Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Get Ready for SaaS 2.0

September 26, 2006

Get Ready For SaaS 2.0

By Andy Patrizio

SAN FRANCISCO -- Like products, it seems concepts are getting version numbers. First there was Web 2.0. Now there is SaaS 2.0.

High-tech officials floated the new term here at SaaScon, an event geared to foster discussion on the growing popularity of software-as-a-service (SaaS).

Whereas Web 2.0 is built around user-driven content and interactivity, SaaS 2.0 is an enhancement to the initial efforts of software services.

Bill McNee, CEO of research consulting firm Saugatuck Technology, introduced the SaaS 2.0 concept, noting that it is an expansion of the SaaS concept to further integrate software services into "premises-based" software, the term used at the show to describe installed, packaged software.

"SaaS 2.0 is about transforming business processes," McNee said. "It's closer to business service provisioning and a platform with programmable services on top of it."

SaaS 2.0 involves greater integration of these hosted apps into the enterprise, with extensive use of service-oriented architecture (SOA) (define) for scaling, configuration and tighter synchronization with back-end applications.

A part of this emerging SaaS 2.0 will be SaaS Integration Platforms, or SIPs. These are solution hubs that share, deliver and manage applications, and serve as an integration layer between the application services and the hardware and software platform.

SIPs will be needed to move beyond standalone silos of data and provide tighter integration between service applications and installed application.

Right now, SaaS is still about the application, McNee noted. "This market has to move beyond just delivering software. It's very much about information, not applications," he said.

SaaS is projected to grow at a 20 percent compound average growth rate for the rest of the decade to become a $15 to $20 billion market by 2010. However, that's still only 15 percent of enterprise application market.

"So packaged software is not going away," said McNee.

In surveying clients and various enterprises, some surprises emerged. First, large enterprises have been the quickest to adopt SaaS, which is unusual. Large firms are usually slowest to adopt new technologies.

The reason most cited by large firms for adopting software services: cost reduction. That's especially true for vertical apps, which are often much more expensive than general-purpose applications.

More notable: pre-existing relationships with vendors are the least important consideration for customers looking at SaaS.

It's no accident that the bulk of companies brought up in the keynotes were small startups, even if IBM (Quote, Chart) and Microsoft (Quote, Chart) were there. This shows that many software giants are significantly challenged to keep their customers, said McNee.

SaaS may not be threatening the existence of packaged software, but it's eating up most of the venture money.

Buell Duncan, general manager for ISV and developer relations at IBM, said that virtually all software startups today that are being funded are SaaS developers.

In a survey of IBM's PartnerWorld members, IBM found 55 percent are considering SaaS for their company while 45 percent are not. However, of that 55 percent, only 13 percent are actually planning on it, 42 percent were evaluating it.

Duncan stated the same needs for SaaS as McNee.

"For SaaS to go to the next level, it has to integrate into broader business processes. As customers ask about integrating it more broadly into the enterprise, it will fuel this growth at an almost unprecedented level," Duncan said

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Facebook Just Launched Open Registrations

We mentioned a couple of weeks ago that this was coming…moments ago Facebook removed the restrictions on registration and anyone can now become a member by joining a geographic network.

They’ve also anticipated backlash from existing users who liked Facebook just fine as an exclusive club, thank you very much. New privacy controls were put in place in the last week to give users additional say over who can find and interact with them. Specific new privacy features include:

* Block other users in specific networks from searching for his or her name.
* Prevent people in those networks from messaging, poking and adding him or her as a friend.
* Control whether his or her profile picture shows up in search results.

Expect lots of heated debate over this move. And also expect exponential growth in Facebook’s usage by tens of millions of new users.

I joined Facebook recently (through a TechCrunch network) and am a member of the Silicon Valley network as well. Please feel free to add me as a friend.

Our previous coverage of Facebook is here.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Yahoo says "Mash up or shut up"

Yahoo will open its Sunnyvale, Calif., campus to outside developers in a 24-hour Hack Day next week to see what kinds of applications people can come up with using Yahoo technologies.

About 500 developers are expected to test their mettle in taking a Yahoo software mashup from concept to prototype. Participants will work round-the-clock beginning next Friday afternoon, camping out on the campus lawn while being feted with food, drink and musical entertainment from a mystery act.

Following demonstrations of the applications, awards will be given for the ones deemed the coolest.

Yahoo has held numerous Hack Days for its own employees since December 2005, but this is the first one open to developers from outside the company. The goal is to encourage innovation and bring that start-up feel to the company, says Bradley Horowitz, vice president of product strategy at Yahoo.

In a nod to the irreverent attitude of early hackers famed for applying their own fixes to programs and taking code apart and reassembling it in their own personal way, the mantra of the event is "mash up or shut up."

"It's a punk rock ethic. It wasn't important that you played well, just that you played," he said in an interview with journalists on Friday. "The ethic of 'shut up and do it' resonates with the hacker culture."

Dozens of projects from Yahoo Hack Days have made it into a Yahoo product or service, according to Horowitz.

One that hasn't but tickles Yahoo executives nonetheless involves photocopy machines. Some developers at Sharp created a mashup that allows people to type their zip code into a copier, press a button and get either a digital display or a printout of weather, news or traffic from their geographical area off a Yahoo Web site.

More information about the event is available here.

Posted by Elinor Mills

Saturday, September 23, 2006

SOAs help improve dialogue between IT, business users

September 22, 2006 (Computerworld) SAN FRANCISCO -- Shaygan Kheradpir, CIO at Verizon Communications Inc., gets several mostly cordial instant messages a day from line-of-business workers -- like customer service representatives -- asking for help with their IT systems.

Kheradpir, whose IM address is available to all of the company's 250,000 employees, largely credits the company's four-year-old service-oriented architecture (SOA) for a comfortable relationship between IT and Verizon business groups. He said the SOA has eased low-level technical work, giving IT developers more time to work with end users when building applications.

Verizon's CIO spoke at the BEAWorld 2006 conference, held here this week, where he and other users said they are expanding their focus on SOA and eyeing an emerging set of tools that promise to even better nurture what has long been an often-thorny relationship between business and IT.

At the conference, San Jose-based BEA brought out a new middleware offering, SOA 360, that includes components aimed specifically at improving companywide collaboration on development projects.

Core to the new middleware is WorkSpace 360, a unified set of SOA tools designed to bring business analysts, architects, developers and IT personnel into a shared work space for collaboration and interaction, according to BEA. WorkSpace also includes the SOA metadata repository BEA gained with its acquisition of Flashline Inc.

Mike McCoy, director of architecture and quality engineering at Accredited Home Lenders Inc. in San Diego, said at the conference that he is on the lookout for tools to improve collaboration between IT workers.

McCoy said his firm would be interested in using WorkSpace if the mortgage lender's 50 to 75 services could easily be added to the Flashline metadata repository.

Clinton Chow, chief application architect for the city of Chicago, said his organization is seeking tools to improve collaboration between technical and business users.

"We have developer-centric collaboration tools, but they are not business-user-friendly," he said. "You want to satisfy the business needs, but business users don't care about the underlying technology." Tools that would "enable the business units and technical side to convey their thoughts would be very helpful."

Kurt Anderson, administrator of the myAflac portal at the American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus (Aflac) in Georgia, said his company built a Web service that allows 11,000 insurance agents to access different types of data so it doesn't have to print and mail such data. The Aflac SOA application cost $600,000 to build, and the company estimates it will result in savings of more than $3.2 million annually.

Anderson said Aflac would be interested in using WorkSpace to help streamline communication between business analysts and IT staffers. Such tools can help the company improve its governance efforts, he said. Shawn Willett, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc.., said that despite BEA's "rhetoric," he expects different corporate groups will continue to work in their silos. "That it just a reality," he said.

Friday, September 22, 2006

ExecutiveBiz's Web 2.0 Business Conference A Success; ''The New New Internet: Web 2.0 for Business'' Proves Business Strategies Based on Future Techno

Early Web 2.0 adopters and visionaries addressed more than 400 Greater Washington business leaders during a highly-successful Web 2.0 applications conference yesterday. The New New Internet: Web 2.0 for Business, presented by ExecutiveBiz (the Greater Washington, DC area's leading executive events organization and weekly digital magazine) showcased strategies from high-level experts. Topics covered by guest speakers included the growth of user content and control, adaptive web technologies that enable new and enhanced user experiences, predictions for winners and losers in the 2.0 space, and how the enterprise must adapt to survive and benefit. The Sept. 20 day-long conference, the first of its kind on the east coast, featured a series of keynotes, panel discussions and presentations for senior executives and IT professionals on the growing relevance of Web 2.0 for business and government.

"Companies like Jobster, Digg and YouTube have demonstrated explosive growth, an indication of Web 2.0's imminent disruptive impact on the business community," said Jim Garrettson, president, ExecutiveBiz. "This session started a new dialogue among the Greater Washington business community and we are so pleased with the turn out that we will be holding this event again next year."

Notable speakers from foremost technology companies and educational institutions, including Harvard University, shared their thoughts on how Web 2.0 technologies, like wiki's, user content generation, mash-ups, Ajax and other rapidly evolving technologies are changing the shape, scope and reach of business models. Special guest Aneesh Chopra, secretary of technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia, provided thoughts on building a 21st century economy in all four corners of Virginia and announced a new Web 2.0 initiative for the commonwealth. Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, provided perspective from a front-row seat to the next generation of the Web and business; Jason Goldberg, founder & CEO of Jobster discussed the definition of Web 2.0; and Rajen Sheth, enterprise development and management expert for Google took the discussion one step further, defining Business Web 2.0.

"ExecutiveBiz put together an exciting conference with an amazing cast of Web 2.0 visionaries, and it was great to see such a large and diverse group of technical and business leaders interacting to identify the opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0. We were proud to sponsor an event of this caliber, and enjoyed sharing our vision and real-world experiences in applying JackBe's Web 2.0 Ajax and SOA technologies to optimize business activity within the enterprise," said John Crupi, chief technology officer, JackBe, presenter on the panel 'Where is Web 2.0 Taking Business - And Where Will Business Take Web 2.0?'.

Event sponsors included Nexaweb, JackBe, Voxant, Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), SAIC and Verisign.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

BEA Announces SOA 360; Industry's Most Unified SOA Platform to Transform and Optimize Business

BEAWORLD 2006 - SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 19 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- BEA Systems, Inc. today unveiled its plans for the BEA SOA 360 platform. The BEA SOA 360 platform is intended to deliver the industry's most unified Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) platform for business transformation and optimization, in order to help to improve cost structures and to grow new revenue streams. The BEA SOA 360 platform is uniquely architected with the newly unveiled BEA microService Architecture (mSA). The SOA 360 platform spans the three BEA product families -- Tuxedo, WebLogic(R) and AquaLogic -- and is supported by the newly previewed SOA collaborative tooling environment, BEA WorkSpace 360. BEA WorkSpace 360 is intended as the industry's first unified SOA tools to bring business analysts, architects, developers and IT operations professionals into a shared workspace for collaboration and interaction.

Critical to the adoption of shared or syndicated services is executive leadership sponsorship and the reliability and availability of SOA-based services. The BEA SOA for Executives is the first BEA suite of SOA consulting and education services for senior IT executives and is designed to help empower executives to invest in SOA and lead change within their organizations by conveying the business value of SOA. BEA also unveiled today its patent-pending BEA Guardian Support Service, which represents a radical departure from the traditional break-fix support model employed by the enterprise software industry, potentially eliminating the burden of reactive and proactive support services.

"BEA approaches every market opportunity with innovation, architectural excellence and an unyielding standard of reliability and availability," said Alfred Chuang, chairman and chief executive officer, BEA Systems, Inc. "The BEA SOA 360 platform is the result of nearly $500 million in investment and the complete focus of the company. Unlike our competitors, we believe that SOA is not only a market opportunity, it is a fundamental approach to business, enterprise architecture and our platform itself."


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rich Enterprise Applications (REA)

Back up on wikipedia. Please everyone add freely to it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rich_Enterprise_Applications


web 2.0, enterprise 2.0, Ajax, SOA, Mashup, Composite Application, RIA,

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Oracle and I-Flex

Oracle is currently seeking to buy another 20% of Indian software developer I-Flex Solutions, boosting its stake to about 75%.

I-Flex writes banking software while Oracle (nasdaq: ORCL - news - people ) develops database software.

Oracle is looking to buy about 16.62 million shares for about $531 million. The offer will be on the table between Nov. 6 and 25.

In August, Oracle upped its stake in I-Flex to about 55.1% from 52.5% and offered to purchase an additional 20% of outstanding shares from I-Flex shareholders. Indian law requires Oracle to make an offer on another 20% of shares in the hands of private shareholders following prior purchases of I-Flex's stock.

"In acquiring a majority stake in I-Flex Solutions, Oracle announced its arrival on the world stage of vertical banking technology," wrote Virginia Garcia, research director at Financial Services Strategies and IT Investments, in a research report.

The analyst noted that Oracle is already the largest provider of software to the global banking industry in terms of revenue after its acquisitions of PeopleSoft and Siebel.

But because Oracle lacks vertical software and services capabilities that represent the lion's share of bank IT spending, the company's market and mindshare in financial services remains narrow, according to the analyst.

Oracle has been active in India for nearly 20 years. India is Oracle's fourth-largest market in Asia in terms of revenue.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Pentagon 9/11/06 distraction

I returned last week from a 15-day tour of some of Australia and New Zealand’s hottest IT start-ups. I specifically describe these as “IT” companies because unlike in the States, where the Web 2.0 movement has spawned hundreds of new companies, the Australasia marketplace hasn’t been captivated by the same frenzy. Indeed, of the nearly 50 companies I met in a seven-stop itinerary through the major tech venues of the region, only two companies specifically addressed the consumer market.


Instead of mash-ups and consumer-generated content and social networking businesses, the Aussie and Kiwi entrepreneurs have their sights squarely set on the enterprise or on technologies and services that enable businesses to better serve their customers.

Maybe one can expect an upside down (from the U.S.) approach to the market from lands south of the equator. Simple math is the more likely explanation, however. Stand on the Golden Gate Bridge and take in a 360-view of the Bay Area. Within your view are more than 10 million people, a population that equals that of New Zealand. With a land mass the size of the United States, Australia’s population is a fraction of that of the U.S. In short, there simply is no meaningful consumer market. The money market is business.

So what sort of technologies are our friends working on Down Under? Here are a few of the companies I met.

Security-Assessment.com Ltd
Think your business systems are secure? The team at Security-Assessment.com will be the judge of that. The company brings the tools and expertise to evaluate end-to-end security, identify, and recommend remediation. The company doesn’t sell remediation services; they’re engineers are objective experts at identifying vulnerabilities. In fact, this team is among the very best in the world and the one companies such as Microsoft call on for consultation.

Vigil Systems
Taking a bus in Columbus, Ohio? You can thank Vigil Systems for the very safe ride. The company develops training and evaluation tools that combine sensors, video, and real-time input from supervisors to train drivers, who can then review evaluations in context. Vigil Systems has made strong inroads (pun intended) in the municipal transportation market in the U.S., a big enough opportunity to keep the company busy for the near future. But the platform that combines and records data input over time and geography could have broad applications.

QDC Technology
As marketers push for increasingly personal advertising, QDC Technology will be there with the platform to combines video elements, renders and streams video ads in real time. The QDC platform integrates with CRM systems to generate very specific, custom messages. The company, founded by a team of technology and former advertising execs, has trialed the system with major brands in Australia and is ready to make its mark in the States.

Rising Sun Research
Moviegoers have come to appreciate Australia and New Zealand as a new center for filmmaking. Still, the center of film production is Hollywood. How do directors down under engage with producers in L.A.? Rising Sun Research is tackling this problem by delivering a collaboration system that synchronizes the film review process across the Internet to eliminate miscommunication and error.

September 11, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

AOL: Early Dojo Supporter

AOL has expanded its support for the Dojo Foundation, an open source project that lets developers build Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (Ajax) applications.

The ISP has donated a JavaScript Compiler tool to the project which analyzes applications, deletes unused code and provides metrics on call patterns.

AOL has also started to provide hosting services for the Dojo Foundation, and recommitted to contributing to the tool's development and submitting bug fixes.

"We are pleased to be furthering AOL's support of open source initiatives through our contributions to the Dojo JavaScript toolkit, especially as we have benefited so much from our own increasing adoption of key open source platforms and standards," said Sree Kotay, senior vice president for AOL Technology.

AOL is one of the early supporters of the Dojo Foundation and is using the technology for its AIMPages project that is currently in beta.

Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, AJAX, RIA, SOA, Mashup

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Forget "fat" clients. Just use AJAX.

Forget "fat" clients. Just use AJAX.

CTO Scott Dietzen is (quite rightly) proud of the effort. "We did two betas and a release candidate before the community gave the thumbs up," he said.

The new version also has mobile support. "We have support for Symbian, Palm Treo, Windows Mobile and we have a partner that fills in on the Blackberry," he said. "On any smartphone I have, all my email and address book data will now sync, over the air. You can get new customers from the CRM system, and it will show on your mobile phone while traveling."

Very cool.

So why am I not seeing more cool AJAX stuff on the Web? A shortage of programmers, Dietzen said. "AJAX programming skills are in short supply. AJAX development has gotten an order of magnitude easier, but it's still harder than HTML," and the programming workforce continues to age.

Dietzen recently went to the 50th birthday party for Carnegie-Mellon's computer science department (It's his alma mater.) He thinks maybe it would help if we started calling it computing engineering, not science. "It may be the case that computer science is less an exciting discipline because more is understood." The kids all want to be biologists these days.

I think Dietzen is close to the answer here. I think the ladder leading into computing has some broken rungs down near the bottom. There's this gap between computer-as-tool, and computing as something you create. When I have sought tools for my own kids to learn the basics of programming, they've been books written at a college level, teaching low-level tools.

What we need is something exciting, something in AJAX, that will teach the rudiments of AJAX programming. Something we can teach in high schools or in junior colleges. Followed up by contests, with prizes, and by big challenges which can lead to jobs.

This looks like a challenge for open source. Anyone want to take me up on it? Hey, we've got these new tools you can use to meet it…tools like Zimbra.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Assembling great software: A round-up of eight mashup tools

Sweet post by Dion. Right on the money.
http://blogs.zdnet.com/Hinchcliffe/?p=63#comments

There is a frequently recurring piece of software development lore that plays on the fact that good programmers are supposed to be lazy. In these stories, a good programmer will take a frequently recurring, monotonous task (like testing) and instead of doing it by hand, will instead write a piece of code once that will do the task for them, thereby automating it for future use.

Put another way, instead of carrying out the work by hand, a lazy programmer will spend 95% of the time allotted to the work by developing code that will carry it out for them, and the last 5% of the time will be spent running it to get the actual work done. Then, every time the task must be carried out in the future, software can be directed to complete it swiftly and automatically.

While this is a simplified model (one must ask who checks the work every time to make sure it's right, how is the code maintained over time, and so on), it's also one of the significant motivations behind the drive for end-user mashups; applying this very same concept of task automation to daily work and life.

How many routine tasks could we get out of our way if we had powerful task automation tools that almost anyone could use? How many one-off tasks could be automated that couldn't possibly justify the expense of custom software development? These problem areas — automating repetitive work, and automating complex, collaborative problem solving (the tacit interactions I tend to cite so much) — are potentially ripe for enabling low-barrier tools that let us assemble solutions out of the rich landscape of services that are beginning to flourish in our organizations. This world of available services is already a vibrant ecosystem on the Web.

ProgrammableWeb maintains the best up-to-date API directory of the Internet's Global SOA currently available (272 APIs as of today)

And of course, we have more that just services that we can reuse, widgets are an increasingly popular method of adding code to Web pages via the addition of short snippets of Javascript or the inclusions of Flash components. Widgets further up the ante by making it possible for just about anyone to integrate software within the browser, most frequently in blogs or wikis. And people are widgetizing their sites in very large numbers these days. Just take a quick tour of MySpace to see how encrusted most pages are with widgets, badges, and other page element inclusions.

But even though we have vast arrays of usable components and so many services to leverage today, most frequently achieved for now through basic snippet insertion in HTML, it currently seems to be the lack of enabling tools that's holding back the widespread creation of meaningful mashups. While Google Maps mashups, for example, are possible with very little code, it nevertheless still requires code. And that creates a barrier that the average Web user or enterprise employee will not be able cross without professional intervention. But if the Web really is made of small pieces, loosely joined, it should be possible to create capable, end-user friendly tools that make it possible to quickly combine pre-existing services and components together into applications and living business processes — carrying out the necessary technical wizardry of integration under the covers — similar to connecting the pieces of a home audio visual entertainment system together.

Fortunately, as I covered recently with sites like DataMashups.com, the tools do finally seem to be arriving and a week doesn't go by without someone telling me about yet another mashup product heading on its way to market. And though too many of them aren't Web-based, or are still too technical, or have very rough edges and too high a barriers to use, it's clear that a lot of smart people are working hard at solving this last piece of the puzzle; great tools for leveraging the vast repositories of hard-to-recreate data sources, rich services, and Web components that are growing out of the Web 2.0 generation.

A round-up of eight promising mashup tools

While there are certainly advantages and drawbacks to many of the early tools presented here, these eight mashup tools and sites are the best ones I've come across so far. Note that I've not extensively used all of them yet, and this is just my list of potentially promising and interesting tools that I've seen. Any omissions or oversights are entirely mine. As always, if you know of other compelling mashup tools not described here, please be sure to send me a note about them.

aboveall.pngAbove All Software's Above All Studio is one of the most interesting software assembly tools I've seen so far in the enterprise space. While you can't use their software online, you can create full-blown, new enterprise mashups using their Studio tool. Very SOA-friendly, Above All has spent a lot of time adding the enterprise context to their tool and it shows and you can download and work with Above All studio immediately using with their free trial. While they do get some knocks here by not having a pure SaaS version of the product and for having too steep a complexity gradient, the capabilities are also some of the most powerful available currently. Says Above All about their enterprise mashup capabilities: "Studio's visual modeling capabilities allow you to create new, more useful business services from the low-level services typically found in enterprise IT environments. These refined services make it faster and easier to repurpose existing application functionality as new composite applications. With Above All Studio you can create simplified interfaces, coarser-grained abstractions or combine related services into new services."

DapperDapper is an impressive new online mashup tool that takes the concept to the extreme, making it possible to convert and reuse just about any source of information on the Web, including that in plain old HTML. While this has non-trivial copyright and other intellectual property implications, the results are impressive. Dapper's user interface is surprisingly easy to use and despite a few clunky areas, it really does offer an end-user set of tools for connecting together services into new services. While I think it's fair to say that Dapper won't let you build the most highly functional applications, it can be an essential tool for "liberating" the data you need access to, making it easier for inclusion in your Web application. Or for consumption by your preferred mashup tool. While I do suggest you are very careful about the provenance of the data sources that you use in your mashups, Dapper does provide an excellent way to quickly enable mashup scenarios that you can't easily achieve any other way.

DataMashups.comDataMashups.com is a new highly Web-centric mashup tool that I covered recently because of its extreme user friendliness and compelling Apple Hypercard-like development model, complete with a WYSIWYG "edit" mode. The rich palette of widgets and functionality provided by DataMashups.com and its ability to provide data-driven capabilities by connecting to a long list of standard databases and data sources paints a clear picture of the potential for creating deep, highly functional mashups by end-users. I like DataMashups.com also for its pure SaaS delivery model, which allows easy assembly and hosting of mashups right on the Web and makes it easy to get working quickly. While this model isn't very friendly for certain enterprise scenarios (issues like data security and governance for example), it would undoubtedly be popular for many consumer and small business applications. DataMashups is a tool to watch as they continue to make it even more user friendly and easy to use.

JackBeJackBe's JackBuilder product is a browser-based mashup tool with an enterprise bent and is intended to deliver on a vision JackBe calls Rich Enterprise Applications or REAs. JackBuilder is apparently an entirely Ajax based IDE that allows widgets, components, and services to be woven together into enterprise mashups. The JackBuilder product is not currently available for use on the Web or for downloading, but the vision for JackBuilder is an excellent signpost for where the enterprise software development space is headed. JackBuilder seems well positioned to deliver on so-called "situational software" that can be created in a very short time for a specific need and then tossed away, or saved as a template until a similar situation comes up. Interestingly, JackBuilder can be provisioned by the IT department to make sure the many governance requirements of SOA consumption are dealt with consistently with the enterprise mashups JackBuilder creates. Disclaimer: I maintain a professional relationship with JackBe.

NexawebNexaweb's aRex is an intriguing addition to this list because it's more of an OpenLaszlo or Flex competitor in the RIA space than a real mashup tool. I'm adding it here since I believe that Nexaweb understands the Enterprise Web 2.0 space well and will be continuing to evolve this product to full fit into the evolving 'mashosphere'. That being said, the biggest weakness of aRex is that it really can't be used by non-technical people to create mashups. aRex uses the powerful declarative framework approach preferred by most leading RIA vendors these days and makes it easy for the applications you develop to consume a rich set of remote services. Nexaweb does provide a drag and drop GUI editor to make this easier but there are still too many developer-focused features to make it truly easy to create composite applications in the browser. aRex however is an up-and-coming tool that puts Ajax power in the hands of just about anyone who has basic fluency in Web technologies including business analysts and Web designers.

ProcessionProcession's Process Engine and Process Designer is a serious task-oriented enterprise mashup product. The feel of the product is stiff and enterprisey but it's clear that the product is focusing on the sweet spot in the mashup space; the aforementioned task automation that is likely to provide a lot of the ROI as people try to apply this technique to their business and lives. Also, delivery of applications based on Procession's products seems to be primarily Flash-based, likely making second order assembly and remixing scenarios less likely, though the processes developed do become open Web services based on SOAP. It's clear that Procession's products are firmly grounded in the right ideas and if Procession can make the product go more with the "grain" of the Web, it could be a real contender in the enterprise mashup space. Also, surprisingly, like a lot of the enterprise mashup tools, Procession has no SaaS version or easily downloaded trial to enable grass roots adoption, something that may hinder the ultimate success of many of these tools.

RatchetSoftRatchetSoft is system integrator and composite application/mashup vendor and their Ratchet-X Studio product is a medium-weight solution to the rapid application integration problem. RatchetSoft claims that applications can be created with no programming and with a high degree of security. While the Studio product seems aimed more at the OEM market and uses their terminology, it's clear that the product is aimed at helping mashup creators "expose application UI elements so they can be integrated with external applications and data sources, and create processing routines that govern the nature of these integrations." You can download and try out the RachetSoft's mashup tools immediately using the typical but tedious Web request form.

rssbus.pngRSSBus is a brand-new mashup tool that focuses on that ubiquitous Web syndication protocol that just about every modern Web site in the world provides content and notifications through. Rather that visual mashups, RSSBus primarily focuses more on the creation of mashups of feeds of data — as well as many other kinds of data sources — into a a brand new RSS feed. The creator of RSSBus, /n software (no, not a typo), articulates the vision of RSSBUs as an enterprise service bus based on the RSS protocol: "RSSBus gives you the tools to quickly create structured feeds out of anything; not just news and blog postings, but business data or application data that you own or have access to." While RSSBus unfortunately does not produce feed mashups in other syndication formats like Atom, RSSBus does manage to consume a very wide variety of data sources, turning existing business data sources into powerful RSS feeds that have a very large range of syndication and consumption scenarios, which has sometimes been likened to the Unix pipe of the Internet.

A lot more mashup tools are on the way to market these days, though some are still in the early stages of development and some interesting ones are nearing release. I'll continue to keep this list of mashup tools updated as I'm able in future posts.

AJAX is not a fad

I really can't believe that anyone who understood the technology or the Web 2.0 movement would consider it a 'fad' but there are always sceptics I guess.

ajaxdevelopersjournal.com

AJAX is not a fad," according to Andy Lyttle. "People aren't using AJAX just because it's AJAX. It's not for buzzword-compliance, although it has become a buzzword. It's not for adding useless frills, although it can be used for useless frills. AJAX is a tool to enable web developers to build sites that are actually better for the user, in a very real way. Better functionality, better usability, overall a better user experience. Things that simply weren't possible to do before."

Lyttle is just one of the many software development professionals who AJAXWorld Magazine has been talking to about AJAX. What follows is a round-up of comments and observations about the fastest-growing technology trends since the advent of Java 12 years ago.

"As I see it there are three reasons for AJAX's success:
  1. It enables a paradigm shift from developing forms based webapps to component GUI webapps.
  2. Developing webapps this way is more efficient and less error prone
  3. Both of the above reasons drive many companies to adopt AJAX into their software and change their business model, to SaaS, for example."

Dietrich Kappe
Co-founder and CTO of Pathfinder Associates

Saturday, September 02, 2006

SaaS and the Market

SoftGram

We were interested to find that 76% of those thinking about or planning to bring a SaaS product to market (Considerers) are firms with less than $25m in annual revenue; only 13% of the firms were $100m or greater.

Technical and Financial

The Considerers are clearer on their technical plans than on their financial plans. 74% said they would use proprietary rather than Open Source software as the basis for their products, and 68% will base their offerings on third-party SaaS components or services. 80% said they would depend on outsourcing for the hosting of their SaaS products, with only 20% undertaking to service their SaaS customers with in-house resources.

Professional services operations are an important part of many software companies; only 11% of our Considerers did not have them. When asked, If you re-deploy your current software as SaaS, will you re-deploy or downsize your professional services operation?, those who did have professional services said they would downsize this part of the company (6%), or that they would re-deploy these personnel (25%), but fully 69% said that there would be no change in the operation. Presumably professional services will be needed to help customers integrate their back- end data bases and business processes into the SaaS product.

SaaS and the Market

The Considerers are bullish on the ability of SaaS to expand their markets.
82% believe that SaaS will enable them to move downmarket in their selling strategy (the motivation, by the way, for Oracle and SAP to enter the SaaS market), and 79% believe that SaaS will enable them to enter new markets.
Microsoft's announced move of Office to SaaS is motivated not only by the desire to control the software and revenue stream more dependably, but also to make Office users of those who cannot afford to buy the current product.

One final indication that the Considerers see SaaS as a corporate play is their anticipated primary means of selling their products: fully 40% expect to do so through a direct sales force. 34% expect Indirect marketing (E-mail, direct mail, web seminars, advertising, etc.) to be their primary means, while 22% said Telesales group. Only 4% chose Reseller programs.

Friday, September 01, 2006

SAP driving SOA adoption with composite apps

SearchSAP

SAP's partnerships and investments with independent software vendors that build composite applications is part of a campaign to make NetWeaver the primary driver to a services oriented architecture (SOA).

NetWeaver infrastructure makes it much easier to create snap-in or plug-in applications or services that may be applicable to large numbers of SAP customers
Peter Kastner,
vice president and research director, Aberdeen Group

Companies moving forward with SOA projects may do so with IBM WebSphere or Oracle's Fusion middleware technology, but many are looking toward their primary ERP vendor to manage an SOA environment, according to Peter Kastner, vice president and research director at Boston-based Aberdeen Group. The ERP approach in some cases could be less costly, Kastner said.

"NetWeaver infrastructure makes it much easier to create snap-in or plug-in applications or services that may be applicable to large numbers of SAP customers," Kastner said.

In an Aberdeen survey of more than 160 companies, about 60% of survey respondents said they are creating composite applications that support Web services. SAP is responding by certifying independent software vendor products as xApps as well as creating an environment for its customer base to build composite applications, Kastner said.

"There is so much business value to be gained by building composites that solve business unit problems," Kastner said. "There's a lot of value that can be gotten out of systems already in place. It's like walking through an orchard in September. All the fruit is hanging there."

SAP executives have been vocal about how composite applications will fit into the software vendor's business model. In the future, revenue from sales of composite applications is likely to outpace revenue from ERP licenses.

And new composite applications won't just come from SAP's various development labs. SAP is betting on small independent software vendors to build specific technologies by licensing out NetWeaver Web services. In addition to partnering to fill gaps in its software suite, SAP is investing in some firms, giving it a stake in their niche business. It has established the NetWeaver Venture Fund to spur development of composite applications on the NetWeaver platform

SAP's first investment was with Questra Inc., a software vendor that makes remote monitoring software for device manufacturers. SAP and two other venture firms recently invested $12.5 million in Questra.

Questra RemoteService composite application integrates Questra software with SAP's Service and Asset Management module. For example, a printing press manufacturer can remotely monitor the machine and respond to service it when it fails. A device maker can also use the software to determine if a device is being overused, said Walt Roffi, vice president of marketing at Questra. .

"As we look at building composite applications with SAP, connecting in with other types of modules is something we have in our plans," Roffi said.

The goal for SAP is to open its platform and standardize the way composite applications are developed and deployed in an SOA, Kastner said. SAP and Oracle aren't alone in developing SOA strategies. St. Paul, Minn.-based Lawson Software Inc., Alpharetta, Ga.-based Infor Global Solutions and Epicor are also moving forward with an SOA plan, he said.

"SAP is creating an outward face to NetWeaver, making it more easy and standard for customers to glue composite applications together as services in an SOA," Kastner said. "Not having the robust SOA services, such as what you would get in IBM Websphere or SAP NetWeaver, will leave you high and dry someday because of a lack of manageability, governance, security, other enterprise quality middleware and software that you get out of those products."

Ruby on Rails hands on: What's so hot about Rails?

August 31, 2006 (Computerworld) --

This article is excerpted from the book Ruby on Rails: Up and Running, published by O'Reilly Media Inc., copyright 2006. Reprinted with permission, all rights reserved.

Rails may just be the most important open-source project to be introduced in the past 10 years. It's promoted as one of the most productive Web development frameworks of all time and is based on the increasingly important Ruby programming language. What has happened so far?

• By December 2006, you're likely to see more published books on Rails than any of Java's single flagship frameworks, including JSF, Spring, or Hibernate.
• The Rails framework has been downloaded at least 500,000 times in only its second year, as of May 2006. These statistics compare favorably with the most popular open source frameworks in any language.
• The Rails community mailing lists get hundreds of notes a day, compared to dozens on the most popular Web development frameworks in other languages.
• The Rails framework has caused an explosion in the use of the Ruby programming language, which has been relatively obscure until recently.
• The Rails buzz generates increasingly hot debates on portals that focus on other programming languages. The Java community in particular has fiercely debated the Rails platform.

You don't have to go far to find great overviews of Rails. You can watch several educational videos that show Rails in action, narrated by the founder David Heinemeier Hansson. You can watch him build simple working applications, complete with a backing database and validation, in less than 10 minutes. But unlike the many quick-and-dirty environments you've seen, Rails lets you keep the quick and leave the dirty behind. It lets you build clean applications based on the model-view-controller philosophy. Rails is a special framework.

Sure, Rails has its limitations. Ruby has poor support for object-relational mapping (ORM) for legacy schemas; the Rails approach is less powerful than Java's approach, for example. Ruby does not yet have flagship integrated development environments. Every framework has limitations, and Rails is no different. But for a wide range of applications, the strengths of Rails far outpace its weaknesses.

Rails Strengths

Rails can thrive without all of the extensive libraries required by other languages. Ruby's flexibility lets you extend your applications in ways that might have been previously unavailable to you. You'll be able to use a Rails feature called scaffolding to put database-backed user interfaces in front of your customers quickly. Then, as you improve your code, the scaffolding melts away. You'll be able to build database-backed model objects with just a couple of lines of code, and Rails will fill in the tedious details.

The most common programming problem in today's typical development project involves building a Web-based user interface to manage a relational database. For that class of problems, Rails is much more productive than any other Web development framework either of us has ever used. The strengths aren't limited to any single groundbreaking invention; rather, Rails is packed with features that make you more productive, with many of the following features building on one other:

Metaprogramming

Metaprogramming techniques use programs to write programs. Other frameworks use extensive code generation, which gives users a one-time productivity boost but little else, and customization scripts let the user add customization code in only a small number of carefully selected points. Metaprogramming replaces these two primitive techniques and eliminates their disadvantages. Ruby is one of the best languages for metaprogramming, and Rails uses this capability well.

Active Record

Rails introduces the Active Record framework, which saves objects to the database. Based on a design pattern cataloged by Martin Fowler, the Rails version of Active Record discovers the columns in a database schema and automatically attaches them to your domain objects using metaprogramming. This approach to wrapping database tables is simple, elegant, and powerful.

Convention over configuration

Most Web development frameworks for .NET or Java force you to write pages of configuration code. If you follow suggested naming conventions, Rails doesn't need much configuration. In fact, you can often cut your total configuration code by a factor of five or more over similar Java frameworks just by following common conventions.

Scaffolding

You often create temporary code in the early stages of development to help get an application up quickly and see how major components work together. Rails automatically creates much of the scaffolding you'll need.

Built-in testing

Rails creates simple automated tests you can then extend. Rails also provides supporting code called harnesses and fixtures that make test cases easier to write and run. Ruby can then execute all your automated tests with the rake utility.

Three environments: development, testing, and production

Rails gives you three default environments: development, testing, and production. Each behaves slightly differently, making your entire software development cycle easier. For example, Rails creates a fresh copy of the Test database for each test run.
There's much more, too, including Ajax for rich user interfaces, partial views and helpers for reusing view code, built-in caching, a mailing framework, and Web services. We can't get to all of Rails' features; however, we will let you know where to get more information. But the best way to appreciate Rails is to see it in action