Posts Tagged ‘SOA’

Is marketing like maths?

October 1, 2009

I was just reading my colleague Ben Mann’s latest blog entry on the need to tinker with presentations etc. and I am very much the same. No document or presentation is ever done or finished. There is always some way to improve it, to make it sing, to have a clearer message. I have been feeling this more and more this summer as I have been building new presentations to align WebSphere Connectivity with Industry solutions – something IBM’s Smarter Planet approach has been doing for our complete set of offerings.

At times it has been tough going trying to tell the story, but then things drop into place. Sometimes it doesn’t require much change to make everything work. And mostly it seems to come down to one common answer. If you are telling the right message, the right story, it should be clear and simple. Telling it, building it, explaining it should all work. And trying to change it, improve it, should be difficult. Just as A-level Maths had you work out proofs for formula, and it would all work out neatly, or you knew you had done it wrong. If we can’t tell a compelling story in marketing, then we probably need to change our approach if not what we are trying to say. If marketing is done right, it should be obvious and we shouldn’t feel the need to change it.To some extent I think that is why SOA has been successful. SOA is actually a simple idea. People had already been doing it for years. Just formalizing it, and calling it SOA allowed everyone to agree, and now of course it is accepted, and has won the argument to all intents and purposes. Also it was probably the reason WebSphere MQ was successful. It was a simple idea, simply executed, allowing for a simple message…2+2=4 if you like.

So am I there yet with my latest marketing…not quite…but I think I have the basis for the proof, now I just need to follow it through, and show my working in my neatest handwriting. Fingers crossed for a good grade!

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Catch up blog – closing on ESBCON

September 29, 2009

So it has been too long since I found time to write a blog entry. And we have a busy time with the Business Agility Now launch coming hard on the heels of the Smart Work launch. But before I cover some of the key areas these look at I feel I ought to finish off the last 3 tough questions from ESBCON8.

Here are the last 3 questions:

Discuss how your ESB supports SLA, zero downtime and cross-department integration ?

For current ESB users, can you detail popular second-generation projects with quick ROI?

How does your ESB accelerate ‘Design-to-Deployment’ with tooling, widgets, automated integrations, etc?

Lets see whether I can give my thoughts on these in a succinct manner. First what about SLA, downtime and cross-department integration? As ESBs become more pervasive and their presence is assumed, they need to no be seen as a problem – to become a utility…that is how they must be seen – as something to plug into and just work. Of course integration is about more than just the ESB – the connected applications must also be available and so the ESB layer must also be able to tolerate application and other failures well. In IBM solutions we are seeing this extension of always-on availability to include files moving through the ESB layer with the WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition. This boosts the enterprise nature of the ESB solution, and the ability to exist in a Cloud or cluster environment where needed by the business is also a strong choice factor.

Second question = about second generation ESB projects for quick ROI. This is when an initial investment has been made in an ESB and subsequent integration projects in the business want to leverage this. Of course ideally project selection, from the first step would have been done based on business benefit – addressing the key needs first. A study like an SOA Healthcheck would be a good way to do this. However in terms of picking second projects, anything that reuses some of the investment already made would be a good idea. Once assets are available as services through an ESB they become reusable. This any other part of the business that needs them should be able to reuse them as a part of a composite application, accelerating deployment, reducing cost and boosting ROI. This may drive the selection of projects to enable greater reuse, driving ROI.

Finally how to accelerate design to deployment, with widgets, tooling and automation? This is a pretty broad topic to cover – one of the simpler answers would be that for some requirements, customers could deploy our SOA appliance – WebSphere DataPower XI50 as an ESB – this is exceptionally fast to deploy, simplify needing to be plugged in and configured. However other options, to be used with other ESBs, or with the appliance, would include using WebSphere Transformation Extender which can accelerate tricky integration deployments, including by using Industry packs to address key needs. These, and the best practices we can recommend can all really speed your deployment, again increasing ROI.

Tough Questions on ESBs from ESBCON8

August 27, 2009

So it has been a week since ESBCON8 went out. You can still register and listen to it here – I think you will find it worth the time. All three CTOs had a lot of interesting points to make – Although clearly the solo presentations are a core part of ESBCON, the section I enjoyed listening to the most is the “5 Tough Questions”. This head-to-head section covers a lot of different points and you get to hear a more impromptu set of answers. Lets review the first of the 5 Tough Questions from the event this time:

Question 1:Gartner recently released a study that says 70% of all enterprise SOA starts with ESBs. What do your customers find are the most popular reasons for using ESBs as a foundation technology?

Perhaps the most fundamental question for an audience interested in ESBs…The discussion today of SOA seems to be in a state of transition. Is SOA dead? Absolutely not. If anything the discussion has moved on from SOA, in the same way it moved on from the frenzy of discussion around ESBs in the last couple of years because there is no point to a discussion over whether SOA is useful or important. The answer is obvious and everywhere. SOA is now assumed – the question is what’s next?

IBM is already telling this story of what’s next – with Smarter Planet and Smart Work, all building on the solid foundation of robust reliable and agile business and IT alignment provided by SOA, with an ESB at the heart of the infrastructure. This is the reasons so many projects have an ESB as their starting point, is that an ESB is a fundamental, essential component for the infrastructure to whatever project you are looking to implement, so starting with this is a given, especially as so many parts of the business can make use of it, thus increasing time-to-value.

If projects don’t start with an ESB, they are likely to start with a Registry/Repository, trying to put SOA Governance in place before too many services escape into the wild. SOA does offer business the ability to see and respond better to events, but also provides the capability for just as much chaos as exists in architectures already.

So – SOA isn’t dead, and an ESB is fairly clearly an obvious place to start in enhancing your business infrastructure – putting in place the ability for you to Work Smart for a Smarter Planet.

I will take a look at the other Tough Questions shortly. And I am sure I will come back to Smarter Planet and Smart Work

ESBCON 8 – Looking ahead to a great event

August 20, 2009

Later today the most recent ESBCON event will go live. This long running multi-vendor virtual conference takes some leaders from the major ESB vendors and has them give brief solo presentations, as well as putting them on the spot asking them 5 tough questions.

For IBM we have Jerry Cuomo, WebSphere CTO, presenting. Other vendors Sun Microsystems and Progress Software also have their CTOs presenting at the event.

After the event I will look to give my own thoughts on the 5 Tough Questions. However as a lead in lets look at some of the Tough Questions that could have been asked but didn’t make the cut to the Final Five.

Some of the initial thinking could have included questions such as:

  • What benefits do ESBs with SCA (Service Component Architecture) offer users? What skills does IT need to tap into SCA benefits?
  • How large can I scale an integration/SOA project with a single ESB?
  • Discuss technologies and patterns for scaling ESBs, in terms of traffic load, number of nodes or even multi-site integration?
  • Discuss trends in real-time visibility and management for IT and business users?
  • How does your ESB manage integrations end-to-end (include support for Remote Integration, High-Availability, Governance, Auditing or Identity Management)

Now some of these questions got adapted to end up contributing to the actual questions asked, but they do reflect important points, even with duplication and the different technical levels being probed. The questions on scaling are clearly important – after all who wants to deploy an ESB which if successful will undoubtedly require the ESB to handle increasing traffic loads and be physically and logically deployed and managed more widely across the enterprise.

Also important is the aspect of real-time visibility for both IT and business users. This is growing in importance, with all traffic moving through the ESB it becomes easier to understand how and where to track business data as business events take place, and also for the IT side of the business to track and control the use and performance of systems. This visibility aspect is one of the key unsung benefits that can be seen from a successful ESB deployment. I will make a point of saying ‘successful’ there as it is easy to think of an ESB deployment to meet a singular need that is then not used further to extract that data that can so enrich a business.

It will be interesting to see how the CTOs fare on the real questions, and I will look forward to reviewing that after the event

Attending the Gartner SOA/ADI event in London

June 29, 2009

It was nice to get out of the office/home office routine last week to visit the Gartner SOA/ADI conference – this was the second year I have been to this show and it is always worthwhile. The event seemed to be very busy with the keynote sessions pretty full and some very interested customers from all over Europe and beyond attending to listen to the sessions and also talk to the vendors attending – of whom IBM was one – as a premier sponsor. At pretty much the start of the event there was a vendor panel from the premier sponsors who participated in a quickfire session to review their thoughts regarding a number of Gartner predictions for the future – there was broad agreement with many of the thoughts, although there was a level of scepticism regarding whether the scale of uptake for some of the technologies would be as high as was contended. The state of the economy was judged to be a likely factor in IT change decisions – which is of course to be expected.

The other Gartner sessions I attended were certainly very interesting. A theme which seemed to run through the 2 days was the coming growth in multi-enterprise B2B driven by the need for e-invoicing. And the complexity and business risk associated with this will also drive the need for strong SOA Governance. SOA Governance was one of the key starting points for companies starting SOA implementations, but by far the most common starting point was an ESB – which of course makes a lot of sense as an ESB is a great boon to business whether it is part of a larger SOA deployment or simply looking to improve connectivity.

We had a great stream of different businesses coming to the IBM stand in the Vendor showcase. Due to the focus of the show, all were highly knowledgable about middleware and many were already WebSphere customers, involved in projects, either at early stages or deploying. I had a number of discussions with almost everyone about whether they use FTP as a part of their existing infrastructure, and whether the new WMQ File Transfer Edition product could be of benefit to them – we got some encouraging interest.

Also a popular discussion topic was our WebSphere DataPower appliances – they of course have many uses throughout the enterprise and I had involved discussions about what benefits they provided depending on the type of deployment and where they were being used. And finally an interesting topic for discussion was the brand new WebSphere Cloudburst appliance – there is huge interest in Cloud and this seems a very timely and innovative solution for customers. Hopefully next time we will have a box on display!

Back from a busy week at Impact

May 11, 2009

So back home again, having spent the last week in Las Vegas for IBM Impact 2009. Of course in IBM’s SOA and WebSphere marketing team we have been working towards this event for what seems like ages – probably because it has been ages.

What were my overall impressions of the week? Well it was another good conference. Looking at the agenda there seemed to be lots of interesting sessions, and the general sessions were well attended. One of the biggest new aspects of the conference was the social media aspect, especially Twitter. Conference attendees were encouraged to ‘tweet’ about the event with the #tag #ibmimpact, and this was then tracked on various screens around the event as well as occasionally up on the big screens in the general session. This allowed the opening guest speaker, Billy Crystal, to gently mock attendees as geeks – sigh!

So other than indulging in various food and drink, and a little light blackjack, what else did I get up to in the conference? Well mainly I was working in the Solution Center as the co-ordinator of the Guided/Walking tours of the Solution Center. The idea was that customers/sales reps would register for one or more of the seven tours that interested them and would then get a quick 30 minute tour introducing them to the topics on each ped, allowing them to come back for a longer, more detailed visit as required.

So – did the tours go well? On the whole, given it was the first time we ran these I was pleased. We learned a lot and we will hopefully do more and better next year. We had maybe 25 pre-booked tours over the 3 days we ran them, and up to maybe another 10-20 where customers turned up wanting an immediate tour, and either got guided round or used one of the tour maps to guide themselves round. Did we get good feedback? Well a number of customers came back for additional tours – in one case, three times and where we got feedback forms, there seemed to be good areas of interest. Probably our most popular tours were the Process Automation tours and the Retail tours. However as the week went on, I quickly learned that customers were sometimes interested in more than just the 7 tours I had designed so I produced some customized tours, combining the various tours, and in one case creating a bespoke 15 stop tour to meet a customer’s needs. I think where possible, this might be something to do for more customers next year, if we get enough notice of the cutomer interests. However I think what we should offer to every customer is a set of self-guided tours so that they can quickly start to discover the value in the Solution Center.

Other than working on the tours it was of course great to see my colleagues face to face for a change instead of through the phone line or over SameTime. But it was also good to talk to customers and to attend some sessions. I have to say one of the most interesting sessions I attended was about the use of RFID in Supply Chains. Businesses truly are transforming themselves by applying technology to their supply chains and even their manufacturing lines. The potential for cost savings and increases in speed are fascinating.

So, it is now back to the day job. I will be spending a lot more time focusing on creating more Industry Marketing content for WebSphere Connectivity marketing, and having met my SOA industry marketing colleagues at Impact, that should be a lot easier and we will be working together to produce better content.

More on Mainframe Modernization

March 23, 2009

Following on from the Modernization Topic – lets answer a few questions about that area:

Q. >What are the architectural aspects of SOA that scare mainframe professionals, and what are the best ways to overcome those reservations?


A.> An important part of that question is whether SOA – or some aspects of it does scare mainframe professionals. Obviously mainframe professionals tend to believe and work passionately for high quality deliverables and levels of service, with strong controls to ensure this. I think that the issues for most would be around the degree of change involved and how that might impact what the mainframe delivers to the business. SOA, if supported with the right tools can actually deliver strong levels of control and increase the business awareness of ongoing work and transactions. This can help to reassure mainframe professionals, as well as the fact that by including the mainframe in SOA, it can help to further demonstrate the continuing importance of the mainframe to the business.

Q.> How do WebSphere offerings fit in with offerings from IBM-Rational? And, will these work with other toolsets?


A.> The business/IT environment can be highly complex and unique to each organization. Depending on differing priorities and where each asset is in its own lifecycle, there may be different decisions being made as to what the key area to focus on and where to progress the business. In some cases that will require analysis and redevelopment of the application for modernization, based around the Rational tooling, in others you will see a more direct approach using WebSphere integration capabilities, but in many cases – probably most – there will be benefits from using a range of these capabilities over the longer term. This is a way in which IBM Services experts can provide assistance by reviewing your existing infrastructure and suggesting a roadmap as part of their SOA Healthchecks – helping you to identify when to use Rational and when to use WebSphere.

Q.> The key themes of IBM’s SOA initiatives have long been ‘Connectivity’ and ‘Reuse’. These terms would seem to take on new dimensions when talking about Mainframe SOA projects. Briefly summarize how IBM views ‘Connectivity’ and ‘Reuse’ when including mainframe data or logic?


A.> Certainly from an IT perspective Reuse and Connectivity have been and continue to be important issues. The assets one is likely to find on a mainframe tend to be those assets which are extremely valuable and therefore likely to be key in any reuse more widely across the enterprise – and these assets may have been more difficult to reuse historically. Reuse of course is a 2-way practice – information and data is involved more widely across the business which demands a better connectivity implementation – they really are 2 sides of the same coin. And of course with the high quality enterprise data and applications that exist on the mainframe the connectivity infrastructure needs to be capable of delivering very strong and reliable connections. This is what the WebSphere solutions are built on.

Q.> Many Mainframe-SOA projects don’t get done because of 2 main concerns – (1) maintaining integrity and SLAs, and (2) visibility into the transaction flow from mainframe to the outside. Summarize IBM offerings for addressing these concerns.


A.> IBM well understands these concerns. Both WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere MQ, the foundation for all IBM’s runtime offerings are built on an absolutely rock solid transactional implementation, enabling the mainframe assets to be used and reused without the quality of service or the quality of data being impacted negatively – instead it is used to extend these traditional mainframe attributes wider into the business – a positive really rather than a threat.

Q.>
In today’s economy some long-term projects are being put on hold, or replaced with projects that offer quicker ROI. Does IBM offer templates for a 60 or 90 day Mainframe SOA project?

A.> It is more important than ever to not get bogged down in long term IT projects that do not offer clear benefits to the business, especially benefits that can be seen in the near term. Projects that will have overall benefits to the business are likely to need to be justified by a single project use – and once successful may then be rolled out more widely. For modernization of assets this reduces the scope for tasks and level of effort – driving the focus on fast implementations that show clear benefits. While it is still worthwhile to review which projects can reap the largest benefits using efforts such as the SOA Healthchecks mentioned above, it is likely that once identified initial projects might be found that will see results by selecting WebSphere MQ to simplify connectivity and to service enable application interfaces. Not only is a WebSphere MQ project likely to be easier to cost-justify than a more substantial and involved implementation but it will show rapid benefits with increased reliability, enhanced manageability and simpler application interfaces. Further to this other ‘quick hits’ might be from WebSphere DataPower SOA appliances as they are extremely rapid to configue and deploy, needing little in the way of further work, or another choice could be to put a foundation of Governance in place with WebSphere Service Registry and Repository. By quickly finding and logging existing services assets, both developers and adminstrators can quickly reap benefits in both finding and tracking the use of existing assets, reducing exceptions and increasing the potential for reuse.

Issues around modernizing IT infrastructure and assets

March 10, 2009

As I mentioned on a previous blog entry I have recorded a short webcast on Mainframe Modernization for Idevnews

This will be available later this month, but it is a big subject so I want to cover a number of the issues we touched on in the talk and some we didn’t get time to cover. First let’s look at the issue of services and service-enabling assets. Clearly the momentum seems to be that for most new developments that are to be a part of SOA it seems to be sensible to build these new assets as services rather than monolithic applications. However, given the vast majority of IT assets already exist, and are not going away or being replaced – and are not services – what does this mean for a business looking to move to an SOA?

Well SOA does not have to mean services or web services – SOA is an architectural approach rather than any technology or implementation. In fact that is what IBM tries to encourage –  to extend and expand a customer’s SOA goals to include systems which are not – and may never be subject to any reprogramming or redevelopment to change them to services assets. I don’t think there are any customers out there who are 100% SOA – there may never be.

SOA is still a good idea, and businesses seem to sometimes think that becoming service-enabled is the goal – this is wrong. Trying to improve the business by aligning IT with the business through an SOA approach is I think what businesses should be trying to do – that should help them to address the changing needs in this economy.

Now becoming more service enabled – either through modernizing assets directly – the Rational software approach, or by modernizing the infrastructure more than the assets – the WebSphere approach, can help get to this improvement – but just service enablement itself shouldn’t be the goal.

Now there are some people in business who see modernization of IT assets – and therefore reuse – are by some standards dull and the very opposite of innovation and exciting activities – but here’s the thing….think of existing assets as food leftovers in the fridge…..just eating leftovers can be unexciting, but the driver in SOA and modernizing and reusing assets is to use assets in combination with other assets. In the same way combining a few leftovers together can create a wonderful new meal. So service-enablement of assets themselves can be one way to further SOA progress – but the WebSphere approach of simplifying and service-enabling just the interfaces to the assets can be a much faster way to gain modern and reusable access to these assets.

There are of course a number of ways to service-enable these interfaces – WebSphere Message Broker has been able to do this for some time, but also WebSphere MQ can now service-enable interfaces as a part of the WMQ layer – simplifying the task of progress to SOA for business benefits.

The changing face of SOA

February 24, 2009

Amidst all the economic turmoil that is surrounding us these days, there seem to be 2 different discussions going on about SOA. One side views SOA as now mainstream and the defacto choice for business/IT architecture, and the other side views SOA as being in the trough of disillusionment, and sees SOA now being supplanted by more ‘latest things’ such as Event driven architectures (EDA), cloud computing or light-weight exclusively open-source based initiatives.

So what do I think? Well I spent some time yesterday looking at both Gartner’s Hype Cycle, and Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm – the Technology Adoption Lifecycle. If we take these as both valid then we should not be surprised at both of these perceptions. Clearly IBM has been saying for some time now that EDA is an integral part of SOA – as demonstrated by solutions such as WebSphere Business Events (http://www-01.ibm.com/software/integration/wbe/), but is SOA robust and flexible enough to encompass other aspects such as Cloud Computing and different technology platforms? Surely, given SOA is an architecture designed to be flexible, it is possible for it to include these changing aspects, but I guess it is more whether the term SOA is still relevant, as I don’t believe anyone would disagree that the changes provided by SOA are a necessary step to these latest advances.

So is it more an issue of terminology – is it the term SOA that is in the trough of disillusionment, and not the idea behind it? Certainly I don’t see businesses moving away from SOA activities and plans, it is more the blogosphere and analysts who are looking for a new discussion point – and maybe the term Web Oriented Architecture (WOA) is a more suitable term for new light-weight and cloud-based deployments.  Perhaps people can suggest why this is wrong, but I think SOA is with us for sometime yet. After all many SOA projects are starting to show success. Who in this economy is going to say let’s go for something unrelated to SOA? Is this a time to increase risk, or to leverage and grow based on success?

The start of a journey

February 19, 2009

So here we are, the start of a new blog. What’s this one about? Well given much of my working day is spent looking at the ins and outs of Connectivity and Integration, specifically with SOA and WebSphere, then that’s what this is going to cover. I will review what I am working on, what my thoughts are on it, and try to come to some conclusions about how the changing world is impacting what needs to be provided in this space. This is a journey, and we will see where it takes us. Climb on board