Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Its raining from the Cloud!

If you are running an Enterprise Data Center, will you be able to give an itemized billing to your customers as Telecom companies do for every month? Can your customers pay using their corporate credit cards? Will you be able to provision and de-provision servers / resources in couple of minutes instead of huge ramp-up time and Bureaucracy?
And that is what, Cloud Computing promises to offer. While Amazon’s cloud offerings are production-ready, Microsoft’s latest Azure has just been announced. While there is lot of debate going on the industry about the viability of cloud business model in the long-term from providers’ perspective, I clearly see the end consumers being the beneficiaries. A whole new ecosystem is developing around the Cloud computing model. And if Enterprise IT is not taking a note on this model, it may not be good for them in the long run.
Yet again, I see ‘SOA’ hype being overtaken by one more useful and economical solution – Cloud computing. The takeaway from this trend is that – Enterprise IT is much more disciplined than in the past, where they specifically ask ‘What is in it for me?’ rather than getting carried away by a ‘Technology Hype’ story.
And SOA analysts have started confirming that SOA will fade and morph into much broader solution areas like SaaS and Cloud Computing. My take is that SOA will get into the infrastructural layer of enterprise applications where it becomes an enterprise fabric for connecting various entities within and beyond the corporate firewalls.
What would be interesting to see is an evolution of ‘Internal Cloud Platform’ which the Enterprise Data Center Team can just buy such platform off-the-shelf and start provisioning it from day one, rather than building one such platform by themselves.

Imagine the possibilities! The more the savings, there is greater potential to divert those funds to innovative projects.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What is common between SOA and BI projects?

(This is one of my favorite topics, so please bear with the long post…)

Both kinds of projects fail to deliver their promises most of the times…! :-)

Here are some evidences – Anne from Burton group reports that SOA is not working in most of the organizations. She also adds that many companies have stunningly beautiful SOA infrastructure and deployed the best technology. Yet those initiatives fall out. I can personally vouch for this statement. I have seen the same experience in the recent past. And more importantly, she says Techies have not been able to communicate the value of SOA to business partners!. Absolutely true! Out of the interviews she conducted so far, She confirms there is only one company that can be classified to have done true SOA.

What a startling observation?

While System Integrators are boasting of 100s and even 1000s of SOA case studies, an industry analyst says there is only one. It all boils down to the question of - do we understand SOA enough?

Now coming to BI projects, my fellow architect in the team confirms 40% of BI projects typically fail to meet their objectives purely because of data quality, data ownership issues. 40% is not a small number, especially when we deploy fancy DW/BI tools in place.

Now, what is so common between these projects?

As I have written in mashup posts, anything beyond plain vanilla operations – say Operational Excellence, Generating Insights/Analytics, Growth, Innovation, Governance, Reuse and Sharing – requires not just ‘tools and technologies’ but the ‘people’s hearts and soul/Passion & Energy’.

If the SOA/BI/Mashup initiatives do not culturally transform the company in terms of org structure & collaboration, they are bound to fail immediately.

As I have written a comment in Anne’s post, these projects to take off and provide real business value, it requires change agents in the company. And IT architects/ consultants and Project Managers do not have enough credibility or skills in performing the role of change agents and that’s where the root cause of the problem lies. To perform real changes, it requires a leader who understands the potential of SOA/BI projects, articulates effectively to stakeholders and persuades the people to buy it for their goodness. And that’s not easy!. And that is typically thankless job!

Some of the similarities I could list:
1. SOA deals with owenership of services. BI has to deal with Ownership of data. When the projects need to deal with multiple owners for a single initiative where they have no immediate benefits, there is a challenge
2. Semantics is important to SOA. Data Quality and Semantics are both important to BI projects. Both cannot be achieved easily / automated easily and requires peoples’ knowledge and collaboration.
3. Both initiatives require Strong Governance processes
4. Both the initiatives have challenges in terms of defining the ROI and achieving it pragmatically.
And there could be few more…

Monday, October 20, 2008

Windows 7 Sensors!

Another revolution in waiting…! The ‘internet of Things’ could soon become a reality!.
While lot of unofficial news floating around about Windows 7 and its features!. I was curious about one feature that is ‘Sensors’, naturally because of my company’s expertise in Sensors market.
Though Microsoft has not clearly articulated the features of Windows 7 in detail, it was exciting to imagine the potential of this new feature. It is stated that one of the goals of sensor-enabling Windows is to provide a platform for enabling ‘context-aware’ applications in Windows. The sensors will provide the context of where the PC is in current location and the Windows app will react based on the context.
Some of the windows applications that could be sensor enabled are – Outlook where the app interacts with Multi-touch sensors to drag and drop emails from/to folders, Windows App automatically adjusts the monitor brightness/contract based on the room lighting arrangements using a light sensor, etc.
Now, this is just the beginning…!
Imagine the possibilities – Like Windows automatically detects the standard devices like USB, Cameras, etc, will the new Windows 7 automatically detect the sensors like accelerometers & barometers?
And the biggest advantage will arrive when Windows application starts to interact with those sensors in bi-directional communication. That’s when the Windows starts directly to interact with real world in real-time and becomes truly enabled to provide a whole new range of new applications – like Thermostats/Temperature control, device control/remote control for home based devices. Nokia is already doing lot of experiments with Mobile Sensors. And it would be a great to see the sensory mechanism is built directly into the hardware and software/OS infrastructure so that value-added business applications can be easily developed on top of the platform. This could be the beginning of next generation business applications!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Are you ready to develop Smart Web Apps?

When I am trying to hard to create just a ‘tag cloud’ in this blog, Reuters, using its Calais web services takes any unstructured content, understands it and discovers the entities, events, relations and categories in the text and returns the results in RDF context.
Now backtracking a little…
What if your traditional business model gets challenged by the Globalized and Connected Environment?. Will you Surrender, survive or Lead?. The ‘Reuters’ says it will Lead. Very Timely, Intelligent and Courageous Move by the Leadership at Reuters.
When the information is redundant, open and freely available in the internet, why would any one want to pay for the information (to Reuters)?. It looks like Reuters has clearly understood threats and opportunities in the changing world and responded with not just a fitting response but leads the way for information-centric companies.
In the world of abundant information, it’s the ‘attention’ and ‘quality of information’ is scarce and that is what Reuters planning to monetize on. To provide high-quality content that would be useful to its customers, Reuters have turned to one of the most promising technologies of the next generation Internet – that is – Semantic Web. And the result is its acquisition of ClearForest technologies.
The smarter the web gets using Calais Web Services, the more the benefits for Reuters. The fact is Reuters will be in a much better position to deliver high-quality information and insights into its customers, not just raw data.
As far as end-users are concerned, pls do check out Open Calais website. The potential of these services look promising. As a blogger keys-in the text in the blog post, the wordpress blog plugin enriched by the Calais will understand the patterns and recommend pictures from Flickr. Sounds Cool!
Think about these possibilities in real business applications…And am sure the Semantic Web has the potential to generate the next killer app!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pervasive Computing @ LeapFrog

Couple of Years before, I bought a LeapFrog learning pad in Canada for my son. I found the experience very impressive. The device enables a range of catridges to be loaded and learning different subjects with kids-specific themes. The catridges are sold separately and it works offline independently with no need to connect to computer to play those catridges.
Now back to 2008/2009, Same company is set for launching next-generation transformational services. The same LeapPad devices can be connected to internet. By connecting the leappad devices to your computer which in turn connected to the net, the device can directly talk to LeapPad Services hosted on the web. There is a host of services to be made available - like new games/learning modules, tracking kids' learning pace/activities, Sharing the learning with Teachers via Web. Now, thats what I call as a True Transformation towards SOA. A device that was once passive and selling only standalone products, comesup with a 'services' business model. The business model opens immense opportunties for LeapPad as well as for Parents and Children. It adds more interactivity and liveliness to the learning experience. Above all, it turns the device 'smarter' and 'connected'. And Look at the way things change where connectivity becomes Ubiquitous. But what would have been really nice is that - if the devices themselves could talk to the Web Services directly without needing for connecting to a computer. Maybe that will follow next...
Now, coming to the IT part, the way they have built the IT system that supports this service-oriented business model is also impressive. No Big-Bang System Integrators, No Complex Vendor Products, Open-Source style development, Geographically distributed teams, Empowered Team members, Specification-driven Development, Least-expensive, Open-Source software and Faster Time-to-Market. If you are seriously thinking about achieving a 'Faster' SOA, then you should not miss this story. This case study also disproves the fact that SOA is complex and time-consuming. There are many different ways one can venture into SOA and which class to follow purely depends solely on one's Organizational needs and culture.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Oracle Fusion Apps in 2010 : Anyone waiting?

Are you surprised that Oracle Fusion was not in the limelight during the recent Oracle OpenWorld 2008 event?. Well, it looks like there are valid reasons. For one, Oracle Fusion Apps may not be available to the customers until 2010. And the rest of the reasons follow...
I have always questioned the value of 'Big SOA' as called by ERP vendors. And this recent CIO article only helps to validate my opinion. Some of the important observations from the article:
1. It is going to be hard to justify a ROI for the new product (Fusion)
2. There is no competitive pressure from other vendors like Microsoft and SAP to achieve a faster time-to-market
3. Above all, there is no pressure / demand from customers for the new product
Same goes with SAP's SOA story as well. But, SAP is committing billions of dollars towards revamping their product and creating a completely new breed of ecosystem to support ESOA. But, What is the business case for an existing SAP ERP customer to move to ESOA ecosystem?. I have not found a compelling answer yet.
Given the fact that SAP/Microsoft and Oracle are delaying their SOA offerings,Guess who is benefitting from it?. Its none other than IBM. If an existing ERP customer wants to do SOA 'today', the cohesive & comprehensive solution could be built out using IBM SOA infrastructure.
Am not trying to sell IBM products here. But the message I wanted to pass across is that 'There is no SOA without a compelling business case. And Make sure you have one before deep diving into SOA, especially Big SOA'.