SOA Talk


July 11, 2012  9:52 PM

Rules, events and processes meet

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

Update – Integrated process, rules and event capabilities are something of a holy grail for today’s high-powered corporations. Such capabilities are being pursued in open source software. For example, over the years, Red Hat’s Middleware division has expanded its JBoss server line, adding software to enable these advanced efforts. Last month, Red Hat went live with JBoss Enterprise BRMS 5.3, supporting business process automation and intelligent decision and event processing for applications running on the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform 6 and JBoss Enterprise SOA Platform 5.3.

The new release, as discussed in Boston at Red Hat’s recent JBoss World event by Ken Johnson, director of product management,  also adds Apache Camel integration, improved data services and additional messaging support. Combining BPM software, rules and complex event processing is a worthwhile goal, indicated Maureen Fleming, vice president, BPM and middleware research programs, IDC, in a prepared statement.

For some time, SearchSOA.com research has indicated that making SOA, BPM and event processing work together is a challenge. [Ed. Note: See “State of SOA 2010” a downloadable PDF) Recently, we asked James Taylor how important connecting these disciplines was today. Taylor, an independent consultant specializing in decision making strategies, has been a long-time observer of business rules trends.

“Using business rules to automate decisions and integrating decisions with events and processes as decision services is essential for organizations trying to add agility to their systems,” Taylor said in an e-mail. “Bringing business rules management to the heart of the enterprise architecture stack is increasingly critical,” he continued.

Red Hat/JBoss has pulled a lot of tools together of late. Are there areas that need more attention still, we asked Taylor, who responded, “Decisions also involve analytics and it would be great to see some more options for bringing [in] analytic techniques.”

“RedHat has some interesting work going on with optimization and business rules, which is great, and I would like to see this extended to include data mining and predictive analytics,” said Taylor. – Stephanie Mann and Jack Vaughan

July 11, 2012  8:28 PM

Consumerization of IT and SOA integration

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

An odd phenomenon these days is the consumerization of IT, which WhatIs describes as the “blending of personal and business use of technology devices and applications.” Today’s armies of mobile device wielding business users are the most striking symbol of IT consumerization. But it is really not so new. People old enough to remember that Mork came from Ork can recall when the PC and the software spreadsheet were smuggled into the office to end the mainframe’s dominance of corporate computing.

Few application development managers are not affected by the mobile tsunami. They are now sorting through the costs and benefits of a new category known as mobile middleware, which has arisen to deal with mobile device diversity. As it turns out, mobile apps are a bigger problem for application development managers than was mobile email. They have to support every conceivable type of endpoint, and select between HTML5, native and hybrid programming schemes.  

The PC was a game changer. The same appears to be true of the smartphone, which recently crossed an inflection point, surpassing the desktop PC in unit sales. Equal as influences are social media, open APIs and app stores.

Social media applications that aggregate news and information have caused a big boost in use of integration middleware using “REST” and RSS-style services. SOA laid the foundation, but it is the simple REST version of SOA that is carrying integration development forward today, as seen in social media and mobile application development. Basically, REST underlies the big digital consumer success stories called Amazon, Google, Facebook and eBay, and their style of development is now penetrating the established enterprises, and software architects must understand how to build these modern style systems.

Now we are seeing a type of consumerization of IT integration that resembles the open APIs of the big e-commerce and social media sites. The idea is that you publish out APIs that let outsiders hook into your Web versions of your enterprise applications. Some SOA houses are building API management tool sets in response. They want their APIs for B2B to fly off the virtual shelves as the MP3s do at the iTunes store with which consumers are familiar.

Consumerization of SOA integration could be taken more broadly still. Seldom when you are calling, are operators actually standing by. The Web has enabled – some might say ‘condemned’ – the consumer to take over the role of key operator of yore. This requires teams to design and deliver much better applications and application interfaces than ever before. This is becoming more and more true as mobile devices flourish.

Again, aspects of the “new” consumerization of IT can sound like an old story. The notion that end users can, with the right tools, manage to meet the bulk of their programming own needs was heard in the days of the original Visual Basic, Lotus Notes and PowerBuilder. To a point it was true. We hear that now about open APIs. Is it more likely to be more true this time? What do you think? -Jack Vaughan


July 6, 2012  3:51 PM

At long last BaaS: Fix for enterprise app complexity?

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

As mobile middleware and the cloud take the fore, mobile Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) could be emerging as a way to effectively connect to varied backend systems and services, says at least one analyst. According to Chris Marsh, senior analyst at Yankee Group Enterprise Research, companies now looking to more complex use cases for mobile applications to liberate enterprise data face serious challenges.

Those challenges include ensuring that mobile applications can access confidential information securely through the cloud, and managing an increasingly complex landscape of enterprise apps. To address those issues, organizations look for integration tools that can adapt to deploy in public, private and hybrid clouds.

At the root of the BaaS approach is the ability to manage complex enterprise apps that also integrate with multiple backend systems and cloud services. When looking for mobile app solutions, companies also keep an eye on user experience and ease of integration as described in a recent white paper on the subject, authored by Marsh and sponsored by mobile app solution developer FeedHenry. – Stephanie Mann


June 26, 2012  7:31 PM

Caterpillar tackles transformation with portfolio tools

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

With well over $100 billion in revenues, Caterpillar, Inc. is the world’s largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment. It has also been accumulating acquisitions at a frenzied pace in recent years, complicating an already complex IT environment.

It was that experience that convinced an enterprise architect at Caterpillar to implement portfolio management tooling – a decision he credits with greatly improving IT’s ability to respond to initiatives and a significant labor saving success. Continued »


June 21, 2012  5:51 PM

Red Hat unveils the JBoss Way, drives toward mobile, cloud and big data

James Denman James Denman Profile: James Denman

Yesterday, JBoss and RedHat made a few preliminary product announcements before the upcoming combination JBoss World / Red Hat Summit 2012 event scheduled for June 26-29. Their primary push was for the JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (EAP) 6, but there was also significant talk about the  open source JBoss Data Grid 6 and Red Hat’s recently announced infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering, CloudForms.

Continued »


June 20, 2012  5:03 PM

On courting discerning API developers

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

The process of attracting independent developers to public APIs has gained importance as the app store marketplace proves increasingly relevant and lucrative. Unfortunately, many companies trying to woo developers with their APIs are using marketing techniques that have little impact on a discerning developer community. According to Apigee, a provider of API management and infrastructure products, the heart of the issue is simple: Developers hate marketing.

Why? Apigee’s recent report, aptly titled “Developers Hate Marketing: Attracting Developers to APIs,” puts it this way: “Developers live in the world of the tangible. They want to see their apps used by people. They have a keen eye for anything that sounds like vaporware or shelfware and are extremely cynical about marketing.”

That said, Apigee does outline an alternative API-promotion strategy for attracting developers. Three main points stand out:

1. Build a developer community. Instead of talking at developers, show them what they want to see. By building a developer community that speaks to the needs and ambitions of the type of developers you want to work with, you better your chances of attracting the right fit of developer for your project.

2. Know what developers want—and supply it. According to Apigee, developers want to build useful skills, raise their visibility among other developers, use effective tools and—unsurprisingly—to make money. Providing what developers want is an obvious necessity if your business wants to attract and retain ambitious developers to work on your API.

3. Make developers part of the team. Another big takeaway from the report deals with the way companies treat developers. Traditionally, outside developers have been viewed as consultants. Today, a landscape driven by open source trends is demanding developers be treated more like customers—or even partners. As the report puts it, “Developers become a channel for new types of business that you wouldn’t or couldn’t pursue yourself.” As such, they take on a vital role that brings them into the folds of an organization on many levels.

Clearly, the first part of building an API—figuring out how to expose a service or product—can actually be easier than the second part—that is, getting developers to actually use it. That has always been true to some extent. But, in the era of open APIs, the story has a new twist. – Stephanie Mann


June 13, 2012  7:49 PM

Alaska freight tracking made easier by open source messaging software

James Denman James Denman Profile: James Denman

Reliable messaging can be hard to achieve in difficult terrains. This was apparent as we met up recently with a lead developer of a major freight company that specializes in shipping to and from far flung facilities in Alaska.

Rob Terpilowski, lead Java developer, Lynden, Inc., explained how he and his team used Apache MQ messaging middleware and other open source messaging software to replace homegrown tracking software. He said the original tracking software was built to overcome immediate needs without consideration for later modernization or integration requirements. Continued »


June 13, 2012  5:39 PM

Reporter’s notebook: Hadoop, cloud testing and more

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

Perhaps the most famous Big Data technology, Hadoop has gained a following over the years led by Web giants such as Yahoo and Facebook. As time goes on, Hadoop adoption continues to climb. Still, its complexity has made it difficult for smaller enterprises to jump on the bandwagon.

That might be changing.  This week, multiple software companies introduced tools aimed at easier management, scalability and integration of Hadoop within the enterprise.

Pervasive Software Inc. rolled out Pervasive Data Integrator v10 – Hadoop Edition, designed to enable users to more easily transfer business data to and from Hadoop-based big data stores. The product addresses the challenging task of flowing non-Hadoop data into Hadoop, a framework often noted for its lack of visual data integration tooling.

Similarly, MapR Technologies Inc. released Version 2.0 of the MapR Distribution, a tool that provides increased monitoring, management, isolation and security for Hadoop. Some of its more notable features include central logging and multi-tenancy support, which both aim to enhance control and visibility of Hadoop data.

Also this week, cloud testing took the fore.

SOASTA announced its CloudTest Mobile platform, providing test automation for iOS, including iOS 6. CloudTest resides inside the app, an approach designed to allow developers to test apps as new mobile operating systems are released.

Also on the testing front, at Cloud Expo in New York, Parasoft Corp. showcased the latest release of Parasoft Virtualize, a service virtualization tool. The product aims to allow development and QA teams easier access to environments needed to test applications.

On another note, UShareSoft announced UForge App Store at the same expo. The platform is a collaborative, multi-cloud app store for enterprise IT applications. With its release, UShareSoft hopes to ease the delivery of software and application to the on-premise cloud. The spread of so-called app stores may betoken a trend of  ‘consumerization’ of IT, as updates are shared using now-familiar Smart phone methods. -Stephanie Mann


May 31, 2012  4:06 PM

The changing state of APIs

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

At work today is a new breed of API. It relies on SOA, but has a new twist. The open or Web API movement has a capacity to dramatically change the status quo, altering the relationships of business leaders and developers, organizations and consumers. In a recent interview with SearchSOA.com, Alistair Farquharson talked about APIs, and discussed new trends in API management. Farquharson, CTO, SOA Software Inc., sees a sea-change a’ coming.

On the current state of APIs—and how they compare to old-fashioned SOA— Farquharson said:

I like the fact that APIs are simpler and more accessible. I like the fact that APIs are more community-oriented. A developer is far more attuned to a Facebook-like experience of collaboration than a UDDI registry. I like those kinds of trends around API management. I like the fact that discovery is completely revolutionized. I think the security mechanisms are simpler, and it remains to be seen how complicated things are going to be over time.

He added that new shifts in API management are shining a spotlight on developers:

I don’t think SOA was ever focused on the developer. API management has driven some focus toward the developer. The business likes this because the developer…is probably building some cool apps that are going to make them some money. It’s nice and neat if you look at it from that perspective.

Read more about our discussion with Farquharson here: Farquharson on API management: “Focus on business-developer relationship”. –Stephanie Mann


May 24, 2012  3:32 PM

Gartner: Only business-driven EA will deliver value

Jack Vaughan Jack Vaughan Profile: Jack Vaughan

According to Gartner, a host of factors—ranging from cloud and social to big data and mobile technologies—are altering the EA landscape. As a result of those changes, enterprise architects may have more opportunity to deliver business value from EA than ever before. Analysts expanded on the notion this week in National Harbor, Md., at the Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit 2012.

Ahead of the conferences, Gartner identified five categories of “deliverables” that it said will help EA practitioners do just that. Those types of deliverables must be: measurable, actionable, diagnostic, enabling and operational.

Respectively, these traits are said to measure the direct impact of EA on business; drive change and action; include models, requirements and analysis tools; collect information to provide input to diagnostic deliverables; and help define, communicate and run EA programs.

“Focusing on standard EA framework doesn’t work,” Brian Burke, a research vice president at Gartner, explained in a statement. “In the past EA practitioners focused on deliverables that were useful to enterprise architects but not valuable to senior management and/or did not respond to a specific business or IT need.”
Today, says Gartner, many organizations remain tied to traditional EA frameworks that no longer leverage the best opportunities to deliver business value. The research group sees a gap between the way companies pursue EA and the impact of EA on the business itself.

Gartner tells enterprise architects re-evaluate out-dated practices, instead shifting focus to efforts that empower business and IT leaders to make business outcome-driven decisions. – Stephanie Mann


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