SOA Talk

May 2, 2012  2:48 AM

IBM Impact 2012: Is this the age of SOA 3.0?

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

SOA has been used for application transformation for several years – now SOA itself is undergoing a transformation. At IBM Impact 2012, IBM Application and Integration Middleware General Manager Marie Wieck went so far as to dub the transformation “SOA 3.0.” She was not alone among IBM leaders showing support for SOA services – old and new. Continued »

April 25, 2012  7:51 PM

Progress plans to jettison middleware offerings, focus on OpenEdge

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

UPDATED – Long-time SOA player Progress Software disclosed plans today to divest important SOA and BPM holdings. In a prepared statement, the company said going forward it would focus on “core” OpenEdge product development and the new Application Platform-as-a-Service cloud computing market. It hopes to divest “non-core” business holdings and products including Actional SOA governance tools, Sonic and FuseSource ESBs, ObjectStore object databases, Savvion business modeling tools, and others by the middle to end of its FY 2013.

The move appears to be a return to its original roots, represented by its OpenEdge line. That operation is largely a channel business in which VARs and ISVs work with Progress platforms and tools to target specific vertical markets. That business, IT work formerly hosted in house, may be overtaken by cloud computing architectures, industry observers suggest.

In the early 2000s, Progress began to expand its software portfolio. It started a buying spree, eventually acquiring a series of best-of-breed software startups, including several SOA and XML specialists, with the intention to both enhance its OpenEdge line and sell point tools directly to enterprise software shops. The company included its Apama complex-event processing (CEP) products, which have found use in financial markets, as part of its core listing.  In today’s announcement, the company said that FY 2011 revenue for core products was $361 million, while non-core products represented $172 million.

The future course for Progress Software had been under review by its board since at least shortly before its Progress Revolution user conference last fall. At that time CEO Rick Reidy announced he would be stepping down. Late last year, Jay Bhatt, who previously headed a division of Autodesk, took over as president and CEO at Progress Software.

“It looks like Progress is set to do a 180 degree turn, and revisit its past to try and reinvent its future,” BPM expert analyst Neil Ward-Dutton wrote in a blog entry.

Ward-Dutton, principal and co-founder at MW Advisors, also voiced concern, suggesting the pipelines for the divested products could “dry up very soon indeed, as prospects focus instead on potential choices with clear futures.”

Although Ward-Dutton has concern for the company, a former employee, Danny Goodall, a founder of the Lustratus Research Limited, voiced his optimism in a blog post.

“I am pleased that Progress has looked at its DNA, mapped that to what the market needs and has tried to structure a company that can thrive in the cloud,” said Goodall. “For too long Progress forgot its core values and differentiators and instead aimed to ape other vendors.”

“Progress watched competitors in the integration space build out broad SOA portfolios and felt it should do the same,” chides Goodall. This worked for Oracle (which Goodall credits for a high-powered sales operation) but not for Progress, in Goodall’s opinion. -Jack Vaughan (Includes reporting by Ryan Punzalan)

April 25, 2012  6:42 PM

Business processes benefit from SOA at The Open Group’s Cannes event

James Denman James Denman Profile: James Denman

This week in Cannes, France, IT leaders gathered sea-side to discuss the current state—and future— of enterprise transformation. At The Open Group Conference, industry experts and entrepreneurs addressed the roles of enterprise architecture (EA) and IT in transforming the enterprise, with much of the conversation focusing on how to better achieve business objectives using EA and SOA. Continued »

April 20, 2012  4:05 PM

Oracle and Google have at it, as APIs go to court

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

Apps have crept into broader public consciousness in recent years thanks to mobile applications, and now APIs are getting wider attention. In fact, Java APIs stand as a very central part of the Oracle-Google Android trial that got underway this week in San Francisco. The legal wrangling comes at a time when APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are increasingly seen as “open” and “public,” thanks in part to the strategies and successes of  Facebook, Twitter and (none other than) Google APIs. Continued »

April 12, 2012  7:19 PM

SoaML design addressed with model accelerator

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

Over the years, UML has quietly become a trusted modeling notation across a broad ribbon of application development.  But its utility for SOA has not been vividly apparent. The SoaML UML extension arose as a means to wed UML and SOA, but its uptake has been narrow.

”There’s a lot of room for raising awareness of SoaML. It’s not as well-known as it should be,” said long-time IBMer Lee Ackerman, now CTO and vice president of products, The Emphasys Group. Tools would help, he suggested.

And, in fact, Ackerman and his Emphasys colleagues have built a pattern-based add-on tool to IBM Rational Software Architect for WebSphere Software. The IBM modeling tool supports SoaML, but Emphasys looks to ease the implementation and improve SOA development outcomes via its Service-Oriented Architecture Design (SOAD) Model Accelerator add-on.

”With the Accelerator, we provide patterns and model restraints and reports that leverage information from [design] models,” said Ackerman, co-author of Patterns-Based Engineering (Addison-Wesley, 2010). Ackerman said the SOAD Model Accelerator helps a team decide what should be modeled and how. Embedded in the tool is knowledge of practical service identification patterns, which would be useful for what can often be a difficult task.

Modeling may always be disliked by some groups of hard-core coders, but UML verges on ‘mainstream’ in a fair number of enterprises.  The evolving mix of SOA, UML and SoaML is worth watching.

Is SOA itself mainstream? “If it’s not, it’s on the verge,” says Lee Ackerman. He says there are still newbies coming online to learn UML. Tools such as SOAD Model Accelerator, he suggests, can help experienced and new SOA users alike.   But SOA is more than tools.

“SOA is best practices. It is an approach. It is a mindset. Moreover, it is an architecture style. SOA really becomes a problem solver,” said Ackerman.

Is SOA complex? No, says Ackerman, but the problems it is being asked to address in the enterprise these days truly are complex, he said.- Jack Vaughan

April 12, 2012  3:36 PM

SAP in pact with three boutiques, enhances its mobile platform

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

SAP gained a major presence in mobile development with its 2010 acquisition of Sybase in 2010, but it continues to look to advance its mobile offerings. This week, SAP announced agreements with Adobe, Appcelerator and Sencha to provide users with a more versatile open mobile apps development framework. 

SAP’s collaboration with Adobe, Appcelerator and Sencha will enable developers to effectively build mobile apps based on their choice of client architecture. Developers will be able to do so while leveraging a mobile application platform. The products involved in the agreement include Adobe PhoneGap, Appcelerator Titanium and Sencha Touch.

Adobe PhoneGap is a hybrid Web app runtime environment that allows developers to author native mobile applications with Web technologies such as HTML5. Applications built using PhoneGap have access to device APIs and can be published across major app stores.

Appcelerator Titanium is an Eclipse-based IDE, SDK and library of connectors used to build, test and
deploy mobile and Web applications. Titanium SDK is billed as enabling the deployment of native, hybrid and mobile Web apps all from a single JavaScript code base.

Meanwhile, Sencha Touch is an HTML5 mobile application framework. Sencha Touch includes built-in capabilities to make it easier to build applications that align with business architectures. The application framework also enables developers to build apps that work on multiple platforms such as iOS, Android and Blackberry.

Viewers suggest these boutique players represent  a cross-section of key open-source mobile tools today, and may come to effectively expand the developer base for SAP/Sybase mobile efforts. – Ryan Punzalan

April 4, 2012  7:10 PM

APIs for cars at EclipseCon 2012

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

Can automobiles ride mobile and open source application development trends and become more programmable?  Can the car become an app market place for innovation and software development? It may be possible, to hear T.J. Giuli tell of it.

Giuli, a technical expert at Ford Motor Company’s Research and Advanced Engineering organization, recently told EclipseCon 2012 attendees in Reston, Virg. about OpenXC platform.  It is, he said, a joint effort of automaker Ford and embedded tool maker Bug Labs. The OpenCX platform is intended to produce a standard way of connecting aftermarket software and hardware for cars and trucks.

OpenXC is an API to the car. It requires installation of hardware components, which then read and translate metrics from a car’s internal network. This data can be handled by Android applications using the OpenXC software component library.  It can be used with the OSGi framework and the Eclipse-based Dragonfly IDE. The software is now in a limited test release. It is an important indicator of how far open-source efforts may spread.

Enthusiasm for modifying cars goes back a long ways.  “Cars have always had a maker/tinkerer culture,” said Giuli. Now, efforts such as Ford’s,  Local Motor’s and the Silicon Valley Automotive Open Source Group’s undertakings are looking to bring the open source software ethos into modern cars, which now sport more and more programmable electronics.

Even SOA has made an appearance in some embedded services development efforts that are based on modular methods for updating and enhancing automotive “infotainment” systems. Still, reminds Giuli, software development is very different in the automotive world.

T.J. Giuli, Ford Motor Co.

Consumer electronics design cycles are measured in months, versus years for cars, which must adhere to the strictest safety guidelines, he said. Remember, cars have extended warranties. “A lot of engineering goes into making it last for ten years or 150,000 miles. It’s almost like mil-spec,” he said.

That leads to difficulties, Giuli conceded. “At the end of this [almost] three-year development cycle, the technology is obsolete upon release.” Think of the advances in small devices that have occurred in the last three years.

There is significant potential in open platforms for automotive software development, according to expert viewers. “I think it’s really exciting to see the evolution of cars as a platform for development,” said Melinda Ballou, analyst and program director for Application Life-Cycle Management research at  IDC.

“Data and information that was locked up becomes available in a very different way to typical developers,” she said. Ballou also suggested use of Eclipse open source IDE software for Google’s Android Development Tools gives added vitality to the Eclipse platform.

While safety will remain a major concern, software such as that described by T.J. Giuli at EclipseCon will help build “Web 3.0” or “The Internet of Things” according to conference attendee Christof Hammel, developer, architect and programming engineer at auto parts giant Robert Bosch GmBH.

That will help meet consumer needs. “For the car today,  the new generation wants to have the features they have at home and with their  phones,” Hammel said.

Safety will remain a big factor. It is said that designing interfaces for mobile apps is different than for land-based apps – that is even truer for automotive computer system interface design. “Things that require total focus don’t make sense at all,” said Ford’s Giuli. “So you have to think about designing differently.”

His comments came only a day after representatives of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers urged congress to help ensure that mobile devices limit the likelihood of distracting drivers when the devices are included as part of vehicle systems. – Jack Vaughan

March 28, 2012  11:58 AM

Cloud computing, virtual image sprawl and labor costs

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

COMMENTARY – The virtual machine image, a powerful driver of cloud computing, may be described as a tiger few can easily ride. The VMs are proliferating. Earlier this month, no less a personage than IBM’s Daniel Sabbah forecast that virtual image sprawl would outgrow IT’s capacity to keep pace.

“Virtual images are tripling every two years, outpacing the doubling in compute power and essentially flat IT budgets,” IBM Tivoli Software General Manager Sabbah said in a statement coinciding with IBM’s Pulse Conference.

“With current operating practices, every two years you’d need 1.5 times the physical infrastructure to support cloud and twice the labor. That’s an unsustainable cost and management problem which is the exact opposite of the promise of cloud,” he continued, as he outlined benefits of IBM’s new SmartCloud Foundation offerings. While public cloud providers can be expected to ramp up to manage ultra-large configurations, it is more difficult to see how labor issues will affect the much discussed user-side cloud type known as private cloud.

Will work for cycles

The labor issue is a stubborn one, and it must be factored into cloud computing ‘what if?’ analyses that enterprise architects are now undertaking. Cost savings are crucial to the dream of cloud, but greater experience with this architecture leads many to downplay cost savings.

Various companies have been working to address the labor issues of cloud, which is a massively scaled architecture that calls for sophisticated and on-demand provisioning of increasingly complex configurations and many virtual images.

The effort suggests that this goes back a long ways. It certainly has been of concern as distributed computing and rack-based blade servers have multiplied. The movement toward grid and autonomic computing looked to address the challenge, and now cloud and even dev ops can be seen contending to solve the problem, but remedies have yet to take hold.

The poster children for the first rush of cloud – Google and Amazon – can be said to have “thrown people at the problem” as they both employed high head counts of developers to service vast farms of servers. And the developers are very advanced developers at that. The classic Google ranch hand is a math and algorithmic wizard who is also adept at systems programming. In Google’s early days, at least, this person combined development and operations skills to a startling degree.

Is cloud computing hugely labor intensive?

We wondered if other companies can repeat this model. So, when we caught up with Skytap’s Brian White at this week’s EclipseCon 2012 in Reston, Virg., we asked for his take. As vice president of products at cloud provider Skytap, White is responsible for product strategy and product management. Before this, he was director of developer resources for Amazon Web and launched the AWS Elastic Beanstalk platform-as-a-service offering. We asked if private cloud labor was not labor intensive.

“It’s hugely labor intensive,” White answered. This is for a reason. “There are things that make [public cloud] a challenge. One is keeping it up and running all the time.” Another, he said, is the fact that the number of servers you can deploy may be relatively modest. “You don’t have unlimited capacity for scaling,” he said.
Where cloud approaches have the most value, White and others have concluded, is where resource needs are unpredictable or irregular. That is why Skytap and many other cloud providers focus on the development and test markets.

Development and test tasks make for a dynamic workload, he said, adding “from a cost perspective you don’t need to have these projects running 24/7.”

For cloud, “there is a huge amount of hype around cost,” said White. “The real benefit people are getting out of it is agility – much more than just pure cost reduction.”

Continuous deployment

While it is largely a beneficial trend, the move to Agile development becomes a factor that further exacerbates the cloud planning dilemma of architects. This was borne home in conversation with Dave West, analyst, Forrester Research, who spoke on Lean development at EclipseCon 2012. He showed that deployment was no longer an end-of-the-Waterfall development lifecycle event. It is now a constant companion. That is because part of the Agile of goal is to deliver bits of functionality as they become available.

The new styles of deployment requirements are certainly an issue with which cloud computing administrators – as well as developers and architects – are going to have to deal. Here, cloud may drive change. It is shedding light on dark problems.

“Cloud is an interesting phenomenon,” said Forrester’s West. “I am excited about what I is doing to drive internal IT to think about its systems in a different way.” – Ryan Punzalan and Jack Vaughan
In the face of fairly rampant fear of placing data on a public cloud, much attention has been placed on private cloud – but labor and cost issues may unsettle such undertakings. What do you think?

March 20, 2012  1:00 AM

A “simple” approach to cloud computing

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

The idea of ‘eventual consistency’ was an Ah-Ha! moment in the history of e-commerce. With it, was able to throw away the traditional play book of transaction processing.  But ‘eventual consistency’ is not a blank check. It requires developers – some of them, anyway – to make a large new conceptual leap.

The notion arose from our recent conversation on SimpleDB with Christopher M. Moyer, vice president of technology at Newstex LLC, who spoke with us on the topic of the Amazon cloud. The topic was no coincidence – Moyer is the author of Building Applications on the Cloud (Addison-Wesley, 2012), a book that neatly describes many  basic patterns of cloud computing based on concrete examples.

”SimpleDB is one of the hardest databases to comprehend,” Moyer said. ”Everyone is used to the idea that, if they write a record to the DB, it will be there. ‘’

But the standard approach of SimpleDB is that marvel: eventual consistency, which is great but unfamiliar to a large legion of developers.

It is a difficult topic for developers to understand and work with in their systems, he told us.

Amazon, like other cloud pioneers, has seen a way toward supporting the familiar, but this too needs special attention.

”They have worked to address [the gap] with a ‘consistent mode,’ but you should be aware that it can affect your performance and stability,” Moyer said.

”Simple is not always simple,” the editor said.

March 16, 2012  7:59 PM

Aggregating cloud services brokerage enhances app management

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

As SOA goes mainstream and cloud services proliferate, will traditional SOA repositories come to look more than a little like app stores?

That notion may be farfetched. But some of the newer cloud marketplaces bear watching. They may betoken a day when SOA services will be sold and versioned like other online offerings.

Among the so-called cloud marketplaces are aggregating cloud services brokerages like that from AppDirect. The company recently enhanced its online application marketplace, releasing a Marketplace Manager that enables users to oversee the components and settings of cloud services that they offer to the public or third-parties. Continued »

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