Monthly Archives: November 2006

The Boeing and Airbus of SOA

This past weekend’s Wall Street Journal included a small article about the growing financial troubles of EADS, the parent of Airbus.
“The board of European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. had hoped to agree as early as Friday to build the plane… The A350 XWB is a revised version of Airbus’s bid to rival the success of Boeing Co’s hot selling 787 Dreamliner…”
“EADS faces frowing financial troubles following the expensive delays in its A380 superjumbo plane…”
I think we can draw some interesting parallels between the Boeing and Airbus situation and the distributed vs. centralized SOA infrastructure debate.
In James Surowiecki’s financial column last July in the New Yorker, he points out that Boeing basically made the right bet and with the 787 “was in the right place at the right time.”
External circumstances may well be more responsible for the recent turnabout between Airbus and Boeing in which Boeing now has the upper hand than politics or management. And I am willing to concede that the management and political environments of SOA infrastructure vendors are, on balance, not a determining factor.
However it is worth thinking a bit about the kind of a bet they took, and why.
Boeing basically bet on a different view of the future of air travel. The industry is changing, and the traditional airlines are failing while the low cost airlines are raking it in.
Boeing sells a lot of 737s to low cost airlines such as Southwest, Jet Blue, and Ryan Air. These companies are thriving based on their point to point routes, while the traditional airlines are hampered by their more expensive hub and spoke based systems.
Airbus was basically betting that the hub and spoke trend would continue. They built a plane that could carry more passengers to and from the hubs. But the larger plane also required additional costs to airport facilities that the Boeing plane does not.
How does this relate to SOA? The message is that the industry does not need more of the same old bloated and big expensive software stacks. Customers need better software specifically designed for the changes represented by the SOA trend.
They need low cost alternatives that allow them to start small, with incremental adoption, using point to point communication solutions that avoid expensive hubs.

Sometimes a hospital is a happy place

You encounter the gamut of emotion at a hospital. You can see it in the faces of the people on the sidewalk and along the hallways – some are anxious, worried, some sad, some determined to go on and not to cry. Some are happy, or suddenly relieved, or both at once.
Sometimes their eyes search yours for something – maybe sympathy – for some reaction – for some human contact. Some smile, a bit guardedly. Some try to hide their faces, and most seem to respect the conflicting and potent mixture, keep everything private.
It is not a place you frequent – it is unfamiliar and when you go it is for some specific reason and often enough something to do with life or death.
No happier place exists than a maternity ward. No more beautiful smiles than new parents gazing on new babies.
But down the hall or a few floors over among the geriatric wards, the intensive care units, the emergency room, or the surgical theatre, sometimes scenes of sudden sadness occur, unexpectedly perhaps, but always shocking when something goes wrong, as it often can.
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Mass General yesterday full image

So it was with great relief yesterday that Mass General turned out to be a happy place, where my mother emerged just fine from a lengthy heart valve replacement surgery.
I have to say that Mass General was just great. Dr. MacGillivray, the heart center, the nurses, the staff, the volunteers in the waiting area – everyone.
Sometimes it is really, really good to step back from work for a while and think about what’s really important in life.

Eclipse Birthday

I gave the speech at the Boston area Eclipse birthday party last Wednesday. I was the token Board member so the honor was all mine…
You can find a description of the event and some photos in Debbie’s blog. Debbie did a great job organizing everything and we had a pretty good turnout.
It is amazing how popular Eclipse has become in five years, with something like 60 percent of the enterprise developers using it.
This year of course we have the SOA Tools Platform Project to look forward to as part of the next major Eclispe release.
As I told the birthday crowd just before we dug into the cake, Michael Goulde spoke at the last Eclipse Board meeting and told us that Forrester research indicates a clear intersection of interest between SOA and open source tools – he said something to us (meaning the Eclipse Board here) like we are right on target with STP.
(If you would like a little more background onSTP, check out the update I gave Search Webservices last August.)

WS-Transactions update

Ok, so now that I’ve written about what we did after we finished our work, how about I write about the work we did?
After the WS-TX face to face meeting in Redmond, Stefan Tilkov emailed me some questions which ended up in an interview posted on the InfoQ site, which covers the big picture pretty well.
Since WS-TX was chartered about a year ago, we have been working to refine the three submitted V1.0 specs and progress them to achieve a status as the adopted standards of an independent consortium. Ultimately standards are all about adoption – many specs have been written that go nowhere, while other technologies have become standard without ever going through the committee process.
For the WS-Transactions specifications I’d say we are getting what you’d call sufficient critical mass: IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat (JBoss), and IONA all currently provide implementations. In addition we also have regular participation from Sun, Hitachi, Oracle, Nortel, Fujitsu, Adobe, Tibco, Choreology, and individuals (John Harby) – all of whom attended this face to face either in person or via phone. This is pretty good considering the work is nearly completed.
So what do we spend our time doing? Processing issues from the issue list.
The email archives are public, as are the documents and meeting minutes. You can tell we spend a lot of time debating the exact wording.
The standards process is all about opening up the discussion to anyone interested in participating. The goal is consensus and broad adoption and typically the price is speed. It is harder to get a larger group to agree on something than it is to get a smaller group to agree on something.
In case of Web services specifications, many times the specifications are fairly mature by the time they are submitted to an OASIS or W3C committee.
In general the way the work progresses is that anyone interested can review a specification and submit an issue. The TC members then debate and typically vote to resolve an issue. Often resolving an issue involves a change to the specification, and the cycle starts again. The expectation is that each new cycle brings the specification closer to completion, because the issues become less significant as the spec is refined.
Because we are getting close to the end, we have been spending more time on “fit and finish” issues and polishing up the text than we did when we first started. One of the major issues for the recent face to face was getting the specs consistent with RFC 2119 (yes, there is a standard for using certain words in standards ;-).
On the WS-TX TC home page you can also find links to home pages for each of the three specifications:
WS-AT
WS-C
WS-BA
WS-C V1.1 and WS-AT V1.1 entered their 60-day public review mid September, and so we also had the chance at the F2F to discuss and resolve issues submitted during the public review process, which is basically the final cycle. WS-BA 1.1 will be going into the public review phase soon, again based on the work we did during the F2F.
Once the specifications have completed their public reviews the next step will be to submit them to become OASIS standards. If they are accepted, the work of the TC is essentially completed.

The Last Face to Face for WS-TX?

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m currently a co-chair of the OASIS WS-TX TC, chartered last year to progress the WS-Transactions family of specifications.
This week we held a successful face to face meeting in Concord, MA, hosted in inimitable style by Hitachi (we can’t say enough thanks for the truly great hospitality this time and last year as well). Special thanks to Bob Freund for hosting the “unwinder” at his home (and inviting a member of the Sudbury Militia).
In fact, it was so successful that we finished up the agenda a bit early and found some time to take in some monuments and exhibits decicated to colonial era history.
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WS-TX British Representatives at the North Bridge Monument (on the British Side)
(full photo)
Among the participants in the TC were Andy and Ian (my co-chair, on the right), who had traveled from Britain to attend. They were very good sports about the whole history thing, considering they were more familiar with a somewhat different side of the story.
As we were leaving the museum to head toward the cemetary we heard the sound of fife and drum from the far side of the bridge. It turned out to be a send off ceremony for some national guardsmen on their way to a NATO base in the Balkans.
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The Fife and Drum Corps Plays the Star Spangled Banner
(full photo)
This was an unexpected bonus to the day, as was the warming weather and the appearance of the sun when we got to the famous cemetary in town where all the writers are buried. Concord, famous as the site of the battle that started the war, and later as the home of thoughtful and famous writers, including Thoreau, known among other things for his pacifism.
Regarding the specifications, well, they are well on their way toward OASIS standard. Ian and I are very close to declaring victory in this little campaign and are talking about closing down the TC within a few months.
This would be unusual in the standards world – completing the chartered task in roughly the originally alloted timeframe, and closing down a TC. This would be a good accomplishment, but it’s a mixed blessing. This is also one of the best TCs I’ve ever worked on.
Some more photos of the tour of Concord are on flickr.