We’re officially into the dog days of summer, that time of year when you’re mind strays to thoughts of cooling off in a body of water. As it turns out, we’re also into the dog days of many SOA implementations.
A recent Burton Group study found that many SOA initiatives have stalled, mainly due to an inability to involve the business in the effort. In a more general sense, stalls are to be expected in any 20-year initiative. Faces change, acute problems arise, the funding pipeline temporarily goes dry. Surely you didn’t expected that achieving enterprise agility, automated business processes and streamlined data access would be a quick or easy process.
If you’re fighting through a corporate lull or battling your own ennui, take heart – you’re not alone. During a long haul you will need to take some rest stops and SOA is an extremely long haul. Here’s some thoughts from Burton Group’s Chris Howard concerning SOA fatigue:
- “You can build something that is absolutely spot on perfect and it will still be wrong.”
- “Reusability is always over-promised.”
- “What do the executives care about? They care that the SLA holds and they don’t care how you do it.”
- “SOA fatigue is setting in because SOA success is tenuous, but when SOA succeeds, it really succeeds.”
- “What does it mean to be 100% SOA compatible? Is that like good fiber or something?”
- “SOA needs to be part of something bigger and if it’s not, then you ought to ask yourself why you’re doing it.”
The good news for Oracle Corp. is it seems to have acquired a happy BEA Systems Inc. customer base. Yet the bad news for Oracle is that it seems to have acquired a happy BEA customer base that isn’t particularly thrilled with the Oracle purchase, according to a SearchSOA.com poll taken last week.
As Oracle prepares to announce its plans for the BEA acquisition tomorrow it may be facing a customer revolt if it’s not careful. What follows is a summary of the survey findings. The raw numbers are available here.
In all, we received 431 responses. Most of the respondents were BEA WebLogic Application Server and Oracle Database customers (94.90% in each case). Respondents also used a a healthy number of other BEA products (WebLogic, AquaLogic, Tuxedo, etc.), while only a small percentage used non-database Oracle products. Part of this is to be expected as the survey was geared toward the BEA user base. This group indicates that Oracle indeed bought itself a customer segment into which it had little penetration. Of particular note is that not many of the BEA customers were using Oracle’s packaged applications (e.g. financial, CRM, human resources).
Most (58.70%) came from IT shops with 250 or more employees.
75.56 of respondents reported they were either somewhat or very satisfied with their BEA products. That confirms something this industry watcher has heard anecdotally over the years, namely that BEA customers, if not teeming in numbers, were a generally contented lot. 61.26% reported they were somewhat or very satisfied with their Oracle products. The main difference is that 24.83% reported they were neutral in regard to their Oracle products, which is perhaps understandable given that most were database customers and almost 75% of the respondents were either architects or developers, not the sort that falls overly in or out of love with a relational database.
87.94% reported they have not yet been contacted by Oracle concerning their BEA products and six months of relative radio silence has seemingly made them nervous. 29.47% reported that they lack confidence that Oracle will continue to support their BEA products and another 44.55% aren’t sure whether that will happen. Oracle has managed to allay similar fears when it has acquired packaged app vendors, but “support” in the development community will mean not only continuing service and support for existing products, but also making sure they keep pace with new advances in the marketplace. This brings us to where Oracle stands to alienate this new customer base if it doesn’t announce and follow through on aggressive plans to move the BEA product set forward (principally WebLogic Application Server).
Potential customer revolt
62.18% of respondents report they will not look to move to comparable Oracle products if their BEA products are discontinued. Another 25.06% report they are unsure on that matter. 77.26% say they do not feel Oracle has a strong offering in the areas where they are using BEA products. Additionally, 70.77% report they will look to replace their BEA installments rather than keep them as legacy if those products are discontinued. It creates a thorny situation for Oracle. It does not have a strong reputation with these, largely, app dev users and they have expressed a clear willingness to jump ship should they not like the course Oracle charts for them. While Oracle surely will look to allay these misgivings in the BEA user base, competitors just as surely will be looking to woo this potential pack of free agents.
Perhaps it can be chalked up to people not liking change or to unhappy customers being more likely to respond to a poll, but 52.43% of those polled reported they have a somewhat or very negative view of Oracle’s BEA acquisition. Another 32.48% voted neutral. The poll indicates that Oracle has a ton of work to do if it wants to win over these BEA customers. This is indeed a new market that Oracle could penetrate in its quest for global software domination, but these users are not rolling out a welcome mat. It may takes years of continuing and advancing key BEA product lines before Oracle can establish itself with these customers, making tomorrow’s announcement only the first step on a political tightrope that stretches beyond the horizon.
431 total responses
1. Which BEA products do you use? (check all that apply)
Weblogic application server–94.90%
Other Weblogic portal—12.06%
Aqualogic service design and development tools–18.10%
AquaLogic governance tools–7.89%
Other AquaLogic products–11.14%
2. Rate your level of satisfaction with these BEA products:
3. Which Oracle products do you use? (check all that apply)
Human resources software–2.09%
4. Rate your level of satisfaction with these Oracle products:
5. Has Oracle contacted you about ongoing support for the BEA product(s) you use?
6. Do you feel confident the BEA product(s) you use will be given the proper support by Oracle?
7. If the BEA product(s) aren’t part of Oracle’s roadmap, will you look to move to comparable Oracle product(s)?
8. If Oracle discontinues your BEA product(s), will you maintain it as a legacy system or look to replace it?
Maintain as legacy—29.23%
Look to replace–70.77%
9. Do you feel Oracle has a strong product offering in the areas where you have BEA product?
10. As a customer, what is your overall impression so far of Oracle’s acquisition of BEA?
You wouldn’t know the mergers and acquisitions market on Wall Street was in the doldrums if you were just watching Progress Software Corp. this week.
First, Progress snapped up IonaTechnologies Inc., adding Iona’s Artix ESB technology and CORBA legacy customer base. Then on Friday Progress announced that it has also purchased Mindreef Inc., the privately-held vendor of testing and service validation tools for service-oriented architecture (SOA), for an undisclosed price.
The Progress acquisition of Mindreef almost got lost in the hoopla surrounding the purchase of Iona, wrote analyst Joe McKendrick on his ZDNet blog on Thursday. He pointed out the importance of Mindreef’s philosophy of reaching out with its tools to practically everyone involved in SOA development.
“Mindreef’s emphasis has been on enabling professionals from all sides of SOA – architects, developers, and managers – to better collaborate on service design and implementation,” McKendrick wrote.
Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst, ZapThink LLC., who earlier in the week said the Iona deal made good sense for Progress, also saw value in the Mindreef acquisition.
“Both the Mindreef and IONA deals are great moves for Progress,” Bloomberg said. “Governance, quality, and management are more important to SOA success than middleware is, so it’s a great sign that they’re adding SOA quality to the mix.”
Change management is a crucial piece of SOA that appears to be missing in many vendor offerings, the ZapThink analyst noted.
“After all, unless you enable broad-based service consumption and composition in environments of continual change, which is what SOA is all about, you can’t have effective SOA. It’s surprising that more SOA infrastructure companies haven’t made a deeper investment in SOA governance, quality, and management solutions, since they will rapidly realize that the success of their SOA initiatives depend on successfully addressing those issues.”
This week’s acquisitions of Iona and Mindreef were a win-win for Progress in Bloomberg’s view.
“Progress is doing a great job of rounding out its SOA offerings by adding Mindreef’s SOA quality solutions to the mix,” the ZapThink analyst said.
In a statement released on Friday regarding the Mindreef acquisition, Progress said it was adding three Mindreef tools to its Actional SOA Management product line:
- SOAPscope Server
- SOAPscope Architect
- SOAPscope Developer
Progress and Mindreef are planning a Webinar in mid-July to further explain how the products will fit together, according to McKendrick.
Next Tuesday Oracle will announce its plans for how it intends to integrate BEA inside its corporate walls. While we probably won’t get too many specific product roadmaps, we should get an idea of how Oracle intends to handle the product overlap in the areas of SOA and Java development.
Yet there’s a difference between what Oracle intends to do and how BEA users view the acquisition. In advance of the announcement we at SearchSOA.com are conducting a BEA user quiz to take the pulse of that community. We know that we have a large number of BEA users in our readership and we’re looking to get your input concerning Oracle, BEA and how this deal affects your development plans. It’s a quick that should take only a minute to fill out.
The poll closes at noon EDT on Friday, June 27. We will publish the results next Monday in advance of the Oracle announcement.
Dan Blankenhorn at ZDNet has posted some provocative thoughts about the Java CAPS 6.0 SOA suite announcement from Sun Microsystems. His basic take is that Sun fails to live up to its self-generated open source billing. He writes:
A true open source SOA strategy would embrace support for competing alternatives, rather than try to push everyone into paying for (and building) on a Sun-only platform.
True enough, Java CAPS, based largely around the former SeeBeyond ESB, is pretty much all Java platform all the time. I’ve spoken with no small number of people in the SOA space who routinely point out that the Java platform at best is only part of an SOA strategy. Those laments are nothing new. Sun’s approach here is interesting because it’s the opposite of what JBoss is doing. For instance, Sun’s bragging that you get the NetBeans IDE and GlassFish app server with Java CAPS. Yet what if that’s more than you want or need? Maybe you’re not looking for a platform. While JBoss certainly can’t be accused of collecting open source purity points by pushing significant amounts of non-JBoss technology, it is pitching a modular SOA platform.
It gets to the question of how much technology and complexity do you need to pursue service orientation? This is where I repeat the old saw that SOA isn’t something you buy (or download), it’s something you do. Has Sun stuffed too much into Java CAPS or maybe users would be better served to skip the middleware and just use GlassFish? As Blankenhorn points out, in an open source world the app server and service bus ought to focus well beyond each other.
Also, the big SOA-related buzz at JavaOne was around the session on Apache Tuscany. Tuscany is an open source project put together well outside the auspices of the JCP and users at the biggest Java show of the year flocked to it. Apparently there’s healthy demand for open source functionality beyond the Sun platform.
That brings us to the newsiest part of the Java CAPS announcement: Sun is adding MDM tools via a project called Mural. XAware, Talend and Apatar (and others) are already out there offering up open source data integration. Is Mural necessary or does it aim to reinvent the wheel? Eclipse has its Data Tools Project as well. Data integration would seem to be an area where Sun could follow Blankenhorn’s advice and bring some outside technology into the fold.
Sun seems to be stuck in an odd place at the moment where it espouses and embraces many of the laudable benefits of open source software, but it has not yet embraced the concept enough to satisfy the purists or to perhaps even leverage open source to achieve notable innovation.
It hasn’t received much attention in SOA circles yet, but last week Bill Gates broke what might be the biggest news Microsoft has made in the SOA space since the debut of .NET.
At the TechEd conference in Orlando, Fla. he announced Oslo, Microsoft’s SOA modeling project, will incorporate UML. It was also revealed that Visual Studio 10 will feature UML support. At first blush that may not sound like a big deal. After all, it’s just Microsoft embracing a popular standard modeling language.
Yet Oslo is Microsoft’s Hail Mary pass over the rest of the SOA market and apparently the company has decided to end its religious differences with UML for the sake of giving Oslo mass appeal. Previously Microsoft had been pushing domain specific languages (DSLs) as an alternative to the general purpose format of UML. Unfortunately for the folks in Redmond, DSLs have failed to gain much traction. Part of the problem is getting the people who form a domain to agree upon a standard syntax. Another part is having that DSL interact with anything outside of its domain. Those things surely will come with the march of time, but the uptake has been painfully slow.
SOA demands some commonality, that everyone stop trying to be so special and idiosyncratic. Microsoft has always understood that on some levels, but it’s got skin in the proprietary software business (actually it’s got skin, blood, muscle, bone, you name it). Its maverick tendencies have often led to it offering users products that do SOA the Microsoft way. That is in stark contrasts to the company’s Web services tooling, which has for the most part embraced open standards and heterogeneous systems (most notably Windows Communication Foundation). This is where I remind some readers out there that, yes, there truly is a difference between SOA and Web services.
In fact, one way to look at Oslo, which supposedly will offer a Community Technical Preview in September, is that this is Microsoft’s flag in the ground for SOA. It emphasizes the importance of modeling, attempting to bring the technology as close as possible to the business. As such, UML represents an excellent choice. It should create interoperability between Oslo projects and those built with rival modeling tools (e.g. IBM Rational). And Eclipse’s Modeling Development Tools Project will have a UML2 component ready by the end of the month.
UML gives Oslo a reach it never would have had if it were based on a proprietary modeling language. The UML foundation means Oslo stands a chance of being truly universal, which is as SOA a concept as you can get. It also puts pressure on the vendors backing Service Component Architecture. Has Microsoft managed to leapfrog them in terms of offering a general purpose SOA modeling platform? Or perhaps could this lead to Microsoft embracing SCA at some level, perhaps via Apache Tuscany?
With this UML announcement, Oslo suddenly ranks as a potentially powerful new addition to the SOA space. Nice to see that Bill Gates can still shake things up, even as he prepares to step down as full-time chairman of Microsoft.
Can a free open source Ajax toolkit handle enterprise applications?
That’s the question Nexaweb Technologies Inc. is hoping to answer in the affirmative with today’s announcement that it is contributing new software to the Dojo Foundation to provide the structured approach favored for enterprise Ajax development.
The software, dubbed ‘dojo.E,’ will allow developers to create enterprise Ajax, said Jeremy Chone, CTO at Nexaweb Technologies Inc., who adds that Dojo is one of the industry’s most advanced sets of open source Ajax tools.
In his view Dojo will be ready for prime time with the structure dojo.E provides and visual tooling, which he said would be the next step.
“What we’re doing is we’ve enhanced Dojo with a structural language, which is XML,” Chone explained.
Asked how this will make Dojo better suited for business applications, he said: “The business benefits of dojo.E on top of Dojo is three things. One is the code is more structured. Two, you have reusability so you can reuse the components. Three, you can have visual tooling because now that it is structured and well defined you can have visual tools to organize your Ajax.”
Tom Rhinelander, analyst, New Rowley Group, agreed that Nexaweb’s contribution to Dojo will offer developers a choice they don’t usually have in selecting open source tools for Ajax.
“Developers have often had to choose between free Ajax toolkits that delivered interactivity but didn’t make it easy to maintain the code base, and commercial or commercially-sponsored rich Internet application (RIA) toolkits that weren’t as widely accepted but made it much easier to program and maintain code,” the analyst said. “Nexaweb’s dojo.E offers developers a more structured way to develop and maintain their interactive Web apps, using an XML markup language while also leveraging the popular Dojo toolkit.”
More information on dojo.E is available at a new Website for the tools.
There are some anecdotal claims out there in cyberspace that some companies are struggling with SOA. Mind you, we never really hear who these companies are or much about the details of what kind of trouble they’ve had.
That makes it hard to assess what the problem is. Are these users actually pursuing service orientation or are they buying products with an SOA label and expecting them to work miracles? I suspect the latter is a common trait of those who feel they haven’t gotten enough bang for their SOA buck.
Here’s one thing I can tell you: I’ve lost count of how many slide show presentations I’ve seen on SOA, but in every success story presentation I’ve ever seen there is an architecture slide. For instance, when I saw a presentation in April by State Street Corp. centered around how it’s using an ESB for the messaging involving the $15 trillion in assets in has under custody, the slide show did not proclaim ESBs are great and everyone should have one. Instead it delineated where the ESB fit inside State Street’s architecture, what role it served and how it played with other critical functionality in achieving the scalability, reliability and high performance that State Street desires.
If you can’t produce a representation of your architecture and then demonstrate that you’ve actually built systems in accordance with that architecture, then you can’t claim to be doing SOA. You may have undertaken a Web services project or bought some product that might be able to help you with an SOA if you had one, but there is no getting around the primacy an architectural blueprint. Those who lack it are begging for trouble.
Interestingly, in our user survey last fall, readers reported that the top SOA development challenge they are facing is a lack of internal skills or training (30.5%). Nothing else even came close. It’s no secret that the supply of architects who actually understand SOA is lagging behind the demand. Yet the discipline involved with service orientation is far from obscure.
Recently we ran two articles from Thomas Erl about the difference between service orientation and object orientation (second part here). We also recently published some architect best practices. And if you need an example of what can be achieved by adopting a service orientation perspective and paying attention to your architecture, look no farther than this case study from ING Card. ING adopted exactly no new technology when it first waded into the SOA waters and was able to streamline its international credit card business. They were able to do this because they had an architecture at the core of the business plan.
Analysts often wear themselves out reminding users that SOA isn’t something you buy, it’s something you do. Well, architecture is the something you do.
Our sister site, TheServerSide.com, has an interesting post on a kerfuffle between Microsoft and some Hungarian students who are angered that the company has bought the nation’s technology curriculum.
The TSS.com audience takes the whole matter down an educational rabbit hole, but let’s try to keep focused on the technology issue here: Microsoft apparently thinks it can unring a bell. The notion that there is one technology to control them all is dead. Steve Ballmer can funnel all the cash he wants into the Hungarian educational system, but students are still going to get exposed to a bevy of technology outside of the Microsoft platform.
There’s simply too much information available to think that what amounts to a technology abstinence program has any chance of succeeding. The kids will pick up Java in the streets. They’ll program with Ruby on Rails when you’re not looking.
This is the chief reason why I dig SOA. It aims to tackle the big questions. What are the big questions you might ask? Well, you’ve now got a network that extends around the globe and a massive selection of technology at your disposal. That selection will only grow, as will the number of nodes on the network. They will in fact grow at alarming rates. So how do you use all of that in some sort of cohesive fashion? How do you find order in that chaos? How do you prepare for everything and anything? Service-orientation comes equipped with a set of principles to help address those questions.
I’ll quote Burton Group’s Anne Thomas Manes from an article we ran last year:
The technology really is irrelevant. The technology you use today is going to go away at some point. It’s about how you use technology, not what technology you use.
If you don’t get that, then you’re not ready for 21st century IT. No one is immune from it, not even Microsoft … and the national borders of Hungary will provide no defense from it. We have hit the point where there is so much technology that no single technology can afford the conceit that it will exist by itself. In fact, those technologies that seek to cloister themselves will quickly become irrelevant.
I suspect that reality will undermine Microsoft’s investment in Hungarian mindshare, turning the story from one of unseemly corporate influence to one of angry shareholders demanding to know why anyone thought this was a good idea in the first place. In fact, I imagine that after Microsoft spends beaucoup Euro on teaching young Hungarians all sorts of non-Microsoft technologies, the PR spin will be that this is an example of what a good corporate citizen it is and that it’s hoping to reap the dividends of good karma.
There’s plenty of money to be made as a player in the development market, but the quaint notion that you can curb the supply or demand for development technology stands to kick a vendor right in the balance sheet.