At Forrester Research’s Application Development & Delivery Forum last year, we were introduced to the idea that innovative disruption was the principal force propelling the future of IT. In the last year, the sense of disruption of convention in both digital and business models seems to have only grown stronger.
Disruption is driven in a big way by forwardly charging mobile computing applications. Strategies for successfully developing such apps are among the central elements upcoming at this year’s Forrester development event, dubbed the Developing Digital Disruption forum.
Aimed at application development and delivery professionals, the event coincides with another forum, called Embracing Digital Disruption, intended for business architects and business process leaders. For both forums, disruption is front and center.
“In the mobile space we are seeing disruption of our customer’s planning,” said Forrester Principal Analyst Jeffrey Hammond, who indicated mobile apps are no longer mere add-ons to existing applications, but are instead the ‘’first option’’ for application development. That turns the table on conventional approaches, and calls for changes in skill sets, he said.
“What people are finding is that it requires a lot of different skills. It requires a different culture in development. Before, ‘agile’ was nice to have. Now it is a necessity,” he said.
And that changes not just how things are built but also the way in which they are designed. “The need to release [updates] more frequently has an impact on architecture,” said Hammond.
At the Developing Digital Disruption forum, Hammond and colleague Michael Facemire, Forrester senior analyst, will debate emerging mobile architectures such as MBaaS (Mobile back-end as a Service) and mixed-mode mobile middleware.
The digitization of business processes has gone far beyond the early Web days, when e-commerce emerged as a supplement to the basic endeavors of ‘’brick and mortar’’ enterprises. Online strategy and product strategy are one and the same.
“IT people traditionally think of the product as something on the other side of the wall. In an age of digital disruption, that is no longer a good assumption,” said Randy Heffner, vice president and principal analyst, Forrester.
Products, be they books, cameras or even cosmetics, increasingly appear as part of a digital on line presentation, and all stakeholders need to adopt new ways of thinking. “Don’t silo the product experience,” said Heffner.
Naturally, we asked Heffner what role SOA would play in this new world. “SOA continues as a way to package business logic so it is available where it needs to be,” he responded. “It’s an enabler for those who are doing new things like mobile. SOA is just in the big mix somewhere.”
Clearly, mobile applications connected via the Web disrupt the status quo. Development leaders must adjust, taking an even greater role in facilitating communication between technology, product and business architects. “You have to think about how you are doing customer experience and everything else in a much more integrated way,” said Heffner, who will discuss how to blend product design, systems of engagement and systems of record at the upcoming Forrester event.
Heffner’s forum session is entitled “Digital Disruption and the Future of your Business, Product and Technology Architectures.” Among a host of other sessions are ones addressing the need for agility in planning and governance, security in the age of the open Web and digital design experience principles. The event is set for Oct. 18 to 19 in Orlando, Fla.
Running as a theme through the event is the need for software development teams to better understand the customer. Even after nearly 20 years of the World Wide Web, many enterprise IT teams are still only familiar with development for ‘captive’ in-house users, who, if they don’t like an application interface, are not likely to get up and walk. Today’s Web-based mobile device wielding customers will, however.
Forrester’s analysis holds that more and more companies will begin think of themselves as software development companies, ones with a special focus on creating a topnotch customer experience. “You can’t use an employee to make up for your poor user experience anymore,” said Hammond.
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Cloud and mobile test service SOASTA has acquired LogNormal, makers of Web performance tools. That news accompanies SOASTA’s release of mPulse, a real-time user monitoring tool that itself derives from an already established alliance between SOASTA and LogNormal.
The mobile user space differs from that of traditional Web apps, said Tom Lounibos, SOASTA’s CEO, and so requires new types of tools. “On the mobile side, customers are looking at the difference between mobile apps and web apps. It goes beyond pure footprint. It goes to how the [devices] are being used.”
“With mobile, you have people on the move. They are usually interested in one thing, say, a sports score, or a transaction. None of the developers have too much visibility into this,” said Lounibos.
He said mPulse garners performance measures like bandwidth and page load time as well as engagement metrics like bounce, exit and conversion rates. User metrics like user location, device type, carrier speed, and application usage are captured too. Then, mPulse displays the information via an interactive in-memory monitoring dashboard.
Mobile development, clearly, is changing the overall development ethos. Just when some test shops were getting their arms around the idea of end-user PC interaction monitoring, they face new challenges of a mobile nature. Not surprisingly, SOASTA’s Lounibos sees it a s a key area of attention, as was seen depicted in a recent posting on sister blog Head in the Clouds. – Jack Vaughan
As JavaOne 2012 kicks off in San Francisco Sept 30, industry experts and practitioners gather to learn about the newest in Java standards, best practices and developments. New this year are a larger keynote location at the Masonic Auditorium and an expanded schedule that includes hundreds of technical sessions, hands-on labs, and BOFs.
Meanwhile, a host of new languages are being fielded on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) platform, giving developers much to digest. Finally, OSGi has edged into production as a means for modular Java app making – but it is challenged, some would say, by Jigsaw, a newer modularization scheme that apparently will not make the next Java rev. One thing is clear: Oracle is now firmly established as chief Java overseer.
For Java consultant, trainer and JavaOne presenter Venkat Subramaniam, founder of Agile Developer, Inc., JavaOne is a chance to reach developers who need new ways to be effective on the JVM platform. Among key concerns he cites are concurrency. New multicore chips, he says require new programmatic ways of working with Java, whether the target platforms are conventional or new cloud varieties.
On multicore chips, [software] multithreads are on steroids, Subramaniam said. That brings out problems in Java coding that have not been uncovered in familiar single-core implementations. Multicore chips bring multiple levels of caches, he added. “Programs that pretend to work correctly get broken. This is not a problem we invited,” he said.
For those worried about Java’s future, Subramaniam has relief. “It will continue. It is powerful. But the way we use it is going to change in the future,” he said.
How will it change? Subramanian suggests Scala, Groovy and JRuby will appear on the JVM with greater frequency to help deal with a new architecture paradigm that places Web applications in juxtaposition to enterprise apps.
As has been seen in other recent JavaOne events, JVM and Java as a platform are becoming as important as – or more important than – Java, the language.
“I think Java is very strong and healthy but you have to look at all the different languages that are available,” said Kirk Knoernschild, software developer. He points to Groovy, Scala and Clojure, as well as other languages as examples of the new “Java platform” landscape.
“You really need to focus more on the separation of Java as a runtime platform. More and more, we will see organizations using the right language on top of the platform,” said Knoernschild, author of “Java Application Architecture: Modularity Patterns with Examples Using OSGi” [Prentice Hall, 2012]. “This language could be Java. It could be Groovy. It could be Grails.”
In fact, the JavaOne event offers over 500 wide-ranging sessions. Some notable choices include “Rapid Robot Programming,” “Building Mobile Apps with HTML5 and Java,” “Going Real-Time: How to Build a Streaming API,” and “How RESTful is Your REST?”
Among the nearly 540 speakers at this year’s JavaOne are the so-called “Java Champions,” a selection of community-nominated technology leaders who will run a series of technical talks and community-building activities at the conference.
Stephen Colebourne, project lead at Joda.org, is one member of that group. His talk, “From Instants to Eras, the Future of Time in Java,” will look ahead to the inclusion of an easy-to-use, expressive API for times and dates in Java SE 8. “Java Champion” Bruno Souza will talk about “101 Ways to Improve Java: Why Developer Participation Matters.” He will lead a community brainstorming session about how developer participation can influence the development of Java technologies. -Stephanie Mann and Jack Vaughan
Software in the original mainframe days was all glommed together. Why not? Who was looking? Sometimes, reluctantly, some structure came about. Even in the early mid-range days, code was built up into classes, objects and components that were often loosely strung together.
With standard Java and standard Java servers, fairly strict and familiar three-tier architecture came about. The question to ask now is “Will it last forever?” Like so many things, the fundamental tiers of computing do come up for reconsideration once and a while.
Node.js and other browser-influenced technologies seem to encourage software architects to cast skyward their monolithic three-tier components. As these flying components drift down to earth, they may not settle back up in the same alignment. The sudden near-hegemony of mobile clients is pushing things ahead quickly. A variety of new architectures are brewing.
In some ways, there seems a growing reaction to the rule of Java and the server. That view emerges from a look at a reporters’ notebook. It’s not going away, but as described in an interview with James Strachan, now senior software consultant with JBoss: “The server side is becoming thinner and thinner.” When SearchSOA.com and TheServerSide.com spoke with Strachan earlier this year at the CamelOne event, the topic of Node.JS was on the docket, but Strachan was expansive.
He said, looking forward:
The server side might just be Amazon Simple DB or Mongo DB or something; there might not be much of a three-tier architecture anymore.
Meanwhile, with flair, he continued:
….the client side is becoming bigger and more and more complex; it’s real-time now, everyone’s doing Ajax, real-time updates, and people are doing lots of single-page applications – which is when one Web page starts up and the entire app is in there. There are lots of models, containers, relationships and persistence and “yada-yada.”
Strachan notes this is highly driven by mobile applications:
Are the new approaches overblown? Is real change far off? Do you see a shift in emphasis to the client? If so, do you think services or SOA have had a hand in breaking down the status quo? -Jack Vaughan
What has sometimes been described as mobile middleware has taken a new tack. Now, the idea of Backend as a Service (BaaS) has begun to take off in the mobile application development space. Proponents of BaaS say it helps developers easily build mobile apps, or any other applications connected to a cloud backend. Some of their views suggest a wholly new computer architecture is in the works.
By way of example is FatFractal, a San Francisco-based BaaS provider that launched just this week. The company describes its product as offering native code support for any connected device, along with an events model and declarative security. FatFractal also says it integrates all of those components as lightweight services.
While it may be the newest BaaS player, FatFractal joins a slew of companies already in the field. Its competitors include StackMob, Kinvey, Applicasa and Parse.
Central to FatFractal’s approach is a NoServer module, which takes JSON requests and handles them via a script execution engine and a Create, Read, Update and Delete (CRUD) engine.
FatFractal CMO David Lasner thinks the new approach is needed. “It’s just hard to do a backend in the cloud and make it work,” he said. “The nature of applications is changing and you’re getting thousands of applications that use a lot of data.” – Stephanie Mann
Hoteliers were among the first businesses to turn to information technology. Now, their once-new foundational computers have become legacy systems that can block in the way of delivering new products and promotions. These are not always just mainframe systems – once-shiny high-performance mid-range (or larger) Unix systems and even pre-SOA-era application servers may be standing in the way of business flexibility just as easily.
In recent years, as some systems began to show their age, Choice Hotels International, Inc., which franchises over 6,000 hotels, opted to update with middleware systems from Oracle Corp. Choice Hotels’ move is well along. SOA is part of the journey.
“Several years ago, we did an overall assessment and decided there were too many point-to-point connections,” said Rain Fletcher, vice president of application development and architecture, Choice Hotels. “Maintenance was difficult, and our business needed more velocity in delivering new functionality.”
That is the background to Choice’s selection of Oracle Fusion Middleware, SOA Suite and BPM Suite, he said. Oracle application server software also provides the base for those higher level stack elements. Fletcher described Choice’s as “a WebLogic shop,” referring to the former BEA, now Oracle, app server suite.
The legacy systems were becoming “a liability in our ability to execute,” said Fletcher. A re-thinking of IT architecture was needed, he said.
The need for quick technical flexibility is intensely apparent on the Choice Hotels’ website today. It is dotted with special book-early rate offers, gift card offerings, Privilege Point member specials, downloadable iPad and smart phone apps and more. It enables bookings on Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Econo Lodge, Sleep Inn and other familiar hotel marquees. All this functionality must be fleet and flexible, and supported by backend systems and middleware.
A big part of Fletcher’s drive is to simplify and standardize where possible. “We wanted to default to one standard,” he said. But multiple systems are a fact of life that require developers to be supple. The that is needed is what Fletcher calls “fungibility.”
“We have thirteen different systems. And I don’t want there [to be a need for] ‘tribal knowledge’ of any one of them,” he said.
How does that pan out in operations? Some complexity is unavoidable – but simplicity must be the goal. “Every application server type we have has a different patching policy and security profile,” he said. “I may have four – I don’t want any more,” he said.
SOA and the Oracle SOA Suite have been first steps in gaining the flexibility Fletcher’s organization is looking to achieve, with BPM and modeling deployments to come, he said. Developers go through intensive training in SOA. He said the effort is built around the concept of a “SOA Services Factory.”
“We started with service domain module creation, working with partners to create several high-level service domains,” said Fletcher. Looking forward, he expects to be mapping SOA services with well-defined business processes. The domains provide a framework for the services. As the services grow up they map naturally to how the business thinks, and what the business does, he said.
The Apache Hadoop distributed file processing system has benefits and is gaining traction. However, it can have drawbacks. Some organizations find that starting up with Hadoop requires rethinking software architecture and that acquiring new data skills is necessary.
For some, a problem with Hadoop’s batch-processing model is that it assumes there will be downtime to run the batch in between bursts of data acquisition. This is the case for many businesses that operate locally and have a large number of transactions during the day, but very little (if any) at night. If that nightly window is large enough to process the accumulation of data from the previous day, everything goes smoothly. For some businesses though, that window of downtime is small or non-existent and even with Hadoop’s high-powered processing, they still get more data in one day than they can process every 24 hours.
For organizations with small windows of acceptable, an approach that adds components of stream-based data processing may help, writes GigaSpaces CTO Nati Shalom in a recent blog on making Hadoop faster. By constantly processing incoming data into useful packets and removing static data that does not need to be processed (or reprocessed) enterprise organizations can significantly accelerate their big data batch processes. – James Denman
Later this month, experts and authors from around the globe will gather in London for the fifth annual SOA, Cloud and Service Technology Symposium. This year’s conference agenda reflects aspects of the progress of SOA – both subtle and profound.
In reviewing this year’s submissions, some vivid trends emerged, said Thomas Erl, prominent SOA author, educator and conference chair. “Many sessions are about the convergence of different areas,” said Erl, noting the original event covered SOA, then it covered SOA and cloud computing, and now it has broadened further.
“As you go through all the submissions, you kind of witness an evolution in the industry. It is a reflection as to where the industry itself is going,” he said. As the naming of the event suggests, Erl sees an emerging field that can be called “service technology.”
“In the early days of SOA, people associated SOA with Web services. There was a communications barrier [with people] who thought it was just a way of implementing Web services,” he said. “Now we are seeing many more sessions that look at how [cloud, SOA and services] are applied together, and what the implications are.”
The Symposium, set for Sept 24 – 25 at Imperial College, is slated to cover a broad variety of SOA and cloud-related topics as well. Among scheduled sessions are “Lightweight BPM and SOA,” “Moving Applications to the Cloud: Migration Options,” and “The Rise of the Enterprise Service Bus.” Also on the agenda is a series of on-site training and certification workshops. Billed as “bootcamp-style training sessions,” the workshops will provide preparation for a number of industry-recognized certifications, including SOA architect and cloud technology professional programs.
A key aim of the conference is to offer SOA, cloud computing and service technologies practitioners a look at real-world implementations and field-tested industry practices. However, the event will also cover emerging trends and innovations in the space. Continued »
As more enterprises set their sights on Hadoop’s capabilities, new products aim to ease Hadoop integration. Progress DataDirect’s Connect XE for ODBC driver for Hadoop Hive is an example. It boasts scalable connectivity for multiple distributions of Hadoop.
Enterprises looking to carry out additional analysis of data contained in the Hadoop-based store need a reliable connection to their existing predictive analytic and business intelligence tools. That can prove challenging, especially when dealing with multiple versions of Hadoop—distributions include Apache Hadoop, MapR Apache Hadoop, Cloudera’s distribution of Apache Hadoop and others.
“If I’m an [independent software vendor] and I want to onboard Hadoop as a supportive platform, I can either write a bunch of custom code for each specific flavor of Hadoop that I want to talk to—which has massive cost to it, massive complexity and issues related to support—or I can try to piece together some support matrix with the existing technology that’s out there for connectivity,” said Michael Benedict, vice president and business line manager, Progress DataDirect.
The company’s newest driver provides enterprises with another option. “Customers can plug in our driver under their normal code maps [to] applications that already support ODBC today, and they are able to take advantage of Hadoop for all of their customers,” Benedict explained.
The driver offers support for several common Hadoop distribution frameworks, including Apache, Cloudera, MapR, and Amazon EMR. At the same time it provides Windows, RedHat, Solaris, SUSE, AIX, and HP-UX platform support. According to Benedict, the release of this driver reflects a growing need to analyze and process big data.
“[Enterprises are] consuming, analyzing and taking action on a much larger set of data than they have in the past,” he explained. “The reason why that’s changed is that, while you could store that data in the past, you just couldn’t really do it cost effectively. Big data/Hadoop allows you to do it in a slightly more cost-effective manner. Plus you’ve got a lot of technology that’s being built around this to enable you to better monetize and take action on data.”
By offering one unified driver, Progress DataDirect says it is filling demand for better connectivity to all the major platforms supporting the major distributions of Hadoop. Set to ship at the end of October, preview access to the product is now available on a limited basis to current customers. -Stephanie Mann
In a recent report on the state of Java, IDC analyst Al Hilwa notes that the Java ecosystem is healthy and on a growing trajectory, with more programming languages than ever now hosted on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Hilwa, program director for application development software at IDC, gives credit to Oracle for a mostly successful custodianship of Java, since its acquisition of Sun Microsystems two years ago.
There are some clouds on the horizon, as could be expected for a language and architecture that has been atop the heap of enterprise middleware for so many years. Writes Hilwa: “Java is under pressure from competing developer ecosystems, including the aggressively managed Microsoft platform and ecosystem and the broader Web ecosystem with its diverse technologies and lightweight scripting languages and frameworks.”
While looming lightweight languages, frameworks and runtimes do portend a new state of Java , Java’s ability to evolve to absorb new technologies has indeed proved remarkable to date. There is reason to believe there is still more to come.