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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Your results:
You are Iron Man

Iron Man
The Flash
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
Inventor. Businessman. Genius.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Facebok Group

There is a new Facebook group 'Rich Enterprise Applications'.
Advancing the discusion of the next wave of Rich Enterprise Web 2.0 Applications that leverage Ajax, SOA, Web Services, and SaaS to create desktop like functionality through a browser.

Saddam Hussein hanged

Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi dictator who spent his last years in captivity after his ruthless regime was toppled by the U.S.-led coalition in 2003, was hanged before dawn Saturday for crimes committed in a brutal crackdown during his reign.

My new year's wish is for both counties and the world to now move forward productively to end the violence and establish a new self-serving government infrustructure in Iraq.

The Next Frontier: Web 2.0

Ajax Muscles Up
by Steve Smith, December 2006 issue
For many marketers, the overused "Web 2.0" moniker is synonymous with the network
effect, be it the social search of Yahoo's Del.icio.us, the ersatz village of MySpace, or the content-sharing of YouTube. But the stealth trend to watch in the Web 2.0 model involves a radical rethinking of Web interfaces that moves the solitary desktop computing experience online and into a collaborative space.

Online communities and offerings like Google's Gmail, Yahoo's Flickr, and Zoho.com, a suite of business productivity tools, represent only the beginning of a trend that offers individuals and businesses the applications they need to craft and build their own communities.

Dubbed "Ajax" programming by Jesse James Garrett, the president of Adaptive Path, a user experience consultancy, this collection of technologies is rapidly transforming the way we interact with the Web. "In a lot of ways it is the point at which the Web reaches maturity and starts to fulfill a lot of the dreams that people had about it in the mid-'90s," says Garrett. E-mail, calendaring, word processing, even spreadsheets could easily migrate online in the next few years.

"We're entering an unprecedented period of user interface innovation, as Web developers are finally able to build Web applications as rich as local PC-based applications," says Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media in his seminal essay on the Web.2.0 concept. The open-source software and applications movement has also helped spur these developments.

What does all of this mean to marketers? No one knows for sure yet, but it's no accident that the Web's 800-pound Google-rilla is already at the center of Ajax. Web-based collaborative word processor, Writely.com, represents the current apex of Ajax programming, and it's owned by Google. The new Google Desktop Gadgets deploy these technologies to put everything from games to calendars, clocks, and even Google search boxes and results on Web sites, further proliferating Big G's reach.

Microsoft has countered with its evolving line of "Live" Web-based services. The most immediate fallout from exploding Ajax use could be a breakdown in traditional metrics. Ajax applications engage users for longer periods of time and offer them rich data, but they don't spur Web-page reloading. The page-view metric doesn't work here; this is one trend that begs for different ways to gauge user involvement. But the real promise of Ajax may be in letting designers and advertisers plant highly functional and fully interactive applications on anyone's Web site. Earlier this year, the site builder network Freewebs.com partnered with Sony Pictures to create a "Zathura" widget offering games related to the film. The widget got picked up by 11,000 Freewebs sites and used 600,000 times, according to the company, which is now trying to turn widgets into brand advertising.

Ultimately, Ajax could help marketers weave their way into the ethos of Web 2.0 by offering consumers more functions and features, not more marketing. "A lot of Web 2.0 is about taking the Web back from marketers," says Matt MacQueen, director of experience planning of Arc Worldwide, an integrated marketing company.

The challenge for marketing in the Web 2.0 world, then, is not to find new and clever ways for your brand to be a buddy on MySpace. "You have to offer value or solve a problem I as a consumer have," MacQueen says. If consumers are controlling the messages they receive and even the designs of their Web interactions by using tools like RSS and Ajax widgets to shape their browsing experiences, then marketers need to start giving them the tools to do so.

Contributing writer Steve Smith is a longtime new-media consultant and columnist, and current editor of Wireless Business Forecast for Access Intelligence at TelecomWeb.com. Contact him at popeyesmith@comcast.net.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Time Person of the Yr: Web 2.0.....Sort of

Follows the Me, me , me construct of enterprise mashups and situational applications. Users create the web apps they need, when they want it.

From the December 25, 2006 issue of TIME magazine

-- The "Great Man" theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men." He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year.

To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.

But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. Not the Web that Tim Berners-Lee hacked together (15 years ago, according to Wikipedia) as a way for scientists to share research. It's not even the overhyped dotcom Web of the late 1990s. The new Web is a very different thing. It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it's really a revolution.

And we are so ready for it. We're ready to balance our diet of predigested news with raw feeds from Baghdad and Boston and Beijing. You can learn more about how Americans live just by looking at the backgrounds of YouTube videos those rumpled bedrooms and toy-strewn basement rec rooms than you could from 1,000 hours of network television.

And we didn't just watch, we also worked. Like crazy. We made Facebook profiles and Second Life avatars and reviewed books at Amazon and recorded podcasts. We blogged about our candidates losing and wrote songs about getting dumped. We camcordered bombing runs and built open-source software.

America loves its solitary geniuses its Einsteins, its Edisons, its Jobses but those lonely dreamers may have to learn to play with others. Car companies are running open design contests. Reuters is carrying blog postings alongside its regular news feed. Microsoft is working overtime to fend off user-created Linux. We're looking at an explosion of productivity and innovation, and it's just getting started, as millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity get backhauled into the global intellectual economy.

Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you.

Sure, it's a mistake to romanticize all this any more than is strictly necessary. Web 2.0 harnesses the stupidity of crowds as well as its wisdom. Some of the comments on YouTube make you weep for the future of humanity just for the spelling alone, never mind the obscenity and the naked hatred.

But that's what makes all this interesting. Web 2.0 is a massive social experiment, and like any experiment worth trying, it could fail. There's no road map for how an organism that's not a bacterium lives and works together on this planet in numbers in excess of 6 billion. But 2006 gave us some ideas. This is an opportunity to build a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person. It's a chance for people to look at a computer screen and really, genuinely wonder who's out there looking back at them. Go on. Tell us you're not just a little bit curious.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

DC Metro Police

This happened to one of my best friends who just so happens to be of Pakistany origen. By the way he actually was born and grew up in OHIO. Way to go Metro and DC Police.

"Last week I entered the metro with my wife. As usual, we were in haste and wanted to just board the train by making our way through the crowded gates.
I have a Smart-card and replenish it once every 2 weeks.
As i walked through the gate, i had -$0.30 on my card. If anyone has a Smartcard, they know that the card lets you be negative to a certain amount, but when you refill the card you have to make up the difference. That is a benefit of the Smart Card.
But Officer BF Johnson didn't think so. He stopped me in my tracks, ordered me to approach him. He then ordered me to hand over my license and called the station to check for any suspicious (Obviously terror-related) activity from my end. He was telling me "you are riding on a negative balance, you are stealing from the metro". Yeah, lets call this in...this is a serious "crime" and we need to check what this rider's past crimes are. Officer BF Johnson was surprised when a blond Ukrainian lady followed me, while telling her "ill be with you in a second ma'am". Well, she defended me and he must have been horrified to see a Pakistani married to a Ukraine? This isnt supposed to happen! I was never taught to react in this situation!!!! Well, obviously he has no clue how the Smart Card works but, he still kept me there for almost 10 minutes while he verified with all significant sources that this crafty/sneaky metro rider is clean to the bone. He handed me a a nice warning while reading from it "i have the right to detain you". This shameful rider will never cheat my way through anything in life...not with the BF Johnson's defending the illustrious Metro institutes's best interests."

Location: Tenleytown Metro, Washington DC

Monday, December 11, 2006

Enterprise Ajax

Like any new web technology there is sometimes the misconception that it can be used and implemented within the enterprise the same as with public consumer web applications. This is natural because these consumer-facing applications often are constrained the way enterprises are and can act on new technologies and approaches faster. This is true with Ajax.

Think of a car analogy. If you put a fancy Ferrari body on top of a Pinto frame and engine what do you have? From a distance you can say you have a Ferrari but to those who have to get up-close, interact with, and maybe even drive it; its still run’s like a Pinto.

Now consider enterprise web applications. With the coming out party of open-source Ajax widgets enterprises believe that by ‘bolting’ some of these free snippets (little Ajax eye candy pieces to make a site look and feel better to the user) onto existing apps is all that is needed to say “Yes, we’re doing Ajax.” But think about it. All that is being done is similar to the scenario above whether business managers realize it or not. If they don’t, they are really getting shortchanged on the business activity optimizing gains from Enterprise Ajax.

To garner the full benefits, enterprises need to carefully calculate how to implement an Ajax enterprise strategy that not only provides the basic improved user experience but can enhance the entire set of capabilities as well. Enterprise Ajax is in fact an architectural strategy so as to marry the best of what Ajax has to offer with enterprise architectures such as SOA while making sure that security, scalability, reliability and governance are correctly taken care of. Enterprise Ajax enables enterprises to leverage the best of Rich Internet Applications and Service-Oriented enterprise Applications with the specific goal of optimizing any and all business operations of an enterprise while guarding access by authorized people to the correct information assets and ensuring delivery and proper execution.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

AJAX, the Enterprise, and SOA—A Look Into the Future

Get an overview of the next frontier of AJAX development: the enterprise, where AJAX components can be the Web 2.0 front end of a SOA.

Consumer Web sites such as Google Maps and Yahoo Mail generally come to mind first when one thinks of AJAX-enabled applications. On those sites, millions of users experience the results of dynamic AJAX interaction between the browser and server. Less known, however, are the benefits AJAX can deliver to application development inside the enterprise. So vendors in the burgeoning enterprise AJAX space, many of whom are watching the recent AJAX and rich Internet application (RIA) buzz define a technology category they have been working in for years, must educate the market. How do enterprise developers who are loath to delve into JavaScript code incorporate the technology quickly? Which applications make sense for AJAX solutions? How can internal, non-consumer AJAX Web applications benefit business?

DevX spoke with six of these vendors to get an overview of this next frontier of AJAX development:

* Backbase – makers of Backbase enterprise AJAX software
* Helmi Technologies – makers of the Helmi Open Source RIA Platform
* ICESoft Technologies – makers of ICEFaces, a Java EE framework for AJAX applications based on JavaServer Faces
* JackBe – makers of the enterprise AJAX development and runtime environment, NQ Suite, and the Presto rich enterprise application platform
* Nexaweb – makers of the Enterprise Web 2.0 Suite of products for Java-based AJAX development
* TIBCO General Interface – makers of General Interface (GI) toolkit for building desktop application-like Web applications

Robert Lepack, VP of marketing for ICESoft, gave a break down of what enterprise customers are looking for, which seemed to ring true for the market as a whole. He said ICESoft clients are divided evenly between those migrating legacy apps to the Web and those building new RIAs. He also detailed their evaluation criteria when selecting an AJAX solution: richness of the component libraries, SOA compatibility, standard tools support, and portal integration.

There's a difference between 'AJAXified' pages and AJAX/rich Internet applications for the enterprise.—Kevin Hakman, director of product marketing for General Interface
Helmi Technologies Founder Juho Risku said, "Enterprises are basically looking for savings because of the instantaneous user experience on enterprise applications. That's the reasoning behind AJAX [deployments]." He gave the example of an enterprise application handling 500 clicks per user, per day and taking five seconds to respond to each click. With 1,000 users, that adds up to millions of seconds per year those users spend waiting.

"There's a difference between 'AJAXified' pages and AJAX/rich Internet applications for the enterprise," said Kevin Hakman, director of product marketing for General Interface. As an example, he cited H&R Block, which annually sets up 12,000 additional offices during tax season and equips them with high-productivity GI workspaces through the browser.

But how will a technology based on a scripting language perform in the enterprise application realm, traditionally the domain of powerful development platforms like Java and .NET? As Lepack stated, "There's a reason why Java is a language, and JavaScript is a scripting language."

The vendors made it clear that AJAX isn't right for every application. Nexaweb CTO and Founder Coach Wei said, "AJAX is a great technology for enhancing the performance functionality of Web-based applications in the browser [but it] is not good for much more client-centric applications [such as] the traditional PowerBuilder kind of application."

Anything that requires signal processing or complex algorithms on the client side is definitely not something AJAX should be used for.—Helmi Technologies Founder Juho Risku
For example, Hakman doesn't see AJAX used in high-throughput, algorithmic trading systems that handle portfolios with thousands of stocks. "Systems at that level of performance absolutely require some type of compiled code to execute. Obviously, JavaScript is not compiled code," he said. However, Hakman does anticipate JavaScript becoming a first-class language and cited Firefox 2.0's implementing a just-in-time compiler for JavaScript as the beginning of a trend.

"Any ERP application, that's perfectly OK with AJAX," explained Risku, but he stipulated, "Anything that requires signal processing or complex algorithms on the client side is definitely not something AJAX should be used for."

So does that mean AJAX applications won't scale well?

Risku believes application and platform design is an overlooked factor in AJAX scalability. Wei actually contends that an AJAX application should be more scalable than a traditional Web application if developed correctly, because it offloads part of the processing from the server on to the JavaScript on the client. Still, the Nexaweb chief concedes that it has its limits. "The Web itself and old HTTP Web servers, they're optimized and designed for short-lived, infrequent requests and responses coming from the client side. If your AJAX application pounds and pounds for requests very frequently, that is not a scenario HTTP Web servers are optimized for traditionally."

JackBe CTO John Crupi offered a different perspective, as his product is an SOA service consumer. "The front end will be AJAX, but ultimately if you really want to get the performance and scalability you need for enterprise apps, you have to have a framework that extends into the backend enterprise. In our view, that backend extension is using SOA as the data service provider," he said.

JavaScript programming expertise is rather limited. It's a very complex programming model and actually very cumbersome and labor-intensive.—Backbase CEO Jouk Pleiter
The vendors were also quick to point out that although JavaScript has limitations, it is far from simple. JavaScript has gained a reputation among many developers as a messy and cumbersome language. As such, each AJAX vendor abstracts the developer from the raw JavaScript with either proprietary syntaxes or markup languages. For example, JackBe employs a declarative markup language, JackBe Markup Language (JBML), Backbase has an XML-based language BXML and a tag library of AJAX functions, and Nexaweb employs the XAP declarative framework.

Backbase Co-Founder and CEO Jouk Pleiter echoed most of his counterparts when he said, "JavaScript programming expertise is rather limited. It's a very complex programming model and actually very cumbersome and labor-intensive. A framework like Backbase tries to hide away the complexity."

Adding to the complexity is the fact that AJAX development currently lacks standards. This is an issue all six of the companies DevX spoke with (and some 49 others) are trying to address collectively through the Open AJAX Alliance, an industry body whose mission is promoting interoperability among the multitude of AJAX widgets, components, and libraries.

"The Open AJAX Alliance is taking all of the vendors and saying 'Let's not fragment the market the way Web service standards bodies did and have competing standards,'" said Crupi. "The first step is to support interoperability. You should be able to intermix various widgets and frameworks and not have a problem."

Backbase chief Pleiter also advocates for a single common API that can serve as a basic language specification for all AJAX solution vendors. As he sees it, even if all the different AJAX implementations could cooperate, each would still have its own API. He said, "We now have 200 different APIs for 200 different check problems, which is clearly way too fragmented [and] clearly doesn't drive for any standardization."

A flurry of open source activity has occurred in the AJAX market.
Today, many of the vendors' products already support widely used open source toolkits such as Dojo and DWR as interoperable add-ons to their native libraries. A majority of the companies DevX spoke with have even released their own products as open source projects. In just the past few months, a flurry of open source activity has occurred in the AJAX market:

* Helmi launched the first beta of its Open Source RIA Platform v2.0.
* ICESoft released ICEfaces under an open source license.
* Nexaweb initiated XAP (the eXtensible Ajax Project) through the Apache Software Foundation.
* TIBCO released General Interface 3.2 under an open source license.

Although the vast majority of freely available frameworks, toolkits, and libraries on the AJAX landscape—Helmi estimates 1,500 in all—aren't involved in the interoperability effort, most of the vendors feel confident that the ones that matter are. Hakman predicted that fewer than 10 would emerge as broadly adopted, and Pleiter said, "I think 80 percent of the stuff doesn't even qualify to remain in the marketplace because it's just a small fragment, it's just a piece of code. They are not viable options, especially in the enterprise."

Helmi Founder Risku added, "Most of the platforms are such that no one even knows that they are there. There definitely will be a lot of consolidation happening."

If the Open AJAX Alliance is successful, however, Hakman sees the Java platform as a model of what AJAX could become. "Like in Java with JSP, Swing, and Spring, you've got a different tool for different tasks within that context. The idea is [that] AJAX is just an ecosystem with a number of large frameworks and toolkits that are broadly adopted, but plenty of room for more [vendors] that make specialized widgets."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Frito-Lay Angrily Introduces Line Of Healthy Snacks

The Onion
PLANO, TX—With the recent trend of wholesome snack foods reaching "truly ridiculous proportions," Frito-Lay announced Monday that it would, against its better judgment, roll out a new line of healthy fruit-and-vegetable-based chips next February.
Frito Lay R

"Here," said Frito-Lay CEO Al Carey as he disgustedly tossed a bag of the company's new Flat Earth-brand snack crisps onto the lectern during a meeting with shareholders and members of the press. "Here's some shit that's made from beets. I hope you're all happy now that you have your precious beet chips with the recommended daily serving of fruit, or vegetables, or whatever the hell a 'beet' is."

"Mmm, dehydrated bulb things," Carey added. "Sounds delicious."

Carey appeared visibly appalled as Frito-Lay employees distributed Flat Earth snack samples to the audience.

"God help us all, would you look at these flavors," said Carey, gesturing toward a display showcasing the several varieties of Flat Earth chips, including Kauliflower Krunch, Raisins 'N Chives, Cranberry Spinach Explosion, Rutabaga Yum, Tofu Snaps, Eggplant Ecstasy, Broccoloroos, and Watercress. "Look at what you've reduced us to."
Enlarge Image Frito Lay Jump R

Frito-Lay delivery people drop off a "bunch of bullshit to some pricks somewhere."

"Weren't Sun Chips healthy enough for you, you goddamn hippie bastards?" Carey added.

Frito-Lay spokeswoman Lisa Greeley, who said that the company made a commitment in 2004 to develop a healthier line of snacks but "never thought it would actually come to this," described the Flat Earth brand as "tailor-made for the small, vocal minority of health-conscious consumers who apparently can't just be content with salads, bananas, apples, or any of the literally thousands of fruits and vegetables already widely available."

"Our new veggie snacks combine the zesty tang of parsnip, the most mouthwatering root vegetable out there, with the bold flavor of, let's say, jute?" said Greeley before reluctantly bringing a Turnips 'N Radish chip to her mouth and forcing down a full bite. "It's a brand-new taste sensation unlike anything you've ever experienced, unless you've ever eaten sisal twine."

According to Frito-Lay's website, the new snacks contain one-third of the fat, one-half of the calories, and one-1,000th of the irresistible flavor of Frito-Lay's classic line of potato and corn chips. The presence of trans-fats and saturated oils is avoided by employing a cooking process "strikingly similar to the method used to create particle board." Serving suggestions that will be printed on the packaging include "definitely not adding any salt or seasoning, because then you might die"; dipping the chips in "delicious plain yogurt, lettuce paste, or other ground-up Flat Earth products"; and enhancing the flavor by replacing the chip in your hand with a Hot'n Spicy BBQ chip.

In January, Frito-Lay will launch a Flat Earth marketing campaign based on the slogan, "Bet You Can't Eat Even One." Surprisingly, however, the company is also in talks with distributors to ensure that Flat Earth snacks are installed in every school vending machine in the country.

"Oh, they're definitely going in the vending machines," Carey said. "Everyone's going to share in this misery, not just a handful of Naderites with spastic colons or loser kids with no taste buds whose parents want them to grow up to be boring milquetoasts afraid to have any fun. And don't think we haven't forgotten you either, office workers on snack breaks and anyone who wants to serve a big bowl of disappointment at a cocktail party."

"If this is what you want, America, fine," Carey continued. "But if you don't like them, then you can suck my fucking dick, because this is it—no more veggie crisps after this. None. You hear me? None."

"You're all gonna die eventually, anyway," Carey added. "Might as well be eating Cool Ranch Doritos with cheese dip when you go."

Frito-Lay is now considering discontinuing its traditional snack line and focusing entirely on chickpeas and sprouts, since, according to Carey, Americans "are so scared of getting fat, and are clearly no longer interested in good-tasting food."

"You all disgust me," said Carey, who then kicked over the Flat Earth display and stormed out of the room.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Consulting and SI 2.0: Mining the Sea Change in Software

Consulting and SI 2.0: Mining the Sea Change in Software
Posted by Susan Scrupski @ 4:47 pm
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Fellow blogger Phil Wainewright attended the SIIA (Software Industry Information Assocation) conference this month. Phil writes:

Speaking on a panel at today's SIIA OnDemand Summit in San Jose, Abhijit Dubey of McKinsey revealed that a new survey by his organization has found that the proportion of CIOs considering adopting SaaS applications in the coming year has gone from 38% a year ago to 61% now. "That's a huge jump," he said, and he's not kidding. It's an indication of a sea-change in acceptance of SaaS over the past year.

The sea-change Phil is chronicling is spilling over to the consulting and systems integration markets. All IT services providers need to prepare for the oncoming sea change in how enterprise software is bought, delivered, and supported. The days of integrators and consultants as implementors of large enterprise apps are numbered. Sure SAP, Oracle, and even MicroSoft aren't dying off any time soon, but IT services firms who jump on the next net bandwagon early are going to see some attractive high margin opportunities.

For starters, there is the issue of business case. Consultants who can dig deep within the business processes of an enterprise are going to be invaluable in helping large and small enterprises take advantage of new SaaS and Enterprise 2.0 applications. Further, integration opportunities abound. Phil mentions Bluewolf Consulting, a systems integrator/consultant in NYC. Bluewolf has made a nice business out of integration opportunities that surround Salesforce.com. I had a long chat with Eric Berridge of Bluewolf Consulting recently. He spelled out a couple key differences between consulting 1.0 and consulting 2.0– namely.

* Consulting 2.0 is Business Process-based not technology-centric
* Making clients successful with a SaaS application is just plain easier and less expensive for the client

Bluewolf is involved in projects integrating Salesforce.com with large enterprise apps such as SAP and Oracle at large installations such as DuPont, The Hartford, Fox Networks, The New York Times, and British Petroleum. Berridge says when Bluewolf consultants sit down to talk to a client, they're talking about what the client wants to achieve vs. what technology they're going to employ to do it. Many times results can be achieved in a fiscal quarter or less, and will cost a tenth of what it would normally cost with a traditional enterprise implementation.

Integration opportunities around SOA also present a ripe opportunity for integrators. EDS announced a deal yesterday with Lufthansa to develop and implement a middleware, messaging and security platform that will enable the airline to interface, interoperate and integrate with their business partners and other airline systems through open standards.

At the Accenture analyst briefing this month, I had some time to talk to Bob Suh, Accenture's Chief Technology guru. Suh was telling me how Accenture has a dedicated team assigned to next-gen enterprise app Workday and has been working with them over a year. This pales in comparison to the 50,000 or so consultants they have dedicated to SAP and Oracle, but it's a start. At least Accenture has the foresight to realize the models are changing, and they need to be ready when the next wave of software hits the enterprise.

The smart Enterprise 2.0 firms are targeting Systems Integrators too. Today I spoke to Mike Wagner and Bob Bianchi at Ajax solutions developer, JackBe, who are hosting an invitation-only open house for Systems Integrators in December to preview the company's next generation of Ajax and REA technologies. They see systems integrators as an excellent partner to deliver their newest platform of products which will be generally available 2Q 2007. Because JackBe is targeting the "power user" within departments who can effectively build mashups and create applications on their own, SIs will benefit from the exposure to a whole new class of customer.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ajax webcast

Webcast: Ajax for the Enterprise - Nov. 29, 12pm EST. zune

JackBe, the leader in Rich Enterprise Application software and services, will
host 'Ajax for the Enterprise' on November 29 at 12pm EST. JackBe will share
it's experiences in proving enterprise-grade Ajax solutions for over 4 million
users in organizations like CitiGroup, the Defense Intelligence Agency, Sears,
and Tupperware. To register for this webcast go to
Send inquiries to chris.warner@jackbe.com.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

When Companies Do the Mash

by Rachael King
Richard Hababou scouts out technology deals for the corporate venture arm of French banking giant Société Générale. Yet the nine-hour time gap between Hababou's San Francisco office and Société Générale's Paris headquarters can make communicating about multimillion-dollar transactions a big challenge. For years, Hababou and some 1,000 colleagues have used an online portal where they can collaborate, share documents, and track progress on deals.

As useful as it was, the portal needed a facelift. Hababou wanted to add several features to the deal-tracking application and ditch others. So, in mid-October, he brought in software company ActiveGrid, which added a host of tools, from Yahoo! (YHOO) news feeds to Google (GOOG) Maps to AltaVista's Babel Fish for on-the-fly English-French translation. Best of all, the upgrade took all of three days, compared with the three months it took to build the application at the outset. "It's all the applications I need, but simplified," Hababou says.

That makeover is known in software circles as a mashup, or the combination of disparate software or Web-based applications, often from completely different sources. Mashups aimed at consumers trace their roots at least to early 2005, when Paul Rademacher created HousingMaps.com, a combination of Google Maps with real estate listings from Craigslist (see BusinessWeek.com, 7/25/05, "Mix, Match & Mutate").
Companies Raise Questions

Now, the tools are beginning to take hold with businesses. Companies see enterprise mashups, also known as composite applications, as a faster, cheaper way to create customized applications. Already, companies such as E*Trade (ET), Siemens (SI), JDS Uniphase (JDSU), Pfizer (PFE), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and Realogy (H) subsidiary Coldwell Banker Commercial are using enterprise mashups in some capacity.

Yet, mashups are far from a slam dunk among enterprises. For starters, IT executives need to make sure mashups are secure, reliable, and able to be applied on a sufficiently large scale. "It's very difficult for a company like Société Générale to bring in some new technology and put it into production like that," says Hababou. While he was impressed with ActiveGrid's presentation, Société Générale has yet to become an ActiveGrid customer. Many companies are similarly testing the waters. Dun & Bradstreet (DNB), for instance, is testing IBM's (IBM) Enterprise Mashup Maker, also known as QEDwiki.

For any company mulling mashups, there's a growing variety of case studies. Caryn Truitt owns Cookies, a small Seattle shop that sells cookie-baking gear. She keeps track of inventory using an accounting program sold by Microsoft (MSFT). Now that Microsoft has woven eBay's (EBAY) auction tools and PayPal payment service into Microsoft Office Accounting 2007, Truitt can upload items for sale onto eBay directly from her accounting software in just a few mouse clicks. Truitt hadn't sold on eBay before, but it looked so easy that she decided to try it. "It was something I had always planned to look into, but being a small-business owner there are always too many things to do," she explains.
Software Vendors' Services

Other software makers also use mashups to build new tools for business customers. Intuit (INTU) integrated certain Google (GOOG) services into its small-business accounting software package, QuickBooks 2007 (see BusinessWeek.com, 9/14/06, "Google, Intuit Pair Up Against a Foe").

Several vendors offer tools to help clients build their own mashups. These include some of the biggest names in software, such as IBM, SAP (SAP), and Salesforce.com (CRM), as well as newer players Nexaweb, JackBe, ActiveGrid, and Above All Software. A handful of companies—including Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, WebEx (WEBX), StrikeIron, and Rearden Commerce—are creating marketplaces where companies can buy various services that are either pre-mashed or can be easily integrated into existing applications.

Having someone else do the heavy lifting can take a lot of time and cost out of developing just the right set of software tools for a business, says ActiveGrid CEO Peter Yared. "We're about five to 10 times faster than previous technology," he says. Shrinking into one month a project that would otherwise take a programmer five months to complete can save in the neighborhood of $50,000, he adds.

When software becomes easier and cheaper to develop, suddenly it's possible to create many more customized applications than before. Some IT departments don't have the time or resources to develop requested applications that can number more than 1,000. "Previously, you had to have a problem that was big enough to warrant a project manager and five or six months to staff it up," says Dion Hinchcliffe, president and chief technology officer of consulting firm Hinchcliffe & Co.
Adding Resources for Sales

For some, the challenge isn't more software, but less—or at least making better use of existing programs. Many companies sell multiple services to the same customer, winding up with multiple representations of that customer in different databases, sometimes with slightly different spellings. That can make it difficult to offer services like integrated billing or get a holistic view of a customer's activities.

Jefferies & Co. (JEF) wanted a common database for its investment banking customers. So it tapped Nexaweb to build business productivity and research applications that mash up customer information from a common database. "Once you have the data standardized, you can slice and dice it the way you want," says Omer Soykan, a senior vice-president at Jefferies.

Enterprise-security vendor PGP Corp. went a similar route to create a master customer records list. Above All helped PGP mash up existing customer records with standardized company information from Dun & Bradstreet. Now, when salespeople add new accounts, the mashed-up application automatically fills the screen with relevant company information culled from Dun & Bradstreet, saving data-entry time. "The effect was that we got cleaner data," says David Burnett, director of informatics at PGP.
Mashups are often used to help sales staff more readily clinch deals. E*Trade wanted to give its sales teams new software features, so it mashed up its homegrown customer relationship management system with software from Salesforce.com. "We really wanted to avail ourselves of some of the nice features that a product like Salesforce.com provides," says E*Trade Chief Information Officer Greg Framke.
Making Companies More Collaborative

Another area where mashups can make a difference is in collaboration among employees from different parts of a business. "Complex collaborative problem solving is one of the last places we haven't automated," says Hinchcliffe. In fact, somewhere between 25% to 50% of employees exchange information with colleagues, customers, and suppliers, and make judgments by drawing on many different forms of information, according to a recent report by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Industries where more than 50% of employees use complex collaborative problem solving include insurance, securities, and health care.

In many cases, employees won't even realize they're using mashups. Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and JDS Uniphase have begun to use a Web application from Rearden Commerce to make travel and dining reservations. Rearden Commerce provides a marketplace of corporate services, essentially mashing up many services from different providers in the areas of travel, dining, entertainment, conferencing, and package shipping (see BusinessWeek.com, 9/21/05, "A Man for All Services"). Rearden Commerce is integrated with corporate applications such as Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes so that travel and dining reservations automatically appear on an employee's calendar once they're made.

The next frontier for some companies is figuring out how to break products and services down into components that consumers will be able to mash up on their own. "Someone could take a component from E*Trade and mash it up with something from Quicken or Yahoo or Google or anywhere they wanted, to form something that's new and interesting," says Framke, who expects E*Trade to start providing such components to consumers in 2007.
Tools for Consumers and Business

Already, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have made maps available, so companies can create mapping applications, one of the most common mashups for enterprises. In an effort to lure potential buyers, Coldwell Banker Commercial took the property listings on its Web site and mashed them up with demographic data from Claritas and a mapping application from Microsoft.

Companies like Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, and WebEx are opening up their products so that third-party developers can mash in other capabilities. In January, Salesforce.com started AppExchange, an online service where companies can buy business applications that have already been mashed up with Salesforce.com (see BusinessWeek.com, 8/22/06, "Salesforce Dives into the Mash Pit"). Today, that marketplace boasts more than 400 applications, giving companies the ability to essentially buy customized on-demand software.

Experts say that although enterprise mashups promise to help make software development easier, they also present a new set of challenges. One of the key characteristics of enterprise mashups is that they put more power in the hands of end users. "The average IT establishment is reluctant to give users more power," says Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at consulting firm ZapThink. The answer, he says, is for the IT department to provide oversight, defining what kinds of mashups are allowed, and then to govern that process. Software and service vendors can help companies implement management tools.
Foremost Challenge: Security

In most mashups, companies will use external services over which they have no direct control. "When you develop a mashup, you need to rely completely on that service," says Kirk Crenshaw, vice-president of Demandbase, a small software company that uses Salesforce.com mashups.

Other possible challenges include user identification, especially when mashing up two or more applications or Web services that each require user IDs and passwords. Once companies decide to allow data such as customer records to be used in mashups, they need to be able to make sure it's secure and accessible only to certain employees to guard against privacy breaches. "You always need to worry about security and performance," says John Crupi, CTO of JackBe, a company that sells enterprise mashup software.

Security and reliability are front of mind for Hababou at Société Générale as he considers ActiveGrid's handiwork. "We have to be sure that we have all the processes and all the tools to be able to monitor this application in production," he says. Right now, ActiveGrid is in the early stages of demonstrating its software to technology experts in Société Générale's Paris office. Studivz

"It will be a long process," says Hababou, "but these talks are a start."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Seminar: ‘Ajax for Breakfast: How to Deliver on the Promise of Rich Internet Applications’

Seminar: ‘Ajax for Breakfast: How to Deliver on the Promise of Rich Internet Applications’

Will you be in the Mid-Atlantic area on December 13? If so, JackBe would like to invite you to attend ‘Ajax for Breakfast’, an interactive discussion about Ajax in the enterprise including live demonstrations of production Ajax applications in the corporate world. To attend, contact Jessica Agunsday at Jessica.agunsday@jackbe.com or (240) 744-1274.

Unrelated. For those who wondered, Heidi and I loved Borat.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Zeichick's Take: AJAX Shouldn't Be a Hairball

November 1, 2006 Have you looked at the code behind AJAX implementations? Forget about spaghetti code. We're talking about shredded wheat. We're talking about heaps of jumbled rubble.

I'm a wholehearted believer in AJAX. Many of the user interface examples that I've seen are incredible. While there's no mistaking AJAX apps for true native applications, well-designed UIs are an order of magnitude more responsive and intuitive than classic Web applications. I've seen some, though, that are pretty terrible. Alas, most Web developers simply aren't good UI designers. They're far too used to dealing with the constraints of standard HTML and CSS, and in thinking about postbacks, to know how to use the freedom that AJAX offers.

That's one problem with AJAX, but I dare say it's not the biggest. The challenge is that AJAX is being retrofitted to existing Web applications using immature tools, immature libraries and immature runtimes. It's a kluge, a hack, a hairball (to quote Scott McNealy, albeit from a different context).

Many developers and software architects-myself included-think that elegant code is more than aesthetically pleasing. Code that's well designed, well architected and well written is easy to read. It's easy to understand. It can be tested, tuned, debugged. It can be extended. It can be maintained.

AJAX code that I've seen, for the most part, doesn't fit any of those considerations.

As I write this, I've just finished editing a special supplement on AJAX development for SD Times. You'll see it with your Nov. 1 issue of the newspaper, and you'll also be able to download it from sdtimes.com. In that supplement, a number of tools providers talk about their AJAX controls and libraries. They make an impressive case for why enterprise developers shouldn't roll their own AJAX plumbing, but should instead go with packaged solutions.

Despite the lure of canned software, I am fascinated by the technical underpinnings of AJAX. I'm starting to dig into Microsoft's Atlas implementation, which just came out as an official beta (as opposed to the early Community Technology Previews). I think they've done a good job of removing a lot of the complexity, mainly by leveraging their tightly integrated stack. Even so, the Atlas code samples that I've seen still look like shredded wheat.

Three points, therefore, to close with: First, take the UI design seriously with AJAX development. It's not standard Web UI development, or at least it shouldn't be. Second, look at packaged offerings for enterprise deployment, to reduce the amount of plumbing. And third, keep an eye on the code. AJAX development shouldn't mean putting up with inelegant spaghetti code or coughing up a hairball.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Intel Packages Blogs, RSS, And Wikis For Businesses

At the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Intel plans to announce SuiteTwo, a business-oriented collection of blogging, wiki, and RSS applications from the likes of NewsGator, SimpleFeed, Six Apart, and Socialtext, coordinated by open-source software integrator SpikeSource.

Intel Capital, the chipmaker's venture capital organization, helped realize the arrangement. Intel's venture group has investments in each of these companies and aims to be a matchmaker that can add value to the Intel platform, not to mention its portfolio.

"Small- and medium-sized businesses purchase software best when it's an integrated suite that's going to be available very easily through an ASP model, through a SaaS [software as a service] model, and that will be supported by a third party," says Lisa Lambert, managing director of the software solutions group at Intel Capital.

SaaS accounted for about 5% of business software revenue in 2005, Gartner said in October. The research firm expects that 25% of new business software will be delivered as a service by 2011.

Intel's decision to endorse consumer and open-source tools for business use reflects the shift toward bottom-up technology adoption that has been occurring over the past few years, says Ross Mayfield, CEO and co-founder of wiki software company Socialtext. "These are tools that have been designed for users first, because they've embraced this bottom-up demand pattern," he says. "This is the first time that you have in effect an enterprise 2.0 solution being offered that an IT department could in one fell swoop deploy to meet those grassroots demands for the tools that users actually prefer."

Most large companies, says Mayfield, have some wiki and blog use and are now at the point of deciding how they're going to manage it. Citing Gartner figures, Mayfield says that half of enterprises will have wikis and 80% will have blogs by 2008.

SuiteTwo's value proposition is increased productivity because the tools don't get in the user's way "in the same way the enterprise 1.0 did," says Mayfield. "We're projecting a 50% increase in knowledge worker productivity, 25% faster project cycles, and reducing information overload by reducing e-mail volume by 30%.

"We're shifting from this push model of attention management, where nobody has control over what information is overloading them," Mayfield continues, "to more of a pull model, where we have a choice of what we want to subscribe to, at what level of interruption, and at what time," thanks to strong search tools.

Intel's Software and Solutions Group will make the suite available to its partners and resellers, including Dell, Ingram Micro, NEC, and Tech Data, through what the company calls the Intel Channel Marketplace later this month.

SuiteTwo will be the first of what will likely be many application bundles for the Intel Channel Marketplace. "Our hope is to add other features as we go down the road, among them social networking, podcasting, and some mobility functions," says Lambert. Right now, the software is available in English and Japanese, but additional languages should be available by the end of 2007.

Distributors will have the option to resell the suite and then Intel will get a nominal fee for deploying it via the Intel Channel Marketplace. The price range is from $175 to $200 per user per year.

SuiteTwo will run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, and Microsoft Windows.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Does Web 2.0 bubble have a silver lining?

Hundreds of technology executives and investors will congregate this week to take the quickening pulse of Internet entrepreneurship.

At the third annual Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, dozens of industry players will gather to break down topics like Internet infrastructure, Net neutrality, mashups, data protection and the future of video. Among those on hand at the city's Palace Hotel will be Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos; Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg; Lotus Notes creator Ray Ozzie; and Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google.

High Impact

What's new:

At the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, industry players will take the pulse of the Internet industry as talk of an investment bubble builds.

Bottom line:

Many start-up companies that fall under the Web 2.0 rubric will die off or prove only modestly successful to their investors. But the current period of active experimentation is solidifying an industrywide shift to Internet-delivered software, entrepreneurs and investors say.

More stories on Web 2.0

For industry players, many of whom lived through the dot-com crash, the surging wave of new Web companies and the corresponding media buzz can mean only one thing: an investment bubble where too much money is chasing too few good ideas.

But for any similarities to the late '90s Internet craze, today's Web 2.0 buildup is a kinder, gentler bubble, say entrepreneurs and investors. Yes, the flourishing Web start-up scene will create some train wrecks. But because people can start companies for relatively small sums compared to the tens of millions doled out during the dot-com heyday, the crashes won't hurt as many.

Along the way, some Web companies will endure and make online software (also called software as a service), more compelling and viable for consumers and businesses, say entrepreneurs and investors, an admittedly optimistic bunch.

"A lot of companies will fail, without a doubt," said Joe Kraus, who co-founded Web portal Excite in the mid-1990s and JotSpot, a wiki company that Google acquired last week. "But users really benefit because the innovation space is being explored a lot more quickly."

Acquisitions by Google and other Web heavyweights like Yahoo and Microsoft are helping to fuel entrepreneurial creativity.

The purchase price of privately held JotSpot was not disclosed, but Google last month bought 20-month-old video-sharing site YouTube for an eye-popping $1.65 billion in stock.

Big-dollar acquisitions may remind people of the public stock market entries of many profitless dot-coms in the 1990s. But people say new online business models are more mature, and give today's Web start-ups a better shot at longevity.

Automated Web advertising is more sophisticated and monthly subscriptions to hosted applications are proving themselves out, particularly to business customers at companies like Salesforce.com.

"Business model innovation is the biggest difference between Internet phase one and Internet phase two," said Brad Silverberg, a former Microsoft executive and partner at venture capital firm Ignition Partners. "It used to be everything was about eyeballs but there was no way to monetize it. Today there is and that's why this is more durable."

Silverberg argued that new software companies will not be able to enter the packaged software market, which will be dominated by incumbents like Microsoft and Adobe. Instead, the race among crafty entrepreneurs is to deliver a hosted service that strikes a chord with consumers or business customers.

Two geeks in a garage

Activity in Web-related start-ups is on the rise. The number of "Web 2.0" investments from venture companies rose to more than 130 in the third quarter of this year, compared to 107 in the same period last year, according to the National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

A number of technical advances, such as the Web development technique AJAX and wide-scale adoption of broadband Internet connections, are allowing software engineers to build more compelling online applications.

New businesses today have access to free open-source software, relatively cheap hardware and powerful development tools. With more Web sites providing programmatic access to outsiders, developers can also build mashup applications that combine information from multiple Web sites.

Add it all up and the money and effort to launch a Web company has gone down substantially, compared to only a few years ago--a shift with implications for both entrepreneurs and their financial backers.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Nine ideas for IT managers considering Enterprise 2.0

Nine ideas for IT managers considering Enterprise 2.0

Posted by Dion Hinchcliffe @ 11:44 pm

As browser-based software, SaaS, and Web 2.0 continue to make some inroads in the enterprise, it's the lack of useful pioneer reports that hampers the early adoptors. Sure, many of us witness the often amazing trends taking place out on the Web in the form of mountains of user generated content and communication and collaboration occuring en masse via blogs and spaces. But the big question is still with us: Can the motivations and context that makes the latest generation of software on the Web so compelling, and hence popular, be made just as meaningful in the enterprise?

As we get deeper into the second decade of the Web, we've been inundated with the 2.0 generation of everything, hopefully all learning from the mistakes of the 1.0 generation. In addition to Web 2.0 itself however, we have two more important enterprise software trends: Office 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0, coined by Ismael Ghalimi and Andrew McAfee respectively. Office 2.0 represents the increasing use of browser-based software in the office, while Enterprise 2.0 is more Web 2.0-ish in that it specifically describes the use of freeform, emergent, social software to conduct collaboration and share knowledge.

For its part, Office 2.0 represents freedom from the tyranny of installing software and updates, remembering where you keep your data and your programs (it's all in the cloud with Office 2.0), and dealing with pesky things like admin rights, software versions, virus scanning, and more. Though browser-based software still has its limitations (like what happens when the server is down or you don't have a connection), it's increasingly clear that the network is going to become the pre-eminent location for most meaningful business software, if it hasn't happened already.

Enterprise 2.0 is more problematic in that it directly addresses the known weaknesses of existing IT models and platforms for helping people work together. Specifically this means the fact that corporate information tends to be non-shared by default, that the easiest productivity tools to use are the ones that have very little collaboration built-in, and that the information that does exist is often impossible to find and is often structured in some formal, centrally controlled way. Enterprise 2.0 takes on existing ingrained habits and behaviors, and recommends a carefully thought out but ultimately comprehensive change in the way we normally work together. Specifically, this means being more social, creating only essential structure and organization at first, and to prefer the use tools like blogs and wikis that are eminently shareable, searchable, and linkable.

Like Web 2.0, where visual technologies like Ajax are often the most obvious and easiest to implement aspect, Office 2.0's SaaS trappings are an important stride forward and are increasingly popular for a growing number of organizations. And like Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 has challenges in that it tends to go against the learned behavior of many workers to keep information private until it is ready, to prevent seeing how the "sausage is really made." Certainly, increased transparency, some loss of control over information flow, and outright abuse of low-barrier Intranet publishing tools gives enterprise IT and business leaders pause for thought.

But most organizations already understand that spreadsheets, presentation files, e-mails, word processing documents, and private databases are where much of the valuable institutional information is. While centralized "big IT" systems do a lot of routine record keeping, the heart and soul of an organization in the form of corporate strategies, product development plans, project notes, key performance metrics, and so on is really kept in e-mail folders and user's directories. And while some of it must remain under strict control, particularly in public companies, much of it is unnessarily — and usually to a fault — hidden, unreused, and unexploited.

Fortunately, though Enterprise 2.0, a corporate mirror held up to the bustle and vibrancy of mass information discovery and sharing on the Web, has a lot of challenges ahead of it, we are starting to see IT managers considering it. And while I get to watch The Irregulars debate it on a regular basis, some good information is finally coming out on how to deal with the cultural, organizational, technical, and people issues around Enterprise 2.0. Here's the list I've put together so far, I hope you enjoy it.

  1. It's about ease-of-use, first and foremost. As a recent Internet list rightly proclaimed, "EASY is the most important feature of any website, web app, or program." Blogs, wikis, and other Enterprise 2.0 apps have to be the easiest thing to use. Preferably much easier than the tools users have now or they won't start using them. While many people use the office productivity software they have now because they have no choice, the fact is, they are quite familiar with them and they're too busy to learn new tools even if they work better. So if you want adoption, you're very limited in the learning tax you can impose. And hopefully your selected Enterprise 2.0 platform will encourage the right behavior (extremely easy and obvious ways to tag, link, etc.) Just remember that every good Web application on the Internet requires essentially zero training, if it didn't do this users would just go to the next easiest tool. That means spare, clean application that aren't encrusted with features, gizmos, and links. And make sure the software makes the right things easy to do and the wrong things hard.
  2. Change requires motivation. Provide it. I just said in the previous point to require no training for Enterprise 2.0 tools. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't explain what's going on. Changing the default stance from keeping most information a worker has private to making much of it public is a big alteration in behavior and expectation. Explain the reasoning behind retaining more knowledge, in making it public, searchable, and organizing it via tagging. Describe the benefits of being able to access much fresher and more up-to-date information elsewhere in the organization because their colleagues are managing more of their projects, tasks, and other work via social tools. Whether this is via internal e-mail updates, online screencasts, corporate podcasts, or Intranet home page news, makes little difference as long as you do it. Get the word out, evangelize, and don't forget to explain how and where blogs, wikis — or whatever your selected Enterprise 2.0 tool is — can be easily accessed by those in the organization.
  3. Emergent doesn't mean a blank slate. Empty blogs and wikis usually stay empty blogs and wikis. And keep in mind that all systems tend towards disorder naturally, so the freeform aspect of Enterprise 2.0 may tend towards anarchy faster than other systems without some initial, elemental structure. Wikipedia provides article formats, the blogging world has structured blogging, and even things like MySpace tend to have conventions that are widely understood. Provide useful templates for common activities and reference material such as projects, tasks, resource management, policies, procedures, standards, and so on. You still have to keep template layouts and template usage simple; excessive structure tends to kill the golden goose of contributions quickly. But a little basic structure goes a long way and prevents contributors from having to figure out how to structure all the white space and provide a simple layer of consistency.
  4. Discoverability isn't an afterthought, it's the core. Google and other search engines made the Web usable. The enterprise has not caught up, largely because most enterprise information doesn't allow a hyperlink structure, and links aren't encouraged very much when it does. McAfee recommends setting up blog and wiki directories as well as good enterprise search based on link ranking (which is what Google does to make the right information come up in the first few pages of search results.) Enterprise 2.0 tools should also extract folksonomies and other structural information (from microformats and XML tags) into discoverability mechanisms like tags lists and clouds, making user organization schemes obvious, public, and emergent. One easy trap to fall into is to assume your existing enterprise search will do the job. It probably won't, so be sure that it's well integrated into your Enterprise 2.0 effort, perhaps by offering a blog or wiki search option. Provide your own search engine in the tools only if you must.
  5. It's OK to fear loss of control and misuse. But it's critical to put the fires out instead of preventing them altogether. Rod Boothby recently put out a good list of online software myths, and the first one is "the anarchy on the open net is going to translate into chaos internally." Rod believes that most people will avoid misusing Enterprise 2.0-style tools because they won't want to suffer the consequences of looking foolish in front of their colleagues. And while I believe that may be true for most folks, there will always be those that just don't know any better. And there will be accidents. This boils down to having some form of moderation, either human or automated, to ensure that the level of discourse remains at some bare minimimum acceptable standard. Again, like most social forums, this usually requires a very light touch since the chilling effect of publically censoring someone on an Intranet is likely to ripple through an organization. But the corporate skin will just have to get thicker too, like it does on the Internet where all Wikipedia entries are said to be "edited mercilessly" clearly on each editing screen. Intervene only when absolutely necessary and be ready to play the master diplomat with senior management. Yes, letting things "hang out" more than before will take some getting used to but the premise is that it's worth it.
  6. Dynamic, effective advocates are a key enabler. Want to ensure a low rate of adoption? Give tools to folks that aren't motivated, energetic, and have a positive attitude towards your new tools. Finding vocal advocates that really care about your Enterprise 2.0 pilot project might be hard but if you find one, like any IT project, it can make the results happen an order of magnitude faster and easier. External advocates tend to have more credibility, can point to demonstrable, concrete results, and can also provide a rich vein of experience for those that follow after (and yes, hopefully already captured in an online, shared forum somewhere in the enterprise.) The botton line: The time spent finding an internal advocate is invariably worth it, even if it takes a while. A high-profile executive sponsor that obviously uses the tools can also help in a big way.
  7. The problems will be with the business culture, not the technology. While you have to cross your t's and dot your i's by making sure you've picked effective, low-barrier, corporate-grade Enterprise 2.0 tools, the real issue, day in and day out, with getting Enterprise 2.0 to take off is to educate, evangelize, demonstrate, and most importantly, evolve the interface and structure of your tools until you pick the right formula that resonates with your audience. Making it easy for users to give you lots of feedback (again, hopefully very easy to do) is critical and listening to it is even more important. Give users what they want within reason or they'll use the tools they prefer. This is the lesson that the Web has also taught us but that lack of software competition on the enterprise has stifled. And if they don't see immediate benefit from use of the tools, be ready to spend time to fully understand why.
  8. Triggering an Enterprise 2.0 ecosystem quickly is likely an early activity driver. This can mean a lot of things but the link structure of Web tools allows information to quickly flow, circulate, and mesh together. You can leverage this in a almost infinite number of ways to drive user activity, interesting content, create awareness of what the company is "thinking", and more. For example, create a blog for every employee in the company and mail the link to them with instructions on how to use it. Create a social bookmarking site for the enterprise where everyone can see what is being bookmarked by everyone else that day. Create an internal Wikipedia that contains a seperate copy of all Intranet content and let users edit away. The possibilities are endless and provide a much greater number of "entry points" where people can get started with these tools.
  9. Allow the tools to access enterprise services. Moving the massive volumes of data and the growing landscape of services into Enterprise 2.0 tools, mashup style, is likely a large value add, though again, we mostly have the lessons of the Web to help us here. Allowing the output of SQL queries to be inserted into wikis when they load, calling Web services or using Flash badges that access data resources can turn Enterprise 2.0 tools from pure knowledge management into actual hybrids of software and data. Uploading spreadsheets and other documents should be easy too. And the reverse should be true as well, getting data back out into traditional tools including Office documents, PDFs, and XML must be easy to inspire trust and lower barriers to use.

There's undoubtedly many more ideas on how to apply Enterprise 2.0 but these are likely to be many of the important ones when planning and implementing an Enterprise 2.0 project. From monitoring and content moderation, to keeping the tools open and making the data they contain searchable, there's a balance required to keep good things happening and bad things from occuring. Just like the Web, sharing and searching can cut both ways and you're the lifeguard that lets people in the pool, but prevents them from drowning. And be sure to drop me a line if you actively working on an Enterprise 2.0 project, I'd love to hear more.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Enterprise Ajax


Like any new web technology there is sometimes the misconception that it can be used and implemented within the enterprise the same as with public consumer web applications. This is natural because these consumer-facing applications often are constrained the way enterprises are and can act on new technologies and approaches faster. This is true with Ajax.

Think of a car analogy. If you put a fancy Ferrari body on top of a Pinto frame and engine what do you have? From a distance you can say you have a Ferrari but to those who have to get up-close, interact with, and maybe even drive it; its still run’s like a Pinto.

Now consider enterprise web applications. With the coming out party of open-source Ajax widgets enterprises believe that by ‘bolting’ some of these free snippets (little Ajax eye candy pieces to make a site look and feel better to the user) onto existing apps is all that is needed to say “Yes, we’re doing Ajax.” But think about it. All that is being done is similar to the scenario above whether business managers realize it or not. If they don’t, they are really getting shortchanged on the business activity optimizing gains from Enterprise Ajax.

To garner the full benefits, enterprises need to carefully calculate how to implement an Ajax enterprise strategy that not only provides the basic improved user experience but can enhance the entire set of capabilities as well. Enterprise Ajax is in fact an architectural strategy so as to marry the best of what Ajax has to offer with enterprise architectures such as SOA while making sure that security, scalability, reliability and governance are correctly taken care of. Enterprise Ajax enables enterprises to leverage the best of Rich Internet Applications and Service-Oriented enterprise Applications with the specific goal of optimizing any and all business operations of an enterprise while guarding access by authorized people to the correct information assets and ensuring delivery and proper execution.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Tacit Interactions and Enterprise Applications


Many have been talking about a recent issue of the McKinsey Quarterly that speaks of what they call “Tacit Interactions”. When people consider Enterprise 2.0 / Web 2.0 / Office 2.0 tools such as blogs and wikis, they need to consider these tools in the context of these tacit interactions. Tacit being ad hoc or on the fly and this represents 40% of a typical business day time according to McKinsey. Dion Hinchcliffe and Tony DiRomualdo do a good job explaining this in more detail as does the blog Enterprise Web 2.0. These are not the routine transactional activities but rather the interactions are complex and ambiguous, requiring high levels of judgment and problem-solving. People involved in tacit interactions must often draw on deep experience and combine with available data, and the output of integrated data.

Over the years companies have boosted their productivity by improving the efficiency of transformational activities but have to some extent maxed out the economical IT efficiencies of these activities. In other words, throwing more hardware and software isn’t necessarily going to bring about the same efficiency gains that we’ve seen before.

To realize greater ROI from new applications, the focus of Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 presents has been about putting more power in the users hands to make these other non-transactional activates better, faster, and easier. Easier said then done when one realizes this involves deriving value from unstructured and possibly dispersed data.

Tacit interactions require a whole different organizational style and structure than transactional interactions. While one can improve transformational interactions through process design, and improve transactional interactions by providing scripts and structures, tacit interactions require loose boundaries, flat hierarchy, individual empowerment to innovate, and an emphasis on learning over time.

It is no surprise then that the tools such a person uses has to be as adaptable as the individual capable of handling the characteristics above. Tools that empower end users and finally help them help themselves with what information they want, when, and how they want it.

This has been the bottle-neck as I see it with software to date. Attempts have been made with business intelligence tools and portal but now with fine-grained services being exposed in greater numbers and client-side technologies that can consume these on the scene now, it seems we may be closer to empowering end users and finally helping them help themselves with what information they want, when and how they want it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

AJAX issues debated

AJAX issues debated
Filed under: Application Development

Multiple issues around AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) were raised at the AJAXWorld Conference and Expo on Wednesday, including debate over lightweight vs. heavy development frameworks.

Lightweight frameworks are those considered to be AJAX-based, while heavy frameworks include those needing desktop-based technologies such as plug-ins, said conference panelists during an evening session.

"I would have to say, of course, the end user experience needs to be totally lightweight," said Chris Schalk, a product manager and JavaServer Faces evangelist at Oracle. Lightweight technology is needed for interacting with legacy systems, he said.

"AJAX compared to other RIA (rich Internet application) technologies definitely could be defined as lightweight," said Jouk Pleiter, general manager of Backbase. "With AJAX itself, I think there is a little confusion in the market," over the use of JavaScript and different frameworks and other elements, according to Pleiter.

"The term, AJAX, has meant a lot of things to many people," said Kevin Hakman, product marketing manager for Tibco General Interface.

"I think right now, to be clear, AJAX is chaos right now," Pleiter said.

"It's a total mess because everybody is trying to create his own AJAX legacy," said Pleiter. On the positive side, Pleiter cited self-service applications and application modernization projects as examples of where AJAX is beneficial.

The panel noted the OpenAJAX Alliance is addressing issues with AJAX.

Panelists also raised the question of why Microsoft is not participating in OpenAJAX. "Most people in the alliance would be happy if they joined," Schalk said.

A co-founder of the Dojo JavaScript toolkit serving on the panel noted that the technology must keep on top of things. "[With] Dojo, I feel like we're being chased by everyone out there in the world and if we don't keep running as fast as we can, nobody is going to use Dojo in two years," said Dojo co-founder Dylan Scheimann.

Earlier in the day, technology executives during one panel session discussed whether companies need a Web 2.0 strategy. That conversation then branched off into another critical issue already touched upon at the conference: AJAX security.

A Web 2.0 strategy is needed, said Luis Derechin, CEO of JackBe. "Anything that's this big and making such an impact in the consumer space ultimately will get into the enterprise," Derechin said. But companies putting together such a strategy should concentrate on what they are trying to achieve, said Juho Risku, CEO of Helmi.

Technologies associated with Web 2.0 include AJAX and Flash, said Pleiter, who served on both the daytime and evening panels. He cited an example of a call center being fitted with Web 2.0 technology to improve efficiency.

AJAX, meanwhile, makes it easier to fill out Web forms, he said. "With AJAX technology, you can reduce a form that was 30 steps to [a complete form] in one screen and you can really make it easy," Pleiter said.

Security, though, remain an issue with AJAX, although AJAX is certainly not the only platform that must deal with it, panelists said.

"People think there's more risk in AJAX," and there is not, Derechin said.

Pleiter advised using the same technology set that companies have already used to handle security. There have been issues in client-side JavaScript security but they have always been there, he said.

Details on improvements planned for the Eclipse AJAX Toolkit Framework (ATF) also were discussed at the show. These improvements include debugger enhancements, robust JavaScript tooling and multiple browser support. Eclipse also is trying to get ATF to function with the Macintosh embeddable browser but is having trouble, said Robert Goodman, a senior programmer at IBM and a project lead for ATF.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

JackBe Releases Presto Rich Enterprise Application Platform


JackBe, a Rich Enterprise Application (REA) software company, today announced its Presto REA platform, a comprehensive solution for delivering enterprise Ajax applications based on SOA and Web services.

ebizQ received the following details:

Applications built on the Presto platform gain business-class reliability, scalability, and service governance. The results are highly interactive browser–based applications that help users to optimize both their regular and ad hoc activities.

Enterprises are making significant investments to create SOA infrastructures that produce SOA and Web services. The focus is now shifting to “putting a face on SOA” by enabling distributed business units to easily consume these services and thus accelerate SOA benefits and ROI. JackBe’s Presto will enable enterprises to fully realize their SOA vision through Rich Enterprise Applications deployed at the forefront of business.

The Presto REA platform offers an enterprise-grade architecture based on a complete services governance foundation, unlike consumer-grade solutions or client-side mashup tools that leave governance to the browser. Complementing Presto’s governance features are components that provide reliable Ajax messaging, dynamic combination or ‘mashup’ of disparate SOA services, development and run-time frameworks, and a browser-based studio that empowers users to address their own application needs.

“There are scores of new products designed to accelerate Ajax development and client-side mashup of Web services,” said Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst with ZapThink. “What makes JackBe’s Presto platform unique is its central focus on SOA service governance. JackBe clearly understands that governance, scalability and reliability are critical factors for enterprises as they leverage SOA and Ajax to create the next generation of rich enterprise applications.”

With the introduction of Presto, JackBe addresses the needs of enterprises wanting to empower business units with more flexible and productive use of core processes, logic and data while maintaining stringent access governance, reliability, and scalability. Presto enables governed access to internal services, enterprise data sources, and pre-defined external (third-party) Web services through powerful professional developer and business user development environments.

“JackBe was delivering Ajax-based applications within major enterprises long before the term ‘Ajax’ had even been coined,” commented Dion Hinchcliffe, noted Web 2.0 visionary and CEO of consulting firm Hinchcliffe & Company. “Today’s announcement extends that vision by recognizing the tremendous business value that can be delivered with a multi-tier platform that directly extends SOA with Ajax. JackBe’s new Presto platform will make the development of Ajax-based Rich Enterprise Applications faster and easier, but its real game-changing potential is to empower business users to create their own situational or ‘tacit’ applications based on rapidly changing needs.”

“Our new platform goes beyond current enterprise Web 2.0 technologies to help optimize and streamline the actual business activities, increasing the speed and accuracy of decision-making by business professionals,” said JackBe CEO and co-founder Luis Derechin. “These ’long tail’ composite applications integrate other existing SOA services and processes to address high-value business needs that would not be funded or built based on traditional IT priorities.”

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

REA is to RIA, as Enterprise Web 2.0 is to Web 2.0

JackBe coined the term Rich Enterprise Applications (REA) as an evolution of Rich Internet Applications (RIA). RIA is to Web-grade applications as REA is to Enterprise-grade applications. The side pic. is my personal attempt to illustrate this visually. Some like it; some don’t, so comments are more than welcomed.
So What is Enterprise Grade?

Enterprises require tighter control, security, and reliability. In short they require a degree of governance that the average user building a Google Maps Mashup while sitting at their kitchen table doesn’t need. This should be no surprise to anyone who has worked for large organizations.

People have heard a lot about Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 lately. I can see a similarity here that I think might help to distinguish between these two, and REA and RIA. Most of the talk surrounding Web 2.0 has been focused on the social collaborative aspects that it brings to users. I agree with this. Now take all of this (Web 2.0) and enable governance and security and commercial-grade reliability and you have a Web 2.0 model that is fit for an enterprise (Enterprise 2.0)

Following the same logic let’s look at RIA and REA. RIA has brought enhanced desktop-like look and feel to web applications. It looks, feels, and from a user perspective, performs a lot better than some we-based apps of only a few years ago. Let me clarify that this richness is all done in the browser which is perfectly fine for all of the Real estate mashups popping up everyday. You know the ones with balloons imprinted over a map. I like them; nothing wrong with them. It puts the control and build in the hands of the users; they can do what they want as long as they have access to the services which when these are exposed to the client means anything.

Hopefully, maybe you can see where I’m going with this. Enterprises want to encourage this new Web 2.0 movement within the organization to leverage the network effect and value it brings, but because of what I mentioned earlier, organizations have to impose a slightly different model called Enterprise 2.0. Given this, and Enterprise 2.0 requirements, RIA needs added capabilities forreal Enterprise 2.0 grade applications. They need the richness of RIA but with the governance that Enterprise 2.0 mandates. Boom, we have Rich Enterprise Applications that extend the attribute of RIA past the client and into the Enterprise’s resources and enterprises can feel comfortable in doing this because REA has this added governance portion.

Presto REA Platform


We’re very excited at JackBe to be announcing Presto, our Rich Enterprise Application (REA) Platform. Presto helps organizations optimize business activity, leveraging existing SOA investments and facilitating the development of rich, interactive Ajax-based applications.

I blogged recently about some different architectural approaches to combining SOA and Ajax and pointed out that a server-side proxy approach is key to supporting many of the the non-functional requirements so common in today’s Enterprise service infrastructure. Additionally, this approach allows for optimization over the wire between the browser and server (as opposed to focusing on SOAP from the browser) and supporting strong governance of the service infrastructure on the back end.

Presto is focused on just this sort of approach, supporting the creation of highly interactive and responsive applications, built on a governed service infrastructure and reliable and scalable web connectivity: Rich Enterprise Applications.

We hope to not only help people create better applications but to help people build the right applications. What is the right application? It’s what’s needed to get the job done. In what has been referred to as the Long Tail of Enterprise Software there is an unmet demand for many small IT systems that could enable tacit interactions within a business.

To help address this issue, Presto enables the creation of ad-hoc, situational applications, supporting the development of service and process-based mashup applications, while maintaining strong support for service governance, security, scalability, and reliability.

We believe this will help bring together SOA and Ajax in ways that will help organizations maximize the value of their existing technology investments. Lots more to come on this front in the near future and please let us know if you would like to learn more.