One of the joys of twitter is that your friends and other tweeps can bring excellent items and articles to your attention. And thankfully not all of them are pictures of cats – although some are (thanks @PlatoSays). Anyway earlier this week, Richard Brown (@gendal) tweeted a link to this article on how shipping containers built the modern world. Now this sparked something in me because a few years ago I was working in IBM’s marketing team for WebSphere – looking mostly at Connectivity and Integration, which of course includes WebSphere MQ.
What was amusing to me was that Richard, when tweeting the article, said to think about the shipping container as the Internet of Things, and in my marketing role we had actually nearly done a large marketing push/campaign around the similarities between messaging and shipping containers – and indeed shipping goods themselves. I probably have on my laptop somewhere various images and presentation drafts about it. However it was too easy to get too deep into the shipping analogy, and to lose track of the actual points about Messaging. But given with a blog entry I have absolute control, I will try to make the key point I was trying to do beforehand – and you can let me know if I lose focus.
Let’s start with the shipping container and how it succeeded. It starts by looking at what came before it – every item loaded into a ship individually, and unloaded individually. This involved a tremendous amount of manpower, incurred a lot of breakages (and theft) and also took a huge amount of time. The shipping container of course changes all this. All types of goods can simply be loaded into a container elsewhere. The container itself can then be simply moved from place to place, with the unloading and unloading from the ship being capable of being automated. So the complexity of moving and dealing with multiple types of goods has gone, replaced with a simple, repeatable process. No longer are goods delayed, with ships held up in port. Everything runs like clockwork.
The parallels with messaging are uncanny. Data is packed into messages. The message contents themselves then become irrelevant. The messages are all moved programmatically, with the applications that loaded the data no longer involved, and not delayed by the process of moving the data, which can be subject to a lot more scrutiny and checks without overcomplicating the application program. By applying messaging to move data between all your applications you now have simple, repeatable and reliable methods to move your data anywhere without over working your applications. When a program receives a message, it is because it has been designed to handle the data within it, just like a shipping company expects a container and can handle what is in it, thanks to the bill of lading.
So if a simple box has changed the world, just think what a simple message can do for your IT infrastructure. Much like today’s shipping container, WebSphere MQ is probably the most widely used commercial messaging product, moving more bits of data daily than there are goods shipped daily in shipping containers. Changing the world, one message at a time.