SOA Talk


October 20, 2014  1:56 PM

Do IT and business leaders need an attitude adjustment?

Maxine Giza Maxine Giza Profile: Maxine Giza
Cloud adoption, Cloud Computing, Development

It’s not uncommon for IT and business leaders to want to reap the benefits of having employees collaborate amongst each other, but the same perspective isn’t always seen when it comes to sharing technology resources. Those decision-makers need an attitude adjustment when it comes to shared workloads, according to Susan Eustis, president and CEO, co-founder of WinterGreen Research.

It may seem like common sense, but not everyone seems to get it. “It’s far more efficient to share a resource than it is to build and not use it all the time,” Eustis said. “It’s a message people don’t want to hear, but in fact, people who invested in shared workloads are the leaders in their industry segment.” Such organizations include Wal-Mart and Travelers Insurance, she noted.

In an era where organizations are trying to stay afloat, or simply get off the ground, looking towards the cloud can seem like a logical move. By sharing a workload in the cloud, costs can edge downwards. This can lead to a competitive advantage because organizations that adopt such a model can afford to offer products and services at a lower price point.

In a traditional set-up, every department within an organization would have its own set of servers and thus individually pay for the service. That however, is starting to change. Now, some companies are only paying for the portion of servers that are in use. “The virtualization workload moves on and off the cloud in the way it hasn’t happened before,” Eustis said.

The cloud isn’t the only area cost savings can be found. IT leaders might be surprised to learn that mainframes may not be the money-draining resource they have a reputation for being. “I’ve done a lot of work over the years and I’m showing the mainframe is 10 times cheaper than the servers,” Eustis said.

The message from Eustis is clear – archaic thinking isn’t going to get an organization ahead. “People have to stop being afraid of losing their job and start looking at what the reality is,” she said.

Have you seen stubborn thinking and practices hinder an organization’s ability to succeed? What are some common pitfalls you’ve seen leaders take when it comes to making IT decisions?

September 30, 2014  8:33 PM

Big data investments edge upwards, survey finds

Maxine Giza Maxine Giza Profile: Maxine Giza
Big Data, Development, Gartner

A growing number of organizations are jumping on the big data bandwagon, according to research from Gartner. Within the next two years, more than 70% of just over 300 survey respondents said they will invest in the technology. The figure represents a nearly 10% upswing from last year.

While the notorious three Vs: Volume, variety, and velocity have plagued most who attempt to wrangle loads of data, survey respondents paid the most attention to volume, that is the sheer amount of data.

Even though certain types of information have been gathered for quite some time, the quantity of that data has rapidly risen. If not properly managed, the structured or unstructured information that was once a profit point could turn into a costly, headache-inducing problem.

The research points out that data variety, the different types of information, can be one of the more problematic areas of big data to manage. With the upswing of social media, for example, a new set of skills and tools, plus expanded storage, is needed to make use of the information.

That may explain why more organizations aren’t attempting to get information from log data, often derived from social media. The survey revealed that the number of organizations attempting to glean insights from profiles and interactions dipped 2%. Gartner believes issues integrating social media with other data may be the root of the trend.

Figuring out what to do with, and how to manage big data from social media, isn’t the only problem IT professionals are facing. Mobile devices are also a pain point for developers as needs and goals can vary depending on the application’s target audience.

Despite the problems big data can present, the opportunities to extract valuable information cannot be overlooked. Given the uptick in organizations planning to deploy a big data project in the near future, it seems business leaders are getting the picture. Now it’s up to IT professionals to figure out how to deal with big data in a cost-effective and timely fashion.

Has your organization struggled to integrate information gathered from new sources, such as social media, with more traditional big data sources? How have you gone about overcoming the obstacle?


August 15, 2014  8:19 PM

Research: Public cloud spending on the upswing

Maxine Giza Maxine Giza Profile: Maxine Giza
Development, Public Cloud

Public cloud spending is on the rise, according to research from International Data Corporation. Software as a service accounts for more than 70% of the market, the Worldwide Semiannual Public Cloud Services Tracker revealed. Platform as a service and Infrastructure as a service round out the other product groups.

One of the main factors driving the uptick in spending is developer migration to the cloud, according to IDC Chief Analyst and SVP Frank Gens. “Over the next few years, anyone looking for the best enterprise apps will almost certainly be adopting them as cloud services,” he predicted. The second major force Gens said is increased comfort of cloud services being “enterprise ready.”

With the increased funds going towards cloud services, more vendors are entering the space, which can be a good thing for developers and enterprises as a whole. “We’ll continue to see a rapid growth in the diversity of options IT shops can find in the public cloud world,” Gens said.

Some options will include on-demand private clouds, more specialized cloud instances, improved security options, and new developer services, Gen said. The biggest trend on the horizon, however, will use the cloud and big data. “We see most of these having a very industry-and/or role-specific focus,” he noted.

What improved cloud service options would you like to have available?


July 23, 2014  6:46 PM

Is the cloud the great equalizer?

Maxine Giza Maxine Giza Profile: Maxine Giza
Development

When people talk about “going to the cloud,” it’s often viewed within the context of what it means for an organization in terms of workflow and costs. Anjoy Willy, a director at business transformation product provider Trace3, sees the cloud in a different light. “This is really a push for much greater democracy,” he said.

Radio and television are often cited as revolutionary technologies that transformed the way we transmit ideas. While the platforms made it possible to reach large audiences, both are designed for one-way communication. Furthermore, creating content for radio or television initially involved knowing the right people and having the proper resources. That all changed when access to the Internet became mainstream.

The Internet made it possible for people to not only receive messages, but created an opportunity for a broad range of people to participate in content development and dissemination. Now, it’s simple for anyone with access to a computer or wireless device to create a blog or go on to YouTube and upload their own video.

“That is what is incredible about the Internet and the cloud in general,” Willy said. “Take that computing power and give it to somebody for a fraction of the cost of what it used to take.”

As access to the cloud becomes easier and cost-efficient, the road is being paved for more innovation. “We have more startups now than we did in the dot com boom,” Willy said.

Do you see the cloud as having a democratizing affect? How have you seen the cloud change the enterprise landscape?


July 17, 2014  2:14 PM

Why middleware testing is a cloud affair

Maxine Giza Maxine Giza Profile: Maxine Giza
Development, middleware

By: Jan Stafford

More and more, enterprise architects are building environments for large-scale middleware testing in the cloud. Why? There are huge limits on how many test and development environments on-premise systems can accommodate, said Steve Millidge, Director, C2B2 Consulting, Malvern, UK. For example, many businesses don’t have the physical resources to create a 32-node cluster just to test middleware.

“If an architect suddenly wants, say, 20 servers to run middleware tests, allocating all those servers would be a burden and could reduce performance of core applications,” Millidge said. He’s helped organization set up middleware testing in AWS, where tests can be set up in a single morning, run during the day and torn down in the evening. “Large quantities of tests can be done completely on-demand, which is a fantastic value case,” he said.

C2B2 architects who routinely build and put images on AWS have seen that reuse opportunities are many. “If some others need to use an instance, they can easily clone one for a few days, then shut it down again,” said Millidge. Fixed, on-premise servers can’t be rapidly built and torn down.

Looking for more advice and info on middleware? Check out Millidge’s report on a UK higher education services project, which enabled uptime and performance for a huge one-day, online event. Expert George Lawton explains how to solve operational business intelligence problems using SOA and middleware. Operational BI is more event-driven than traditional BI, Lawton says, and focuses on using BI for process improvements.

Jan Stafford plans and oversees strategy and operations for TechTarget’s Application Development Media Group. She has covered the computer industry for the last 20-plus years, writing about everything from personal computers to operating systems to server virtualization to application development. E-mail her at jstafford@techtarget.com.


July 9, 2014  7:59 PM

AWS experts help UK ed service beat one-day traffic spike

Maxine Giza Maxine Giza Profile: Maxine Giza
AWS, Development

By: Jan Stafford

In the United Kingdom, applying for university and other higher education courses is quite different than in the U.S. In the U.S., students apply to individual institutions and get responses one by one over several weeks. In the U.K., all applications are approved online in a single day. Imagine the load placed on a web service that doles out all a nation’s higher-education admissions information in one day. That demand lead to the creation of a scalable, secure hybrid cloud solution on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“Every over-18-year-old student in the UK who has applied to a university tries to get on the website on that day to see if they have their university place,” said Steve Millidge, director of C2B2, a Malvern, U.K.-based consulting firm. That’s about 650,000 students who’ve applied to hundreds of institutions. “The workload is incredibly thirsty,” he said.

Millidge’s C2B2 development team helped the major UK higher education software provider optimize a college admissions and application management service and move it to the cloud. Millidge has used AWS since its early days, first to test middleware products and then as a platform for quickly building up and tearing down environments. These days, he’s building and testing production environments in AWS for universities, government agencies and other businesses. Millidge is also a resident expert for SearchAWS.com.

The UK service provider used to run the admissions site on an on-premise system, and service delays and outages were a constant headache. Last year, the provider moved to a hybrid cloud approach, supporting the admission applications in its on-premise data center and in an AWS environment. No downtime, real-time analytics, high performance and scalability were the key desired results.

During this project, C2B2 helped the provider move its Oracle Fusion middleware into the AWS platform and build the technical architecture that would support this traffic peak. “We helped build out a replica of the in-house environment to manage specific events and integrate the data between the two environments,” said Millidge.

C2B2’s middleware expertise helped the provider avoid common, but incorrect, assumptions about the networks and the availability of shared storage, local services and servers that the service would run on, according to Millidge’s colleague, Nick Wright, C2B2 senior consultant. These were quite reasonable conventions for the time. Assuming everything is located in a single data center, these traditional systems can be used to create very effective architectures. Over time, however, the legacy components deployed and the interdependent configuration will not scale or be flexible enough for rapid changes common to cloud environments.

Moving away from brittle interdependent services takes a lot of courage on the service provider’s side, Wright said. “We were having to break the conventions that were being relied upon by legacy middleware components.”

C2B2 took a staged approach to solving the problem, identifying pathways that the applications used and analysing how to provide business functionality by isolating micro-services used in the workflow. “We then looked at various ways of bundling these services together so that each set of dependencies can be managed in isolation,” said Wright.

An important step was building high availability and automation into the services, so that they could be treated as a single surface that we could scale on demand. “This final part is where being in the cloud really helped,” said Wright. “We were able to leverage cloud automation tools as an API (application program interface) to translate our service needs into provisioned infrastructure.”

After deployment on a scalable, secure, AWS hybrid cloud last year, the provider ran the university admission process without downtime or operational incidents. All the while, the service provided real time feedback to end users on application performance. As a result, the provider confirmed the placement of 385,910 students into higher education on the A-level results day.

Jan Stafford plans and oversees strategy and operations for TechTarget’s Application Development Media Group. She has covered the computer industry for the last 20-plus years, writing about everything from personal computers to operating systems to server virtualization to application development. E-mail her at jstafford@techtarget.com.


June 26, 2014  1:27 PM

Good bye checklists! Taking a hands-on approach aids mobile app developer

Maxine Giza Maxine Giza Profile: Maxine Giza
Development, Mobile

There isn’t a proven one-size-fits-all method for selecting a software tool. Many IT professionals recommend devising a list of necessary features and a thorough evaluation of product offerings, but that’s just not Jake Kooper’s style.

Kooper, who develops mobile applications as a side project for Whitewater Labs, takes a different approach. “I don’t sit down with a checklist and go one, two three, this is what needs to happen,” he said. “I don’t read anything on their [vendor] website. I just sign up and see what happens.”

While Kooper admits his tool selection method may not be appropriate for everyone, it’s what works for him. As a developer, he said he learns best by taking a hands-on approach, rather than looking at infographics and reading lengthy documents.

By visiting a vendor’s website and downloading samples, Kooper is able to start building an application right away and get a feel for how the tool really works. When he runs into a problem, that is when he turns to documentation.

What defines a good tool is quite simple in Kooper’s mind. “At the end of the day, you want to just make sure the product does what you need it to do,” he said.

How do you go about selecting a tool? Are you the type to follow a stringent plan or do you just wing it? Are there any special tips or tricks you use?


May 22, 2014  5:14 PM

Is UML 2.5 living up to expectations?

Maxine Giza Maxine Giza Profile: Maxine Giza
Development

Nearly six months after the release, the jury seems to still be out as to how, or even if, UML 2.5 is doing what it’s intended to. The goal of the update wasn’t to change the language, but to simplify documentation and make life easier for developers.

Ed Seidewitz, chief technology officer for the Americas, said many people outside of the Object Management Group (OMG, which adopted UML in the 1990s) are just starting to dapple with the latest UML version. “UML 2.4 is still the most prominent out there,” he said, noting that feedback has been positive from those who have begun working with UML 2.5.

What users see and use UML for didn’t change for the most part, notes Cory Casanave, CEO of Model Driven Solutions, but it “really puts a maturity level into UML.”

A big gripe with UML among developers was that tools failed to work well with one another and models didn’t transfer well. One of the main goals of UML was to improve interoperability between tools and models. “It’s too early to know if that will have a significant effect in practice because most vendors have not implemented UML 2.5 yet,” said Steve Cook, Architect at Microsoft.

That being said, from what Casanave has seen so far, “UML 2.5 has largely made that problem a thing of the past.”

Have you started working with UML 2.5? What do you think of the revision?


March 31, 2014  2:19 PM

Q&A: Building dependable systems, embedded development careers

Maxine Giza Maxine Giza Profile: Maxine Giza

By: Jan Stafford

Chris Forde

Chris Forde

When building dependability into systems and software, the buck often stops at the enterprise architect. While the architect plays a key role, ensuring dependability is a team effort, and business executives can and often should be project leaders, said Chris Forde, The Open Group’s general manager, Asia Pacific, and vice president of Enterprise Architecture.

Forde offers advice on achieving system dependability and career opportunities in embedded software development in this Q&A. Before joining The Open Group, Forde was an enterprise architect for several organizations, most recently as vice president for Strategy and Architecture for their Customer Servicing Capability for American Express. The Open Group is a vendor- and technology-neutral advisory, standards-creation and certification organization, which recently released the Dependability through Assuredness (O-DA) framework. For Open Group, Forde played a key role in the development and launch of TOGAF 9.

What are some indications that a system is not dependable, other than just shut downs?

Forde: The frequency of degradation in service levels observable by the customer (internal or external) from nominal, not failures. This is often cited as more frustrating than total outages, it may also go unreported.

Considering that there is no 100% dependable system, what are the practices that will lead to a low failure rate?

Forde: One is the actual prevention of the failure by recognizing the issue in its early stages as it is developing and taking corrective action in advance; that is, being able to measure prevented failure. A simple example is in effective management of storage or network capacity. Fundamentally, capacity planning and timely provisioning of certain infrastructure components [reduce failures]. Often, this is not done well.

How does constant change impact dependability?

Forde: Change introduces the risk of error, complexity and interoperability compound that risk. O-DA is a mechanism to address mitigating that risk.

What kind of challenges does a mix of cloud, embedded, web and mobile pose for an enterprise architect?

Forde: To a certain extent, architecture implies the effective use of known standards/component or in some cases developing and setting those standards within an enterprise. As these technologies emerge and evolve, they cross into the ‘extended enterprise space’ and reflect the exponential proliferation of endpoints and platforms and information. A lack of standards around emerging technologies is in itself a headache for architects. Attempting to construct fit for purpose solutions with a reasonable lifespan to in order recoup investment, and allow a migration path as things change is a common issue concerning architects.

In the embedded systems area, what career opportunities do you see for enterprise architects today?

Forde: The fact that there are embedded systems is related to expertise, if these systems have a position in an enterprise relative to other systems then they are in scope for an architect’s role. For [the Asia Pacific] region, the software development parks in Shanghai have embedded systems context charts on the walls, and these educational and development sites are also engaging in discussions about the need for EA’s training. They wouldn’t be doing both of these things if there were not an opportunity in the marketplace for jobs.


March 28, 2014  6:31 PM

Are professional IT certifications valuable or meaningless?

Maxine Giza Maxine Giza Profile: Maxine Giza

Capgemini Program Manager Mike Ennis believes obtaining IT certifications can mean more than just having another piece of paper to hang on the wall. “I think within a few years having a testing certification is going to be just as important to a tester’s career as a project manager’s career having a PMP certification,” Ennis said.

Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, president of Advantage Leadership, concurs with Ennis. Recently, she worked with a company with clients who required a certain level of organizational maturity. “This is more and more a thing that companies are requiring of their vendors,” she said.

Sometimes, the benefits of a certification aren’t so black and white. Reinsten said doing something that isn’t a requirement shows a person is willing to go the extra mile and invest in him or herself. “There is this perception that you are more of a go getter, you are more of a self-starter,” she said. “It’s a subtle factor that I’ve found that over the years, it’s probably one of the real values.”

It’s not just an employer’s perspective that should be taken into consideration, but the test-taker’s as well. Ennis said one can learn about software testing from a best practices perspective, not just how it’s done at his or her respective organization. “It also gives you some better techniques that you can also apply to your everyday tests,” he noted.

Just like a college degree, it’s possible a professional certification can become merely another line on a person’s resume. It can be argued that it’s not about how many degrees or certifications a person has, but the knowledge he or she has and how it’s applied that matters most.

Do you think earning professional certifications is a good idea or a waste of time and money?


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