Monday, 26 October 2009

SOA Manifesto revisited

The publication of the SOA Manifesto generates a lot of discussion. As my fellow ACE Director Hajo Normann states on his blog:
I wish for the SOA Manifesto to serve as a guiding foundation for many proposals and solutions in SOA space – similarly as the Agile Manifesto served beautifully well for many to start thinking Agile.
I really hope that will become true. There's been so much discussion about SOA lately, and I still feel that there's still no consensus on what it really means. The SOA manifesto is but a first step in aligning SOA practitioners around the world. I think Thomas Erl and Anne Thomas Manes put it quite clearly during their 'exorcism of the evil SOA': it's the vendors' fault.

Initially, SOA has been hyped by just about all the vendors, in a way to push their middleware technology. Truth is: a lot of middleware technology is based on service orientation, but that does not mean it will give you SOA. SOA is a mindset, a paradigm you can use when building or integrating applications.

The manifesto itself is nice and compact, but will need additional refinement and explanation to make it really worthwile. I hope the working group for the SOA manifesto will be seen by many as experienced SOA practitionists if not SOA thought-leaders. That will broaden its acceptance.

If nothing else, it will facilitate the discussion around SOA. Hopefully we can bring it to an end soon. Thanks to the SOA Manifesto ....

The Future of IT

This month I've visited both Oracle Open World as well as the SOA Symposium. The one hot item that links both conferences is ....... Cloud Computing. That seems to be the newest fad at the moment.

I had several discussions with advocates and opponents to this idea.I've been thinking about Cloud computing a lot. So here's what I think about it.

I'm an advocate of SOA, as you all know. According to Gartner, we're climbing away from the 'Trough of Disillusionment', meaning SOA is rapidly becoming more mature and mainstream. I agree. Already we see SOA being used with EDA and CEP, which is a good thing too. A logical next step would be Cloud Computing. I see Cloud Computing as the logical next step for 'location transparancy'. It's a combination of location transparancy and SaaS, I guess. There will come a time when a consumer of a service doesn't  care where the service is hosted. He will care about who will host it. Companies will look for best-of-breed service producers.

It reminded me a bit of my own history. When I started out as a COBOL programmer in 1984, my first task was to maintain an existing financial system that was built within the company. That's (almost) unheard of these days. NOBODY builds his own financial systems anymore. There are very good, complete and transparant financial systems (and even services) available in the market. Everybody wins, in my opinion. The customer gets real value for less money, the provider earns more money by selling his services to more consumers. The catch: it needs to be very, very, very secure. A service provider needs to make sure that the data and the service is protected, without lowering the service level. One outtage, or one leak can mean the end of the provider.

A lot of companies will hold back. People want to 'see' where their money goes to. Having servers physically present, having a box with software makes them feel they got something for their money. Running software on a cloud doesn't give the same feeling. However, this will change. Companies will have to change. What if your competitor does his manufacturing using a cloud-based infrastructure for less than 30% of the costs, and you don't? You'll be out of business soon.

So yes, I think it's going to happen. It will take a long time, but it will definitely happen. Of course we will see different types of clouds (public vs corporate), but I think this is good news for smaller companies that can't hardly afford IT personnel, let alone a server park. But it's also good news for the best-of-breed service providers, with the additional effect that services will have to become better and better at the same time.

But, getting to the point of this blogpost, what does this mean for the 'average IT-guy'? I'm foreseeing a shift in our line of business. IT personnel within a company will focus on orchestrating and integrating services from different vendors, and maybe - just maybe - maintain one or two left-over applications that are very specific for the enterprise. Custom made software will become outdated. Consultancy firms will specialize in either business/process consultancy and/or data integration (including warehouses) because that's all that will be left. 

Only the larger service providers will have lots of IT staff, as it's their core business. What will be your place in that future?

Saturday, 24 October 2009

SOA Manifesto presented

Yesterday at the closing of the SOA Symposium in Rotterdam, the SOA Manifestowas presented to the audience. The working groups have worked very hard to finish the Manifesto to be presented here. A - not complete picture (some people had to leave early) - of the working group:

The whole manifest can be found on the SOA Manifestowebsite.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Open World Update #2 - What's New?

We're into the third day of Oracle Open World. Time to have a look at a few of the changes in the product portfolio. As Thomas Kurian already said: over 2000 product changes. So I'm not going to cover all, but point out some that in my opinion will have an impact.

Some of you will already have looked at Oracle SOA Suite 11gR1 and will be interested to know that 11gR1 PS1 (Patch Set 1) will be out shortly. In this patchset there will be a number of changes. One important thing to note is that PS1 is a new install, not a real patch. The patchsets coming after this one will be patches in the real sense of the world. This one just has too many consequences. One of the limitations that we have seen in 11g is the lack of domains. BPEL domains were a nice feature to be able to discern different deployemnts. For example you could have a domain per department or per tuning requirement, or even for OTAP purposes. With the introduction of SCA we have the SOA domain, but .... you can have only one: default. This is not going to be fixed in PS1 or even PS2, however PS2 will show the introduction of Composite folders where you can at least group different composites. Oracle Product Management is aware of the use cases of this feature and is currently looking into the possible revival of the domain. However, the repercussions of this feature are massive, if you stop to think about it. For now, we'll wait and see.

So what does PS1 bring? For one: it will be possible to have a BPEL process participate in a pub/sub EDN event. I'm sure you can see the advantage of that. It's the 'marriage' of SOA and EDN starting to get shape. Another nice BPEL feature is Monitor Express, where you're have BAM dashboards out of the box for a specific process or process step.

Another feature that has come back is the web-based rule designer and DVM (Domain Value Map) editor. With the MDS available for all configuration items this is just one of the first steps in opening up the MDS for runtime editing. I can't wait for the rest to come!

PS1 also includes some preview functionality that is to come in PS2. I really like the Spring component which enables you to include sping context into an SCA composite. The best part: it works two ways, inbound and outbound.

On to BPM. At this time, BPM is 'lagging behind'. Product management ensures us that after the 11g release of BPM early next year, BPM will adjust its schedule to conform with all the other 11g components. That's good news. What will 11g BPM bring us? Well, we will finally have a Unified Process Engine that's capable of running BPEL, BPMN, Human workflow and business rules. As BPM is a separate layer on top of the SOA Suite infrastructure, it will NOT impact any BPEL instances, even though the UPE is unified. With the introduction of BPM 11g, BPEL can leverage BPM as well.

In my opinion - and I guess it's Oracle's opinion as well - BPM is going to stand much clsoer to the business user. So I expect BPEL to become more integration focused whereas BPM will be more process/workflow focussed.

So far I've only scratched the surface of all the changes that I've noticed or told about. Before I end however, there's two last things I'd like to present to you. The first one is BPEL Roundtrip. To be honest, this was never one of my favourites. In the new setup it will be possible to roundtrip from BPA to either BPEL or BPMN, which opens up new opportunities.

Always good to go out with a bang, so I've saved the best for last. With the introduction of BPM 11g comes the Process Composer. This is an web-based tool aimed at the business users, where they are able to modify any process before it's deployed. Based on available rules, services and process activities, they can modify the process to their needs. This will make imtroduction of new products (based on a default process) an undertaking that can be handled purely by the business, without the need for IT.

The Process Composer initially will have limited functionality (only to be used BEFORE deployment) but will get additional features like runtime editing etc soon thereafter. Way to go guys!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Open World Update #1 - Boys and their Toys

Oracle Open World 2009 was opened last night by a presentation from Scott McNealey, the - still - current CEO of SUN. As always, Scott has a free style of presenting, laced with a lot of humour. I got a sad feeling from him, as these are his last days as SUN CEO. One time he mentioned: this will probably the last time for a while that I'm able to present for such a large crowd. However, there was also a lot of pride in what was achieved during his 26 years at Sun.

As was to be expected, Larry Ellison entered the stage as well, to fend off the IBM attack. Boy, is it going to be a clash of titans. Oracle has really blown away IBM's world record TPC-C benchmark. And how! The new Sun Exadata Database machine, coupled with the new T5100 Flashfire is not only 20% faster, but - more impressively - has 16x better response times, while using a fraction of the energy (Green is HOT!): 300 watts versus 40.000 watts!

But really, it felt like the boys were loose, running in the yard playing with their toys. It sets a tone of what to expect in the next few months. IBM played it hard and got clobbered in the first round. Not the end of the war though!