Monthly Archives: May 2006

European SOA Tour

Someone – Paolo P. perhaps? – said this was like a rock ‘n’ roll tour. A different city every night (almost), different hotel, and the same presentation (well similar anyway)!
To put things in the right order, the tour started May 7 and ended May 23, and included the following stops:
Madrid May 8-9 – meeting with Telefonica on SOA, SCA, STP
Wiesbaden May 9-10 – STP presentation at Eclipse Forum
Munich May 10-11 – meeting with O2 on SOA
Zurich May 11-14 – meetings with Credit Suisse on SOA
Milan May 14-15 – meeting with Massimo Pezzini (about SOA etc.)
Nice May 15-18 – SCA presentation at TMW
Rome May 18-20 – meeting with ENEL about SOA
Edinburgh May 20-23 – “Web of services” panel discussion at W3C AC meeting
I talked in some form about services and/or SOA in every city. I did not always use the same presentation because the specific content varied according to the occasion or general topic.
The Presentation
Here is an abbreviated version of the kind of presentation that I often give:
1 – title
2 – problem statement
3 – goal statement
4 – solution statement
The presentation begins by saying how important to business and industry it is to solve the biggest problem facing IT – the productivity of developers, and the ability to use industrial and scientific methods in improving the speed and output of the application development process. The widespread adotion of interface and interoperability standards (current candidates: SOAP and WSDL) are of course the key.
5 – example of success
The World Wide Web is given as an example of the successful adoption of key standards (HTML and HTTP) that enable productivity and significantly lower costs in human to computer interaction. We have not yet seen the same level of success in computer to computer interactions (this is basically what we are currently debating under the “Web of Services” topic at W3C).
The Web connects private networks together across the public network (i.e. the Internet) using Web servers placed at the endpoints, or in this case the points at which the public and private networks meet. Sometimes this is called the “edge of the net” and this was standardized through the addition of a specific software layer that implemented the standards.
6 – where success is lacking
7 – SOA technology choices
8 – WSDL as the unifying standard
9 – SOA changes the organization
10 – Adding services to the endpoints
The same thing can be done within the enterprise by adding a specific software layer at the application endpoints – that is, the places where applications need to share data with each other. And here is where IONA software contributes to the solution.
11 – Endpoint oriented infrastructure
12 – Adding enterprise qualities of service
13 – Broad platform support required
IONA software is unique in supporting a completely distributed SOA design, one in which services talk directly to each other, instead of going through a message broker, hub, or central server. Unlike other ESBs, IONA software is completely agnostic with respect to communication protocol and data format. IONA software is designed to work with and complement existing software instead of replacing it. And finally, IONA software puts into one package the capability to create the SOA contract and configure the communications patterns among the services.
14 – Power of the endpoints
15 – SOA+standards=productivity
The IT industry can benefit from standardization, like the Web, and the best way to provide SOA infrastructure is to take a similar, distributed approach. SOA provides the blueprint and XML and Web services the standardized building blocks that improve productivity.
This is all supported by software tools and organizational considerations such as an enterprise architect dividing up the work.
Tour Summary
I would say at the end of this tour that the potential benefits of SOA are fairly well known, at least well promoted and heard of.
At the booth in Wiesbaden though we would get some JAX 2006 attendees complaining about how SOA is nothing more than the latest hype from vendors. That bothers us since we have customers who have been working on SOAs for 10 years or so, and use them for high volume transaction processing. SOA is definitely real. But unfortunately software vendors do tend to stick the SOA prefix to just about everything and anything these days, which causes this kind of reaction. If we could just stick to promoting real SOA please!
Most of the time the customers I talk with are interested primarily in the implied organizational and design issues. I think the majority of folks understand that SOA is an approach, not a technology, although I still get some people thanking me for that clarification.
And of course the organizational issues are significant. I’ll be speaking in New York in a couple of weeks about the change in thinking required by SOA. I’ve blogged about this before and have appeared on SYS-CON TV to talk about it (and I am very glad to see that this remains on the most popular list). But I probably can’t stress it enough, since it is definitely more important to figure out your particular approach to SOA than it is to select a vendor or choose a technology.
Because of our longstanding experience with customers doing SOA we can help with the organizational issues and the skill set issues and the design issues. But once those are settled we can also help with the technology issues, since our experience also helps us design our SOA infrastructure products for the best way to do SOA — at the endpoints (i.e. the places where applications need to exchange data).
Sometimes this takes a little discussion, since we are not an application server, we do not require an application server (although we can work with one), we are not an EAI hub (although ditto), and we are not a messaging system (ditto).
We have our own microkernal runtime with configurable plug-ins (everyone has these now but ours was the first used in production). You have a lot of deployment options, as unobtrusive as executing within the same address space as the application for example, and basically we provide standards-based interoperablity via WSDL services over standards based as well as proprietary data formats and communications protocols – you mix ‘n’ match as you see fit, use multiples for the same service, etc.
Our specialty is the reuse of existing IT assets with the right amount of software (i.e. improving upon what’s already there) at the right price.
I hope the SOA tour has helped get the word out about services and SOA, their general importance to the industry, and the role IONA has to play within that big picture.
(update – fixing the date to reflect when I completed the entry instead of when I began the entry.)

Edinburgh

Edinburgh – the last stop of the trip. It’s raining again today.
I’m staying in a hotel a brief walk away from the conference hotel, the Radisson SAS on the Royal Mile. Luckily I have a jacket with me, but my head was getting wet and it was hard to see through my glasses after a while. So it was a very welcome surprise to discover that the meeting gift was an umbrella, instead of the usual T-shirt or bag.
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Beating Retreat in the Rain at Edinburgh Castle, May 20
Since I am IONA’sW3C AC rep, I am here to attend the semi-annual Advisory Comittee meeting. We are advisors: the membership does not directly control what W3C does (although of course we have considerable influence).
I was invited to chair a discussion on the Web of Services, which was a follow up to the discussion I started (summary blog entry) at last December’s AC meeting in Montreal.
I was joined by folks from BT, Chevron, IBM, SAP, and Yahoo. I would have to say that after almost two hours’ discussion on the topic of what’s wrong, if anything, with the Web of Services (W3C has included this in their goal statement (i.e. building a “Web of documents, data, and services”)) the picture is not much clearer than before, although we did have a very good and lively discussion.
What I had said, essentially, in December is that the Web of documents is an unquestioned success but the Web of services is not. So what, if anything, should W3C do to get it to be? How do we get the Web of documents connected up to enterprise data sources? Web services would seem to be the answer but there’s a good contingent who basically say let’s build up from where we are with HTTP.
One of the key differences between the HTTP world and the WS-* world of course is that WS-* specs are designed to work over multiple communications protocols, not just HTTP. One reason for this, of course, is that HTTP doesn’t match the capabilities of the communications protocols currently in use within the enterprise, such as various message queueing and RPC-oriented technology (and nor should it since it was designed for a different purpose – another factor behind all this discussion).
A lot of the discussion focused on whether or not “the Web” and “the Enterprise” have sufficiently differing requirements as to justify different architectures. In that case the question would not be so much how to fix one or the other, but how to connect them up effectively.
This is of course another variation on the “REST vs. SOAP” or XML/HTTP vs. SOAP discussion. Several commented that both are valuable and important, and should and could be used in conjunction to solve a range of problems.
Another view is that what we’re seeing in the industry is more of an implementation issue than a specification issue – that is, how to ensure compataibility, consistency, and interoperability (including security for example) across multiple implementations?
Maybe you can’t legislate this, as someone else said. Or maybe it’s a foolish discussion since market forces are in control, not standards, as someone else suggested.
But at the end of the day, the cost of continuing in a nonstandardized enterprise software environment is significantly larger than a standardized environment would be, and the widespread and consistent adoption of enterprise software standards would pave the way for industrial and scientific methods to be applied to software development. This represents a significant potential change to the industry as a whole, but it seems inevitable. The big question is probably where, or how, or who will emerge as the catalyst. Will it be the W3C? Stay tuned is all I can say at this point…

Rome

Finally the first rain of the trip – in Edinburgh of course, where I landed a few hours ago for the W3C AC meeting.
But I haven’t yet finished the entry for Rome.
I haven’t done a very good job of getting the blog entries in order. I was in Milan on Sunday and Monday but I didn’t finish the entry until Thursday. It seems better to publish them on the date I finish them rather than on the date I start them, but then that puts the entries out of sequence. I guess I’ll do a summary at the end.
The purpose of the visit to Rome was a meeting with some architects from Enel to discuss SOA.
Our sales folks in Rome are very effecient and each of the three guys we met with Thursday had a copy of the book I wrote with Greg. So I spent the first few minutes of the meeting personalizing and signing each copy. They were very kind and complementary about the book, saying that the information was very pertinent to what they are doing.
A lot of the discussion ended up being about best practices, not technology, so I recommended Enterprise SOA to them in addition to our book. In fact Amazon.com often pairs this book with ours in a discount offer and the complement each other well.
But anyway, the reason it came up is that Enterprise SOA includes a lot of detail about the famous Credit Suisse SOA (something I mention in nearly every discussion about SOA since so much of what we – as an industry I mean – know about SOA is derived from their experience) and others.
The book Greg and I wrote maps SOA and Business Process Management concepts to Web services technologies, and identifying gaps. But this is really a kind of secondary step in SOA. The first step is to figure out what you are going to do, and how you are going to do it. Only then do you need to start looking at technology – and Web services are the best we have for SOA today.
I believe it is a positive thing for the IT industry that it is recognized that SOA is not a technology, and that it is something you have to figure out for yourself. In other industries it is the consumer or the buyer who figures out what he or she needs and then tells the suppliers. That is what the widespread adoption of SOA is doing for IT. An IT supplier cannot do the SOA for the consumer – the consumer has to do it for him or herself, and this means that the industry is not going to be technology driven much longer.

Milan

I started this entry in Milan and worked on it in Nice but I didn’t finish and now I am actually in Rome…so I am not keeping up with this very well I’m afraid 😉 One more stop after this – Edinburgh on Saturday.
Anyway, I was in Milan on Monday to join a meeting with Massimo Pezzini, the distinguished Gartner analyst. We were reviewing with him our product, marketing, and business plans around our existing and new products and open source projects (Celtix and SOA Tools).
This was a good time to get Massimo’s feedback since we have recently released Artix 4.0 and the Celtix project recently reached V1.0.
Massimo has a long history with SOA and in particular is well versed on the famous Credit Suisse SOA. Among the things he told us is that SOA is not ERP, and that SOA is transitioning into the mainstream.
The first point is related to the adoption of new technology in the corporate IT environment. SOA is not a product that you install and spend a lot of time and money customizing for your business. It is not intended to provide application features and functionality. You either already have the features and functions you need, and service enable them, or you develop new services to fill in any gaps. So with SOA you do not get a solution but rather a better approach to a solution for buisiness applications.
Massimo’s view about SOA transitioning to the mainstream means that he sees sufficient adoption of SOA among customers to indicate that it’s here to stay. Sometimes we hear from critics of SOA that it’s not real, or that it’s just the latest vendor hype. This is of course not the case, although it is true that software vendors are attaching the SOA acronym to everything and anything. That does hurt since it causes confusion and raises questions about what really is SOA and what isn’t. But despite this Massimo sees enough real investment in SOA to say that it has become established.
I got to Milan early enough to go out for a walk with Pat Walsh in the park near the hotel. We were staying near the Gartner office in the near suburbs. Walking around among the folks kicking the soccer ball around, picknicking, and just enjoying the sun we heard some pop music in the distance. This turned out to be a political rally.
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Singing for Malagola
The municipal elections throughout Italy are scheduled for May 28 or 29. According to a leaflet we picked up, Malagola was born in 1982 and still lives with his parents. It seemed pretty clear that he was getting a lot of support from young kids. We caught a glimpse of the candidate shaking hands and talking to potential supporters as the band continued to play and intermittently chant his name. He did not seem affected by this – at least he did not look up from his conversation or acknowledge the crowd.
On the way back to the hotel we passed a campaign poster of sorts, which as far as I can tell means something like “with Malagola Letizia Will Fly.” But my Italian is basically nonexistent so I might have gotten that wrong.
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The Malagola Campaign “Poster”
The next morning I proudly showed my Malagola leaflet to Massimo but he immediately pitched it into the wastebasket! Perhaps he is not young enough to be a Malagola supporter? 😉
Sunday evening, thanks to a recommendation from Margo Cronin (who also recommended Mt. Rigi) we ended up a a great restaurant just off the Corso di Porta Ticinese – a great restaurant and nightlife area. The restaurant was right next to the Basilica of San Lorenzo, in front of which are the second century Columns of San Lorenzo.
It turns out that this is a great spot for an after dinner drink because you can get one from any number of bars and restaurants that flank the Basilica and take the bottle or cup out onto the plaza between the Basilica and the Columns. Or even sit between the columns themselves… What a great way to make use of a cultural monument.
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The Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore at Night
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The Columns of San Lorenzo at Night
The photos are a bit dark, I’m afraid. I guess I still haven’t quite got the hang of the new camera yet. But I think you can see the people hanging out on this warm night enjoying the public space.
Once again, apologies to folks back home. But I have not seen a drop of rain since I left a week ago Sunday (May 7).

Nice

Today I’m in Nice at the TeleManagement World (TMW). I used to attend these events 10-12 years ago, when I was at Digital. Some things haven’t changed – Keith Willets is still talking about the importance of back office standards in the context of telecom industry transformation, and the operators are still talking about new and better services, such as mobile TV.
But back then only about 200-300 people attended. This year the number is said to be 2700! In the old days we were working on a project to standardize enterprise IT, starting with telecom but not telecom specific. Today Web services look like the best candidate for a solution, and this is also being debated actively at W3C (where I’ll be finishing this trip next Monday).
In a few minutes I’ll be hosting a Birds of Feather session on SCA. The idea is to explore the potential applicability of the SCA initiative to the telecom industry, in particular in the context of their interest in SOA.
One of the great success stories for IONA has been the adoption of CORBA for telecom network management. Now we are working within the TMF on the subject of Web services adoption. One example is the Multi Technology Operations System Interface (MTOSI) – we are co-sponsors of another Catalyst demonstration for this, and we have created an MTOSI toolkit using our Artix 4.0 product since it is natively multi-protocol, and multi-data format compatible, using Web service (WSDL+) as the contract language.
The telecom industry seems very interested in SOA for “back office” computing since it can be very helpful in more easily and quickly delivering new telecommunication services (such as mobile TV, internet TV, voice over IP etc.) to the customer, and improving the critical “quality of service” to the customer.
As telecom services commoditize – and now the estimate is about half the planet’s population has some kind of mobile telephone – competition switches at least in part to the experience the customer has with a particular operator. Does the customer feel well cared for, liked, respected, understood?
The word “service” has now come up in at least three different ways – the software artifact, the telecom product, and in the relationship between the consumer and the provider. This definitely underscores the growing importance of the service concept in software.
One last thing – in Keith’s keynote he noted the high percentage, 90% or so, of transactions processed via the Web for easyJet (the easyJet founder was one of the featured speakers). Why can’t the telecoms do this? Because of the antideluvian back office systems…
ps the weather is indeed pretty nice here this time of year – not like back home in Boston, where it’s been raining so hard they’ve closed the public schools in several towns.

Zurich

Well I’m still in Zurich today, which is great. Two nights – soon to be three – in the same hotel room is welcome change.
Today I went up to the top of Mt. Rigi and hiked around a bit before coming back down. The public transportation system in Switzerland makes this kind of thing easy. And Switzerland is really a beautiful country.
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Beautiful Swiss Mountains, Water, and Sky
I came here for two meetings with Credit Suisse. It is always interesting to meet with them because they have probably more experience with SOA than anyone else. One thing I can say is that they agree with us that top-down design, or contract first development, is the best way to go.
We sometimes do not get a lot of support for our approach in the industry because it seems like the old Java vs. Visual Studio wars just will not cease. It is really not important whether you use Java or C# – it is important that your service design meets the needs of the business, and can be mapped to an implementation technology.
Furthermore the value of the service is a lot greater than the value of the code that implements it since that can and probably will change, while the business service needs to remain fairly constant.
Contract first design and development is an important part of the Eclipse SOA Tools Project, and one of the big reasons we wanted to take the lead.
Although the weather was partly cloudy all day, I lucked out overall since it didn’t start raining until I got back to the city around dinner time.
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Zurich’s Hauptbahnhoffstrasse – the Main Shopping Street – in the Rain
(As you might have guessed by now, I am enjoying the heck out of the new Canon IXY I bought in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago. The U.S. name is SD30. It’s great!)

Munich

Ok, today I am in Zurich but yesterday I was in Munich so I will report on that.
Not much to say except we had a great visit with a senior SOA architect at O2. I can say a couple of things – they are definitely interested in SOA, and one of the interesting aspects the architect mentioned is the benefit of SOA in the context of standardizing IT terminology across projects and departments.
That had not really occurred to me before but it makes perfect sense – part of the problem created by “stovepiping” often includes language or terminology. People working on different projects can easily create their own definitions of words that have multiple potential interpretations (such as “service”).
It was also an interesting coincidence that I had visited Telefonica on Tuesday in Madrid, since Telefonica recently aquired O2. In fact some of the flat panels in the reception area were showing Telefonica ads already…
This fast pace of industry consolidation is one of the major reasons why the current SOA trend is so important – the way that applications talk to each other and share data really needs to be standardized.
One thing that I talk about frequently, and this meeting was no exception, is how the trend toward SOA has the potential to change industry dynamics. Most software consumers (although not yet all I would say) understand that SOA is not a technology but an approach – a blueprint or style of design for applying technology but not a technology itself (i.e. SOA is not CORBA or Web services or WebSphereMQ or Tuxedo or anything else, although you can use any of those and more to implement one).
This means to get the benefits of SOA the consumers have to start with the design – and often with the organizational, cultural, and skill set issues – rather than with the technology. And only then approach the software manufacturers to see whether their products meet the requirements to implement the design.
Up till now the industry has been more technology driven. Software manufacturers have been promoting their new technologies to the consumers, and telling them about their benefits. It is a little like car manufacturers telling you what kind of car to drive. The SOA trend could reverse this picture, which I believe would be a good thing.
I have to add that in Munich they are very excited about the World Cup. The initial match will be held in the new Munich stadium, affectionately called “the big tire.”
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“The Big Tire” – As Seen From the Highway Toward the Airport
I am told that the important feature of the Big Tire is its ability to change colors. The white panels are made of translucent material, behind which are placed red, blue, and white neon lights. The lights can make the stadium all blue or all red (depending on which team is hosting the match I guess) or a mixture. I hear it is very impressive from the air.
But I also heard something very alarming. Apparently Anheuser–Busch was the highest bidder for the beer sponsorship rights, and this means that only Budweiser can be sold inside or directly outside the stadium during the World Cup. Say it ain’t so! Budweiser isn’t even beer! And so close to the real Budweiser, too!!