SOA Talk

April 8, 2008  1:07 PM

Big Blue sMashes into Web 2.0

StorageSwiss George Crump Profile: StorageSwiss

At its Impact 2008 event, IBM today launched a REST-based development environment called WebSphere sMash, based on its open source Project Zero. sMash supports both the PHP and Groovy scripting languages, the latter was chosen in order to “attract the Java developers,” according to Jason McGee, IBM distinguished engineer and chief architect for WebSphere sMash.

It creates a serverside runtime for RESTful services. The browser-based development tools allow for REST-based components to be exposed via Ajax with the Dojo toolkit. McGee said the goal of the project had been to create a simple, intuitive component model for developers looking to create RESTful services. There is a developer guide, which goes into the nitty-gritty on runtime management, RSS/ATOM support, REST API documention, configuring data access and dozens of other topics.

Some good news for those looking to do more with REST development is that sMash won’t be a standalone REST offering inside the Big Blue product ocean.

“We look at REST enablement as a core capability across the IBM portfolio,” said Kareem Yusuf, director of product development for WebSphere sMash. WebSphere CTO Jerry Cuomo made the same vow, promising that REST support will be driven across IBM’s platforms, particularly on the SOA front.

“We’re systematically going through our product line and REST-enabling everything from MQ to CICS, DB2, WebSphere Application Server and on and on. This liberates these products and the content they represent to the Web,” Cuomo said. “With all that content dangling out on the Web, programmers can now agilely write new applications by interacting with those programs.”

Using sMASH coders can mashup content and then deploy it as a Web application, he explained. Mashups developed with the Project Zero technology also lend themselves to being hosted in a Software as a Service (SaaS) mode, Cuomo said.

“So Zero as a service is the next thing on the horizon,” he added.

The scripting language support should lower the barriers to entry for developers looking to try sMash.

“It’s not a new language people have to learn,” McGee said.

A limited community version will be available through the Project Zero website and the full version, with support, will be available on a license model.

For a developer level take, check out the discussion of the sMash release.

Joining sMash in the Web 2.0 offering mix is a new product called IBM Mashup Center, designed for non-technical line of business users. It combines Lotus Mashups technology on the front end with the InfoSphere MashupHub on the back end. Larry Bowden, vice president of portals and Web interaction hubs at Lotus, said the product is designed to put mashup technology in the hands of knowledge workers, enabling them to pull information out of enterprise applications (like ERP and CRM) and combine that with market data and other 3rd party applications.

“The differentiator is we know where all that information is at,” Bowden said, noting that mashup development has become a hotbed for venture capital investment.

A visual wizard tool will allow users to create RESTful services and widgets without having to know specific programming languages.

April 7, 2008  7:15 PM

BPM and event-driven SOA highlight IBM Impact

StorageSwiss George Crump Profile: StorageSwiss

The overwhelming theme coming from IBM on the opening day of its Impact 2008 event is that SOA isn’t about the technology. It sounds a bit odd to hear that message coming from a company with more SOA-related software and hardware products than anyone can count, but Big Blue deserves some message purity points for noting that SOA isn’t per se a technology initiative … even if it is more than willing to sell you a mother lode of technology in the pursuance of SOA.

Yet it also has some new technology to show off in front of the 6,000 attendees at the Las Vegas conference, which produced a standing room only crowd this morning at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. One of the highlights is a new business process management (BPM) suite. According to Tom Rosmilia, vice president for WebSphere software, the suite will be available during the second quarter of 2008. It will feature modeling, monitoring, process accelerators and asset repository capabilities.

The product itself comes from IBM’s January purchase of AptSoft Inc. and it will be called IBM WebSphere Business Events. True to its name, there’s lots of event-driven architecture under the covers. That fits into the second generation SOA vision pitched by senior pice president and group executive for IBM Software Group Steve Mills. Beyond event-driven services he stressed high performance transaction systems, low latency, integrity and scalability as the most in-demand functionality for an SOA growing in size and responsibility.

As with most of his comments during the day, Mills made sure not to offer any magic bullets. In particular, he noted that an ESB alone won’t net you a working SOA.

“The very nature of this is bringing multiple things together to make an environment work,” he said. That sort of business process unity marks IBM’s current efforts. Mills noted that goal comes on the heels of an endemic condition where IT shops “have effectively fragmented the ownership of information technology across the company.”

Rosamilia urged users to “take an iterative approach. Build it up over time and make it little bit better with each pass because you won’t get it right the first time.”

Tomorrow the company plans the commercial launch of its REST-based Project Zero initiative.

April 7, 2008  11:59 AM

Open source leading SOA charge in 2008

StorageSwiss George Crump Profile: StorageSwiss

Last August I noted that Microsoft regularly finds itself buried under an avalanche of news coming from its Java-based competition. It’s impossible to compete with that kind of volume and that fact alone has caused the SOA market to gravitate toward Java and away from .NET.

Well, something similar is happening this year with open source vs. proprietary vendor in 2008, but, in what should be considered a bit of a stunner, it’s the open source folks who are creating the news deluge. It started innocently enough when Mulesource and WSO2 both released REST-based SOA registries. Then Red Hat released a modularized SOA platform in February. Now WSO2 and Mulesource are back with another major round of announcements. Based on its December Spring Integration release, you can expect SpringSource to become an increasingly visible player in the SOA market. Sun Microsystems will surely have some service-oriented dogs and ponies to show off at next month’s JavaOne conference and Eclipse, which has already debuted the Swordfish SOA runtime this year, will have a whole slate of SOA-enabled tools in its June Ganymede release.

The open source players are pounding away at the news cycle, throwing a steady stream of innovation into the mix. Obviously traditional app dev titans still dominate the market in terms of dollars and customers, but it’s about time somebody noted that we’ve got a movement on our hands. If you’re looking to build loosely coupled services, there are a host of open source vendors to choose from and that ecosystem is growing at an aggressive rate.

Change, particularly in an established market, doesn’t come in one big seismic event. It takes years of consistent pressure to remake this kind of landscape, but to be sure, we are in a period of volcanic activity for the open source market.

April 4, 2008  6:14 PM

Business process modeling: What’s in a word?

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

Defining your terms makes a world of difference when a project manager is modeling a business process, says Debra Berard, program manager for business excellence, Lean/Six Sigma at Seagate Technology LLC.

The bugaboo that also haunts data integration projects — you say “bill,” I say “invoice” — is something project managers need to solve in business process modeling for application development.

A recent example  Berard offered was the design of Seagate’s failure analysis common tracking system (FACTS) application, which is used to find the root cause of failures in product design or manufacturing so they can quickly be corrected.

In a competitive business like disk drive manufacture the quicker a failure can be remedied, the quicker a new product gets to market.

To develop the FACTS application required WebEx meetings and conference calls with stakeholders from all the Seagate facilities involved including manufacturing sites in Thailand, China, Malaysia, and Singapore, as well as design centers in Oklahoma City, Minneapolis, and Singapore.

During these meetings, the project manager captured the processes that existed in the various locations using a business process modeling and analysis tool, the newly released Metastorm ProVision 6.1  enterprise modeling product.

The first thing the analyis revealed was the while Seagate’s goal was to have one failure analysis process, there were approximately 25 to 30 different processes in the company.

But after further review, that wasn’t as bad as it first looked.

“Come to find out, we did have a lot of processes,” Berard said. “but what was revealed was that they were really doing the same process, but calling the activities different names.”

So the issue was resolved in the conference calls by getting all the stakeholders around the world to agree to call the failure analysis activites by the same set of names, she said.

Once that was done a common model for FACTS was created, which then became the requirements document for the $5 million application development project.

Now, everybody involved in failure analysis at Seagate uses the same terminology as well as the same Web-based FACTS application.

March 28, 2008  4:09 PM

SOA, Progress and the R-word

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

Two interconnected debates are raging in the blogsphere over how service-oriented architecture (SOA) may be running into resistence in 2008.

One debate covered this week in a SearchSOA article is about whether SOA is reaching it’s goal of linking IT and business people, or is just becoming an IT-only initiative that is stalling out in most companies.

The other related debate concerns whether the R-word a.k.a “the current economic downturn” will hurt SOA adoption.

These questions were raised when Gordon Van Huizen, vice president of SOA at Progress Software Corp., called this week discussing how his company is putting all its SOA products under the umbrella of the Progress SOA Portfolio.

The portfolio offers a broader SOA marketing message by covering all the Progress products for:

·         Enterprise service bus (ESB)

·         Business process management (BPM)

·         Complex Event Processing (CEP)

·         Registry/repository

·         SOA management

·         Data interoperability

·         Mainframe integration

From a sales and marketing perspective this seems like a good approach. But Van Huizen was asked about the larger marketing challenge posed by current economic conditions.

Does Progress have a strategy for coping with hard times?

“We have this built-in strategy at Progress that is relatively unique,” Van Huizen said.

He noted that his company’s Open Edge development platform is sold through an ISV channel that has been in place for a long time. The 1,500 ISVs target “very specific, narrowly defined segments of vertical industries.”

By throwing the net so wide, the ISVs reach customers in a variety of industries, not all of which are hurting in this economy, he explained.

“So if there’s a slow down in financial services we don’t feel it so much in that product line,” Van Huizen said. This is also true of the SOA products, he added.

“Our orientation to the market was initally around financial services and telco, perhaps because of the messaging orientation of Sonic MQ,” he said. “But with the SOA management product, with Actional, there’s been opportunities to branch well beyond that.”

The Progress SOA Management product is penetrating into healthcare and higher education, two areas generally considered recession proof, he noted.

“As one part of the market goes down others remain somewhat boyant,” Van Huizen said. “So if there’s an offsetting strategy I believe we have one. Of course, if everything tanks, we’re all in trouble for awhile, and that’s just the way it goes.”

As for the other related debate about how to keep SOA from stalling out even in companies that have the budget to do it, Van Huizen suggested two strategies.

The first one is to reach across from IT to business people by explaining SOA not in terms of technology with acronyms, but through business case studies that show the dollars and sense success of the approach.

The second is to begin SOA projects at a tactical level, even as simple as application integration, sometimes called EAI 2.0. This allows IT to show the business managers and executives the advantages of SOA without asking them to shell out big bucks for a massive implementation.

These two approaches are also echoed in a recent blog by analyst Joe McKendrick, who quotes fellow analyst Tony Baer’s view that this will be a year of lower expectations for SOA.

“Recessions tend to discourage the kind of long-term thinking that grand enterprise architectural exercises are supposed to support,” Baer said. “In that sense, SOA has been caught up in the middle – roughly six years after the current incarnation of the concept emerged with Web services, there remains considerable debate as to whether it makes sense to take a project or architectural approach.”

However, McKendrick makes the interesting point: “It’s worth noting that the case for SOA, in tandem with Web services, was forged during the worst IT spending slump in a generation – the 2000-2002 time period. Companies and IT professionals were attracted to the SOA/Web services concepts because they offered the attractive advantage of building or exposing existing applications at minimal cost and disruption.”

March 26, 2008  11:50 AM

Podcast: Mulesource CEO on why SOA requires many ESBs

StorageSwiss George Crump Profile: StorageSwiss

This podcast with Mulesource CEO Dave Rosenberg covers the role of the enterprise service bus (ESB) inside an SOA. Rosenberg notes that an ESB shouldn’t be thought of as a singular piece of software sitting in the middle of every application, tossing aside the hub-and-spoke model from the EAI world that often gets grafted onto SOA. He stresses that SOA “is not about integration,” but rather a sensible infrastructure that can handle modular development and changing business needs.


Other topics covered in this interview include:

  • How users are more likely to have an “enterprise service network” with multiple ESBs rather than a single or master ESB
  • The role of open source in SOA development
  • Why neither the Java EE nor .NET meets are well-suited to service orientation
  • The roadmap for the Mulesource, particularly in the management area
  • What constitutes “SOA infrastructure”
  • Data issues, including getting data out of 3rd party SaaS applications

March 24, 2008  12:58 PM

Oracle avoids JavaScript in RIA tools

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

Oracle Corp. continues to pursue its agnostic approach to Web 2.0 development as its tools designed to help developers create Ajax without having to mess with JavaScript progress through beta, says Ted Farrell, chief architect and vice president for tools and middleware at Oracle.

In an interview discussing the Oracle approach to the problematic nature of JavaScript this past fall, Farrell said: “In the Ajax space, JavaScript access to portlets and data sharing is very difficult and in a lot of cases, it’s actually impossible.”

His opinion hasn’t changed. Speaking this past week about the Oracle tool development that relies on Java Server Faces (JSF) to spare coders from JavaScript, Farrell said, “We don’t want our developers programming in JavaScript, which is a pain in the neck.”

Oracle has standardized on a JavaServer Faces (JSF)-based RenderKit, which allows the developer who has learned JSF to assemble disparate components into a Web 2.0-style mashup.

Enterprise customers are looking for ways to avoid getting caught up in such complexities, so the philosophy behind the tools Oracle has in beta is to automate the rendering technologies, so developers only need to work with components and pages, he said. This approach also is designed to insulate developers from the on-going changes in underlying technologies for RIA, he said.

“As technologies change, we can change our framework but they don’t have to change their pages,” Farrell said.

He describes the Oracle RIA tools as “very WYSIWYG.” The developer designates that a page will be Ajax with Flash from Adobe Systems Inc., Farrell said, and that is all the coder needs to know about those technologies.

“You don’t have to learn those technologies,” he said, which in the case of Ajax is basically JavaScript. “Our visual editor will show you how the page is going to look. You can drag a component like a table onto the page. You can bind that to some backend databases or Web service, wherever you are getting the data from.”

Farrell said the Oracle RIA tools are in an advanced beta stage prior to the official release. Interested developers can find out more information and even download them from the Oracle Technology Network.

March 21, 2008  5:32 PM

The SOA-RIA intersection

StorageSwiss George Crump Profile: StorageSwiss

Recently we polled site members on their RIA and composite application plans. What we discovered is there’s a massive overlap between the SOA and RIA audiences.

In all we received 395 responses and 44% said rich Internet applications were part of their enterprise IT/business strategy. Another 30% reported that RIA would become part of that strategy in 2008. 85% reported that RIA was an important to extremely important piece of their SOA strategy. Only 2% said RIA wasn’t important at all to their SOA plans.
Most strikingly, 74% reported they expect the importance of RIA to their IT/business goals to increase this year. In other words, for 3/4 of our survey respondents, RIA is a big deal that will be getting bigger. Rich Web front ends were the most popular type of app being built or planned (79%), with Ajax (81%) being the most popular technology employed to build those apps. Yet 55% also reported they are building/planning database composite applications and 35% reported they have entered or will enter the fairly new space of enterprise mashups. That’s a fairly massive amount for a category that would have been in the low single digits two years ago.

Oddly, mobile apps only drew a 29% response rate. That could be read a few different ways. Our respondents were mostly senior folks in the app dev or IT department. It’s possible rich mobile development is being done outside their auspices. Yet the fact that the more senior people in the app dev arena aren’t connected to it would also mean that rich mobile development hasn’t become a major enterprise initiative. The other way to read it is that mobile devices have yet to become a major business initiative. In fact, mashups using unified communications might be the path that mobile devices take rather than strict mobile app development.

The top two benefits sought by those building out rich/composite apps were improving the user experience for customer facing apps/services (65%) and providing expected levels of business functionality to end users (61%). Lack of internal knowledge/resources ranked as the number one obstacle to adopting Web 2.0 technologies (21%). It also ranked high as a secondary issue (35%). Yet a whole host of issues fell in the 27-38% range for secondary issues: techinical readiness/back-end support, selecting the right technologies, security, data/application integration issues and application performance issues.

Finally, IT management ranked as the top evangelist (28%), technical decision maker (34%) and financial decision maker (40%) when it comes to Web 2.0 technologies. Yet an interesting person ranked second in evangelism (27%) and technical decision making (26%) – the architect. Maybe this has something to do with polling the membership of an SOA site, but it speaks to how architecture is becoming a primary concern in all applications work these days.

It should be remembered that for years analysts have been saying that a primary benefit of pursuing SOA is to get ready for whatever comes next, to be able to deploy new technologies on top of the existing IT infrastructure in a way that makes sense. It would seem from our survey that those predictions are now taking shape in reality. RIA is happening parallel to and in conjunction with SOA and it looks like many users will have interesting stories to tell later in the year.

March 19, 2008  1:20 PM

Eclipse forms OSGi community

Heather Clancy Heather Clancy Profile: Heather Clancy

At EclipseCon this week, the Eclipse Foundation announced that it is forming a new open source community project “to develop and promote open source runtime technology based on Equinox, a lightweight OSGi-based runtime.”

Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, told SearchSOA that this is important news for architects and developers working on service-oriented architecture (SOA) projects for three reasons:

  1. “OSGi itself and Equinox as its implementation has a service-oriented component to it. It is a technology that you use to pull together services in a runtime.
  2. “EclipseLink, which provides persistence to enterprise applications for storing either relational data or XML Schema supports the acronyms enterprise architects love like FDO [Feature Data Objects]. You can get implementations of that specification through EclipseLink.
  3. “It is part of the Eclipse Swordfish project, which is a full SOA runtime.”

When Swordfish was announced earlier this year, Anne Thomas Manes, research director for Burton Group Inc., said OSGi added “real value” and is a good fit for the Eclipse plug-in philosophy.

“There’s a lot of nice features to OSGi,” Manes told SearchSOA. “You deliver software in something called a bundle. As part of the bundle it identifies the manifest of all the things that are in there and also identifies the dependencies that this code has. Then the OSGi runtime can look at it and say in order to deploy this I have to get these things that are listed in the dependencies, and get those installed first. It’s a very clean and elegant way to package stuff up. The idea here is that you are going to package up services using OSGi.”

There is currently a discussion thread on regarding Equinox, EclipseLink, OSGi and its relation to the Java Community Process work on the Java Persistence API (JPA 2.0).

March 17, 2008  11:31 AM

The SOA version of March Madness

StorageSwiss George Crump Profile: StorageSwiss

Rumor has it that the SOA market is on the brink of another wave of acquisitions. Oracle opened the year with its purchase of BEA Systems, but the move has yet to touch off much of anything in the way response. Possibly part of that is the deal took two major buyers off the market while Oracle ingests BEA.

Yet another part of that is the economy. Would-be buyers want to make sure they’re making smart acquisitions. What sort of revenue stream are they picking up and how much is that worth? First quarter financial results loom as a major influence in answering those two questions. That’s where the March Madness kicks in.

A niche player who can post a strong first quarter could position itself as the “gotta have it” item on the SOA market. You users out there might be thinking, “Big deal, this doesn’t really affect me.” Yet it does. If those vendors are hungry enough for quick revenue, they might be cutting some handsome deals over the next two weeks in order to pump up those balance sheets. Users might be able to land some best-of-breed technology at a discount and then have a large vendor step into place to provide ongoing support for that technology.

We know Iona Technologies is up for sale. Many larger vendors have data services and SOA testing gaps. Does HP look to flesh out its management story? Does SAP make a move into BPM? What can Tibco, Software AG and Progress Software do to push themselves over that $1 billion revenue mark? Are RIA, composite application and enterprise mashup technologies where the money is in the current market?

Don’t be surprised to see some clearance prices out there. The looming consolidation in the SOA space could create a buyer’s market.

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