SOA Talk

May 5, 2009  6:54 PM

Control theory, the economy, BPM, event processing and hydraulic computers

Brein Matturro Profile: Brein Matturro

By Jack Vaughan

I would like to talk today about control theory, the economy, BPM, event processing and some other strangeness.

While reading a recent science journal I chanced upon a story on control theory and its limitations when applied to the world economy. In “Everything is Under Control” by Brian Hayes in American Scientist [May-Jun, 2009], the author discusses varieties of feedback control and then analyses how these might apply over some or the other snapshot of time to related feedback algorithms in the system that is the world economy.

This often controversial process – that is, converting the economic system into a divinable process – has never quite worked, and is under renewed scrutiny given large-scale economic turmoil at the moment. Put more simply: the world economy is in an uproar and no one seems quite to know why exactly, and few trust computer programming to figure a way out.

Anyway, what especially caught my attention in Hayes’ piece was a depiction of MONIAC, for Monetary National Income Analogue Computer, an early analog computer that was based on – get ready if you haven’t heard this one – hydraulics! Yes, water, rather than electrons was the goop that moved through this system. The MONIAC system has an unfortunate resemblance to an early toilet. Still, it was a valid stab at a solution for its time.

Which brings us to BPM. At heart it is a cousin to control theory. ‘Let’s figure out the process and put a master control upon it,’ the BPM practitioner, like the MONIAC developer, might say. As patently obvious as it may seem right now, BPM is full of streams and eddies that are yet to be discerned. There are many questions. How do rules engines interplay with BPM? How will front-end business modeling ever truly connect with ‘up-from-the-stack’ business process execution? Is BPM related to event processing?

Hard to easily ascertain questions – no doubt. But as we recently asked the last of these questions to Neil Ward-Dutton (of Macehiter Ward-Dutton Advisors fame) we share his thoughts here on event processing and BPM – and how tenuous their relation is.

Writes Ward-Dutton:

Event processing might sound like something that you might use BPM technology for, but in practice it’s implemented quite differently because the runtime conditions in play (and hence the design philosophies) are very different.

BPM technology typically focuses on highly structured flows of work involving the coordination of multiple systems and/or people. Although there might be high throughput at runtime (in straight-through processing in financial trading scenarios, for example) those flows can be mapped out in advance and centrally orchestrated at runtime.

Event processing technology, in contrast, is optimized to detect, filter and analyse and then act on events that might occur in unpredictable ways, in unpredictable sequences, and at very high volumes in highly distributed environments.

Neil had more to say but here we’d forward you to Macehiter Ward-Dutton Advisors Web site for more analyses on issues of this era. Right on Neil! As well, you might check out the blog of Brian Hayes. My two cents worth: Brian Hayes is something of a national treasure. He continually finds worthy near-philosophical topics in the often dry dessert of computing and math. His work can be found in American Scientist, and on his blog

May 5, 2009  4:46 PM

Steve Mills on Oracle and Java

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

At an IBM press conference at the Impact Smart SOA Conference 2009 in Las Vegas the topic turned – briefly, albeit – to Oracle’s purchase of Sun.

Many have wondered about the future of Java in Oracle’s hands. What does IBM software leader Steve Mills think?

“I don’t believe we are going to see a fundamental change. I don’t have a concern,” said Mills. “Oracle obviously becomes the new steward, if you will.”

IBM has been said to be frustrated by the pace of standards related to Java. Mills said Oracle has felt those frustrations too. “Oracle has been among those thinking Sun could move more effectively,” he said.

Some individuals voiced concern about Sun in IBM’s portfolio; reportedly, the companies seriously pursued a merger that did not happen. Still others worried about Sun in Oracle’s suite. Mills voiced no such distress.

Mills pointed to the fact that many companies licensee Java as a leavening factor for Java going forward.

“We think the forces at play in the market will keep Java as something standard and consistent and widely deployed,” he told those gathered at the Impact press conference.

April 29, 2009  6:50 PM

Transactions are the currency for SOA management

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

AmberPoint has been busy, announcing support this week for Microsoft BizTalk Server 2009, and, earlier in the month, announcing integration with IBM WebSphere DataPower. We talked with the company recently. Continued »

April 28, 2009  5:59 PM

Facebook APIs add Activity Streaming

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

RSS and Atom are among the most useful elements to emerge from the XML and Web services revolution that occurred over the last 10 years. Who’d have thunk it? RSS seemed a small part of an XML initially, but has since become incredibly ubiquitous. Now, the world of syndication may be poised for another leap forward. Continued »

April 27, 2009  6:20 PM

Watching the Feds pick a CTO and CIO

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

Over the years, the Federal government has had considerable influence in seeking to define the role of Enterprise Architect. As a new administration gets rolling in Washington, there is some chance that its approach to hiring a new chief federal CIO and CTO will affect future trends in EA. The CIO and CTO positions have been filled with Vivek Kundra and Aneesh Chopra, respectively. Seers of the tea leaves of technology have pondered those choices, and hit the blogs running. Continued »

April 23, 2009  5:51 PM

Reza Rahman on Oracle-Sun

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

A recent piece ran on the mega merger of Oracle and Sun heard from a number of users who saw a better competitive situation with Sun in the Oracle camp, as opposed to being the IBM camp. The takes are not all positive, however.

“I am not terribly happy with it,” said Reza Rahman, Independent Consultant and EJB specialist. “I would rather have seen a Sun-HP merger.”

“Sun merging with Oracle really cuts down the competitiveness in the application server market specifically and the software development market generally,” he said.

Some of Rahman’s concerns revolve around Glassfish, a Java server implementation that Sun appeared finally ready to run with.

“This basically takes Glassfish off the table. I expect it will basically be assimilated into the Oracle portfolio,” Rahman told me.

Still, Rahman concedes, Sun was in trouble, and, in turn, Java was in trouble.

He said: “This is preferable to the present situation where we have a weak Sun. It is just not a good situation as far as competiveness and innovation in the Java space goes.” It was not good to rely on a company with weak resources to lead the efforts for Java-based standards.

April 22, 2009  8:14 PM

OSGi angle on Snorkle (Sun-Oracle) deal

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

Communicated recently with Eric Newcomer about Oracle and Sun, which is big news this week. Parts of our e-mail conversation are included in the story entitled “Java side of Sun seen strengthened by Oracle buy.”

There are a lot of questions yet to be resolved in this ongoing story – What will happen to Java? Where for art thou, MySQL? Will Oracle become a hardware company? Whither Netbeans? And so on.

Eric Newcomer, in his role of OSGi champion, has an additional question: How will this merger affect OSGi? We have featured OSGi more than a bit on both this blog and on the site, and therefore are glad to share some of Eric’s thoughts on OSGi in the light of the proposed mega merger here. He suggests he may clear up some murkiness on the Sun side that previously seemed to be out and about.

He writes:

“Oracle has been a strong supporter of OSGi. They are well represented on the enterprise expert group that I co-chair, and one concrete action I expect is that they will move to eliminate Sun’s formerly schizophrenic attitude toward OSGi for Java modularity.

Sun had supported OSGi through its adoption in GlassFish, but had also competed with it in Project Jigsaw and to some extend in the JSR 294 work as well.  Among other things this created uncertainty over the role of OSGi in Java’s future, especially for enterprise applications.  Given Oracle’s strong participation in the OSGi enterprise effort to date I expect this acquisition will have a positive impact on the OSGi enterprise initiative.”

April 21, 2009  3:33 PM

The quest for granular SOA services

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

I learned from a writing teacher who was not a writer at all – he was an engineer. He took an engineer’s approach to writing – or maybe I should say a reverse-engineering approach. That is: He looked at the best examples of the type of writing he was pursuing, analyzed them, and codified their practice. For example, in his class, you weren’t supposed to use forms of the verb phrase ‘to be’. Well, you could, but a point would be deducted each time you did. Oh, how the students moaned. And in turn, he would intone, “When you leave this class, you no longer need employ this method.”
He came to his method through the study of failure – his own failure to succeed at writing. As a youth and into college, he’d dutifully hand-in his English compositions and the teacher would scribble “Awk” – for awkward – all over the paper. “They’d tell me what I did was wrong,” he told us, “but they’d never show me how to fix it.” As a result, when he became a teacher of technical writing, he provided clear and fairly strict rules of writing.
All of which brings us to the issues of the day: What are truly services? How granular must they be? And how precisely granular should they appear? This is essential to success with SOA, but the literature merely says “Write properly composed services” without providing any guidance on how to do this.

In a guest column on, Douglas Barry has given a bit of such guidance for those who would create services. Give it a read and comment.

Related SOA development information
Using atomicity to gain SOA granularity –

April 20, 2009  3:56 PM

Oracle buys Sun for $7.4B

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

Database software giant Oracle has reached a definitive merger agreement to purchase Solaris OS and Java originator Sun Microsystems for about $7.4 billion. The move follows reports of a breakdown in merger discussions between Sun and IBM that would have set the price of Sun at $6.5 billion.

If completed, the transaction would vault Oracle into the computer market, one that it has patently avoided during its history. It also would enhance the company’s position in Java software, a field in which it gained additional prominence with its 2008 purchase of Java application server maker BEA Systems.

The deal would also place the commercial version of the open-source MySQL database under Oracle’s control. Sun bought MySQL originator MySQL AB in Janurary 2008.

The deal was approved by Sun’s board of directors. In a statement, Sun said it expected the deal to close this summer, subject to Sun stockholder approval, regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.

April 6, 2009  3:49 PM

IBM-Sun talks on rocks? “Sun being Sun?”

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

It is opening day for baseball in the U.S. and blogger Dana Blakenhorn finds a suitable metaphor to describe the latest reported dealings of Sun and IBM. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported the two computer companies were near an agreement on a merger.

The rumor now is that a faction in Sun (one led by former CEO Scott McNealy) is pushing for more money from Big Blue. Further rumors have IBM reducing its offer. This all puts the proposed deal in something less than limbo.

Blogger Blakenhorn likens the situation to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ off-season negotiations with Manny Ramierez – a talented hitter of the baseball whose self-esteem seems to know no upper boundaries.

Over the winter, Ramierez walked away from a lucrative deal with the Dodgers, only to find there was not a wider market for his skills.

Eventually, Ramierez signed with the Dodgers for a deal somewhat less rich.

Blakenhorn suggests a similar outcome may yet transpire in the negotiations of IBM and Sun.

Related computer industry news
IBM and Sun reportedly in merger talks –, Mar. 18, 2009
If McNealy thinks he is Manny Ramirez, has another think coming – ZDNet Linux and Open Source blog

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