Saturday, April 12, 2008
We're on the cutting edge of using social media and near-real time collaboration tools (free) to learn and use (GAE) for free, and then blog on the process (also free). The price is obviously right, and the ease and transparency of sharing and witnessing are just about friction-free.
As Dion points out (and Dan Farber makes note), there are trade-offs between GAE and Amazon Web Services. And there are concerns to be evaluated and vetted over the application lifecycle remaining in the Google cloud, as Garett Rogers makes note.
But the process I'm witnessing here on Twitter is nothing short of breathtaking for its rapid, agile and productive online team approach (we are located all over) to web app development. Other Google services could be used, too, like Groups. And, of course, developers are well acquainted with other forms of collaboration such as CollabNet.
If even for minor apps, services, or for prototyping development of subsets of large projects, this is all very compelling. I'm fascinated by how developers will use GAE within existing projects and processes. GAE will not be used in isolation, I suspect, but will be a powerful tool in the WOA quiver. And that may also prompt more use of GAE as the end-all, be-all for more an more apps.
I know a lot of people use Amazon as a test bed for their apps. Google App Engine will be very attractive for that too.
But what Google can soon bring to the table is an ability to put these apps and services in front of a ton of other developers and huge potential audiences of end users and consumers. Google has clout of scale, metadata and reach that Amazon does not.
Like others, I hope that Google adds more tools to Python on GAE, like Ruby. I also hope they find a way to port parts or all of the apps off of GAE. Perhaps for a cost, you could choose to not only deploy via the Google cloud, but perhaps get the basic script and code for extraction and use elsewhere, or for mixed-purpose development.
Bungee Labs has that option, that the developers' own the code IP and can take the apps elsewhere. [Disclosure: Bungee Labs is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
The gold-status award for the Burlington, Mass. Company, came in the RIA /Composite Application Assembly category, and was based on innovation, performance, ease of integration into environment, ease of use and manageability, functionality, and value. [Disclosure: Nexaweb is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts. I have also been a reviewing judge for SearchSOA.com product rankings.]
In January, Nexaweb received the Editors' Choice Award from CMP's Intelligent Enterprise.
Just over a month ago, I blogged on Nexaweb, and its role in helping enterprises modernize without pain, confusion or excessive cost.
The goal is to harvest all those stored procedures, but target them to newer architectures — from Struts to Spring — and move from client/server to Enterprise 2.0, is a leap-frog of sorts. The re-use of logic then allows those assets to be applied to model-driven architectures and the larger datacenter transformation values.
Nexaweb Advance pairs Nexaweb’s Enterprise Web Suite with automated code generation tools and professional services to deliver a model-driven architecture approach to the transformation of legacy PowerBuilder, ColdFusion, C++, VisualBasic, and Oracle Forms applications . . .
Nexaweb says that their Enterprise Web Suite allows companies to extend and modernize legacy applications, while leveraging their investments in J2EE and services-oriented architecture (SOA) platforms. The company claims that organizations using their offerings have reduced application development, deployment, and maintenance costs by an average of 50 percent.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
And that is the APIs that will expose the newbie apps to the huge respective audiences already gorging themselves on the cloud's burgeoning offerings -- from search to news to blogs to social networks to videos to maps to weather reports. More services makes it a richer cloud experience, so come on down and sign in, please!
Google and Microsoft/Yahoo are not just functional clouds, they are the long tail channels to the vast online audiences, and they can link the right apps to the right users very well, massively. And they can automate the marriage between a service and a customer by scaling it up to nation-wide exposure, or scaling it down to an audience of one. The more users, the more audience for the apps. The more apps, the more users. And so on.
So you build an application on their cloud and they can bring you massive traffic almost overnight. They can allow for single sign-on to your apps from many millions of users already logged in, already identified by their metadata preferences and attention gestures. The web is great, but the integrated cloud is even better.
The clouds can give you, dear developer/entrepreneur, a tasty share of the revenues chugging out of their respective advertising platform engines. All you creative types, just build out the compelling content, services, apps and media, and together -- you and your cloud provider -- can make beautiful business together.
You shouldn't have to worry about attracting an audience and advertisers. The cloud will do all of that for you. (No need for media companies, either.) You just need to invest your creativity, your business acumen, your attention. The cloud is here for you.
Yes, the PaaS wars will soon munge into the metadata wars. Here's how it works: Developers and media creatives build and post innovative web apps, content and services using the cloud tools, publishing platforms and cloud runtime -- all for free. You can mash up other great services from the cloud ecology to make those apps even better. A favor's a favor.
Then, the cloud will match up your services with an audience that the algorithms know wants and loves these services and content. We already see this with blogs, video, podcasts, social discussions, etc.
It's a great vision except there's also a potential downside: You gotta choose your cloud, your Big Brother. Just like a protection racket, it might turn out. Easy to join, not so easy to get out. One big Family.
And the Family, or cloud entity, can make instant stars of an application or service. The cloud with the best metadata can combine users and content/services. The cloud with the most users and the best data about them wins. It's the new muscle. This is why Microsoft must attain Yahoo, and why Yahoo is right to hold out for more money.
I'm not saying abuse is assured. I'm only saying that the handful of clouds will be hugely powerful. Perhaps more powerful than any mainstream media ever was. And they may not do any evil, may remain a great partner and provide the garden that sprouts a million dazzling businesses and a creative nirvana.
But on the other hand, these goombahs at the Cloud, Inc. may want to make you an offer you can't refuse. But you gotta join da gang, see, and stay close to the home, boys. You know, for protection, from the other Cloud, the other goombahs.
Stick with us, kid, and we'll make you rich, they will say. Don't go to the other side, they are closed and proprietary. See?
Yes, the gangsta cloud wars is what we're coming up on. And you're only going to have a handful of gangs to choose from. And you may well make the choice for the rest of the life of your applications.
Monday, April 7, 2008
The global WebSphere ecology has trooped to Las Vegas this week for the IBM Impact 2008 conference, with a kick-off rally of sorts in the MGM Grand arena this morning.
I saw Fleetwood Mac here at a Comdex, must have been 12 years ago. IBM has sure done all it can to make this into a "SOA rocks" party. Opening tune from an actual marching band was "Tusk." No frisbees, no doobies, though.
This is a big, big crowd (6000) nonetheless, and clear-minded. Software infrastructure and middleware for the Global 2000 is a huge and fast-growing business, and IBM has had a good time at the trough. But nothing stays the same in software for long, so we need to look for the next chapter.
IBM may not be the fastest mover in the market, but when IBM does move, so does the market. IBM can define software's enterprise direction like no other company. HP may be the biggest IT company be some measures, and Microsoft gets around, but no company is more deeply and broadly embedded in the world's major corporations than IBM.
The goal for IBM has been clear for several years, they want the strategic relationships with the big boys, they want to be Barney in all the best boardrooms: I love you, and you love me.
So let's talk business transformation, deep verticals expertise, and decades-in-the-making interwoven ecologies of products, services, suppliers, partners, and technical experts -- from all corners of the landscape.
On stage first we have (8: 39 am PT) the CIO of Harley-Davidson, Jim Haney. He didn't say much, but nice bike. Now the opening video.
Next some classical music from attractive young ladies, circus performers from the ceiling ... it's Vegas.
"Experience" is the theme from Sandy Carter, IBM's SOA honcho. "Smart SOA" comes in, something relevant to the event, but then ... cut to Drew Carey, now of The Price is Right fame. We'll get a few laughs. Let me try ... How much would you pay for that Z Series running Linux instances to support 347 business services? How about 16 services? Maybe 8?
"I don't know what we're selling here, honestly," said Carey. That drew applause. "Don't buy their stupid SOA, buy our smart SOA." Even more laughter. (8:56 am PT)
Six comediens on stage now, several recognizable. This must have cost big bucks. Smart SOA meets over-budget marketing.
Now up, Robert LeBlanc, IBM's GM Global Consulting and SOA. They did some surveys and found that "change" is the biggest challenge for enterprise executives. How to conduct ongoing business model innovation, how to go global integration, manage talent, and gain "business transparency." These are what concern CXOs, says LeBlanc, adding that SOA is an enabler for the answers. (9:14 am PT)
LeBlanc: "Service oriented businesses" do the "key agility indicators" better. You can better beat the competition using SOA. There are multiple onramps to service orientation. Align business and IT. All this will be supported by industry frameworks and solutions, from IBM. We must do a better job of managing risk.
IBM uses SOA too, eats its own dogfood, and helps them run the global elements, better manage mergers and acquisitions, and manage double-digit growth in BRIC countries. Can your IT handle this need for agility and "transforamitive change"? End LeBlanc.
Harley-Davidson CIO Haney is back. (9:23 am PT). "Service orientation is not about the technology," ... it's about the process and bringing the customer into the process. He describes a Harley social networking app that motorcycle riders can map out their rides. By focusing on process integration, they went to ride experiences, needing events, maps, gasoline stops, etc.
Sounds like a web app mashup to me. End to end process integration allows the company to focus out to the consumer, dealer, supplier, rider. "You create an experience that's richer," says Haney. They show the app, again it looks more like WOA than SOA.
Now Steve Mills, SVP of Software at IBM. Theme remains "Smart SOA" and where they are going next. (9:36 am PT) Gives history of software and SOA. Again, it's about business and not technology, he says. Not much new here, says I.
Business managers should focus on services orientation, while the IT folks focus on SOA. Time to rethink applications, as representations of end-to-end processes. And we still struggle with integrations across applications.
"Smart SOA" (which IBM has trade marked) means "robustness" with added horizontal responsiveness and reach, says Mill. A federated ESB helps a lot in moving the value to extended enterprise activities. In 2008, we are now into the phase of how to scale SOA, using the high-performance ESB (like IBM's ESB).
Mills acknowledges that SOA is difficult to understand, that it's about automating business. SOA helps deliver better services an better returns, he says. End Mills. No news, really. (9:55 am PT)
More comedy routines. So IBM has 6000 people in a room and basically repeats the SOA mantra of past years. Checked the wires, no news there either, at least so far. (10:07 am PT)
Tom Rosamilia, GM IBM WebSphere Software is now up. It's about the business, as long as the technology works, he says. Makes pitch for ESB as core to all the BM products and services. No mention of open source alternatives, which are quite popular, for ESBs.
Rosamilia mentions that WebSphere as an app server brand is now 10 years old. And IBM MQ Series messaging software is 15 years old. And CISCS is 40 years old. Wow.
BPM enables b SOA. "You can do BPM without SOA, but I wouldn't recommend it," says Rosamilia.
IBM's news these days, apparently, are more about such acquisitions as Cognos and Telelogic, both of which are quite large for IBM.
Ah, at least, something new: "WebSphere Business Events" ... combinations of events that can be viewed and analyzed. Not much detail there yet. Business events to be big push for IBM this year, he says. (10:25 am PT) End Rosamilia.
Thomas Liese, strategic project executive for AMB Generali of Italy, now up, presumable for a case study. In a customer service project in insurance, they sough standardization, governance, reusability, automation, and input and output management. Says he saved 50% in total costs for the customer service function by using SOA and ESB.
IBM SOA honcho Sandy Carter is back. She says focus is in customers and best practices. She says a Wintergreen Research study shows IBM has improved its SOA marketshare (whatever that is) is up by 11 percent to a total of 64 percent SOA market share.
The Smart SOA Social Network is announced to connect the customers and allow them to share best practices, news, advancements. This expands communities set up last year for SOA developers and architects. They get 120,000 developers and engineers visiting the IBM SOA portal per month, says Carter.
So the SOA Social Network connects the various communities, sort of like a federated social network effect. The network will be role-based in terms of managing and linking among the groups. This reminds me of OpenSocial, but for building out SOA communities, whether they are on Facebook, Twitter, Second Life, or what have you. This may be large defensive against losing control or access to the community discussions. And it may not be open.
An online exchange built on IBM Lotus Connections will do the binding among and between the current SOA communities, says Carter. Furthermore, a "SOA Jam" will be created for SOA brainstorming on next big thoughts on SOA.
Lotus Connections is not exactly taking over the social networking space, so it will be an uphill road for IBM to carve out its own social networking effect on social networking. This seems very much like when large vendors created their own content portals around such initiatives as SOA, but now with their own social networks.
IBM wants to create the uber SOA and/or enterprise software community. You can use your existing social networks, but the effect may well be that users migrate to the IBM SOA exchange social network. IBM no doubt wants a 64% market share on the communities too.
End of show, 11:00 am PT.
Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) should dramatically improve the relationship between people, processes, and IT. Yet the potential for SOA remains clouded due to a gulf between worker knowledge and the new services automation benefits, which remain focused on structured data and existing applications.
New advances in documents-based technology, management, and dynamic content enrichment offer a promising lifeline to help solve SOA’s tenuous relationship to people and task-oriented knowledge. For example, the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) Maturity Model, co-authored between JustSystems and IBM, offers a standardized approach for technical document authoring and publishing.
We're seeing these two areas -- SOA and newly dynamic documents -- come together. Structured documents and the lifecycle around structured authoring tools provide an end-point for the assets and resources managed through an SOA. But we're also providing a two-way street, where the information and data that comes in through end-users can be reused back in the SOA to combine with other assets for business process benefits.
Our friends at ZapThink recently developed a report and webinar on many of these trends and benefits, as well as best practices.
To help us understand this interesting intersection and the somewhat complex relationship between structured documents and SOA, I recently interviewed Jake Sorofman, senior vice president of marketing and business development, for JustSystems North America. The sponsored podcast describes the tactical benefits of recognizing the dynamic nature of documents, while identifying the strategic value of exposing documents and making them accessible through applications and composite services via SOA.
Here are some excerpts:
A lot of companies will take on this notion of XML authoring from a tactical perspective. They are looking for new and improved ways to accelerate the creation, maintenance, quality, and consistency of the content that they produce. So they embrace XML authoring tools as the basis for creating valid XML, to manage the lifecycle of those documents and deliverables.Read a full transcript. Listen to the podcast. Sponsor: JustSystems North America.
What they realize in the process of doing so is that there is a strategic byproduct to creating XML content. Now, it’s more accessible by various line-of-business applications and composite applications that can consume it much more readily.
If you take the documents that users thrive on and make those available to the SOA, and the composite business processes that that architecture is supporting, then you are able to bridge this gap between the people, the process, and the systems.
We’ve been talking about the notion of unstructured content as a target source to SOA-based applications, but you can also think about this from the perspective of the end application itself -- the document as the endpoint, providing a framework for bringing together structured data, transactional data, relational data, as well as unstructured content, into a single document that comes to life.
We provide the ability to embed this application logic within the document format. The document becomes very attuned to its environment, so it can render information dynamically, based on who you are, what your role is, and where the document is within a process. It can even interact with its environment.
This notion of the dynamic documents ensures that what you’re presenting is always an authoritative reflection of the latest version of the truth within the enterprise. You never run the risk of introducing inaccurate, out of date, or stale information to field base personnel.
You start seeing some blurring some between all these categories of technology around information, search and retrieval, semantics, and document management and data integration. It’s all resulting in a much a richer way of working with and utilizing information.
I don’t think that SOA architects have given a great deal of thought to date to unstructured content and how it plays into SOA architectures. So, there certainly needs to be consideration paid to how you get the information in, in a way that makes it rich to describe, reusable, more akin to relational data than documents themselves.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Combining cloud computing with local execution on a variety of platforms, including a USB flash drive, the solution allows administrators to centrally manage desktops for thousands of employees worldwide.
By creating a "Live PC" desktop, which contains the operating system and application stack, and having it hosted by MokaFive, administrators can distribute, manage, and update the desktop from a single copy on the host computer. Large companies can host the LivePCs on their own servers, if they desire.
Users sync their local desktop with the copy in the cloud, allowing them to always be able to access the latest pristine version. When synced with the Live PC, the desktop is loaded onto the local device, whether a PC or even a flash drive. It then runs as a virtual machine on that device and users can work online or offline. Because execution is local, it reduces the demand on servers and networks.
Changes made by administrators are reflected in the local device whenever users connect to the Live PC. By using a flash drive, users can access their desktop on any x86 -based machine, having all their productivity tools at their fingertips, but leaving no footprint behind once the flash device is unplugged.
While not a household world yet, DaaS isn't brand new. I wrote about it last summer when Desktone announced its virtual desktop platform, with its emphasis on service providers. However, the MokaFive offering focuses on the longstanding problem of managing desktops in mid-sized to large organizations, especially those with remote employees.
The DaaS approach means that companies no longer need to set up their own desktop management infrastructure. MokaFive Virtual Desktop Solution is already in use by customers for disaster recovery, software testing in sandbox environments, secure remote access and lab management. Features of the MokaFive solution include:
- Faster launches: Predictive Fetch technology makes virtual computers start up faster and update quicker, and users can start using a LivePC before it has finished downloading.
- Automatic updates: Auto Subscription pushes administrator security updates and application patches to users in a process similar to subscribing to RSS feeds.
- Self-healing: "Rejuvenation" technology allows users to recover from malware by simply shutting down and restarting a LivePC. On reboot, the operating system and all applications are automatically restored to their original, clean state.
- Cross-platform and OS flexibility: LivePCs can be installed on a desktop, laptop or any portable storage device like an encrypted flash drive or even an iPod.
- Enhanced security with BareMetal: This customized Linux distribution runs on bare computer hardware without an underlying operating system, making it optimal for security-critical applications.
MokaFive offers the product in two flavors: Express Solution is free and gives users an opportunity to create and use public desktops from the MokaFive community lab. The Professional Solution is designed for enterprise use to allow companies to create and distribute private desktops. It also provides technical support.
Pricing, still pending, will be on a per-user basis. A 30-day free trial is available from the MokaFive site.
On demand applications and cloud computing often mean different things to different people. For developers, software as a service (SaaS) is quickly evolving not only as a means to deliver applications -- but as the means to develop them, too.
Taking the notion of "development as a service" to its full potential is the logic behind Platform as a Service (PaaS). To help understand the power of PaaS, we speak in this sponsored podcast to one of the early PaaS pioneers and providers, Bungee Labs.
Learn how software development is entering a new era in this discussion with Phil Wainewright, independent analyst and fellow ZDNet SaaS blogger, as well as with Alex Barnett, the vice president of community and blogger at Bungee Labs. Moderation from yours truly.
Here are some excerpts:
Everything we know is moving to the Web. And what that means in tangible terms is that businesses and service providers and software companies are providing layers of functionality and data that are native to the Web or are Web-oriented.Read a full transcript. Listen to the podcast. Sponsor: Bungee Labs.
It’s important when we look at the speed of development to appreciate that three or four folks in a garage in Northern California can come up with a mashed-up service and go out and create a social networking company, for example, quick and easy -- and at low expense. And then, here you are in an enterprise, taking six months to work through a requirements process. It seems as if something has got to change.
IT managers feel the pressure to be able to more rapidly to develop applications and access the data that are based on and being made available through Web APIs. And developers are able to then connect, develop, and build-out new applications based on distributed data, on distributed functionality and react to the business needs.
If you think about customer relationship management (CRM) systems or a certain kind of database -- they are in silos, they are disconnected, or they are very expensive and require lots of proprietary knowledge in order to be able to access the data, and therefore the value. What we are seeing with things like Web oriented architecture (WOA) is a materialization of how we get out of that frustration as an industry -- how we get out of that frustration from business. We want the data and the business intelligence from it, and to be able to get at that from a business perspective.
What we're seeing develop at the moment is kind of a two-tier information technology. On the one hand, you have all of the existing on-premise, legacy applications and all that data that Alex was describing. It's locked away, and IT managers are really puzzling over and grappling with the issue of how to unlock that data. How do they make it more accessible? How do they build more agility into applications infrastructure?
They are looking at things like service-oriented architecture (SOA) and other ways of connecting and integrating the data, while automating business processes within the organization. So that’s one tier.
The other tier that’s developing is this Web-oriented tier, all of these APIs and in-the-cloud resources and applications that are out there on the Web. To take advantage of those connections, you need to build a completely new infrastructure, which is different from the existing infrastructure within the firewall. It has to cope with connecting to external resources, and it has to have different kinds of security, different kinds of identity management.
Building a robust infrastructure to do this is very, very hard. That’s one of the reasons why a lot of enterprises are holding back, and are therefore missing agile opportunities. That’s one of the roles that the PaaS can provide.
[And] that’s what we are trying to define at Bungee Labs. PaaS is one of those terms that we’re going to be hearing more and more. And they are going to be different -- varying levels of definition and interpretation of what that means.
But what we’ve done is put a stake in the ground in this respect, and then saying that in order to really be a PaaS -- and not just any one of those single pieces that you’ve mentioned plus more individual pieces -- that you need to be able to provide the end-to-end services to really call it a "platform."
From the developer’s standpoint, which is the development cycle, this means the tools that they need to develop applications, to be able to then test those applications, to be able to connect to Web services and to combine them, and to have all those kinds of capabilities -- and to then deploy and to make those applications instantly available to the business users. Literally, we mean a URL that is the end-point for the end-user. From that, they can start consuming the application.
The on-demand CRM providers like NetSuite, Salesforce.com, Oracle, and now we’re hearing Microsoft Dynamics, are providing Web services layers over the functionality that they provide to the end users.
We’ve always been able to do a certain level of functional customization around those applications, but when you have the Web services that provide access to the data -- on the programmatic level -- you gain a whole new opportunity to merge, in terms of levels of customization against an existing CRM application, or ERP systems.
This pushes out the expansibility and the increased functionality of the investments that they’re making. It allows for those services to be able to expand that further in a cloud-orientated, Web-orientated way.
You really destroy the misconception that if you go to SaaS you can’t do customization and you can’t do integration. It means that we’re actually doing better customization and better integration than you are capable of doing with many on-premises systems, because it’s actually a more flexible customization. It’s more cost-effective integration because it’s a shared service.
What previously seemed like disadvantages of the SaaS model can be turned on their head and turned into advantages.
Software is still a hand-off affair, with developed applications getting tossed into production with little collaboration between the builders and the operators -- before or after the hand-off.
Things could and should be different. Thanks to search-based technologies and services now entering the market, we may be on the verge of a new productivity boomlet that leverages more needles from more haystacks.
With proper access to information about how code actually behaves in real-world use, developers could better produce reliable applications and infrastructure. Architects and systems operators could better anticipate how to meet the demands and service level agreements (SLAs) of quickly provisioned applications if they had greater visibility into the hit on resources -- and potential disruptions -- from newly minted applications and services. Virtualization will only exacerbate the deployment complexities.
Wouldn't it be beneficial then if the information about what goes on "on the other side" were made available proactively to each side of the equation? Search functions applied directly to both sides of the development and deployment fence would allows those open a bright new window into what remains murky and mysterious from the outside.
Developers with proper access to indexes and meta data could use search to quickly find highly specific information about run time environments and stacks as they write and test their code, and as they seek out the best components, objects and methods suitable for specific runtime scenarios.
Conversely, operators faced with slow-running applications -- or worse -- could search into the source code for clues about root causes of glitches, and much easier and faster identify and remediate the problems. They could also clearly point out the impactful issues back to the development and test teams, to prevent the glitch from recurring in the future.
We're already seeing a great deal of value from operations-side search, and the extension of that value due to platform approaches, APIs and open collaboration. Splunk is providing a path on IT search as a platform. [Disclosure: Splunk is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts, including this one on Splunk Base.]
Other vendors are emerging to fruitfully employee search to the source code management (SCM) space, such as Krugle. Krugle offers a search benefit for open source assets, as well as enterprise development assets.
Now when we can jibe software characteristics and collaborate across the design time-run time divide based on the type of insight that the likes of Splunk and Krugle provide, well then we'll be in a better software age. It may be sooner than we think.
Funny that the passing of NRA chatterbox Charlton Heston (Let my Ammo Go!) was the NYT story for metro edition, replacing the blogs kill story from the national edition on page one.
So let's honor Charlton by taking a lesson from the NRA: Guns don't kill people, blogs do.
Or perhaps it's, Blogging doesn't kill people, computers do. (I'll give up my laptop when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!)
No, no, wait ... it must be: Heart attacks don't kill people, Mike Arrington does ... or wants to, at least Demo, mainstream media, CNET, and all the other bloggers who take speculative investments and still don't put in the torturous hours he does.
Let's hereby make today, National Tuck a Blogger In For a Nap Day. Sweet dreams, Mike.