Friday, April 24, 2009

SOA Product Requests Beyond the Sun acquisition

With the Oracle-Sun acquisition, a lot of chatter about Java, mySQL, and Open Source projects and questions abound about product roadmap, among a lot of other things being asked. Since my focal area is SOA and middleware, I'm a bit curious on how the acquisition will impact the Oracle SOA Product roadmap. The latest Oracle SOA product roadmaps seemed to be a step in the right direction, so we certainly were pleased with the promised direction-- most of the OSB being based on AquaLogic. Now, there will be 2 additions to the "Oracle SOA Family" from Sun-- Java CAPS and Glassfish. CAPs contains much of the product from when Sun acquired SeeBeyond a few years back, and Glassfish has a cult-like open source following for their ESB and Application Server offerings. Both are heavy on the ESB capabilities, but I find it really hard to think Oracle will shift product direction again on the Oracle Service Bus, since they finally paired down on the product road map. Pure speculation, but I predict a sunset (no pun intended) of the Sun CAPS ESB, a survival of Glassfish App Server, and I'm mixed on whether Glassfish ESB will survive-- back me into a corner and I'd say probably not.

Some short-term Oracle SOA areas that I think would benefit from increased investments (my personal wish list?):

Registry/Repository: Oracle was OEM'ing HP Systinet but is moving towards AquaLogic Registry Repository. This may be more of a marketing issue, but whenever I talk to prospects and clients, I often times hear other vendors mentioned before Oracle SOA Governance (ALRR) and these vendors are lower on the Magic Quadrant! I think the governance tools are taking on equal importance as the ESB as a "must have SOA tool". I'd like to see Oracle begin pushing this as a flagship SOA product in addition to the OSB.

Improved BPEL and BAM tool. This tool needs to get out of JDeveloper land and really become a true Business Analyst tool. Right now, the learning curve is a bit too much for a typical BA or "non-techie". I do see the potential here with the current products, just needs to have a more business analyst feel for capturing functional requirements.

Mash-up and Composite Application Tooling: I would like to see Oracle combine APEX with a mash-up platform to create improved rapid applications. Maybe hook into Google Apps or Yahoo Pipes? APEX has been a little clunky on handling webServices, so looking for improvements (especially with REST and JSON). Would like capability to create SOBA's (Service Oriented Business Applications) in a combined APEX + BPEL tool.

Architecture tooling: Need a tool that competes with IBM System Architect/Rational tools to tie in diagrams, UML, architecture assets. These are a big part of the SOA landscape. Enterprise Architects, SOA Architects, Business Architects use these type of tools and standardize their architecture team on them. It helps provide the overall infrastructure for architecture team.

Sharepoint competitive tool: Would like to see Oracle release a Knowledge Management tool that allows for improved collaboration and asset sharing.

Cloud and SaaS Enablement: Sun has made some inroads into Cloud, but really haven't heard too much on how Oracle wants to move in that direction. Hopefully, the acquisition will open this up as a new Oracle market.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Compared to ERP, SOA got Unlucky

Flash back to the 1990's. Organizations were spending triple-digit millions of dollars to implement ERP systems. I worked for a Big 5 consultancy at that time, and we were closing weekly $50M deals for being the system integrator on ERP implementations. Times were great! The promise of a new era was there. The cure for "IT cancer" was solved through ERP, right? Not exactly, but CIO's were spending massive amounts of dollars and willing to wait 2-3 years to see slow-moving ERP implementation projects finally hit the Production-ready datacenters. Servers were ordered in the hundreds and rolled out without a second guess. And what were the results of the ERP-era? At that time, that didn't matter too much, as everyone was convinced this was all we needed.

I certainly can't argue that ERP systems were or are a bad decision-- I think ERP is a necessary evil that most organizations need to have, simply to get the benefits of the business rules, data collection, server-based and distributed computing, and consolidation of capabilities. But, ERP certainly didn't solve the promises of being the entire IT Universe (maybe, just the Master of the Universe?). No one can argue that an IT dept only needs an ERP system, hence the need for SOA to help connect the entire IT portfolio. The challenge we face today, is the timing and new attitudes that are driving today's IT projects compared to those of the 1990's.

Flash forward to 2009. SOA projects are getting short leashes-- CIO's are asking for quick results and not willing to make large investments on SOA until they are very confident that the results will be there, quickly. If the results aren't near immediate, death to your SOA project-- SOA projects have been cancelled, and some analysts are claiming SOA is dead. So, why is this happening? Why didn't SOA get the $100M budget and the 2-3 year patience of CIO's from the last decade?

Before I hypthesize on the reasons for the IT spending shift, I did find it necessary to mention I have yet to meet a prospect or customer who diminshes the value of SOA-- there is universal agreement that it's something that could benefit business and IT alike. Whether you call it SOA, EA, EAI, business architecture, webServices, process modeling, integration, legacy modernization, cloud-- we are all talking about the same thing and very rarely am I questioned on the value. However, there is a lot of nervousness, trepidation, and lack of funding to do SOA. How can this be?

Well, timing is everything. First, the role of CIO has changed. CIO's are under extreme pressure from the CEO and CFO to ensure rapid results. If SOA had gained traction during the mid-90's, today's issues would not have been a concern and everything would be happy in SOA-land and I wouldn't be writing this blog post. However, back then, we were too busy building today's silo's to worry about connectiong them. Also, the patience and funding has changed over the past 15 years. SOA got unlucky from that perspective. Very few organizations get the "big bang" funding to roll-out enterprise SOA. Sorry SOA, times have changed. There is also a fair amount of confusion and lack of education on SOA. I meet a lot of organzations who don't understand the underlying SOA, fundamentals, principles-- they know they want to connect systems, empower their LOB's, and automate business processes, but they are still confused about SOA. Your not going to invest in something you don't understand, so that is certainly a barrier to championing an SOA project.

So, SOA evangelists, Architects, sales reps, and ISV's we all have our work cut out for us-- our customers tell us they need SOA, but they don't want to spend big dollars. My advice: keep your chin up, keep spreading the gospel on the value of service orientation, and be content on doing small SOA projects rapidly. There is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and if you can prove that SOA is legit and willing to take your initiative one bite at a time and tie ROI to each bite, there is no denying the fact that the SOA Journey will survive.