Tuesday, June 24, 2008

IT industrialization is a Mirage?

Gartner has recently identified 'Seven Grand Challenges for IT' during next 25 years. Interestingly one of the challenge that is mentioned is - 'Increase Programmer productivity by 100 fold'. Though I find the number - 100 fold - to be too greedy :-), I have to admit that I see this challenge as the fundamental to the IT industry for the years to come.
IBM endorses this view saying IT industrialization is still in early stages. While recent developments like SOA, SaaS and Utility computing have industrialized the buying and selling side of IT, we have not seen anything that is concrete that will truly industrialize the way we 'build' our software.
There are so many enablers such as Open source frameworks, SOA, sophisticated IDEs, but none of them have seems to have solved the problem to a greater extent. I practically experience in my company where developers are still burdened with mundane activities such as UI issues/Table-to-Object mappings. And we have not achieved significant reduction in the development time as well. Am not talking about rapid application languages such as Ruby, etc. They can help to certain extent, but they have not made inroads to enterprise apps yet.
So, the need of the hour is a magic bullet that would slash the development time spent in mechanics of the actual application.
If MDAs, Software Factories are answers to this problem,we would not have seen this in Gartner Report as a challenge for next 25 years.
I believe one way of improving the developer productivity is to enhace the capabilities of application server platforms. Its the right time to elevate the application server platforms to provide application related capabilities from pure infrastructure capabilities.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

SOA Vs Product Line Architecture

While I was contemplating with an idea of Product-Line Architecture concept to a series of projects in my company, it triggered me the thought of comparing the same with Service-Oriented Architecture. I plunged myself into this comparison of Product-Line Architecture and Service-Oriented Architecture and the journey was quite interesting and insightful.
I also saw that CMU is doing lot of work in bringing the synergies between the two paradigms. The university views that both paradigms can complement each other and each can add value to the other at broader architecture level - Applying Service-Orientation to the Product-Lines and Applying Product-Line approach to Service-Orientation / Composition. While I completely agree with this idea, I believe a greater synergy can be achieved when they are applied at their respective contexts, where they are best at.
To explain a bit more, in one of the scenarios, SOA and Product Line Approach can perfectly co-exist, where SOA addresses the interface part of Services and Product-Line addresses the implementation of components behind the services. The Product Line concepts can be applied to model the service inventory within a specific domain in the enterprise. Applying Product-Line concepts to the implementation portion of SOA will significantly benefit in terms of accelerating the development time of services.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rise of new ERP

Came across this interesting article titled 'The Next Revolution in Productivity' in Harvard Business Review few days ago. The article advocates that - To harvest the maximum benefits out of an SOA initiative, it is required for the companies to revisit the fundamental design of their operations & their organizational structure. If they dont do that, all they will achieve is just IT efficiency, while SOA's true potential can achieve lot more than that.
This perspective generates a lot of thought process. I always tried to understand the value proposition behind the SOA strategy of bigger ERP vendors. The ERP vendors' SOA stack primarily unwraps its huge monolithic bundle in the form of prolific services and encourages the ecosystem to innovate and compose new business processes. However, I would see this model as 'innovation' happening on the 'Edge'. The true innovation in this space would be the one that could be applied at the 'roots' of the business processes.
As mentioned in the above article, using ERP vendors' SOA stack, is it possible to fundamentally redesign a specific business process?. Is it possible hot swap, sell or buy the inner most activities of a business process that is composed around ERP?. If the HBR hypothesis cannot be delivered out of today's ERP ecosystems, then as the article states, one may not leverage the fullest potential of SOA. And the one that supports the complete enterprise transformation with innovative business processes would be the new ERP...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Virtualization overtakes SOA?

Am not trying to draw any parallels between Virtualization Technology and SOA Architecture here. Am classifying both of them in the category of emerging trends and trying to see which one is progressing faster.
Though I am an ardent fan of SOA and the potential impact it could create on the IT and Business, I should acknowledge that there are significant complexities involved in implementing SOA. Zapthink partner David Linthicum talks about it persistently in his blog. SOA makes tall promises. However, to realize the promises, it requires skilled SOA architects/designers, business consultants, sponsors and above all patience. :-)
Having said that, I should say Virtualization leads the game in terms of realizing the promises and achieving the benefits. Here is a reference. PC Quest has recently announced the Top IT implementations for the year 2008 and I couldnt find a single SOA focused project. Almost all of them are pointed solutions that are targeted towards solving a specific business problem. Am not saying that pointed solutions are bad. The point here is SOA has not been mentioned as a key stragic enabler in any of those implementations.
However, I could see a virtualization success story. ICICI bank has recently completed the enterprise server virtualization project and this project has been selected as one of the best implementations. More than the project, the metrics made me to say Wow!. Here it is - The bank was able to condense more than 550 servers in about 43 servers using VMWare Virtualization Technology. This is a strong metric that speaks the benefits of Virtualization.
Virtualization as a technology concept is slowly making in-roads into the industry and Even conservative IT shops are bound to invest in this technology for the solid proof statements that can be seen around the industry.
There are plenty of SOA case studies as well. Am not denying that. However, I strongly believe that virtualization has a direct impact on the fundamental economics of an IT shop and hence it succeeds, whereas SOA has an indirect impact via the business solutions and the actual architecture that gets implemented.

So My suggestion would be - Invest in virtualization today to save money so that You can invest in SOA tomorrow! :-)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

SaaS is rocket science!

Yes...Am not talking about a SaaS consumer here...but the provider.
This is what analysts quote when SAP delays its SaaS offering. I was surprised to see SAP officials saying the SaaS offering will prove to be expensive for SAP itself. This is what SAP co-CEO says...
"We have to work out how expensive it will be for SAP if we run this product in a hosted environment. We have to make sure we make enough money with the product"
The offering is targeted at SME businesses and supposed to be cost-efficient for them. While the offering may prove cost-effective for end customers, it looks like it will prove the other way for the provider.

Having this story, I was trying to understand why is it so complex? What could be the technical barriers in building a platform and rolling-out the services, considering the fact that you have so many appliation platforms in the market?
ButI couldn't agree more that its not going to be a cake walk, because of the following reasons:
1. Multi-tenancy architecture is not easy. If the SaaS vendor wants to host multiple tenants in the same infrastructure and still able to deliver the SLAs which are different for different tennants, thats not a default feature of conventional platforms. You will need a new architecture to address the challenges.
2. Only if the multi-tenancy is in place, it would prove to be profitable for the service provider, where you get to host more tenants on less number of instances.
The same challenges apply to in-house shared service providers as well..who would build and host services that are consumed by different LOBs within the same company.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Enterprise Mobile Wars - iPhone 2.0, BlackBerry and Google Android

I thought blogging about Google Android platform few days ago. But, then I was waiting for iPhone 3G launch to happen...
First and foremost, have you had a chance to view the Google Android application gallery?...If not, I would strongly recommend to checkout...It has an interesting range of applications - personal productivity, social networking, context-aware apps, m-commerce to carbon credit measurements. I also happen to view the Google Android Demo that looked like iPhone's cousin in touch-screen interface.
As some of the bloggers are writing, there must be something cooking behind Google Android and Google is not disclosing the actual plans and potential of the platform. It always says...It is the developers who would come out with a killer application for the platform and not Google. Hard to believe!. Couple of other reasons;
1. In the application gallery that consists of 50 applications, I agree that many of them are innovative and interesting. But, none of them would qualify for a 'killer' application that would give a competetive edge to the platform itself.
2. There are speculations that Google is planning a GPhone in collaboration with Dell, Google is interested in only grabbing a ad space in mobile...But, the actual intent is not known yet.
3. From all of the above, I see Google Android to be only next to BlackBerry and iPhone. While BlackBerry clearly scores in enterprise market and gets into significant partnership with Enterprise technology vendors such as SAP, iPhone is clearly targeted at consumer space (to start with) and leads brilliantly in multimedia space. If the market is segmented that way, Google Android can be positioned for low-cost phones with innovative apps for the common man.

Now, after yesterday's announcement of iPhone 2.0, Apple is readying iPhone slowly into enterprise email market in collaboration with Cisco. And tons of consumer apps with blistering speed!. If Apple continues to invest in enterprise readiness, it could give BlackBerry a run for its money in near future.

Whether its Apple or RIM or Google, I strongly believe its going to make good for mobile customers as it increases competition and it will continue to bring new releases to the market with innovative features!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Next Generation Outsourcing

Few years before, I had read Cognizant CEO sharing his thought process on how would the next generation of outsourcing look like?. His vision was to move from labor-arbitrage to intellectural-arbitrage combined with global sourcing. Ok, that sounds like obvious?. Let me get into details...The service value chain can become atomically global. Each step of the process can be decontructed to set of activities to find out the most appropriate location which is best suited to perform that specific activity at a given point of time.

And yesterday, when I read a IT magazine, I found a company which has just ventured to realize the very same idea what Cognizant CEO talked about. The company name is called 'Anantara Solutions'. The company defines itself as a SGO / Second Generation Outsourcing company. It acts as a master system integrated and works with an ecosystem of partners who build and deliver solutions in specific technology areas. But, Anantara owns the final responsibility of delivering the business solution to the client, combined with its own business consulting skills. Sounds intesting!. The company has only 40 people and already works with an ecosystem of 25 companies that are spread across various geographies. Sounds definitely innovative..and interesting.
Now, I would be interested to know further...
1. The SGO can be more valuable compared to FGO (First Generation Outsourcing :-). But Would it be cost-effective as well on an on-going basis?
2. The SGO certainly creates an edge for the solution provider. It creates a unique value to the provider. But, it requires a lot of intellectual property to sustain it on a longer term. Will it be sustainable?
3. As Cognizant CEO has talked about being an enabler of next generation outsourcing, What would be Company like Anantara's business model, if other big players venture into this model?
4. Some of the analysts being skeptical about a smaller player's success in this market.
All these questions will be answered while we wait and watch Anantara growing...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Telepresence Wonder

Ever since Cisco announced their Telepresence product, I thought it would be affordable and appicable only in Corporate context.

However, I recently read that Wachovia Bank is planning to deploy the Telepresence solution for a specific customer service segment. That was interesting!.

I wonder the Telepresence channel will compliment / replace Branch Banking in future...

Some of the other contexts where the solution will largely add value are Telemedicine (especially in Rural areas), Offshore-based Consulting. (This is one area where we have not figured out how to improve the effectiveness of consulting without being at onsite).

But, the price points are inhibiting the potential early pilots!. Hope to see more such business solutions in near future!.