Edited transcript of weekly BriefingsDirect[TM] SOA Insights Edition podcast, recorded
Listen to the podcast here. If you'd like to learn more about BriefingsDirect B2B informational podcasts, or to become a sponsor of this or other B2B podcasts, contact Interarbor Solutions at 603-528-2435.
Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Vol. 18, a weekly discussion and dissection of Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) related news and events with a panel of industry analysts and guests.
I’m your host and moderator, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Our panel this week, and this is the week of
Also joining us is Todd Biske, an enterprise architect at MomentumSI an Austin, Texas-based consultancy.
And joining us also, a return to a BriefingsDirect podcast, Barbara Darrow, an former industry editor at CRN Magazine and newly independent blogger. Welcome, Barb.
Barbara Darrow: Hi, Dana!
One of the things that jumped out at me is how we seem to be moving beyond just the notion of an RIA into specific platforms, and/or approaches for doing this. We now have a slate of new products and approaches from Microsoft around the Silverlight brand. We also have news from Adobe about open-sourcing the Flex toolset that helps create content that’s supported on the ubiquitous Flash seamless download client through browsers. And, we've also seen Sun Microsystems pony up with the JavaFX scripting language, also designed for RIAs.
So, I want to go to Joe McKendrick first. Joe, do you agree that these announcements are showing that RIAs are more than a sideline, and are becoming a mainstream way of bringing content, data, and applications to users?
Joe McKendrick: Absolutely. It’s a nice step up from the browser interface that we've all been accustomed to for the past decade now and very competitive with the fat-client concept of Microsoft Windows, which is still Microsoft’s bread and butter. To a large degree, they should feel threatened by this. There are many other threats to their business, but this is their home turf, the client side. When you introduce these capabilities, this ability to enable rich clients coming right off the Web or Web-type interface, it’s definitely that last mile.
McKendrick: They have to, Dana, they have no choice. Clearly, the market is moving in the direction of networks. I'm going to call it "network-based computing." It’s a term that’s been used for a number of years now, but we're clearly seeing the realization of that vision.
Todd Biske: Actually, it's really interesting to see this, because certainly in enterprise circles, it’s much more about AJAX than it necessarily is about Flash. Then, you have Silverlight, and now JavaFX Script, which I think are more in the same category as Adobe Flash, than targeting the
Still, it’s gaining at least mind share, and so we’ll have to see whether this begins to make a push more to the corporate enterprise world.
Overall, I think this is good. I have a strong background in usability and I knew that the pendulum was going to swing back at some point. We went from green screens all the way to these rich desktop environments. Then, we went back to just the HTML forms, and you knew that pendulum was going to start to shift back towards the center again, that users were going to need higher levels of interaction and capabilities on that Web-based platform.
I think this is just indicative of that trend. The bandwidth needs and everything else have caught up to the point where we can start to leverage these technologies. Users are demanding more. They don’t have to deal with the primitive forms, because they have powerful machines and high-speed networks that can now support this much better, even on their mobile phones.
So, it's certainly a trend that I expected. Silverlight is interesting, and you mentioned Microsoft in the general community-based practices. Two or three years ago, I was invited to a Microsoft technology summit, and they collected about 40 of us in
I don’t know whether coming out with a direct competitor to Flash is going to make it any more attractive in the eyes of the Flash developers, but I think certainly playing to their strengths in the existing Microsoft development community, and bringing in some of the best practices of the other development communities, is a smart move on their part. That’s why I think Silverlight will continue to play a role.
Darrow: I tracked it, but from afar. We had another reporter there. The thing I found a little bit interesting about it, first of all, was that Ray Ozzie actually said something. He hasn't been very forthcoming since joining Microsoft, and I guess I can’t blame him for that. So, they laid out this strategy, but being reporters, we always like to handicap things. This whole move to rich clients is interesting. I cover IBM software, and I've got to give them credit. IBM has been talking about this for a while. I want to ask the other panelists here about the trend right now handicap Microsoft versus Google. I would love to get these guys to talk about who among those two players is the leader in this world of a converged client that combines the best of the fat client and best of the web client.
Also, does IBM have any kind of credibility here? There’s this kind of contention between new kids coming up, who are used to downloading everything they want and doing mashups -- they grew up this way -- and then there's this traditional IT environment that constrains from above what you can do. In that spot, IBM has a little bit of credibility. IBM is trying hard to adopt this mashup/social networking thing going forward, but I'm just wondering. Are they a player here? I would love to know what the other panelists think.
If you go to a lot of consumer-facing portals and insights, you get this rich activity. There are movies galore, and you can cut and paste or mash up these sorts of things. Won’t that start to bleed over into the enterprise, and won’t enterprises want to have flashy, if I could be a punster, presentations and video as well, in order to make for the best interactivity and capture the attention of their users?
But before we go there, let’s address Barb’s point about IBM. We’ve seen Google take great advantage of
McKendrick: Well, IBM does things in a big way, and I've seen them doing a lot of work in this area, in terms of Wikis and blogging. They're even getting involved in the whole second-life scenario. They have a way of moving into these markets in a very big way, and I don’t see them ignoring the whole Web 2.0. Like everyone else, they're piloting things, seeing how it fits in with the enterprise. Again, it’s hard to express. The enterprise is a different scenario from the market at large, but things that go on in the market at large tend to eventually seep into the enterprise, often from the bottom up, as new ways to squeeze productivity from these approaches comes to the fore.
So, let’s go to you Todd Biske. As an enterprise architect, do you sense that IBM is in a leadership position or have they recognized that they only have a lot of client interactivity through their Lotus products. And, does it matter to you whether they are considered in the vanguard of these tooling environments for RIAs and animation of video?
Biske: IBM probably needs to have some activity in this place soon, because, on one hand, we can look at Microsoft and Google, and they are both application providers outside of the Lotus space. IBM is not an application provider in the same sense. So, some of the things that you see Microsoft doing with Microsoft Live and the Google applications, I wouldn’t expect to see any big push from IBM. But, then if I talk about the pure development technology side of it, all the platforms that were announced with the exception of JavaX are really proprietary to the vendors that are supporting that.
So you have to look into the
So, given that this is an end-to-end in messaging, and seeing how prominent IBM has been in messaging with its MQSeries -- a very popular product for long time now -- they might be missing the boat in that they are so involved with SOA. Perhaps there is an acquisition or an internal activity within IBM that we have yet to get some wind of. What do you think, Barb?
Darrow: How many companies has IBM software acquired in the last three years? It's definitely north of 20.
Darrow: That’s definitely on the table, and who knows who might be on the list. The thing about IBM is that it's strong and a very big environment, and they are trying to push much more into mid-market companies with their whole Express branding strategy. Frankly, I'm not so sure how well they're doing there, and that’s where other platform providers can really make hay. In terms of an acquisition, I wouldn’t rule out anything for those guys.
Darrow: Right, and those are where the Express lineup is. I do know that a lot of their Express offerings are not resonating that well with the companies they are targeting.
Biske: I would agree. My reaction was little bit of a "ho hum." They’ve got a huge curve to overcome here. You've had these scripting languages out there for a long time, establishing significant presence. Sun is not Microsoft, and can’t really push something down to this huge developer community that’s completely dedicated to just using their technology. So, I'm not expecting great things as a result of the JavaFX announcement. I'm not surprised by it, but it’ll just be another player in the mix of things.
Biske: No. I don’t think it’s going to make a big difference in that regard. Again, there are some struggles on the Java side. And, just given that it’s going open source -- which, again, I view as a good thing -- the market is established. I don't think the server decisions that companies are making are based upon the Java support behind it. They know they can get Java support on any of the platforms, and they want to choose. It’s not necessarily going to perform any better running on the Sun hardware than HP, Dell, or whoever else they want to pick as their strategic provider on these things.
Darrow: Dana, can I just ask a quick question here?
Darrow: How much difference do you think it would have made if the open-source Java thing had happened two or three years ago?
Biske: Was that really a problem with not being open source, or was that really an issue with the whole Java community process?
McKendrick: And has this role changed for Sun with the open-sourcing of Java? How far back has Sun stepped from the process, from being the taskmaster?
Biske: This comes back to the whole notion of the client side of this. Will Java, as a development platform, have a role in the development of the client side? It’s well established on the server side, and that’s not going to change any time soon, but what is the future of the client platform, and will it be a case of these RIAs coming down into the enterprise?
Or, will we continue to see a separation of "Here are things down in the content-heavy world of the Internet" and "Here is the corporate world?" Even in the corporate world, either you’re building Microsoft applications, because that’s what’s on everybody’s desktop, or you're building Web-based applications. More and more of the presentation technologies are going towards
Are we going to see, in essence, more mashups that lead to more animation, more convergence, and, hypothetically, are we going to start seeing SAP R3 applications that look more like Nickelodeon Saturday morning cartoons? What do you think Joe? I think Jimmy Neutron would make an excellent CIO, by the way.
McKendrick: Well, I have an eight-year-old daughter. She plays computer games, and do you know how those computer games are delivered? They are delivered through a fast software-as-a-service model. I don’t think she even knows was a CD is. She doesn’t use a CD to load her games, and that’s what the younger generation that’s percolating up toward our workforce is now looking at. They expect their software, their solutions to be delivered fast over the network. This is part and parcel of the animation, the graphics, the exciting video. It’s part of their world, and they are going to expect it.
Darrow: I agree. It’s going to be like a battle of the bands. These young kids coming up through college are used to being able to download whatever they want. They’ve got broadband everywhere. These enterprise software companies are going to have to face that, because these are the people who are going to be running these systems going forward. It’s going to be a really interesting scenario.
McKendrick: Yeah, if we have a bunch of 20-somethings come to work for us, and they see 3270 green screens they have to work on, tabbing to between the fields, they are not going to stay with your company long.
Biske: I'm going to side with you on this one, too Dana, and take a contrarian view. Having done a lot of work in human-computer interaction space and user-centered design, there is a difference between what I want versus what I need. Ultimately, in the enterprise world, it's about efficiency and it's going to be about how quickly I can get the business processes done that I need to. If we look at how companies are starting to leverage some of the work flow on BPM systems, I see it going towards more minimalist interfaces, not necessarily in the technologies involved, but I want something very lightweight that’s specific to the task I need to get done.
While all of the media content and everything is nice, you have to look at them and ask, "What’s the applicability of all of those capabilities to corporate enterprise problems? How do I leverage a video in executing the business processes that I have to execute?"
It’s not to say that there aren’t any scenarios for that, but I don’t see it as something very applicable today. And, there is a real risk that you could have this 20-something crowd come in and, like any technologist, it’s the shiny new thing, and they are not thinking about how this is really benefiting the company. Is it making things any better for the business problems that I have to solve? And, if it's not why are we investing so much energy in trying to find a way? It’s a solution looking for a problem, and not vice-versa.
Gardner: Maybe there's a third way on this, and that would be that you go for the minimalist, when you are dealing with data, transactions, and workflow issues, but there is a whole other side of enterprise productivity around collaboration, learning, discovery, and knowledge transfer. These videos and rich media, be it text, audio, or video, whichever you choose, or all three, could be very powerful. We could see instances where we are going to get both. We are going to get a lot of minimalist widgets, but we’ll also get lots of rich, movie-grade video, when it comes to the other side of the equation, which is not dealing with machines and data, but dealing with people.
Darrow: I don’t even know what the term is. I think we’re beyond Gen-Y'ers -- right? I think of kids coming out of college, and when I say that they’re going to demand changes, it’s not necessarily that I think that they are going to want video, although I think they will. The issue is that they want to be able to download what they need to do whenever they want it, and they are going to bump up against this IT constraint.
There was a really good panel discussion on this a couple of years ago at Lotusphere. This is when Ray Ozzie made his triumphant reappearance at Lotusphere, before Microsoft brought Groove. He talked about this duality, and he cited some research about how many young IT workers bring their own laptops into the office, so they can use the tools they were used to, rather than the company-mandated tools.
Even when it just comes to looking stuff up on the Web, kids are used to finding information where they want to and they are not used to going through corporate routes for this. I think what you are saying about a dual mode is right. In terms of the spare interface versus video, there are places for both, and there are productivity places for both.
Darrow: Like the appliance mode that we were talking about before, where you are only exposed to the processes you need to do your job, versus all those layers of information. You don’t need that. That’s totally applicable. The key here is that kids are used to getting what they want when they want it, and they are going to bump up against IT constraints.
Biske: I think you're absolutely right on the whole dual-mode thing. The wheels are turning in my head here thinking of what the model of the infrastructure provider to the enterprise needs to be. This is really an interesting discussion with me working as a consultant now, because I have the situation where I've got my own laptop that I am running everything on, and I need to go into clients. Probably 10 years ago, you’d have to wait to get access to their LAN, and you'd have to use their machines. Today, that’s not the case. I can do all my work without necessarily having to go on my client’s network at all.
Biske: I’ve got a Sprint USB modem that I leveraged to be able to be connected wherever I am. Just as another example, I have been doing some SOA strategy development. Obviously, the artifact on a lot of that is a bunch of PowerPoint.
Now, we’re going around doing a road show to various people presenting this. I talked with the guy I am working for and said, “Are you okay with me just going and recording this as a podcast and making it available for people to download and listen to it on demand, because we’re just going around saying the same thing again and again and again and again? It would save a lot of wear and tear on our voices, if we could just record it and make it available on demand."
Do companies need an internal podcast infrastructure or even blogging in the enterprise? I continually reference my blog in my consulting work and say “You know what? I've thought about this before. Go, look at this blog entry and you can see my thoughts on it." It’s very transparent. It saves me having to reproduce all of that work every time. The same thing certainly holds true in a corporate infrastructure. The knowledge exists but nobody knows where to find it.
So, do we need to see the IBMs and the other big infrastructure player now not just providing an application server, but a full internal communications infrastructure, including support for the distribution of podcasts and blogging networks? How does all of that integrate in with your identity management system? In the enterprise world, you’re probably still going to need to have some degree of world-based access control on some of these things, and different levels of privacy on the information. They may have to bleed more into that application-provider role, rather than the pure infrastructure side of it.
I think that’s absolutely a role, but these large enterprise vendors have already done the heavy lifting, when it comes to knowledge management, document management, and the integration of formats. It’s really just a matter of bolting on a front end, and that probably could be a Flash via the Flex approach. Wouldn’t that be part of the thinking that Adobe had by making Flex go open source? Why have all these vendors go and reinvent this? Why not just use ours, and we’ll let you open source it so you can adjust it to your needs and environment?
McKendrick: Tom Davenport recently came out with a blog and an article in Harvard Business Review, in which he looked at this phenomenon occurring within enterprises -- the
It’s not really making a huge dent in the overall course of the market, the billions and billions of dollars that are being spent on IT infrastructure, for example. These are all nice things that are out there, but they are not -- at least in Tom Davenport’s view -- the revolution that’s overtaking the IT world. Most companies, most enterprises are still worried about maintenance issues. They are worried about the server, server farms, network, and bandwidth -- the fundamental nuts and bolts.
McKendrick: I like Todd’s point, and, in fact, I have heard the term "personal outsourcing" applied. The resource I first heard this from was John Schmidt over at the Integration Consortium. With personal outsourcing, an employee or a worker no longer goes down the hall to another worker to get an answer to a question or picks up the phone. Now, they go to the entire global community through blogs or Wikis.
McKendrick: They start with a search. It’s the same way in my own work, and I am sure yours as well. You go out to the entire world now seeking collaboration, seeking answers to your questions, seeking additional knowledge.
Darrow: A lot of the VARs and systems integrators I talked to are sorting this out as well. This is the next big battlefield. You've got to incorporate all the stuff, but you've got to have controls. I don’t know; it’s the million-dollar question. The Flex move on Adobe’s part is brilliant, because if you look at the broad scheme of things out there in terms of toe-holds on people’s computers, the only company that has as big a toe-hold on most computers as Microsoft is Adobe, because of the PDF reader and the Flash reader. It’s brilliant.
I think that's a really good story going forward -- how is the latest Adobe-versus-Microsoft battle going to shake out here. Again, I’m being a reporter. We love battle stories. We are so knee-jerk that way. But, Adobe was incredibly smart here, and their partners and their systems integrators have to sort this out. I would love to hear what the other guys think about this.
Darrow: Right. You've got a bigger universe out there to attack.
Darrow: Were any of the panelists at MIX '07? I was just curious about what percentage of the audience there was from the Adobe world. I'm sure it was fairly large, but I don’t know.
Darrow: Dana, you had a blog about a month ago about the development environments that Amazon and eBay were using. I'm curious whether there is going to be broader applicability for those guys going forward. Any thoughts on that?
So, on one hand, we have an expansion of the people who can take part in development. At the same time, we're seeing a compression in the cost, in the risk, and in the time, for going from concept to full production. We're seeing things like the Amazon EC2 and S3 and the Bungee Labs Connect announcement. Then, there are others like One Page, a Chicago company that barely just gives a business user a list of dropdown menus, tailors them each time there is a response as part of their application development process, and then being able to just push a button and it’s "Wow!" It’s in full production. Bungee is also offering debug and test as a service.
So, it's really compression. You can go and literarily, in a matter of hours, take a simple application from concept to full production. That can scale to millions of potential users within days, if need be, as these Amazon Elastic Cloud approaches provision servers based on demand. Then, the developer, the entrepreneur can then pay for that hosting based on the demand, which means they should be getting revenue and profits that are commensurate with the cost of production.
It's a very interesting period with software as a service and mashups. As more entrepreneurs go in this direction, enterprises are going to need to follow. They're going to just say, "Wow, we can get this done faster, better, cheaper by going around our IT department -- not that we don’t love them and we don’t continue to support them -- but when it comes to widgets, gadgets, mashups, and quick ways of going out to market, and testing something to see if it works are not, let’s just go through this new opportunity." Any other thoughts on that?
Darrow: I'm just curious what the long-term strategy is for a company like that, for Bungee Lab. Is that basically existing just to get bought up by someone else, or do you think they are in it for the long haul?
So, they could go in a number of directions. They could continue to make a good living on their own, they could become part of a larger Elastic Cloud approach -- that is to say a service or development as a service that you drop into a larger hosting and services deployment environment -- or some other mashup with another company that provides some other levels of service. But if they can prove the concept of developing deployment as a service on a pay-per-drink basis, that’s going to be very meaningful.
McKendrick: Let me throw a curve into this as well, it will be interesting to see the impact that has on development outsourcing, which has been the preferred way among enterprises in terms of cost cutting.
McKendrick: The new company is also based offshore that provides the offside hosting.
Biske: If you look at it, there are certainly increasing trends that companies more can purchase what they need, rather than having to do custom development. So, is the model the long tail, where we just outsource all of the development, throw it out there for the community to develop some of the niche products, outsource more of the vertical applications, and use the Internet to say, "Hey, I've got a big, broad distribution channel." Whether it's somebody writing applications to run a dental office, or niche markets like that, you can just go out and get it and have a model that you can developer and have a bunch of these little niche things sitting in your office at home.
McKendrick: Dana, I just want to add one note. I don’t think anybody mentioned the term SOA once this entire podcast.
McKendrick: Perhaps there is this convergence taking place between Web 2.0 and SOA.
Gardner: Certainly the whole client issue hasn't gone away, and it is still working itself out, but it is going to have a great bearing on how you then go back and design, aggregate, and composite your services, right?
Produced as a courtesy of Interarbor Solutions: analysis, consulting and rich new-media content production.
If any of our listeners are interested in learning more about BriefingsDirect B2B informational podcasts or to become a sponsor of this or other B2B podcasts, please fill free to contact Interarbor Solutions at 603-528-2435.
Transcript of BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition podcast, Vol. 18, on RIAs and Enterprise 2.0 trends. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2007. All rights reserved.