This has been a year of innovation and change for IT professionals, thanks to ongoing development in the cloud and mobile spheres. Mobile Backend as a Service, for example, made waves as the technology provides a fast way for developers to create and deploy the increasingly important applications.
While 2013 has been a notable year, particularly for mobile application development, what awaits us next year may prove to be even more monumental. A number of innovations will create several opportunities for IT professionals in 2014.
“This  is the year Web standards will truly go mainstream via mobile, cloud, SaaS and API technologies in areas that are beyond the retail vertical,” predicts Maneesh Joshi, SnapLogic’s director of product marketing. “The likes of Amazon Redshift and Tableau are making analytics and visualization a lot cheaper and faster to get up and running.”
APIs will become more mainstream due to connected devices and the consumerization of IT, predicts Mashery’s Delyn Simons. This is something Joshi also believes organizations need to keep in mind moving forward. “APIs are rapidly becoming the gateways to companies and information,” he said.
Experts anticipate mobile technology will continue to be a pioneering technology. A survey conducted by Forrester Research, for example, foresees mobile applications as being the most revolutionary technology in the upcoming year.
Progress’ CTO, Karen Tegan Padir, echoes the significance of mobility, noting the major impact wireless devices has. “Long gone are the days where people who work for businesses walk into a meeting with a piece of paper and a pencil and leave and wait until they get back to the office to do data entry,” she said.
Going in hand with mobile technology, it may not come as a surprise that the cloud is also expected to be a force in the New Year. “You can’t have all of these mobile devices without a nice infrastructure that is serving them,” said Padir. “Your device is only as good as how much memory you have on it. You want to be able to have the cloud services that power or fuel those.”
Do you agree with these predictions? What do you anticipate will happen technology-wise in 2014?
It’s a no-brainer that application modernization relies heavily on technical expertise, however, IT professionals may overlook the impact politics plays when determining how to best deal with legacy applications, according to Ovum associate analyst Margaret Goldberg.
Applications and a modernization projects don’t just affect an architecture team, but an organization as a whole. That means there are many people who can be for, or against, making any sort of modification to legacy applications. This can be a problem, as Goldberg noted that everyone within a business needs to be on the same page to get a project off the ground.
“Some people subscribe to this mentality if something isn’t broken, don’t’ fix it,” Goldberg said. “This mentality, along with the overall lack of growth in an IT budget, means some stakeholders won’t see the business value in these types of projects.”
Without a clear vision of the payoff an application modernization project, business leaders can be resistant to any related proposal. Additionally, some people get very attached to certain applications and simply don’t want the change to occur.
“There are some really passionate users who hold onto ‘zombie apps’ who don’t realize the resources and investments needed to service these applications might exceed value,” Goldberg said. This is where it’s important to be able to show business leaders how updating legacy applications is important to the organization’s financial health.
Getting modernization resistant individuals, especially if they are in a leadership role, to see the value of updating legacy applications is important, Goldberg said, because “you need to implement change management.”
Even if an application modernization project goes off error-free, Goldberg noted that means little if people are resistant to using the new tool.
Have you struggled with the politics of application modernization? How did you handle it?
Social media isn’t just being viewed as a way to connect with others for fun, but as an integral part of an enterprise’s makeup, research indicates. Data from IT consulting firm Tata Consultancy Services shows that since 2010, 64% of enterprises have assigned at least one employee to man social media efforts. Given this trend, enterprise architecture needs to be able to support such business initiatives.
The adoption of social media and social media applications undoubtedly affects enterprise architecture. Matt Brasier, head of consulting at C2B2 Consulting Ltd., said social media can have a big impact on SOA architecture, workload in particular. “The workloads that these kind of applications deal with is quite heavy compared to more traditional mechanisms of interacting, communicating, even sort of going back to sort of Web forums and wikis,” he said.
In addition to coping with different workload sizes, architects have to keep in mind how social media is used. For an enterprise, the scope of potential social media problems encompasses not only integration, but employee use as well. There are numerous examples of people sharing personal or proprietary information on Facebook or Twitter, only to regret such actions.
The consequences of unsanctioned data being posted on a social media platform, where it can be easily viewed and shared, can be disastrous. Another downside to social media in the workforce is the additional layer of “office politics” it adds, said Michael Orgrinz, principal architect for global markets at Bank of America.
Experts have recommendations for reducing risks and applying policies to social media tools. Ogrinz said one way to appropriately integrate social media channels is to control the flow of information. “One of the challenges is keeping these business rules current along with maintaining up-to-date information on employees’ roles and responsibilities to feed into these check-valves,” he said. Of course, such control needs to be applied delicately or there is risk of employees becoming frustrated by management.
On the other hand, social media can be a helpful tool. “One of the positive aspects though is that social media can increase an employee’s perspective about their role,” Ogrinz said. “If they are in a position that lacks direct customer interaction, social media may fill the gap and give them a better understanding of how their work impacts the overall business.”
Azul Systems and Microsoft Open Technologies announced Wednesday at JavaOne its Java Development Kit (OpenJDK)-based Zulu for Windows Azure. The community-driven open source Java implementation promises to offer developers more options and streamline application development, according to George Gould, Azul Systems vice president of marketing and business development.
Why should Java developers be excited about this development? Zulu is an open source offering that is Java SE 7 compliant.
“In the past, there hasn’t been a fully-certified Java virtual machine based on open source that is supported by a commercial entity like Azul,” Gould said. “What this really provides Java developers with is the confidence that when they build a Java application that they want to run in the Azure cloud, there is an open source product available that has commercial support.”
Another key benefit to Zulu is its ability to simplify application development.
“There is an integrated development environment that Azure offers developers to streamline the application deployment process,” Gould said. “You can go through an almost a drag-and-drop experience of taking an application and deploying it in the Window Azure environment.”
Azul Systems will be leveraging the Stack Overflow website as a forum for Java developers using Zulu to share tips, ticks and suggestions. “This isn’t just about developing a product, it’s about creating and embracing a community,” Gould said.
What makes the offering even more desirable for Java developers is the fact that the new offering can be downloaded for free.
Luis Weir, book author and director of Oracle Solutions at HCL tech, will be a speaker at Oracle Open World. An expert on innovative management, he spoke with me about the challenges that organizations have faced this year and the strategies to turn them to their advantage. His main argument: “You’ve got to be able to understand your customer. They have to understand your products.” Simple enough. Yet, Weir argues that many organizations overlook this basic truth. Many hurry to build APIs, to offer Web services, to migrate to the cloud, to capitalize on the newest trend, without stopping to consider what the end result will mean for the end user.
The cloud is a prime example of a technological phenomenon that has enormous potential, but also presents significant challenges when adopted too quickly. “The enterprise is all about rapid adoption. It’s all about reduced cost. It’s all about accelerated time to market. And the cloud is seen as one of the enablers to achieve this business goal,” says Weir. For this reason, some organizations rush to migrate to the cloud without necessarily being ready to do so. Weir outlined HCL Tech’s role in this issue: “We have to help them come up with information strategies that allows them to prepare all values required to move to the cloud. For example, how to understand what data they have, how to consolidate data, how to migrate their data once they’re ready to move to the cloud and most importantly, how to define a cloud integration strategy to avoid an accidental cloud.” Weir believes that, in order to master these integration challenges, organizations will inevitably turn to SOA and governance solutions: “Cloud integration and SOA is going to be a major trend when cloud adoption starts picking up more.”
Weir observed that it all came down to information management, a process that is helped or hindered by the quality of an organization’s business processes. “In this challenging time, companies are looking for creative ways to optimize their business processes,” he explained. Many of HCL’s customers are making an effort to consolidate their operations so they “are centralized in a more strategic way, one that really models the enterprise.” It seems that the main take-away is that organizations keep an eye on both the micro and the macro of their initiatives. Any exciting new movement – whether it be APIs or mobile apps or the cloud – needs to be considered in the context of the organization and its customers. As Weir puts it, “What is the point of having a fantastic API or a fantastic Web service if the information that you’re presenting me with is poor quality?”
Let us know what you think about the challenges of cloud migration and early adoption.
APIs are the new websites, or so says Roberto Medrano, EVP of SOA Software. This being the case, API management has grown to include a widening array of business operations. As APIs are increasingly externalized through Web and mobile applications, and the development process opens up to outside business partners, governance becomes a key factor in security maintenance and lifecycle management. “There are too many cooks and not a good way of predicting who is supposed to be doing what,” Medrano explains. The basic challenge for the enterprise is in finding a set of business requirements that convert to development requirements and ultimately correlate with their API’s deployment — all while maintaining speed, quality and security standards. Too many cooks, indeed.
Furthermore, Medrano pointed out that analytics and, by extension, monetization come into play once the API is deployed. At this point, critical questions need to be asked: What specific aspects of the API are getting used? Which are not? Which are the ones that are generating more revenue? Luckily, these are all issues that SOA Software works to address. This company, a 2013 Gartner Magic Quadrant player in Application Services Governance, developed the Lifecycle Manager to help enterprises automate and manage the development of an API, from design to deployment and, ultimately, to retirement.
Security and compliance are also major concerns, particularly in larger companies where APIs need to support a lot of security protocols. This is where SOA Software’s API Manager comes into play, offering such security features as authentication, cryptography and an authentication server that allows enterprises to manage and operate off of their existing security systems. This is likely why Gartner inc. positioned SOA Software as a leader in their new quadrant category: application services governance. “We have been a leader in SOA governance because of our strength in governing and managing and securing all the stages of the SOA development cycle,” Medrano says. Visibly, the line between API management and SOA governance is blurry. Medrano himself discusses the topic as if they were two sides of the same coin. As companies continue to externalize applications through APIs, the line will likely become murkier still, and SOA Software seems very well positioned to guide companies through the transition.
For more information, please visit SOA Software’s resource center.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing API management? Let us know what questions you have and what problems you face. We’re here to find you answers.
Global business infrastructure provider Software AG announced its acquisition of JackBe on Thursday, along with the release of its webMethods Intelligent Business Operations Platform (IBO).
In a statement, Software AG said JackBe will serve as the foundation of webMethods IBO, which was developed to “offer customers high visibility and insights into dynamic operations.”
Software AG’s Chief Technology Officer Wolfram Jost said the purchase was designed to help the company keep up with the growing need to handle large volumes of data quickly.
“The amount of produced data is growing exponentially,” Jost said. “Consequently, the analysis and visualization of huge data volumes in real time will become more and more the basis for fast and intelligent business decisions. With the capabilities of JackBe, we will develop further innovative solutions for our customers in order to support their evolution towards the digital enterprise.”
Michael Ogrinz, a principal architect for global markets at Bank of America, shared with SearchSOA the following thoughts on the buyout:
“Software AG’s acquisition follows Kofax’s recent purchase of Kapow Technologies. Both JackBe and Kapow were early leaders in the mashup space before re-branding towards business intelligence, content migration, and real-time analytics. JackBe and Kapow have unique approaches in the areas of data acquisition, analysis, and visualization and this has clearly not gone unnoticed by some of the industry’s big players. With the advent of big data and the new challenges and opportunities it presents, it’s not surprising that both of these companies would be snatched up.”
Software AG purchased webMethods in 2007. After two years of development, Software AG released webMethods 8.0 and integrated a Business Service Repository.
Are enterprises jumping on the mobile application bandwagon? The answer may depend on who you ask. StackMob’s CEO Ty Amell says yes. So much so his company recently engaged in several partnerships in order to bolster its offerings towards the market segment.
Tom Nolle, president of strategic consulting firm CIMI Corp., is skeptical. “I would say this [enterprises adopting mobile applications] is still very much in its infancy,” said Nolle, who believes enterprises are becoming more interested in what he refers to as “point of activity empowerment.” He used this term to describe users getting information they need via a mobile device quickly, whenever, wherever.
What could be fueling this movement? Nolle believes companies, not as an objective, are moving towards a mobile environment. “Companies are trying to make workers more productive and in their drive to do so, they are certainly more than willing to consider adopting practices that are mobile specific,” said Nolle.
Amell’s company is betting on geolocation, custom analytics, and distribution functions to be big with clients. Could such feature adoption be necessary to forge ahead? Nolle isn’t sold, saying the benefits of things like geolocation are highly dependent on the type of organization.
The fact that there isn’t a lot out there for mobile at this time, might be what is ultimately hindering adoption. “The challenge for companies at this point is that there is no convenient way to integrate mobile devices into their current application and worker empowerment practices because the mobile devices of today don’t consistently expose their features though browsers so that they are accessible applications,” Nolle said.
“What we are seeing is that an improved coupling of device features through the browser rather than custom APIs is making mobile device information more accessible, that is facilitating the development of fusion apps and that is probably going to be the driver to expansion and point of activity empowerment.”
Enterprise mobile applications are stepping into the spotlight, seriously catching the eyes of clients looking to gain more insight into their consumers, according to StackMob, a cloud-based backend for mobile applications.
“We’ve seen a drastic upset over the last few months in terms of enterprise clients,” said StackMob’s CEO Ty Amell. “I think you are seeing the shift of enterprise from discovery mode to more of a buying mode.”
The company recently joined forces with Keen IO, GeoLoqal, and Carrot, Inc., to meet the needs of the burgeoning market. Keen IO specializes in helping developers build custom analytics while GeoLoqal allows for geolocation functionality. Carrot is designed to facilitate distribution.
Amell said the move was made in response to feedback StackMob was receiving from its developer ecosystem both in retail and enterprise. The three main issues, he said, that have been echoed across the board are those the aforementioned companies cater to.
“It’s really important for any business to understand what their funnel looks like and a custom analytics mechanism, like Keen, will allow you to do that,” said Ammell. “That is what we’ve heard the most, the ability to keep track of and understand their funnel. There are a lot of services out there for the Web, but not a lot out there for mobile.”
Geolocation is a way for merchandisers to better reach, and understand, consumers on the fly. “If you are retailer X and you know someone is in a mall that has one of your stores, and if you know they like you, why not give them a message and entice them to come into the store to buy something?” said Amell. “That is a lot of the geo stuff we are seeing.”
Another area many companies are struggling with is distribution. If you think about the number of applications there are, standing out and being chosen can be an uphill battle for any developer, said Amell.
Migration efforts can seem daunting, but upgrading legacy databases isn’t an impossible task. During the “Mainframe and Database Legacy Modernization” session at Red Hat Summit 2013 in Boston, Red Hat services delivery manager Emily Brand likened the process to peeling an onion.
“Every layer you pull off, try to remove the layers of the legacy,” she said Wednesday morning.
To get started, Brand recommended people begin with analyzing their current infrastructure and then think about the ultimate mission they are trying to accomplish. This is how one begins to map out a plan to make their goals a reality.
Brand said, “Ask yourself, what does your environment look like? Is it monolithic or do you have a bunch of scattered databases and applications?” She noted it’s difficult to move a project forward when there are multiple versions of everything.
Throughout her session, Brand touted the benefits of enterprise data services (EDS), saying the platform makes it easier to move to more modern middleware. She said an EDS can be a layer above databases that can integrate multiple data services or just be a layer between them.
It’s also important for people to standardize databases to the version they want, choosing as few as possible. Middleware, programming languages and SOA governance also need to be standardized, Brand said. The more stringent one is with frameworks and languages, the more agile developers can be within an organization.
There are, however, times when flexibility is key. By allowing for exceptions, one can maximize IT infrastructure, Brand noted, “Instead of being a maintenance machine, you can be a development machine.”
There are several benefits to modernizing legacy databases that make taking on what may initially seem like a scary migration effort worthwhile, even from an ROI perspective. Brand said some of them include:
- - Decoupled business applications from several sources
- - Isolated data layer
- - Companywide semantics
Don’t just work with the present in mind, perform work anticipating future needs. Everything should be able to talk everything else in a way that can easily be tracked, Brand said. This is because ambiguity can lead to unnecessary headaches. “Think 10 years down the road,” she said, elaborating that new employees will be forced to deal with the ramifications of whatever decisions are currently be made.