Line. Through a case study, we'll discuss the rationale and likely returns of assessing the true role and character of legacy applications, and then assess the true paybacks from modernization.

The ongoing impact of the reset economy is putting more emphasis on lean IT -- of identifying and eliminating waste across the data-center landscape. The top candidates, on several levels, are the silo-architected legacy applications and the aging IT systems that support them.

Using our case study, we'll also uncover a number of proven strategies on how to innovatively architect legacy applications for transformation and for improved technical, economic, and productivity outcomes. The podcasts coincidentally run in support of HP virtual conferences on the same subjects:
Register here to attend the Asia Pacific event on Nov. 3. Register here to attend the EMEA event on Nov. 4. Register here to attend the Americas event on Nov. 5.
Here to start us off on our series on the how and why of transforming legacy enterprise applications are Paul Evans, worldwide marketing lead on Applications Transformation at HP, and Luc Vogeleer, CTO for Application Modernization Practice in HP Enterprise Services. The discussion is moderated be me, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:
Evans: When the economic situation hit really hard, we definitely saw customers retreat, and basically say, "We don't know what to do now. Some of us have never been in this position before in a recessionary environment, seeing IT budgets reduce considerably."

That wasn't surprising. ... It was obvious that people would retrench and then scratch their heads and say, "Now what do we do?"

Now we're seeing a different dynamic, ... something like a two-fold increase in what you might call "customer interest" [in applications transformation]. The number of opportunities we're seeing as a company has doubled over the last six or nine months.

If you ask any CIO or IT head, "Is application transformation something you want to do," the answer is, "No, not really." It's like tidying your garage at home. You know you should do it, but you don't really want to do it. You know that you benefit, but you still don't want to do it.

This has moved from being something that maybe I should do to something that I have to do, because there are two real forces here. One is the force that says, "If I don't continue to innovate and differentiate, I go out of business, because my competitors are doing that." If I believe the economy doesn't allow me to stand still, then I've got it wrong. So, I have to continue to move forward.

Secondly, I have to reduce the amount of money I spend on my innovation, but at the same time I need a bigger payback. I've got to reduce the cost of IT. Now, with 80 percent of my budget being dedicated to maintenance, that doesn't move my business forward. So, the strategic goal is, I want to flip the ratio.

... Today, we'll hear about a case study -- with the Italian Ministry of Instruction, University and Research (MIUR). This customer received an ROI in 18 months. In 18 months, the savings they had made -- and this runs into millions of dollars -- had been paid for. Their new system, in under 18 months, paid for itself. After that, it was pure money to the bottom-line.

... Our job is to minimize that risk by exposing them to customers who have done it before. They can view those best-case scenarios and understand what to do and what not to do.

Vogeleer: We take a very holistic approach and look at the entire portfolio of applications from a customer. Then, from that application portfolio -- depending on the usage of the application, the business criticality of the application, as well as the frequency of changes that this application requires -- we deploy different strategies for each application.

We not only focus on one approach of completely re-writing or re-platforming the application or replacing the application with a package, but we go for a combination of all those elements. By doing a complete portfolio assessment, as a first step into the customer legacy application landscape, we're able to bring out a complete road map to conduct this transformation.

We first execute applications that bring a quick ROI. We first execute quick wins and the ROI and the benefits from those quick wins are immediately reinvested for continuing the transformation. So, transformation is not just one project. It's not just one shot. It's a continuous program over time, where all the legacy applications are progressively migrated into a more agile and cost-effective platform.

The Italian Ministry of Instruction, University and Research (MIUR), is the customer we're going to cover with this case, is a large governmental organization and their overall budget is €55 billion.

This Italian public education sector serves 8 million students from 40,000 schools, and the schools are located across the country in more than 10,000 locations, with each of those locations connected to the information system provided by the ministry.

Very large employer

The ministry is, in fact, one of the largest employers in the world, with over one million employees. Its system manages both permanent and temporary employees, like teachers and substitutes, and the administrative employees. It also supports the ministry users, about 7,000 or 8,000 school employees. It's a very large employer with a large number of users connected across the country.

Why do they need to modernize their environment? In fact, their system was written in the early 1980s on IBM mainframe architecture. In early 2000, there was a substantial change in Italian legislation, which was called so-called a Devolution Law. The Devolution Law was about more decentralization of their process to school level and also to move the administration processes from the central ministry level into the regions, and there are 20 different regions in Italy.

This change implied a completely different process workflow within their information systems. To fulfill the changes, the legacy approach was very time-consuming and inappropriate. A number of strong application have been developed incrementally to fulfill those new organizational requirements, but very quickly this became completely unmanageable and inflexible. The aging legacy systems were expected to be changed quickly.

In addition to the element of agility to change application to meet the new legislation requirement, the cost in that context went completely out of control. So, the simple, most important objective of the modernization was to design and implement a new architecture that could reduce cost and provide a more flexible and agile infrastructure.

The first step we took was to develop a modernization road map that took into account the organizational change requirements, using our service offering, which is the application portfolio assessment.

From the standard engagement that we can offer to a customer, we did an analysis of the complete set of applications and associated data assets from multiple perspectives. We looked at it from a financial perspective, a business perspective, functionality and the technical perspective.

From those different dimensions, we could make the right decision on each application. The application portfolio assessment ensured that the client's business context and strategic drivers were understood, before commencing a modernization strategy for a given application in the portfolio.

A business case was developed for modernizing each application, an approach that was personalized for each group of applications and was appropriate to the current situation.

... This assessment phase took about three months with the seven people. From there, we did a first transformation pilot, with a small staff of people in three months.

After the pilot, we went into the complete transform and user-acceptance test, and after an additional year, 90 percent of the transformation was completed. In the transformation, we had about 3,500 batch processes. We had the transformation. We had re-architecting of 7,500 programs. And, all the screens were also transformed. But, that was a larger effort with a team of about 50 people over one year.

... We tried to use automated conversion, especially for non-critical programs, where they're not frequently changed. That represented 60 percent of the code. This code could be then immediately transferred by removing only the barriers in the code that prevented it from compiling.

All barriers removed

We had also frequently updated programs, where all barriers were removed and code was completely cleaned in the conversion. Then, in critical programs, especially, the conversion effort was bigger than the rewrite effort. Thirty percent of the programs were completely rewritten.

The applications are now accessed through a more efficient web-based user interface, which replaces the green screen and provides improved navigation and better overall system performance, including improved user productivity.

End-user productivity is doubled in terms of the daily operation of some business processes. Also, the overall application portfolio has been greatly simplified by this approach. The number of function points that we're managing has decreased by 33 percent.

From a financial perspective, there are also very significant results. Hardware and software license and maintenance cost savings were about €400,000 in the first year, €2 million in the second year, and are projected to be €3.4 million this year. This represents a savings of 36 percent of the overall project.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and View a full transcript or download a copy. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Global study: Hybrid model rules as cloud heats up, SaaS adoption blazing

Cloud” is the game and “hybrid” is the name. A recent global study has encouraging news for cloud-computing enthusiasts, revealing a sharp uptick in the adoption, as well as consideration, of cloud computing. The same study also indicates that those who are adopting cloud aren’t going whole hog, but are taking a hybrid approach -- mixing external and internal clouds.

The study, commissioned by global IT consultancy Avanade, showed a surprising increase in the interest in cloud computing, even from a similar study conducted in January of this year. In January, 54 percent of respondents said they had no plans to adopt cloud computing. By September, that percentage had shrunk to 37 percent.

At the same time, the percentage of companies planning or testing cloud computing increased three-fold, going from 3 percent of respondents to 10 percent.

What’s significant in the report is that less than 5 percent of companies are using an all-cloud model. The rest are relying on a hybrid approach, and report security concerns as the chief factor for being cautious.

Nine months ago, 61 percent of respondents indicated that they were using only internal IT systems and today, that number has dropped to 41 percent. At the same time, those using a combined approach on a global level have increased to 54 percent from 33 percent nine months earlier.

The report says it not clear whether the hybrid model will lead to a pure-play adoption at some point.

SaaS is taking off

One aspect of cloud computing that’s finding wide adoption is software as a service (SaaS), with more than half of the respondents worldwide -- and 68 percent in the US -- reporting that they have adopted SaaS at some level. Despite extremely high satisfaction -- more than 90 percent -- reliability is still an issue. About 30 percent of respondents said they had lost more than a day of business due to a service outage.

Still, the reliability concerns haven’t dampened users’ enthusiasm for SaaS, and 62 percent of respondents reported that they had plans to move into more SaaS within the next year. However, similar to their experience with cloud, users tend to deliver SaaS applications internally, rather than from the third-party provider.

On a global basis, those who deliver SaaS application internally outnumber those who used a third party by a ratio of 2 to 1. In the US, that increases to 4 to 1. Also, those who do use SaaS often rely on multiple providers, with one third using three or more providers. This leads the report to conclude that there is opportunity in the SaaS market.

Other conclusion from the report:
  • Cloud will continue to make significant inroads for the next year, although there won’t be a migration to a full cloud environment.

  • The gap is closing between companies with plans to adopt and those without. Avenade sees those curves intersecting in 2011 or 2012.

  • Despite the widespread adoption of cloud, there will be some applications that should remain on-premises.

  • SaaS adoption will continue to spread and is spreading faster than other technologies have in the past.
The study was conducted by Kelton Research and surveyed 500 C-level and IT executives worldwide.

BriefingsDirect contributor Carlton Vogt provided editorial assistance and research on this post.

Here's why Apple is doing so well -- it's the top half, stupid

I've been ruminating the past few days on why Apple is doing so well with it's pricey high-end products and services during a recession. The answer came as I was reading today's New York Times column by Thomas Friedman, whom I deeply admire and read anything and everything he puts out.

Friedman points out that the winners in today's fast-shifting U.S. job market are the ones demonstrating "entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity." He says, "They are the new untouchables," in contrast to other still highly educated but less creative types.

Friedman cites Harvard University labor expert Lawrence Katz, who explains in the column that the now disadvantaged are "those engineers and programmers working on more routine tasks and not actively engaged in developing new ideas or recombining existing technologies or thinking about what new customers want. ... They’ve been much more exposed to global competitors that make them easily substitutable.”

They are also more likely to be using personal computers with nine-year-old operating systems, with little choice but to take what their companies provide in terms of personal productivity IT. They are the 90 percent for whom good enough IT has made them as good as anyone anywhere.

In contrast, it's the "top half" of the labor pool, and more specifically the apparent 10 percent that are "entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity"-focused among them, that know to succeed and win they need the very best computer and associated services, even if it costs $500 more. Nowadays there's no better way to gain an advantage in business and life than to have the best technology.

The people who are succeeding are buying Macs, iPhones, iPod Touches and Apple's services and applications. A flight to quality is usually spurred by disruption and uncertainty. It's not about brand religion or pretty graphics. It's about survival and success when the going gets tough. It works for me, it has to.

A chef doesn't buy the cheapest knifes. A painter doesn't buy the cheapest brushes. A carpenter doesn't buy the cheapest hammer. And all the winners in the economy today -- those that have a say in what they use to do all the digital things so critical now to almost any knowledge- and services-based job -- need the best tools. And they will upgrade those tools just as fast as they can (hence the rapid adoption of Apple's Snow Leopard OS X upgrade in recent months.)

So for all those millions of newly laid off workers who know that "entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity" is their only ticket to a new, fresh start -- those that no longer have an IT department to tell them what to do (at lowest cost) -- they seem to be making a new move to a Mac. I expect they won't soon go back, once they taste the fruits of heightened knowledge productivity.

Because when failure is not an option, you have to have the best tools, especially when the going gets tough. The sad part is that Apple does so well when so many are not.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SOA user survey defines latest ESB trends, middleware use patterns

Take the BriefingsDirect middleware/ESB survey now.

Forgive my harping on this, but I keep hearing about how powerful social media is for gathering insights from the IT communities and users. Yet I rarely see actual market research conducted via the social media milieu.

So now's the time to fully test the process. I'm hoping that you users and specifiers of enterprise software middleware, SOA infrastructure, integration middleware, and enterprise service buses (ESBs) will take 5 minutes and fill out my BriefingsDirect survey. We'll share the results via this blog in a few weeks.

We're seeking to uncover the latest trends in actual usage and perceptions around these SOA technologies -- both open source and commercial.

How middleware products -- like ESBs -- are used is not supposed to change rapidly. Enterprises typically choose and deploy integration software infrastructure slowly and deliberately, and they don't often change course without good reason.

But the last few years have proven an exception. Middleware products and brands have shifted more rapidly than ever before. Vendors have consolidated, product lines have merged. Users have had to grapple with new and dynamic requirements.

Open source offerings have swiftly matured, and in many cases advanced capabilities beyond the commercial space. Interest in SOA is now shared with anticipation of cloud computing approaches and needs.

So how do enterprise IT leaders and planners view the middleware and SOA landscape after a period of adjustment -- including the roughest global recession in more than 60 years?

This brief survey, distributed by BriefingsDirect for Interarbor Solutions, is designed to gauge the latest perceptions and patterns of use and updated requirements for middleware products and capabilities. Please take a few moments and share your preferences on enterprise middleware software. Thank you.

Take the BriefingsDirect middleware/ESB survey now.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Speaking of SOA: Are services nouns or verbs?

This guest post comes courtesy of Jason Bloomberg, managing partner at ZapThink.

By Jason Bloomberg

ZapThink revels in stirring up controversy almost as much as we enjoy clarifying subtle concepts that give architects that rare "aha!" moment as they finally discern the solution to a particularly knotty design problem. Last month's "process isomorphism" ZapFlash, therefore, gave us a particular thrill, because we received kudos from enterprise architects for streamlining the connections between Business Process Management (BPM) and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), while at the same time, several industry pundits demurred, disagreeing with our premise that services should correspond one-to-one with tasks or subtasks in a process.

Maybe we got it wrong, and inadvertently mislead our following of architects? Or perhaps the pundits were off base, and somehow ZapThink saw clearly a best practice that remained obscure to other experts in the field?

Upon further consideration, the true answer lies somewhere in between these extremes. Now, we're not reconsidering the conclusions of the process isomorphism ZapFlash. Rather, further explanation and clarification is warranted.

As with any best practice, process isomorphism doesn't apply in every situation, and not every service should correspond to a process task or subtask. That being said, there is also a good chance that some of our esteemed fellow pundits might not be opining from a truly service-oriented perspective, as many of their comments hint at an object-oriented (OO) bias that may be too limiting in the SOA context.

In fact, understanding which services the process isomorphism pattern applies to, and how other services support such services goes to the heart of how to think about services from a SOA perspective.

The object-oriented context for services

In the early days of web services, as various standards committee members tried to hash out how core standards should support the vision of SOA, the SOAP standard for message transport was an acronym for the "Simple Object Access Protocol." The reasoning at the time was that services were interfaces to objects, and hence service operations should correspond to object methods, also known as remote procedures.

SOAP was nothing more than a simple, XML-based way of access those methods. Over time, however, people realized that taking this Remote Procedure Call (RPC) approach to service interfaces is too limiting: It leads to tightly coupled, synchronous interactions that constrain the benefits such services could offer. Instead, the industry settled on document style as being the preferred interface style, which expects requests and responses to conform to schemas that are included in the service contracts by reference, where the underlying service logic is responsible for validating interactions against the relevant schemas.

Document style interfaces provide greater loose coupling than their RPC-style cousins because many changes to a service need not adversely impact existing service consumers, and furthermore, document style interfaces facilitate asynchronous interactions where a request need not correlate immediately with a response. In fact, the W3C eventually dropped the "Simple Object Access Protocol" definition of SOAP altogether, and now SOAP is just SOAP, instead of being an abbreviation of anything.

The answer is straightforward: If a service has no operations, then what it's supposed to do is understood from the context of the service itself.

However, document style interfaces still allow for operations, only now they're optional rather than mandatory as is the case with RPC-style interfaces. The fact that operations are optional is a never-ending sense of confusion for students in our Licensed ZapThink Architect course, perhaps because of the object-oriented pattern of thinking many of today's techies follow, often without realizing it.

How would you ever know what a service is supposed to do, the reasoning goes, if you don't call an operation on that service? The answer is straightforward: if a service has no operations, then what it's supposed to do is understood from the context of the service itself. For example, an insurance company may want a service that simply approves a pending insurance policy. If we have an approvePolicy Service, the consumer can simply request that service with the policy number of the policy it wants to approve.

Nouns vs. Verbs

The insurance policy example brings up a fundamental question. Which is the service, the insurance policy entity or the approve policy task? In other words, should services be nouns or verbs? It's possible to design services either way, as Entity Services, which predictably represent business entities, or as Task Services, that represent specific actions that implement some step in a process, in other words, verbs. Which approach is better?

If you look at the question of whether services should be nouns or verbs from the OO perspective, then services are little more than interfaces to objects, and hence it's best to think of services as nouns and their operations as the verbs. For example, following the OO approach, we might have an insurance policy object with several operations, including one that approves the policy, as the following pseudocode illustrates:

myPolicy = new Policy (); ... successOrFailure = myPolicy.approve ();

The first statement above instantiates a particular policy, while the second one approves it, and returns either success or failure.

Now, it is certainly possible to create a Policy Service as an Entity Service that has an approve operation that works more or less like the example above, with one fundamental difference: because services are fundamentally stateless, you don't instantiate them. Here, then, is pseudocode that represents how an Entity Service would tackle the same functionality:

request to create new policy, specifying create policy operation --> Policy Service --> response with policy number 12345
request to approve policy 12345, specifying approve policy operation --> Policy Service --> response with success or failure

Note that we're representing service interactions as input and output messages that contain documents, where in this case, the input documents specify operations. In this example, there is no object in the OO sense representing policy 12345 and maintaining the state information that indicates whether or not that particular policy is approved or not.

Instead, the underlying service implementation maintains the state information. There is only the one Policy Service, and it accepts requests in the form of XML documents and returns responses, also in the form of XML documents. If a request calls the create policy operation, then the Policy Service knows to create the policy, while a request that specifies the approve policy operation follows the same pattern.

Note that the fact that the Policy Service has a document style interface gives us two advantages: First, we can make certain changes to the service like adding new operations without adversely impacting existing consumers, and second, its stateless nature enables asynchronous interactions, where instead of returning success or failure of the approve request, perhaps, the service returns a simple acknowledgment of the request (or perhaps no response at all), and then notifies the consumer at some point in the future that the policy has been approved, either through a one-way notification event or possibly as a response to a further query.

Task services as verbs

While there is a significant role for Entity Services in SOA, it is important to break free from OO-centric thinking and consider other types of services as well that serve other purposes. In fact, there is another way of offering the same functionality as the Entity Service above where the Services represent verbs rather than nouns, what we call Task Services. Here is the pseudocode for this situation:

request to create new policy --> createNewPolicy Service --> response with policy number 12345
request to approve policy 12345 -- > approvePolicy Service --> response with success or failure

In this example, neither Task Service has any operations, but rather the functionality of each Service is understood from the context of the Service. After all, what would an approvePolicy Service do but approve policies? If you read the process isomorphism ZapFlash, the benefits of delivering capabilities as Task Services is clear. If you design each Task Service to represent tasks or subtasks in business processes, then it's possible to build a service-oriented business application (SOBA) that is isomorphic to the process it implements.

Combining entity and task services

A casual reading of the process isomorphism ZapFlash might lead you to think we were suggesting that all services should be Task Services. However, in spite of the fact that architects with OO backgrounds often rely too heavily on Entity Services, such services do play a critical role in most SOA implementations.

Remember that in the enterprise context, services expose existing, legacy capabilities and data that are typically scattered across different applications and data stores, limiting the enterprise's agility and leading to high integration maintenance costs, poor data quality, reduced customer value, and other ills all too familiar to anybody working within a large organization's IT department. SOA provides best practices for addressing such issues by abstracting such legacy capabilities in order to support flexible business processes.

Both Entity and Task Services help architects connect the dots between legacy capabilities on the one hand, and flexible process requirements on the other, as the figure below illustrates:

Process, task, and entity service layers

In the figure above, the bottom row contains Entity Services, which directly abstract underlying legacy capabilities. Above the Entity Services lie the Task Services, which may actually be abstractions of individual operations belonging to underlying Entity Services. The top layer contains Process Services, which are typically compositions of Task Services. In other words, Process Services are interfaces to SOBAs, and when those SOBAs are compositions of properly designed Task Services, they will exhibit process isomorphism.

The essential question for the architect is which capabilities to abstract in which service layer. Take for example the Address Change Task Service. Changing addresses is a common example of a particularly challenging task in many large organizations, because address information is typically maintained by different applications and data stores in a haphazard, inconsistent manner. To make matters worse, there may be addresses associated with customers, policies, or other business entities.

When architecting the Customer Entity Service, the core design principle is to pull together the various instances of customer-related information and functionality across the as-is legacy environment into a single, consolidated representation. Such a Service will likely have an update address operation, and the Customer Entity Service's logic will encapsulate whatever individual queries and API calls are necessary to properly update customers' addresses across all relevant systems.

The Address Change Task Service, then, abstracts the Customer Entity Service's update address operation, as well as whatever other address change operations other Entity Services might have. The Service logic behind this Task Service understands, for example, that insured properties in polices have addresses and customers have addresses, and these addresses are related in a particular way, but are by no means equivalent.

The ZapThink take

As is usually the case, architects have several options at their disposal, and knowing which option is appropriate often depends on the business problem, an example of the "right tool for the job" principle. If the business problem is process-centric, say, a need to streamline or optimize the policy issuance process, then implementing SOBAs as compositions of Task Services will facilitate process flexibility.

In other cases, the business problem is more information-centric than process-centric, for example, putting consolidated customer information on a call center rep's screen. In such instances the architect's focus may be on an Entity Service, because the rep is dealing with a particular customer and must be able to interact with that customer in a flexible way.

The big picture of the SOA architect's challenge, of course, is delivering agility in the face of heterogeneity. On the one hand, the IT shop contains a patchwork of legacy resources, and on the other hand, the business requires increasingly agile processes. Understanding which capabilities belong in Entity Services and which belong in Task Services is a critical part of the best practice approach to SOA.

This guest post comes courtesy of Jason Bloomberg, managing partner at ZapThink.


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