Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Transcript of BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition Vol. 5 Podcast on Microsoft and SOA

Edited transcript of weekly BriefingsDirect[TM] SOA Insights Edition, recorded Nov. 10, 2006.

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 Dana Gardner at 603-528-2435.

Dana Gardner: Hi, and welcome to the latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, a weekly discussion and dissection of Services Oriented Architecture (SOA)-related news and events, with a panel of independent IT industry analysts, journalists and guests. I’m your host and moderator, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

And this week, the week of Nov. 10, 2006, our panel consists of show regular Steve Garone. Steve’s an independent analyst, a former program vice president at IDC, and a founder of the Align IT Group. Welcome, Steve.

Steve Garone: Thank you, it’s great to be here.

Gardner: Also joining us again this week is Joe McKendrick. He’s an independent research consultant and columnist at Database Trends, as well as a blogger for ZDNet and ebizQ. Welcome back, Joe.

Joe McKendrick: Hi, Dana, it’s a pleasure to be here again.

Gardner: And making her debut on SOA Insights Edition is Mary Jo Foley. She’s a blogger for ZDNet’s All About Microsoft, a former Ziff Davis Media editor as well as a former eWEEK star reporter. Welcome to the show, Mary Jo.

Mary Jo Foley: Thanks, Dana.

Gardner: A return guest this week is Jeff Pendleton. He’s a former IT and marketing executive at HP and BEA. Welcome back, Jeff.

Jeff Pendleton: Thank you, great to be here.

Gardner: Our discussion this week will center on two topics, both, of course, SOA-related. The first is Microsoft, which just had its Developer Connection event in Las Vegas, and Mary Jo attended that. Recently, I’ve been seeing some different positioning from Microsoft around SOA. They seem to have avoided the term SOA for some time, although a number of things that they do are very much SOA-aligned.

Now, they’ve been coming out with more lingo, or marketing, around SOA -- if not in the actual technology approach, at least in terms of the business values and the rationale for embarking on SOA. I say that because of the recent article I read that quoted Charles Fitzgerald, who is, I assume, the SOA marketing maven at Microsoft. His title is .NET Platform Strategy Group General Manager.

So, he’s a pretty good indicator of where the momentum is, and the direction is, for Microsoft on these subjects. He was at an event, the Microsoft Architect Forum 2006 just last month in Seoul, South Korea. He said of SOA: “It’s not about a product or skill, but rather it’s about style -- how one comes up with the system and basic approaches -- replacing or rewriting, depending on a particular business situation.”

It really does sound like he’s coming at this from a composite, inter-related services, re-use perspective. He also says that getting time-to-value is key and starting a practical approach to SOA makes sense. So we’re seeing from Microsoft a lot of the same kind of terminology we’ve heard out of BEA, IBM, and number of the other SOA vendors.

I want go to you first, Mary Jo, and ask you about what sort of sense you got at the latest Developer Connection event. Is Microsoft talking the talk around SOA, as far as you can determine?

Foley: You’re right, Dana. They really aren’t using the term "SOA" at all. The whole time I was in Las Vegas this week at different sessions I never heard anybody from Microsoft even mention the term. But as you’re saying too they’re introducing the pieces, and they’re talking about the value of integration.

Their whole “better together” strategy also incorporates not just Windows and Office, but also the .NET framework and Visual Studio pieces too. So, yeah, they’re definitely talking the talk, without actually saying the word.

Gardner: Interesting. Now, let’s go to you, Joe. What do you think is going on here? Do you think that Microsoft is only going to go as far as Web services on interoperability? Do you think they see SOA as a threat? Or is it just “SOA the Microsoft way,” and they don’t care to use that terminology?

McKendrick: Microsoft’s secret to success -- actually I wish I knew a little more of it -- since the day Bill Gates set up his first shop down in New Mexico has been playing to a mass market. You never see Microsoft make a move unless a mass market already exists for their product or technology.

Microsoft, rightly or wrongly, continually gets accused of copying, stealing, or co-opting the ideas and technologies of others. But that’s because it’s not a pioneering vendor. They don’t take the lead in moving into a technology space. They wait until this critical mass, this mass market within the vital center, crops up. And this suggests that perhaps SOA has reached that stage.

SOA is no longer the sole domain of the large organizations, large corporations, large government organizations, but it’s something that’s moving down to the mid-market and the mass-market. Typically, you wouldn’t expect "Joe’s Machine Tool" factory down the street to be worrying about SOA at this point, but perhaps, we’re getting close to that point.

Gardner: What do you think, Steve? Is Microsoft so departmental-level-oriented that they’re not interested in SOA until it becomes a bigger deal in the enterprise?

Garone: It’s an interesting question, and just to tie into the last point, I think there’s a counter-argument to the notion that they wait until things reach critical-mass before they get on board. I think probably the best example of that was Web services. I think it’s fair to say that Microsoft was fairly early into that game.

Gardner: Yes, the WS.* stuff, right?

Garone: Right. And I think the reason for that ties in to our conversation today to some extent, which is that Microsoft really needs that sort of services-based interoperability-founded paradigm, if you will, to be able to play in the enterprise, because it’s a single platform company and it needs to get beyond that.

So it tries to raise the level of abstraction and say, “I can play with everybody and here’s how I’m going to do it in a standards-based way.” In the context of this conversation, Microsoft is grafting to some extent onto the SOA concept for that same reason. Interestingly, if you look at some of the talk around Microsoft’s approach, they started to use the term “real-world SOA,” and the rationale for that is that organizations should not take this enterprise-wide, global view of SOA right away, but should start incrementally, in terms of solving individual business problems.

That’s really the core message: “Focus on your business, not on technology.” The reason for that may be that, in fact, Microsoft really isn’t ready to do the IBM thing when it comes to SOA. So, they’re trying to talk people down. But I think in terms of your question – Is Microsoft really serious about SOA? -- I think they are. They’ve got a stack of software that, to some extent, looks very much like what other vendors have. And, I think they’re going to continue to drum home that message.

Gardner: Do you think there’s some risk if Microsoft positions themselves as interoperable through standards? In effect, “Do all your development deployment around our stack, and if there’s other integration to be done, we kind of leave you to your own devices.”

When it comes to that lower level -- messaging level -- integration, where SOA seems to say, “Hey, use whatever you’ve got, let’s exploit your legacy and be an abstraction above those stacks,” does Microsoft run the risk of missing out by not going to that abstraction above the stacks?

Garone: Part of my point was that I think that they’re attempting to go above that. The old issues of, “Are their products scalable enough to be able to deal with very large global implementations?” is still an issue.

But, in concept, they’re trying to go above that. Recently, I saw a press release that says they have incorporated adapters for System i and System Z from IBM into BizTalk 2006. So, they’re looking at doing as you said -- getting that legacy, if you want to call it that, integrated into their view of what SOA should be.

Gardner: Let’s go back to Mary Jo. Did you see or hear much about the Microsoft equivalent of an enterprise service bus (ESB), their Windows Communications Foundation (WCF), which used to be called Indigo? Did they discuss that in terms of what you use to tie together all your Microsoft stuff, including all your legacy Windows -- because there is quite a bit of heterogeneity just within the Windows environment over the years? Do they talk about using it a lot for wider integration?

Foley: Yes, they’ve talked a lot about it at the conference, because they were talking about the .NET Framework 3.0, of which Indigo is one main component. The way they were talking about it to the audience that attended this conference was more about how you can mix and match managed APIs and unmanaged APIs.

And they’re encouraging people who are thinking about developing all kinds of apps -- custom apps, shrink-wrap apps -- to look at WCF as just one element of the way you tie things together, when you’re building an app. So, that was more the context they were talking about it at this conference. They weren’t really talking about it as a bridge across different kinds of systems from multiple vendors. It was more, “If you’re developing in the Microsoft universe, this is how you should think about it.”

Gardner: It almost sounds as if they’re expecting you’re going to need another ESB in addition to theirs in order to get the full benefit of SOA, as we’re currently defining it. Jeff, you’ve been an observer of Microsoft for a number years, is Microsoft singing the same song or are they opening themselves up sufficiently to be considered an SOA vendor?

Pendleton: I think they’re definitely moving very aggressively toward SOA. They may not be marketing and promoting it yet, but I think that they’ve actually been thinking about SOA, without necessarily using that term, for quite some time.

So when you talk to folks up there, the "Metropolis Conversation" comes up quite often. I know that they’ve had a couple of SOA events for some of their premier customers. I don’t think that we should assume that they’re not part of the story, and that they don’t get it.

They’re partnering with folks that you do think of when you think of SOA. I can’t tell you what their strategy is because I’m not quiet clear on it. I’m not privy to it. But I think you’ll probably hear more and more from Microsoft around the SOA story in the coming weeks and months.

Gardner: And, of course, we’ve seen some new tone or style from Microsoft vis-à-vis partnering with folks like Zend with PHP; partnering with Novell for SUSE Linux interoperability and patent protection.

So perhaps the notion is: write in anything, use Common Language Runtime in .NET, and then deploy more broadly with choice -- recognizing that because of virtualization and because of grid/utility, that the instances of underpinnings for services is really not where the game is at any more. The game is how you associate, mash-up, and aggregate services to create valuable and agile business processes. They can’t miss this business. This is the new business, right?

Pendleton: I think there are two ways to look at SOA, and I think Microsoft is taking probably a broader view of the term.

You started to talk about mash-ups, for example. Well, right now that’s the claim to fame for Web 2.0. If you’re a CIO trying to make sense of all of this stuff -- whether it’s creating virtualization, and so on -- you can either use SOA as an organizing principle for all of that. Or you can look at it as somewhat distinct from all of these other interesting trends and ideas.

And I think what Microsoft and some of the other organizations are doing is sitting back a little bit, waiting to find out whether SOA is going to become its own pillar, or whether it’s actually going to become an encompassing umbrella. I think Microsoft’s view is that it’s really more of an umbrella, under which to organize a lot of these other terms that are quite honestly starting to confuse the IT community.

Gardner: Help me understand a little bit better these two distinctions, or directions for SOA: the organizing principle and the umbrella principle.

Pendleton: Well, I think that if I were a CIO right now I’d probably have a massive headache, because you have these camps forming around these different notions. Before it was Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. Well, what’s that? Why are they different?

And then you had the whole grid, and then you had mobility, and center networks. What you have are all of these disparate, or what appear to be disparate, concepts. And if you’re sitting back there with a fairly limited exploration budget, what do you do?

Do you fall into the Web 2.0 camp? Is that really a camp? Right now, the market has so many buzzwords, or so many “platforms,” to consider that it’s again freezing the deer in the headlights.

With SOA you can either look at as a distinct camp, competing against other distinct camps, or you can look at it as a way -- as an umbrella under which all of these other things make sense. That comes back to Microsoft’s point, which is that SOA’s not really a technology. It’s more of a philosophy of how to approach IT going forward.

Gardner: According to Charles Fitzgerald at Microsoft, SOA is not about a skill; rather it’s about a style.

McKendrick: If I can interject here, it’s interesting, a fellow named Jack Greenfield, an enterprise architect over at Microsoft, a couple of years back published a paper, “Defining a Strategy,” which he called “Software Factories.”

And essentially what he said was that going forward software development at all levels will probably resemble the way industrialization changed the economy earlier in the century. He calls it “mass customization,” where you are actually going to have perhaps pre-built modular construction, kind of a move away from single-item customization and toward a mass production kind of model.

His paper kind of defines the direction Microsoft is looking at over the long term. It’s particularly a design-time development side, and Microsoft is strong in the developer community. That’s their natural constituency.

Gardner: Isn’t that another way of saying that software development is going from the equivalent of an “artisan, craftsman, renaissance-era, funded by the Medicis, money is no object” thing to more of a “Henry Ford assembly line, interchangeable parts” -- an Eli Whitney and the cotton gin -- kind of mentality, where it’s industrialized, with not so much of the handcrafting. If the handcrafting is going to happen, it’s going to be in the handcrafting of the first parts, but then those parts will be assembled on a standardized, highly repeatable process.

Garone: Exactly. That’s well-put, and Microsoft’s goal since day-one has always been to make computing easier for folks who don’t have a lot of technical background. You can pick up Visual Basic fairly quickly, even though you may not have a technical background. They see this as the vision going forward for enterprise applications, not that non-technical people will be put into enterprise applications development, but you won’t need to re-invent the wheel and have a degree in rocket science to master this.

Gardner: Steve, you and I have talked a lot about the complexity as a possible speed brake on SOA adoption, and in the understanding of it. Do you think that Microsoft, given it’s history of working diligently to simplify the development-deployment process -- albeit around a proprietary environment -- is what’s necessary to make SOA sell?

Garone: It is true that Microsoft really has a lot of strength in the developer community, and has been lauded for a number of years now on the quality and ease of use of its tools and its approach to software development.

There’s really is no doubt about that. And I think that the point that was just talked about, while not really a new idea, is all about reuse and ease of development and development efficiency and so on. That is definitely a strong component in making SOA successful, but it really isn’t SOA.

Creating modularized software is one thing. Bringing that to the next level of creating services, and creating the interoperability among services, that’s required to do SOA -- with all the infrastructure, governance, and security, and so on -- is a whole other level.

And again, I think Microsoft does appear to be telling that story more and more. They are telling it in their own context, which again has two components. One of which is: Start incrementally and solve this specific business problem. I think we’ll hear more from them, and I think it will become more and more part of what their message is going out to world.

Gardner: Mary Jo, I know you need to drop off, and I certainly appreciate you joining us, but one more questions for you. Did you get a sense from the latest that you’ve heard from Microsoft that they are focusing on the crafting of these services individually -- services that will play together well -- but that Microsoft is not necessarily yet focused on how to associate, choreograph, and manage services, regardless of where they came from?

Foley: Now, what do you mean when you’re saying “services?”

Gardner: Well, “services” would be an application or business function, let’s say an order or billing function, that would be something you could drop into any business process, where that same function would be required. And that service might be running on your own servers. It might be running on some department server ... or it could be outsourced, or even from a partner that you have in your supply chain.

Foley: It’s interesting that Microsoft had another conference in Europe – their Convergence EMEA Conference -- where [Microsoft Chairman] Bill Gates was keynoting. There, they were talking about business processes as services, and their vision there is really changing quite a bit, given the company’s move to making everything into a "Live" service by making it either ad-supported or subscription-based.

So they’re actually trying to talk about some of their products that have traditionally not been available as services now in the context of them being services -- things like their dynamic ERP products and dynamic CRM products. They are also encouraging third-party software vendors to think that way, too, and to introduce business processes as services. That would snap into the Microsoft Live Office context and framework.

Gardner: Now, another thing that Gates said in his address at that conference was that he thinks Microsoft is in the best position to tie together back-office and front-office applications. That kind of gives us a hint as to maybe what they’re thinking about SOA.

And, of course, they had to shift gears as a company pretty dramatically only in the last year-and-half by elevating [Microsoft Chief Architect] Ray Ozzie to his position and creating this whole Live Office approach. And so the notion is that perhaps they have to compete with both SOA, in terms of a BEA and IBM definition of SOA -- but they also have to compete with Google and the Web 2.0-type of functions that are a direct threat to their desktop revenue stream.

So it’s a difficult maneuver for them to do a trajectory toward SOA, but also covering their behinds when it comes to Web 2.0.

Foley: I was actually going to ask you guys -- because I am really curious whether the whole notions and concepts around SOA can fit in with the kind of "Live" vision that Microsoft is talking about. Or are they opposites in a way?

Gardner: I think they’re actually complementary. We’ve heard a lot of of rich Internet applications as UIs and GUIs, but that represents services on the back-end in most places. What’s your take on that, Joe?

McKendrick: Agreed. Also, despite all the talk of Linux and the move to rich Internet applications, Microsoft still owns the desktop. Surveys I’ve done, surveys I’ve seen, confirm just that.

The desktop and the Office worker, the information knowledge worker, still rely on Windows at the front end. This is at least a third of Microsoft’s revenue, and it really shows no sign of abating. Novell has been aggressively promoting the notion of a Linux desktop, but it’s still got a long way to go. The notion of connecting the front end with the back end is natural for Microsoft, because that’s their home turf -- the front-end desktop.

Gardner: Indeed. Before they had this change on the Windows Vista time-table, where [Microsoft Platforms and Services Division Co-President Jim] Allchin and others had to come in and say, “Well, we have to postpone this,” they were really talking up this notion of using Office applications as the front-ends for back-end services, rather than have the Web continue on its trajectory. the had decided to double-down on Office applications as the new best front ends.

Of course that was also in evidence when they had the Mendocino project in cooperation with SAP, around using Office applications as a front-end to SAP processes in the back-end.

Now, let’s go back to you, Jeff. Is that what we are seeing here -- that Microsoft is in a very difficult ju-jitsu position of trying to embrace and extend toward SOA -- but at the same time needing to have a defensive posture vis-à-vis these Live services, such as what Google does, and to be able to monetize those around advertising, while also trying to craft a new future for the Office applications?

Pendleton: Good question. I don’t know that I have keen insight into what’s keeping Microsoft awake at night. I do think that they are very well positioned, given where we’re going right now with SOA and other things.

I can’t venture a guess on what's going on at Microsoft in that regard, other than to say they really are partnering very aggressively with folks that have in the past been their competitors. And maybe they’ve always done that.

But around the notion of SOA I get a distinct impression that they understand that their vision of SOA isn’t that much different than what others have. Yet they come from a unique position in terms of how to connect and collect these services and begin over time to play a syndication role.

So they’re actually in a very good position, but there are so many things going on right now that it’s hard to predict what's ultimately going to take root and really drive SOA forward.

Gardner: All right, back to you, Steve. It also seems that Microsoft is in between these trends: SOA, let’s call it a major trend, and then Web 2.0 with perhaps an assault on the Office franchise.

There’s also a shift in business models. That is to say, more people are expecting the business to shift from an up-front licensing, client-access-license-model to more of an advertising-based or subscription-based model, or both.

Microsoft obviously needs to make this transition, as do as other vendors. What makes this more complicated -- even though Microsoft is in a good position given its penetration in the market – is that it also has to manage it’s own internal politics. There are different elements within Microsoft, and they’re in charge of these different product sets in these different domains.

So they have to also manage this transition in the business model internally. My question to you, Steve, is: Yes, Microsoft is well-positioned, but don’t they also have a quite a bit to chew here? And isn’t this really a very thorny issue for them?

Garone: I’m not sure that the issue is as thorny as it is unique to Microsoft. Being the size they are and having the variety of products and services that they provide -- the political and organizational thorniness goes up exponentially with that level of diversity.

So I think it’s definitely a big problem, and I’m not sure I’m in a position to give a lot of insight on internal Microsoft politics. But it’s serious enough that if it’s not handled well, it could have a major impact on the company’s future.

I've seen it happen in other places. I was an employee for number of years with Digital Equipment Corp., and saw new business models literally bring the company down in a lot of areas because of this kind of internal friction. So, it does happen.

On the brighter side for Microsoft, I think that you know I would like to think that Microsoft has a more of a new-age view of the world in that it understands it has to be agile, and it was built on the notion that new business models are what's going to drive their growth.

Hopefully they’ll take that religion to heart. But I don’t have a lot of visibility, unfortunately, into what's going on internally at Microsoft. I can’t say with any certainty that they’re going to be able to deal with that well. But, again, a lot of their competitors are going to have the same problem.

Gardner: I guess Microsoft, given its position and its balance sheet, has the ability to tolerate a very large margin of error if they need to. Right?

Garone: Right! But also the discussion a little bit earlier centered on their ownership of the desktop. Ultimately, if you put the word desktop in quotes, then that is really what’s going to drive them. I put it in quotes because, in fact, the desktop may look a lot different in 10 years than it does today.

Gardner: Isn’t the whole notion of the desktop being itself virtualized?

Garone: Absolutely. So when you dream into the future -- not necessarily with what exists today, but what it might be -- and you think about the notion of virtualizing computing resources and making everything you can a service, and having all that interoperability, the notion of a desktop may change to something that isn’t even on your desktop when you turn on your machine. But when you access a service, that will define what's on your desktop -- even including the runtime and operating environment.

Gardner: I would argue that the concept of desktop is outmoded and obsolete, and we really should focus on the processes, applications, and productivity. Perhaps you’ll keep your address book, but your files will probably just be another point in some cloud or element within the general cloud that you don’t need to be concerned about. What you really are going to focus on is productivity and process.

Garone: Nobody has a crystal ball at this point around this forum they we’re having right now. I think it’s important to remember that context when you think about where Microsoft is going to go and how it’s going to adapt.

Gardner: Let’s move on to our second topic of the day, and that is to pick up where we left off last week in trying to figure out the best way of conceptualizing SOA’s business value, and to then be able to take it out to the market.

In our past discussion, we said, “Hey, let's bring [Apple Chairman] Steve Jobs in on this," because he is really good at bringing technology into a passionate -- almost zealous -- direction for people, and they follow him in that regard. But then we also figured that if Steve Jobs were trying to market SOA, he wouldn’t even mention SOA.

Then, we got into this notion that SOA really should be something that is like a sound stage, or an architectural blueprint -- a way of being able to construct and then deconstruct and to be agile with business, rather than technology. Has anyone given additional thought to that, and where should we take this discussion next in terms of emphasizing the rationale of why people should go to SOA now rather than just sit back and wait and watch?

Garone: I’ve been doing a lot of talking with both vendors and end-users recently and I think where the discussion needs to go is around is that the vendors seem to be caught up in a contradiction in terms. When they go out and talk to their prospects and customers about SOA, they try their best to create a message around business value, business agility and bringing real value to a line-of-business manager.

But then they immediately switch to tell you how valuable and how of high-quality their ESB is, and why you should use it. I think that’s a real issue today, because it really confuses customers.

On the one hand, they are being evangelized to about why they should be going in this direction, and on the other hand they are being pushed into a specific implementation that may not be right for them. So, the vendors face the real challenge in terms of being able to evangelize why people should do SOA and educating people about SOA in terms of how it impacts the business, and on the other hand to be able to go ahead and sell their products and bring their own revenue levels to where they want them to be.

Resolving that issue in a way that will help both vendors and end-users understand better, and be able to be more successful, is really the conversation that needs to be had.

Gardner: Jeff, what's your reaction to that?

Pendleton: That’s right on the mark. SOA is a great conversation to have, but at the end of the day, with the marketing community and the sales community, they need to sell something. Right now, given how amorphous SOA is and how it can be just about anything, it is complicated from a vendor perspective to walk away with an order.

What really needs to happen is that there needs to be a compelling story around the 21st Century enterprise, what that really means, and what some of the attributes are. We need to talk about SOA as an enabler and a cornerstone for that 21st Century, but there are other cornerstones. And we are not really talking about that so much.

How do you need to view your people? Are these folks that are tied to a desk almost automatons doing a routine process, or are they really plugged into the external environment? How are you organized?

Gardner: I would think optimally that your people would not be doing rote process, but they would be defining what the new next process is.

Pendleton: Exactly. But I think that for SOA to really capture the imagination of the business community -- which ultimately is going to have to fund this thing through some sort of a capital expense increase -- we are going to need to create something more compelling and inspiring, than just the “agile” or “adaptive,” or "whatever" enterprise.

That’s why we came back to the Steve Jobs notion. We need folks out there, we need inspiration right now in the business community, to say, “Here is what you should be shooting for, and if you don’t shoot for this you may not be relevant here in the next little while. And one of the enablers of this is this thing called SOA. So, let's go talk to your IT guys about this SOA thing.”

Gardner: Yes, I guess on a higher level we’re really talking about IT transformation, and not on its own -- but IT transformation as an essential ingredient to business transformation.

Pendleton: We lead with business transformation and how you do that transformation. One of the things is how you manage your people going forward, and the other is how do you manage your IT going forward.

Gardner: You mentioned "agile" and "adaptive." Just recently I’ve noticed that HP is now doing some different advertising, at least to the financial community. In the Wall Street Journal you have these pictures of people upside down. They are the IT people and they are saying turn your IT upside down, which to me sounds like IT transformation.

But instead of adaptive enterprise, they are now taking the marketing positioning that their Mercury acquisition had around BTO, Business Technology Optimization, which is a broad, but pretty direct, definition of what we are really trying to accomplish.

Pendleton: Right now IT is still this monolithic, fragile, complex -- take all the negative, skeptical terms – entity. Most line-of-business executives really don’t like to go into the IT space. I don't think that IT is being positioned around the strategy table as something that's really going to help move the organization.

A lot of the fault lies within the IT community itself. Over the years, we’ve tried to dazzle and use rocket science as a way to define IT. The reality is that IT needs to be part of the day-to-day thinking -- not the day-to-day excuse -- of business.

Gardner: IT has perhaps over-promised and under-delivered over-budget, which has tended to pigeon-hole it into being a cost-center and an inhibitor of agility. That's what really needs to be adjusted. Do you agree with that, Joe?

Mckendrick: I agree with that, but I think we have come a long way. If you look at the world as it was even 10 years ago there was this chasm between IT and the rest of the business. Nowadays, folks on the business side are much more savvy about computers. Everybody has a laptop and a home computer, and the world has really changed in that regard. You have a generation of employees coming on the scene in their 20s and 30s, who grew up with computers. They know to a large degree how computers work, the logic of computers, and what computers can do for a business.

Gardner: You can pull their PC out of their cold, dead hands -- right?

McKendrick: Exactly. So, on the business side there is a greater understanding of computer technology and what and how technology can deliver services. It’s a much greater understanding than it’s ever been in corporate history. On the other side, you are seeing and hearing about this tremendous push to get IT folks to understand the business and work closer with the business.

I have spoken with folks at university programs, training both technical and business people, and the courses that get the greatest attendance are those that talk about the convergence of business and IT -- IT folks taking business classes, for example, to understand the business.

Gardner: Another event this week was the Web 2.0 Summit, the O’Reilly show in San Francisco, where Intel came out with a Web 2.0 suite -- I think they are calling it SuiteTwo -- which is a series of independent, largely open-source-backed and -based features and functions, if you will, of Web 2.0.

They are directing it at the enterprise, to say, "Do your blogging, your wiki’s, and your podcasts. Do collaboration, communication, and social networking -- not just leaving it out in the ether for people to do for their personal life issues and their entertainment media issues. But bring it into the environment of the enterprise. We can use these tools for building consensus around a process or doing exception management through a wiki-based approach."

That’s an interesting ingredient here that I don’t think we can divorce from SOA. It is part of taking advantage of these younger folks who would like to do things this way, but then bring that into the enterprise in some controlled fashion, so that the older IT people will not be threatened, but actually embrace it.

Steve, what do you think about Web 2.0 vis-a-vis SOA?

Garone: There is a lot of discussion about it, and I think to some extent it's happening. But when I go out and talk to those communities, what I see is that the business folks most of the time really just draw a picture, bring it over to the IT managers, and say, "Do this for me."

They are not quite there yet, and they don’t believe that the IT folks are really where they need to be in terms of not just talking with them about business, but actually thinking business when they do their work. I am not really sure what that means, but I keep getting that feedback that they are not thinking in the right way in the eyes of business mangers.

The bottom line is that there is a ways to go, and we are not quite there yet. It’s important to recognize, in terms of just how quickly and with how much energy, this new world that SOA is a part of will move forward and be adopted. What you just described in terms of Web 2.0 sounds fascinating to me. I wasn’t privy to the information that you’ve just told us about in terms of Intel, but doesn’t that sound exciting when you think about it?

Gardner: Perhaps, if we are talking about the inhibitor here being people in the way they think, in the way they conceptualize their job -- what it is that they are expected to do -- then perhaps it’s going to be fear of competition that ultimately drives this. If your competitors think differently, embrace some of these new concepts -- SOA, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0 -- become fleet and agile at a lower cost over time, then you really don’t have a choice, right?

Garone: Another element to talk about is the fact that I have been hearing a lot of people talk about SOA and presenting case studies on SOA recently. One the things that really comes through to me is that, despite vendor’s efforts to evangelize around the benefits of SOA in terms of business agility, and be more competitive and so on, virtually all the case studies I see focus on the benefit of saving money, saving resources, and being able to run lean operationally, and being able to develop applications more efficiently. It's really all about cost to these people at this point.

Gardner: Another accelerant in the movement toward SOA, whether you call it SOA or not, whether you are Microsoft or not, is the emergence of software-as-a-service companies that themselves are starting from a green-field position using SOA to create business applications.

So, another development this week that has a big bearing on this is Dave Duffield, the man behind PeopleSoft, coming out with something called WorkDay. They took a look at the business applications environment and then built his offerings on an ESB -- it happens to be a Cape Clear ESB -- to create services swiftly and agilely, and at probably significantly lower cost.

This could have been done in the past -- because he has done it in the past -- but the new offer is a set of business applications as services. They might be very attractive, if not to the large enterprises, then to the small or medium business. If WorkDay can make their business work through SOA, doesn’t that in a sense spur on others?

Pendleton: Exactly. There is another company, Reardon Commerce, which also has built its infrastructure on reusable components, SOA-enabled components, and Web services. The company started offering a travel service and so forth to corporate clients through this framework, and they have expanded -- again reusing the components they have in place -- to also offer additional business services such as inventory tracking.

Gardner: Jeff, let's give you the last word before we start wrapping up. And that would be: Do you see software and service organizations like WorkDay and Reardon as a primary accelerant to the adoption of SOA? Or do you think that a competitive issue -- that if your competitor does SOA better than you do, then you are going to be at a significant disadvantage -- is the driver? Or is it both?

Pendleton: There's quite a bit of debate in the industry right now about software services -- being able to buy components of your process and being able to plug it in. Software services is a natural fit within our definition of SOA, and I think it's going to become more and more apparent over time.

So, I would say both. I do believe, though, that we’ve still not come up with the compelling picture, tag line, whatever you want, for SOA for business people like we have had in the previous waves. We don’t yet have an "e-commerce" equivalent right now.

Gardner: Wasn’t IBM kind of the force behind e-commerce as the definition, and then taking and spending a significant amount of money in marketing that?

Pendleton: Yes, E-Business.

Gardner: I guess we will be looking for that.

So, to sum up a little bit, some interesting things out of Microsoft. We’re going to expect them to get into SOA more. Perhaps they are taking a little bit of a wait-and-see approach. They’ve got a full plate, given the multi-faceted challenge before them.

And we’re also looking at SOA perhaps creeping in as a competitive issue as well, spurred on by software as a service in terms of cost, with small- to medium-sized businesses perhaps adapting first, rather than the larger enterprises.

With us to discuss this have been a distinguished and interesting panel, and I thank you all: Steve Garone, Joe McKendrick, Mary Jo Foley, and Jeff Pendleton.

I wonder if we could all do our due diligence for disclosure exercise now. I’ll start. The companies that were mentioned that I do business with and are sponsors of my podcasts include Cape Clear and Hewlett-Packard. I think that’s it. Why don’t you go next, Steve.

Garone: Based on the companies that were mentioned here really right now, it's just IBM.

McKendrick: Likewise, it's IBM.

Gardner: And, Jeff, you don’t have any corporate affiliation at this time, so you’re clean. Mary Jo, I believe, is a blogger alone and doesn't have sponsorships or consulting arrangements with vendors.

Great, so I’d also like to alert our listeners if they’re interested in learning more about BriefingsDirect, B2B informational podcasts or to become a sponsor of this or other B2B podcasts to please contact me directly, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions at 603-528-2435.

Thanks for joining us and come back next week for another edition of BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition. Thanks everyone.

Listen to the podcast here.

Transcript of Dana Gardner’s BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Vol. 5. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2006. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Transcript of BriefingsDirect Podcast on Open Source SOA and Celtix Enterprise

Edited transcript of BriefingsDirect[TM] podcast with Dana Gardner, recorded Nov. 17, 2006.

Podcast sponsor: IONA Technologies.

Listen to the podcast here.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you're listening to BriefingsDirect. Today, a sponsored podcast discussion about the intersection of Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) and open source software.

This is a very big deal these days. We’ve got a lot of action going on within a variety of open source projects and foundations, and a variety of different aspects of SOA being developed and designed with commercial and open source input. To help us weed through this are two executives from IONA Technologies. I’d like to welcome Oisin Hurley, a distinguished engineer with IONA. He’s also an Eclipse SOA Tools Platform Project lead and a contributor to the Services Component Architecture (SCA) initiative. Welcome to the show, Oisin.

Oisin Hurley: Thanks, Dana.

Gardner: Also joining us is Debbie Moynihan. She is director of open source programs for IONA Technologies. Welcome, Debbie.

Debbie Moynihan: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: As we mentioned, there seems to be a confusing set of directions for SOA these days. If I’m a CIO in a corporation and I’m thinking about bringing SOA principles and methodologies into play, I also need technologies. I need to have tools, I need to have runtimes, I need to have governance. I’m wondering, “Wow, should I go with one or two large vendors? Should I lock into one specific approach? Or should I take advantage of a best-of-breed approach, where I might use components and approaches from a variety of vendors?”

I’m also going to be scratching my head, now that I am learning more about these open-source alternatives. So, first I’d like to go to Oisin. Can you help us weed out a little bit of why all these different alternatives are cropping up now, and how do you see open source and SOA coming together over the next two or three years?

Hurley: Well, Dana SOA is a very important architectural movement in our industry at the moment, and it requires couple of things to become even more successful. It requires innovation, and it requires infrastructure on which it can live. If you look at open source it’s possibly the greatest source in innovation that’s happening right now.

In community-developed open source people are putting together answers to a lot of the problems that people are seeing within SOA. Of course, community-developed open source is there already. It’s not just a new thing. And when you look to the infrastructure side of it, you’ll see that Apache Software Foundation [products] have been out there and deployed for many years.

Gardner: Something does seem to be different with SOA is that in the past we’ve seen open source crop up around technologies that had already been fairly mature in the commercial sense. For example, there was the web server, with the Netscape offering years ago. And then there was the Microsoft IIS offering, and then we had Apache [HTTP Web Server] come in as a sort of runner up -- but then dominate the marketplace.

We saw a similar effect with Linux; we had UNIX and Windows as platforms for some years -- and with a great degree of maturity -- before Linux caught on and moved forward. But it’s different now with SOA; we’re seeing open-source benefits principles and business models applied to SOA from the very beginning, even before there’s maturation. Why do you think that’s different and what does that portend for SOA?

Hurley: The thing that’s driving a lot of the community-developed open source within SOA are requirements from CIOs and from commercial vendors, as well as the requirements that have come from the more traditional kind of community approaches. And again, it’s all of those getting together -- rapid innovation to solve the issues -- and thus SOA is presenting to organizations the vision of a distributed SOA infrastructure, for example.

Gardner: What is it about open source that is different now? Has this become the de facto best way to produce innovation?

Hurley: There are three things that we usually see our customers looking for. They want to generate greater ROI. They want to be able to streamline and modernize their IT environments. And they basically want to lower the total cost of their IT operations. Community-developed open source is all about good code, and its all about innovation at that lower cost point.

Gardner: Let’s move over to Debbie. Your role with IONA is driving the strategic product management and product marketing activities around IONA’s open source lines of business. Why has IONA moved to open source? Tell us a little bit about the evolution of your enterprise service bus (ESB) product. How is that going from Artix to its newer iteration? And tell us a little bit about the open source direction as well.

Moynihan: Sure, but before I go into our open-source philosophy, I want to talk a little bit about our SOA philosophy. They really go hand in hand. SOA, even though it’s a very popular term, really has been around for quite some time, particularly in financial services and manufacturing.

If you look back at some of the early deployments in services-oriented architecture, you’ll see that many of them are built on CORBA. As you know about IONA’s history, we’re very interested and have been very involved in a lot of those early implementations with CORBA. Some of the same things that people were looking to do early on still are true today: Looking to do loosely coupled implementations, highly distributed, and with a high focus on industry standards.

But what we’ve seen over time, as you look at the technologies for SOA, there are really the three phases with any technology: innovation, standardization, and commoditization. Open source is really the way that we’ve seen software development evolving toward that commoditization piece.

One thing that we’ve seen, and particularly with SOA, is that the window has been compressed between those three phases. The commoditization is happening faster and faster. And so we made a proactive decision about 18 months ago to open source some of our SOA technology. We initially involved our CORBA product portfolio. We introduced our Artix portfolio, and then quickly made the decision to open source part of that technology -- and we initiated the Celtix open-source ESB project.

The new iteration of that is actually broader and expanded to incorporate multiple open-source projects. The goal is to help solve some of the barriers that people are seeing today in incorporating open source into SOA -- bringing together multiple projects and integrating them, and also having the same enterprise support that they would like for all the software that they’re using in their infrastructure.

A key part of our strategy is to continue to focus on standards, continue to allow people to get the best of ways to integrate in a distributed way, but also to use open source when they can. As we were talking about earlier, we believe there is a lot of innovation and faster innovation -- and it’s very high quality -- when you use open source software.

Gardner: Oisin, maybe you can help me with this. When I look at open source and SOA coming together, I wonder whether the open-source benefits are primarily for the vendors of SOA components, or are they predominantly for enterprises and perhaps large organizations like telecommunications carriers to make a SOA stack on their own using these components.

Do you think that the types of activities that IONA is involved with -- CXF and some others, and working with Apache -- are these efforts going to be something that is going to be used primarily by other vendors or by the enterprises, and to what degree? How is this going to manifest itself in the market?

Hurley: What our customers require from us, and what we kind of aspire to, is a distributor approach to SOA. It’s the right approach, rather than taking on a stack or developing something like a hub-and-spoke architecture. Really it’s all about what the right shift for the problem at hand and for the people that are solving the problem. So, whether it’s an organization that’s doing its own internal IT, or an organization that works and does IT for yet other organizations -- it’s all about trying to solve the problem. It’s about being able to go in and address this on a piecemeal basis to make a start, to be able to incrementally adopt more elements, and to have an adaptable skill.

Gardner: Tell us a little bit about some specific projects, so people can follow these. What are the ones that you think are most important right now that will make an impact in how SOA evolves, and how people actually use it in the field?

Hurley: Okay, well, there are a number of open-source projects that IONA is involved in that play right into this area. We have the CXF project at Apache, which is a community-developed, from-scratch, open-source ESB runtime.

There is the SOA Tools Project at Eclipse Foundation, which is there to bring together and address all of the issues that SOA developers will discover on their way to producing SOA for their employers and others. And, there are some other projects like Tuscany, which is a community-developed open-source implementation of SCA specification, again at Apache.

There are other major ones as well that address all the elements of a distributed SOA infrastructure, such as Qpid and Yoko, which are both Apache projects, and other projects that you may know of already that are being sold as products such as Mule and ServiceMix.

Gardner: As organizations examine these projects and try to evaluate them in terms of risk -- that is, they say, “Is this something I want to put into production? Is this something I want to test with?” What do you think needs to happen in terms of a maturation or acceptance before an enterprise or global Fortune 2000 organization will come up and say, “Yeah, I’m going to go in this [open source] direction, I’m going to make a bet on this?”

How will we know when these projects are ready for prime time?

Hurley: These projects are getting a lot of take-up right now. So, we have different types of customers that are adopting these projects at different rates. Because of the way that community-developed open-source software is made available, it’s very, very straightforward for an organization to go in and say, “We’re going to work with this. We’re going to try a project. We’re going to see how that project works out, and then if that is successful then we can move on.”

One of the advantages of developing software in an open community is that those organizations have the freedom to add their particular innovative requirements and actually commit code to those actual projects to help bring it along toward the goal that they want.

Gardner: Debbie, how about you? What about the future? Where are we going to go with these open-source projects? Tell us a little bit about how IONA views this from a business model? How is it that the open-source SOA approach and the commercial approach hand off from one to another or relate or make you guys a leader?

Moynihan: I think what customers are looking for in a SOA, as we’ve been talking about, is a distributed approach. They’re looking to reduce their cost, first in any new investments that they make, and then their over-all fixed and operating costs as they move forward.

And so, it gives them that ability to get even more reuse out of their existing implementations. If you look at IONA’s strategy, we are very focused on offering an architecture that allows people to be able to adopt SOA in an incremental way. We’re also offering the ability to leverage the true benefits of open source to be able to use community-developed software whenever possible. And to offer not just a single project, but to integrate the projects together in a cohesive offering.

People can really tie together the older standards that they have in place with these newer SOA standards like SCA. They can tie in the widely deployed open-source projects they might already be using -- like Tomcat, for example. And they also get new [open source] innovation and then wrap it around that.

One thing that has been missing, but you’re starting to see it evolve, is enterprise support backing it all up ... the expertise. When people come and talk with us or we go and talk with them, and we talk about IONA’s open source strategy – they really like that we’re a middleware company and not an open-source company.

Well, we didn’t start as an open source company; we started as a middleware company. We started as an integration company, and now we can really offer this combination of, “You can use open source. You can get started. It’s a great way to dip your toe in the water and start enabling services across your enterprise." But then, as you grow and you scale your SOA infrastructure, you may need to scale up. You may need some new requirements that are not available on open source today.

From that perspective, we have these complimentary offerings, like the Artix product family, which can interoperate directly with the open source offerings that we support. So really we provide everything that you need for a distributed SOA infrastructure, and we allow you to use open source only, or a combination when you need some of these other requirements. And, most importantly, to leverage what you already have in place today.

Gardner: And this is one of the goals of open source -- to have standardization. And that standardization would influence not only how enterprises use you, but also other vendors. So it’s the development of an ecology for the community. Tell us a little bit about how IONA fits into an ecology of SOA providers?

Moynihan: I would say in two ways. One is that we are absolutely focused on standards. All the offerings that we participate in, and the things that we develop within our company -- whether it’s community-developed or company-developed -- we’re very focused on standards. This is one way where we integrate and interoperate with an ecosystem.

The other is through the collaborative nature of partnering, both with open-source projects, like with BEA and IBM, for example on the Tuscany/SCA project, and also from a commercial-product perspective. For our company-developed offerings we have partnerships in place, for example, with AmberPoint, where we actually do proactive integrations with specific technology components to create an ecosystem.

Gardner: I guess systems integrators also play a big role in this. They will, in many respects, be picking and choosing -- anointing, if you will -- the SOA winners or leaders. It’s in their best interests to have the best technology available. What do you think systems integrators are thinking when it comes to open-source SOA, and do they fall into your ecology as well?

Moynihan: I definitely think that they are a key part of the ecosystem. A lot of users will want to work with system integrators as they adopt these technologies. They are looking for a lot of the same things that the end customers would be looking for. They would be looking to adopt open-source projects and open-source products that are able to integrate with existing standards and new standards. These are innovative SOA approaches like SCA. They are looking for a lot of the same things, and can also bring a lot of value because with open source there is a lot of integration. System integrators are going to be a key part of the overall ecosystem.

Gardner: When I speak to end users in large organizations, one of the things that seems to be attractive for them when it comes to SOA is a notion of risk reduction. They view this as a way of reducing their risk of not being able to extend and recover their past investments in legacy systems, for example.

They view this as a reduction in risk in terms of flexibility, agility, and moving quickly to create applications: Composite applications and process-oriented and event-driven applications and services. They also view this as risk reduction when it comes to being able to move quickly into new technologies.

So, they’re “future proofing” -- if you will -- being able to manage what comes down in the future, things that they might not be able to fully anticipate. So, given this nature of risk reduction that’s inherent with SOA, what do you bring to the table in terms of lock-in risk reduction?

That’s something that people have feared for some time, getting locked into one or even a small number of vendors. It seems to me that the open-source SOA approach reduces risk from both the overall SOA perspective as well as the issue of lock-in. Oisin, how do you see that?

Hurley: Well, you’re pretty much spot-on in your statements there, Dana. If an organization wants to reduce risk and increase their level of control on an ongoing basis, community-developed open source is exactly what they need. Because there is a great focus on standards and the code is available. That gives them more control because there is a wide community -- both among the actual open-source developers themselves and organizations that provide products dedicated to supporting the software that’s been developed by the those communities. So this is regaining control for the customer.

Gardner: Now, we also hear that SOA is not just technology. It's not just code. It’s really a mentality. It’s a conceptual framework, a methodology set. How do we cross this benefit matrix between what we can bring to the table from an open-source perspective and also get what needs to be a fairly disciplined approach, when it comes to these methodologies and conceptual frameworks?

One would almost think that they are at odds, that open source can be a little bit chaotic, and yet methodologies need to be disciplined and have a bit more of a control-and-command approach. How do you go to your customers and explain to them how you can have an open-source approach to something that needs to be so methodologically precise?

Hurley: Well, for somebody like me, who’s involved in open source communities, the one thing they are not is chaotic. They tend to be the most strictly controlled and strictly behaved groups of people.

They’re very, very thorough -- extremely thorough, because the people who are in there love the subject matter. They love the code. They are always concerned about it.

If you go and if you look at an Eclipse project or you look at an Apache project, you would see very cohesive behavior. The discipline is there within those communities -- and I will say it’s a meritocracy. They self-police.

To get back to your question, though, the important thing to bring across to the customer is that the job of actually putting together SOA is, as you say, technology independent. It’s on a higher level. It’s about how you offer functionality to the business. So, if you are in IT operations, how do you put together functionality that the business will use for its own customers? You bring to them good technology [and] guidance on how to produce services.

Gardner: Looking now at the road map, you have had some announcements recently. Can you lay out for us how your two or three trajectories for this go. Commercially, via open source, and also via "commercial open source." Give us a roadmap for IONA’s approach to SOA infrastructure.

Moynihan: What we recently launched was really expanding our existing approach to distributed SOA infrastructure, where we did have products in the market already, which were company-developed products. What we recently announced were community-developed products under the umbrella offering Celtix Enterprise, which really is an open-source offering that ties together multiple open source projects in a cohesive way.

Users can take that and use it to get started today on implementing a distributed SOA infrastructure. If they choose, they can have the benefit of support from IONA. You called it “commercial open source.” I would say it’s vendor-supported open source, because it is an open-source license, and you can go to our site and you can download the code and use it today. If and when you choose to get support, then you would come back to IONA, and we would work with you to determine what the right level of support would be for you.

So, I would really say that it is an open-source offering backed both by our expertise in bringing the community-developed projects together, and then the integration, as well as providing an "easier to consume" offering. We also offer more documentation, tutorials, demos, and things like that, to make it easier to get going with open-source SOA. For those who are looking for enterprise support, we also offer that. But I would say that’s an additional offering that we came up with.

So, we have this open source offering, and it's actually a family of offerings where we have Celtix Enterprise as an open-source ESB. We have Celtix Advanced Messaging, an open-source message broker, which is an implementation of the new Advanced Message Queueing Protocol (AMQP), the new open standard for sending messages.

Then, we also have Celtix Advanced Service Engine, which is based on the Apache incubator CXF project, which is for creating services and service-enabling your overall infrastructure. Complementary to that, for those who want it, we also offer enterprise consulting and training support.

The road map going forward would be that we will continue to evolve a collection of offerings, both company-developed like our Artix portfolio, which today meets a lot of requirements around distributed SOA Infrastructure – as well as a lot of requirements that are not available in open source today -- as complementary to our open-source portfolio.

We want to offer our customers the benefits of open source, but also offer them additional capabilities so they can scale and get beyond what’s available in open source. We can provide all the additional capabilities they need with our full product portfolio. I think what IONA brings to that roadmap is all of our expertise in being able to continue to add capabilities to our open-source offerings, because, as you know, a lot of people are predicting that by 2010 upward of 80 percent of companies will be using a combination of closed and open source code.

Gardner: We’ve certainly seen a precedent for that in platforms, and it will increase when we move up the stack, I am quite sure. Now, open source SOA provides a lot of choice. It provides risk reduction. It provides an ecology play -- pretty much what a lot of companies, developers, and architects have been asking for.

In general, it sounds like the way they want to go. Can we give them, in the meantime, some sense of what’s to come in the future? Oisin, you are close to some of these projects. Do you think that we will get to a point where open source will have an impact up and down the entire stack? I guess that would include business applications themselves. Or, do you think open source really is more appropriate on the infrastructure level? How do you see open source, in general, moving into the future, and what relevance and impact will that have for SOA?

Hurley: I strongly believe that the community-developed open source in SOA is going to have an impact not just on the infrastructure, but, as you say, from top to bottom. Right now, what you see is an awful lot of projects addressing SOA infrastructure-related issues, and it’s very natural to have several different projects addressing different aspects of those particular problems.

As time goes on, it’s going to be natural too that both of these projects will grow together and start addressing similar issues and perhaps merge. We have seen that happen with CXF and Celtix, and I predict this will be an ongoing thing. It’s a natural way to do it. And that’s from the infrastructure point of view.

Above and beyond that, there is a lot more that can involved with SOA. There’s the ESB part of this, and there is repository, governance, and policy adoption, and such things. You can see where it will be of great value to companies to have a cohesive structure that brings all of these pieces together.

This is something that we are aiming for in the SOA tools project as well. We are addressing different types of SOA developers, from the guys who are developing Java codes to implement services, all the way up to the guys who are using Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) to draw pictures effectively to illustrate their business processes.

Gardner: You hinted at consolidation in these projects. Do you think that there will be a more standardized or perhaps integrated approach? How do you view the effective consolidation in this open source SOA maturation environment?

Hurley: As I previously mentioned, there are a lot of problems that are being addressed in different aspects of SOA. Where two different aspects of SOA may be somewhat similar, it’s quite normal to have different projects addressing those pieces. It’s also quite normal for them to grow together to provide another picture, another single approach to addressing those two aspects.

I don’t think that means that everything will all come together into one, single consolidation. There will always be a level of diversity there, because there will always be communities. There will always be people who want to develop things differently. That will actually drive the evolution of the quality, and will drive the innovation within SOA.

Gardner: We are about out of time. I think from our listener’s perspective, there is a lot to consider around these open-source approaches. What really is attractive to me is this notion of risk reduction and of choice. It will be unlike some previous technology revolutions and evolutions, if you will, where you were really locked-in to a monolithic and tightly structured environment that, once you were in, you were in for the long haul, and it was very difficult to extract yourself.

When you look at a component-based SOA model with open-source involved, it seems like your choices don’t just end once you have made the choice on infrastructure. You can go in and move about, make choices, back up, if you will, and go sideways, so to speak. That to me is probably what makes this more different than just about any other major infrastructure development over the past 15 or 20 years.

We’ve had object-oriented approaches and component-based approaches, but they were often within fairly rigid environments. We’ll go to you, Debbie, for the final word. Do you see that as well -- that we have more choice, not just at the beginning of our journey into an infrastructure approval process, but really throughout the process?

Moynihan: I absolutely do see that, and we’ve always been all about offering an incremental approach. I think with open source and SOA together that will be true going forward.

People will have choices, and it's not about making some huge decisions for a big hub that’s going to be in the center of everything, but rather smaller choices in a lot of different places, because of the evolution of standards, and because of this rapid innovation that’s happening at the community level, which, as Oisin mentioned, is pretty rigorous. It might seem chaotic from the outside, but it’s actually quite rigorous. And in the community-development approach there are also many vendors, which gives you choice as well. It’s not just a single vendor.

Gardner: Thanks very much. I am sure this is a set of the issues we are going to tracking closely over the coming years. I want to thank you both for helping us understand this at an important juncture, where SOA and open source are increasingly joined at the hip.

Joining us to discuss this sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast have been Oisin Hurley, a distinguished engineer at IONA Technologies, and also Debbie Moynihan, director of open source programs at IONA. Thank you all for listening. This is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Listen to the podcast here.

Podcast sponsor: IONA Technologies, Inc.

Transcript of Dana Gardner’s BriefingsDirect podcast on open source and SOA. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2006. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Transcript of Dana Gardner's BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition Vol. 4 Podcast on Oracle OpenWorld and Oracle's Linux and SOA Support

Edited transcript of weekly BriefingsDirect[TM] SOA Insights Edition, recorded Oct. 27, 2006.

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 Dana Gardner at 603-528-2435.

Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the latest Briefings Direct SOA Insights Edition, a weekly discussion and dissection of services oriented architecture (SOA)-related news and industry events with a panel of independent IT industry analysts. I’m your host and moderator, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Our panel this week consists of a return by Neil Macehiter. He is research director at Macehiter Ward-Dutton based in the U.K. Also returning is Steve Garone, a former program vice president at IDC, and a founder of The AlignIT Group, and now an independent industry analyst. And joining us for the first time, we’d like to welcome Joe McKendrick. He is an independent research consultant, and a contributing editor and columnist for Database Trends, as well as a SOA blogger for ZDNet and ebizQ. Welcome, Joe.

Joe McKendrick: Thanks, Dana.

Gardner: We’re going to talk this week -- which is the week of Oct. 23, 2006 -- primarily about Oracle OpenWorld. This large trade show, focused on Oracle’s ecology and products, was held this week in San Francisco, and some interesting news came out of this event, primarily around SOA, development, middleware, and even Linux. So let’s pop over first to Joe in metro Philadelphia. Joe, tell us what you saw as interesting or impactful from the Oracle OpenWorld Show, particularly vis-à-vis SOA?

McKendrick: Sure, Dana. Well, it was definitely a big show, and they really made a big splash. Just let me say, Oracle has been confusing the heck out of the market over the past year or so with its double Fusion initiatives. There’s the Fusion Middleware, of course, and then there’s the fusion of Oracle’s acquired companies, such as PeopleSoft and Siebel. Are the two fusions connected? Who knows?

I do research for two of the leading Oracle user groups, the Independent Oracle Users Group, IOUG and OAUG, The Oracle Application Users Group, and I find few end-user customers know what to make of Fusion, or how it’s going to impact them. I’m not quite sure if OracleWorld brought total clarity. I think it might have brought some clarity to the question. What we want to talk about here, of course, is Oracle’s Fusion middleware, which I equate to IBM’s WebSphere on some levels.

In a survey I conducted and put together for IOUG earlier in the year, only a small handful of Oracle database administrators and users could see how Oracle Fusion middleware could help them, or lower their deployment costs. So Oracle has a lot of user education to do, and it looks like this week’s OracleWorld was a good start, but there’s plenty of work ahead.

Gardner: It seem to me that Oracle at this event really put a stake in the ground and said, “We’re not just a database company, and we’re not just a database company plus business apps.” I think they were really saying, “We’re going to be a full-service software company from soup to nuts, and development, deployment, and lifecycle.” So, that really puts them up into the IBM arena. Would you agree with that?

McKendrick: I agree with that, and it's interesting, because looking at what’s been coming out of OpenWorld, you not only have IBM, but you have two of the largest vendors in the space -- Oracle and Microsoft -- having made recent announcements that are diametrically opposed in their proposed approaches to SOA. Microsoft had their own SOA confab a couple of weeks back, on the one side saying, “Go slow, build incrementally, and don’t spend a lot of money on your SOA as you roll it out.”

Then at the other end, you have Oracle, which is all about big SOA, saying “Take your huge, 10-terabyte database, take your huge ERP system, and move some of that functionality out to a service layer, preferably Oracle’s.” Plus, Oracle was talking a lot about mainframes, recognizing that IBM has been quite successful in reenergizing this big server platform, and Oracle wants a piece of that action as well -- more big SOA.

Gardner: I also did some field research recently that came up with a pretty solid number. It’s a general number, but of the SOA services that are in production and in use that we could get some insight on, fully two-thirds of them were of a services data layer nature. That is to say, they were all about making data available from a variety of sources, repositories, and applications to then be used more generally. Therefore, the whole role of data seems to be that the horse sits in front of the cart when it comes to using SOA, which of course would put Oracle in a pretty good position.

McKendrick: Absolutely. They’re also strong in applications as well, but it's interesting, Dana, as you point out, that there’s a convergence in place between the world of enterprise data management, and the world of application management or SOA. The two have been in separate silos, so to speak, with different disciplines, different types of professionals working on each, but inevitably they’re going to come together, and Oracle sees that on the horizon.

Gardner: Let’s go next to Neil, tell us what you took away from the announcements emanating from Oracle OpenWorld?

Neil Macehiter: A couple of things. First, back to your comment around the two-thirds of the SOA initiatives focusing on the data layer. I must admit that doesn’t surprise me, because the proliferation of information, and the variety of information sources that organizations have, and the challenges they’re facing around things like compliance and getting better insight into business operations absolutely depend on getting access to information.

I think that a SOA approach to that is something that can help them address those challenges. And interestingly, given where Oracle comes from, and its strength in the database; it’s actually an aspect of the service oriented strategy that they haven’t talked up significantly if you compare it, for example, to IBM around its whole information server strategy. That would be my observation there.

In terms of the broader recent announcements of Oracle, clearly they’re upping the ante in terms of their credibility in the SOA space, with one eye on IBM, another on Microsoft, and their third eye -- or their eye in the back of their head -- on SAP with NetWeaver. It was interesting, looking at the announcements they made particularly around the SOA suite, which is their bundling of their BPL Process Manager, Business Activity Monitoring, JDeveloper, Business Rules Engine, where they were really talking up the governance aspects of their offering there.

This is something that historically Oracle has not spoken greatly about. They didn’t make a big push there, and that is no surprise given that governance has been such a hot issue recently. I was also interested in the announcement around their WebCenter, which is the coming together of their portal capabilities with more Web 2.0 style technologies around RSS, Wikis, etc. This is still in its comparatively early phases, and is primarily oriented toward the application developer community, in terms of being able to build these mashup style applications that merge content ... to enterprise applications, and support what some people refer to as situational processes. That’s something that IBM has been talking a lot about around its QED Wiki technologies.

Gardner: What about Joe’s point that Fusion is been sort of fuzzy? Now, some people were making a hypothesis that the reason that Fusion was fuzzy, or confusing, was because Oracle was going to make some acquisition. Perhaps, they'd acquire JBoss, perhaps BEA, and bring in this capability for their middleware and development and deployment power from an outside perspective. I guess that’s still possible. Did you get a better sense -- and you can pipe in here too, Joe -- that they’re defining Fusion as the end-all, be-all for their middleware and development?

Macehiter: Well, I think Oracle is clearly positioning the Fusion middleware as their core SOA infrastructure offering, to allow organizations that don’t have Oracle applications to build services-oriented style solutions -- or if they do have Oracle applications to extend those in the same way that SAP, for example, is pushing NetWeaver. Fusion middleware is an enabler of Fusion’s application convergence.

My own view is that Oracle, with its notion of "hot-pluggable" -- and looking at the way it’s made acquisitions, and to my mind some pretty smart acquisitions, around things like, security and identity management, and Web services management -- this is the core platform. They will look either for tactical acquisitions to plug gaps, for example, in the areas around governance or extending some of the management capabilities, but I can’t see them going beyond that. The alternative will be this "hot-pluggable" architecture, which is an attempt to allow them to hook into other capabilities, be they open-source type offerings or solutions from other vendors.

Fusion is the way forward for Oracle now, and that’s where they’re investing their effort. They need that as well, given that it’s going to be the foundation of the unification of Siebel, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and Oracle E-Business Suite.

Steve Garone: If I can just jump in for a moment to add a couple of short comments. What I just heard makes perfect sense. I may be a bit of a contrarian here, but I’ve never actually found Fusion, either as a strategy or a product set, very confusing. It was very clear to me that this was Oracle’s way forward in terms of infrastructure and applications. The only confusing part of it in the past has been, a sort of a late incoming message from Oracle that their middleware is going to be “hot-pluggable,” meaning you can come in with elements, tools, and so forth, from other sources, plug them in, and they will work -- and everything will be integrated in a nice fashion.

That was not an approach that Oracle talked about three or four years ago and, in fact, they sent out the opposite message. This is really where the confusion lies. They pretty much cleared that up. The only issue is, do their actions speak as loud as their words do, and is in fact the Fusion middleware stack as “hot-pluggable” as they say it is.

Gardner: They did certainly embrace Eclipse and moved toward open source tooling.

Garone: Begrudgingly at the beginning, I believe.

Gardner: Well, it’s against their nature, I suppose, but everyone has had to do that. It sets us up for this Unbreakable Linux announcement -- a bit of a shocker toward the end of the week-- where [Oracle Chairman and CEO] Larry Ellison got up there and said that they’re going to create their own distribution equivalent to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution. He said they’re going to support it for a lot less money then you might have to pay Red Hat, and they’re going to tell you that it's configured and it’s indemnified, and they’re going to back that up.

So, that puts Oracle in a much larger position as a platform support vendor. It changes the business model to one of subscription and maintenance support, and puts them in a position to start being a bigger partner now, for a variety of different configurations of stack, be it partially open source, partially Oracle -- or for other partners. It seems to me that they’ve really taken a big step toward a much larger software provider role. Any reactions to that, Joe?

McKendrick: Well, Oracle’s been trying to get into this operating system space for a long time. In the past decade, they were one of the aggressive promoters of the whole network computing concept, where theoretically you wouldn’t be relying on a fat client, so to speak, meaning Microsoft Windows. You could access all your applications via some type of thin client or network computing device. They very aggressively were at the forefront of those efforts, as well as other servers, I guess you could call them, preformatted packaged database servers, where you wouldn’t need to worry about the operating system. This is an interesting move, and an interesting end-run around a major Linux provider.

Also, what I find interesting from OpenWorld is their agreement with IBM to support implementations of the Oracle database on an IBM mainframe. Now, this is very historic, in a sense.

Gardner: Yeah, co-opetion in the best sense, right?

McKendrick: Exactly, no one in the mainframe world could have imagined that someday Oracle would be running on the mainframe. It’ll be running within a Linux partition in the z/OS Operating System, or rather the Linux portion of the zSeries.

Gardner: I think the logic there for IBM is, “Listen, if we can’t get DB2 in the account, at least we’re going to get the hardware, and we’re going to get people locked into the zSeries for a long time. We’re going to make some good maintenance money, because, heaven knows, once you get a large, honking relational database in a mainframe it sits there for a long period of time.” I can see the logic of it from both sides, but it is interesting that they’d actually extend hands across the table, and make it happen.

Macehiter: I think it will be interesting if you look internally within IBM to see from where that relationship with Oracle was driven, and my guess would be that it was primarily driven by global services. They’ve been working incredibly hard to increase the usage of mainframe MIPS, by partnering with a variety of vendors that are in direct competition with IBM.

Gardner: Probably not out of the DB2 group, right? Do you think we can read in the tea leaves here -- a little bit by what Oracle has done and by what IBM is doing as well -- that, the heyday of the relational database as a core lock-in, and as a high-margin, expensive aspect of a data center and an IT architecture is coming to a close?

Is Oracle saying, “Yeah, we recognized that lock-in doesn’t work, and so we need to provide the low-cost, best-configured approach, and our real new value proposition is in our business applications, and our ability for people to create data-driven applications quickly, easily, and cheaply?” And, does that mean that at some point in the not too distant future that the cost for relational database, be it an Oracle, a Sybase, an IBM DB2, and -- because of the market forces -- the Microsoft SQL Server, are going to plummet?

And, that perhaps an open-source subscription model for databases is in the offing, particularly as we get into virtualization and multi-core, which makes it very difficult to charge for these things on an upfront license basis to begin with. So, let’s go around the table here. Are we at the end of the heyday of the relational database?

Macehiter: Well, I spent six and a half years of my career working for Oracle, and two and a half at Sybase, in the heyday when the database was absolutely the control point. If you look at what’s happened in the market, the industry has consolidated massively.

Sybase is now really more in the mobile space than it is in the core database space. Ingres is now open source. You’ve really only got Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft with SQL Server vying for dominance in terms of the commercial database. So, you’ve had significant consolidation. You’ve got the entry of, the likes of, MySQL, which now is offering much more of an enterprise offering with its support network.

I think all the signs are there that it’s becoming commodity technology, but that should naturally result in a driving down of cost. I think the organizations also depend more and more on unstructured information that doesn’t exist inside of a relational database. So, everything is there that points to there being a drive down in cost, and it's interesting in that regard, and also in regard to the Oracle Unbreakable Linux, where Oracle makes the vast majority of its profit in its maintenance services. The control point is shifting, and it’s much more about how you get the information out and harness it in the business processes and activities that support employees, customers, and partners in their operations. I think absolutely the writing is on the wall.

Gardner: So, it’s not so much about the object model. It’s about the business model, right?

Macehiter: Indeed.

Garone: Looking forward, we’re going to see a lot of emphasis put on Fusion by Oracle, which really brings together the leverage point of its product strategy, which is applications and middleware. I agree with everything Neil said, I think it’s important to know that what’s going on here, and to some extent it's mimicking what is going on with a lot of other software-type products or markets that have seen open-source offerings come in and have their effect on what you can charge, and how you license, and so on.

So, I don’t think it’s unusual in that regard. It’s a little bit difficult for me to describe database technologies in companies like Oracle as commodities. I don’t really see them that way, because “commodities” implies there’s really not a lot of differentiation and value-add. You’re just kind of getting the same thing from everybody at a bare-bones price. I don’t really think that reflects the database market today, or even the database market down the road. I do think that there are, and will continue to be, other competitive forces that are going to drive Oracle to look elsewhere for its high profits.

Macehiter: I would. Looking at Microsoft’s recently announced quarterly results, if you look at the grades of SQL server from Microsoft, those numbers were phenomenal, again.

Garone: Look at what happened with Oracle and IBM’s recent financials as well. They’re making a ton of money, and it’s a high growth, in the very area that we’re talking about being commoditized. This hasn’t happened yet, but I certainly see these companies setting themselves up for that.

Gardner: What do you see, Joe?

McKendrick: I think Neil and Steve have definitely hit on two important things -- essentially a double-whammy -- that’s impacting the industries. The open-source databases, in particular open-source middleware, are coming into play. Fusion, the whole SOA phenomena, is still getting off the ground, but I think there’s some long-term implications. The companies are making money off of these products, but I think they’re looking long-term down the road.

If you look at what’s happening in both the database and the ERP world, Oracle’s bread is databases, and its butter is ERP applications as E-Business Suite. Many of the functions of the database are, or will be, abstracted out to a service layer, and eventually the same thing may happen with ERP systems, where many of those functions get abstracted to some type of what we call the SOA layer. Granted, it’s going to take a few years -- we’re probably talking about five or ten years down the road -- but these are large ships, and they take a long time to turn around, and they have to look at what’s happening in the space.

Oracle rightly recognizes that the future lies somewhere more out in the middle, not in the big complicated mega-databases, and mega-ERP systems. Recently, in my ZDNet blog I quoted Bruce Richardson of AMR Research, who predicted that, within a few years, probably by 2010, SAP and Oracle customers may actually stop buying applications from their ERP vendors. Some folks have said Bruce may have gone a little too far with his predictions, but I think there’s some credence to it. I’ve actually spoken to customers who have been able to deploy SOA techniques as workarounds to more expensive, painful upgrades to their ERP systems.

Gardner: We’ve already had a little bit of a discussion around this, and I refer our listeners back to an earlier Briefing Direct SOA Insights Edition Vol. 2 for the discussion about SOA and ERP, and how they shake out.

Returning to OpenWorld, one of the things that jumped out at me too was this new warm, fuzzy Oracle: “Oracle’s your buddy.“ That wasn’t necessarily the case in many peoples' minds. We saw [Sun Microsystems CEO] Jonathan Schwartz, [AMD Chairman and CEO] Hector Ruiz, and [Dell Chairman and CEO] Michael Dell on stage. We had HP [Chairman and CEO] Mark Hurd on stage -- so a lot more of this big ecology, fuzzy, warm thing.

Also, quite a bit about Web 2.0 as a catalyst in Oracle’s Fusion. I guess when we talk about Web 2.0, we’re thinking about the use of rich media, social media, the links, and viral approach to reaching, and communicating and collaborating, including RSS, Wikis, blogging, and the whole idea of open rich platforms and suites and features to support that. And, that becomes an element of development, and even becomes a development of how services can be consumed and used.

I’ve heard people say that we really shouldn’t have this SOA repository-register approach, that we should have a wiki, and that people will actually go in and be able to, as business analysts with proper rights, be able to decide, and have input to how services will be used and consumed. And that to try to make services governance it too control-and-command and rigid is the wrong way -- that we should make it open and fluid. Like you would with the definition of an encyclopedia entry, as in Wikipedia, you should be able to do that with the definitions and usage of a service.

Any reaction out there to this one, warm, fuzzy community-approach from Oracle, and then secondarily the role of Web 2.0 capabilities?

Macehiter: I think about the Web 2.0 thing in couple of ways. One, is that it was interesting to see that Oracle has moved away from talking about SOA 2.0 which is very fortunate indeed. In terms of Web 2.0 style technologies and approach and their impact on the enterprise, as with many things, this is going to be a mix of the very structured, highly controlled, registry-repository governed approach to service orientation, where it's needed.

For example, in some processes, subject to regulation, those processes need to be highly structured and highly monitored. Equally, what we’re now seeing is really a recognition that organizations work in fluid ways as well. They are highly collaborative, and involved in a lot of interactions, much of which has gone on in organizations in the past, but out of the purview of IT, because IT hasn’t been able really to provide the support through systems for the way that people really work.

I think that’s where the role of these Web 2.0 style technologies can have a role to play in actually enabling IT to better support the way that people often work, particularly dealing with exceptions to these well-structured processes. I think the challenge there is about culture, and getting the frame of mind and reference within the users, so that they can actually utilize this stuff, and not be afraid to use these capabilities.

So I think it's going to be a mix of both, and what we’re seeing is -- with the Oracle’s announcement of this WebCenter technology, what IBM is trying to do around the QED Wiki, and what Microsoft’s doing around things like SharePoint and the Atlas Framework -- you’ve got the dominant providers of IT for the enterprise actually mixing these two worlds around common platforms, be it .NET, Fusion, or WebSphere in IBM’s SOA foundation. So, I think it's going to be a mix-and-match of these two capabilities.

Gardner: What do you think, Steve? Have we got oil and water here when it comes to SOA and Web 2.0? How do you see them relating?

Garone: I agree with what Neil says, and some of it's too early to call. But I think there is a lot of synergy between the SOA approach and Web 2.0. I think there will be an effort to keep things as simple and low-complexity as possible. I see a lot of synergy there, and we’ll see how it goes down the road. It’s just really early in the adoption to putting stakes on the ground at this point.

Gardner: And how about you, Joe, as a blogger? Do you think this is a fad or here to stay?

McKendrick: It’s going to percolate up. When I think of SOA and Web 2.0, I think of that Apple commercial. You see the two guys, one guy’s an up-tight, straight-laced guy in a suit…

Gardner: "I’m a PC," yeah.

McKendrick: And the other guy is the cool Apple dude, hip and laid back. The guy in the suit could be SOA, and the cool hip guy, Apple guy, could be Web 2.0. And they’re trying to understand each other, at least the SOA guy is trying to understand what the Web 2.0 guy is up to, and why is it that he’s so cool and hip, and can’t he be more like him.

Gardner: So, maybe if they were in therapy together, they might actually work together. It might be kind of cool.

McKendrick: Exactly.

Macehiter: I’m sitting here in front of a Dell laptop, and a Mac Mini, so I’m obviously a bit schizophrenic.

Garone: That’s a really interesting analogy though. The commercial that you just described does point out that the two heads have to get together somehow, and see how they’re going to make that shake out, but I think one’s going to support the other. I really do.

Gardner: And, talk about commoditization, I should think that as companies like Oracle and others latch on to these capabilities that the whole idea of blogging as a function, and having an RSS capability as a function, is just going to be immediately embedded within the background here. But it’s the power of the people and the process that rises above it, and so there’s no need for lock-in, there’s no discussion about who has got the better word processor for blogging. It’s just going to be accepted and embedded into these processes up and down the whole development and deployment lifecycle.

Garone: Embedded as services.

Gardner: As services -- you don’t even have to own this stuff yourself. You can just use Blogger off of Google servers if you want.

Macehiter: Absolutely. It comes down to the sort of environment that you can provide, which is where the likes of IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle are trying to drive things, to make it easy to compose and exploit those capabilities in a way that reflects the pace of change, in terms of the way these activities occur within organizations, and how employees really work. You can’t afford to now throw those requirements over to IT, wait six months, and get the solution back.

The individuals need to be empowered to make the changes, and that’s where Oracle, for example, is trying to drive things around this WebCenter, and the competition framework they’re talking about. IBM has similar capabilities around its QED initiatives. It’s around the competition environment, and you’re not going to compete on whether you’ve got RSS support or not, or it’s your RSS, instead of anyone else. That doesn’t make any sense.

Gardner: As someone mentioned earlier, Oracle’s chief competitors are IBM, Microsoft, and SAP, and in doing these things, and with their Linux move, they take the oxygen out of Red Hat. Red Hat’s ability to price with impunity in the market, which it’s had for a bit now, is quickly eroding.

Novell came in and probably tried to do something about it, but didn’t have sufficient clout, at least in the North American market, to do that. Oracle could very well have an impact on the pricing of a Linux support license. With this Web 2.0 stuff, they really are taking a bit out of Microsoft’s quiver, in terms of their set of features and functions.

If you don’t need Microsoft products installed for doing Web 2.0 and SOA then what do you need them for?

Macehiter: Absolutely! That’s the way it’s driving. Interestingly, in terms of the Red Hat thing, it also does raise the question of what IBM is going to do now. How is IBM going to react to that, given that it provides a fair amount of support around Red Hat?

Gardner: Good point.

Garone: From what I’ve read, a good part of Oracle’s rationale for doing this is they don’t talk about it in terms of, “We’ll give you a better price than Red Hat can, but we will do things for you, if you are in fact an enterprise user. You have special needs in terms of upgrades and getting things fixed quickly and easily, and so on, that Red Hat isn't going to do for you, but we will.” So, they’re kind of positioning this as, “Red Hat’s not enterprising -- we are.” I think that’s interesting in terms of your question about IBM, because IBM, obviously, can make the same claim as well.

Gardner: Do you think we can perhaps look in hindsight, with Red Hat buying JBoss, that that was a mistake, that it allowed them to then be viewed as a competitor rather than, people like IBM and Oracle saying, “Okay, we’ll live with that. We’ll let them control that domain. We’ll cede onto them this Linux licensing thing.” But as soon as they got JBoss, then, boom, they got a big red bull’s eye on their back, right?

Macehiter: I think it was either the day after, or a couple of days after, the Red Hat JBoss announcement that Larry Ellison was interviewed in the Financial Times, and it became pretty clear that he called out what has now ultimately happened. He was making comments about once open source gets good enough, Oracle will just take hold of it, and they did that with Apache. Oracle had its own web server embedded within the Oracle application server, and then as soon as Apache became good enough, he just ripped out his own Web Server and put in Apache.

I think Ellison flagged this and I don’t think it’s coincidental that he flagged it about the time that Red Hat acquired JBoss. It changed the rules in terms of the relationship Oracle had with Red Hat.

Gardner: And IBM has done the same with tools, vis-à-vis Eclipse, and then also in buying Geronimo, going with Glucode, rather coming out with a lower-end approach to open source. I think IBM has hedged its bets very well, and can either turn up the spigot, or turn it off, in terms of which direction and which balance to go open source in. Of course, they have a hardware business to fall back on -- which Oracle does not, nor does Microsoft -- and they have professional services revenue. So, I think they’re in a pretty good position to manage this pretty well.

Garone: Just to declare though, IBM’s acquisition of Geronimo took place significantly before the JBoss acquisition. So I know they weren’t responding to that, unless they suspected it happening down the road.

Gardner: No, I think they were responding to the fact that they need to have both an open source and a commercial strategy.

Garone: Correct. It’s a good strategy, and the only gotcha there -- which IBM has been very clear it’s committed to doing -- is making sure that compatibility exists up and down the WebSphere line, which includes the WebSphere products that are based on Geronimo. I’m not convinced that has happened yet, but IBM has stated a very strong commitment to it, and they’re usually pretty good about fulfilling those commitments.

Gardner: As we’ve discussed in the past, these vendors have been able to follow a certain maturity of commercial products that then has a following counterpart in open source. What’s unique and interesting about SOA is that we’re getting not just a following of a commercial process, but we’re getting an open-source process, almost from the get-go.

So how these companies react to SOA componentry as open source is still an interesting conundrum, I suppose. And we’ve discussed that in the past. Joe, you haven’t had a chance to chime in on this. Do you have any thoughts -- and we’ll make this sort of our closing topic: open source and SOA vis-à-vis what we’re seeing from these large vendors.

McKendrick: Some good points raised here. I think middleware is becoming the battleground. We talked about the abstraction of database functionality and ERP, large application functionality into the service layer. And this is where the battleground is going to be in.

Oracle sees this with JBoss as a huge threat. Oracle talks about making its Fusion components “hot-pluggable” with other software from other vendors, but, make no mistake about it, Oracle wants Oracle customers doing SOA the Oracle way. Oracle has this huge built-in customer base, and it has expanded it greatly over the past year, and its likely many will eventually move to Fusion. But Oracle really has to make a good case as to why customers should consider sticking with Oracle up and down through the stack, and not go on with a commodity or an open-source middleware type of solution. That’s a big challenge all the large infrastructure vendors face.

Gardner: Well, there it is. I would like to thank everyone for joining us. We forgot to do this last week, and that was because we were running out of time, and I was afraid our hour-long conference call was going to end and cut us off. What I would like to do at this point is to go around the table and ask everyone to give us a disclosure. Tell us what companies you’ve been working with, so that we are on the up and up here. Neil, why don’t you start?

Macehiter: Yeah, sure. In terms of the vendors that I’ve mentioned today, Microsoft, IBM are customers, or have been customers of Macehiter Ward-Dutton.

Gardner: And how about you, Steve?

Garone: IBM, Oracle and Microsoft.

Gardner: And Joe.

McKendrick: IBM and Oracle.

Gardner: And for me it’s going to be Eclipse, HP, and IONA, and that’s it for this particular show.

All right, thanks everyone. Also for our listeners, if you’re interested in learning more about our BriefingsDirect business-to-business informational podcasts, or this particular show, the SOA Insight’s Edition, to become a sponsor or to learn more about it feel free to call me at 603-528-2435. Thank you. This is your producer, host, and moderator, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks to our guests, and come back and listen again next week.

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Transcript of Dana Gardner’s BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Vol. 4. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2006. All rights reserved.