Sunday, June 22, 2008

OpenSpan Enterprise Edition 4.0

There is a revolution here now in the integration space. I promised to update you all on some dramatic new functionality in the OpenSpan platform and now it is here. Sorry for the long post, but this is one of the most important ones for me today because I am proud of what the team here has built and we are already seeing high demand for it!

We all know the vast majority of enterprise users have to have way too many applications running and visible on their desktop. The goal has always been to try and move these applications off of the desktop and out of the users view but that has not happened, it’s just too difficult because all the applications have some process/information a user needs to do their job. A recent survey sponsored by OpenSpan in fact shows that the problem is getting worse, not better. Even virtualization of client applications only moves where the application physically runs and the users themselves see no real benefits because they still have to be trained to use all aspects of the applications.

That is about to change my friends. The OpenSpan technology, as you already know has been hugely successful in breaking up and exposing desktop applications as usable services for powerful integration and automation of user workflows on the desktop. However, what is new, is that now you can take those same desktop applications, move them off of the desktop to a virtualized server (farm or grid) and expose those automations as services to any other application in the mid-tier or client architecture. The journey towards moving the multitude of applications off the desktop and out of the users view altogether, whilst providing all of the same rich functionality to the user, has finally begun.

A simple example. Imagine just one of the many workflows a user has to run through uses just 2 applications (we know there’s usually a lot more). A CRM and a provisioning application to do a password reset for a customer when they phone into customer care. Today, every user who answers the phone in the customer care center has to have those application installed, running and logged in (and be trained in) to drive to the screens/security checks to do the password reset. 

What the new OpenSpan 4.0 enterprise edition enables is for those desktop applications (and probably a lot less of them) to be installed and running on virtual machines in the enterprise, known as a Grid or Fabric or Farm of Virtual Clients (Citrix, VMware, Virtual PC). OpenSpan integrates these same desktop applications and exposes the automated business processes (in this case, the password reset) as methods through web services to be consumed by any technology that can consume a web service. 1 instance of a desktop application running on a server, could now also serve 10, 100 or more physical internal or external users depending upon load balancing and scalability. The ROI and other benefits are huge as you can imagine.

The original applications needed (CRM/Provisioning) for the password reset never need to run on the desktop again for this purpose. The user never needs to even see the applications if not necesary as the automation of that business process in now simply driven through a Web Service. That same web service could be called by a new portal application, a simple button say in a dashboard on the users desktop, or even be integrated directly into the PBX switch to enable the caller to do the reset themselves. Take the same password reset web service and call it from a consumer side web page, phone device or trigger by an automated text message. It’s the same application that’s running in all cases so you know it works, it’s just the new automated version of the business process is available to the enterprise architecture as a web service. Imagine doing this with the 5, 10 , 20 or even 100’s of business processes your users have to run today through lots of installed and running desktop applications. I think this is revolutionary. I don’t think there are many other companies doing this, if any, and certainly not with the breath of Technologies OpenSpan can integrate and automate, in an extremely robust manner. This includes Java Applications, Web Applications (with embedded Java and ActiveX or DHTML or AJAX), Lotus, Green Screen emulators, Windows Applications and yes, even DOS (and a mix of any and all of the above). If it run’s on the desktop, its highly likely OpenSpan will integrate with it out of the box and then it can be moved off of the desktop by simply and rapidly creating the integrations, automations and web services as you need them. The OpenSpan 4.0 Enterprise edition, with it’s virtual broker to manage the desktop applications in this server environment becomes the “new mainframe” of desktop applications, serving up the business functionality of robust desktop applications, as powerful web services.

Let me know what you think, we have 1000’s of use cases, what are yours? Questions? Fire away.


Anonymous said...

How scalable is it?

Francis Carden said...

That is a great question. Our approach, using a grid of virtual machines running desktop applications provides almost limitless scaling.

In addition, say I have 10,000 users, each with a windows billing application installed on their physical windows desktop. In reality, the billing application might only be required in it's entirety by 1000 users. This leaves 9000 users thankfully now not even needing to have the billing application installed on their desktops. The question becomes, how many virtual machines do I need to run what number of billing applications to serve the other 9000 users that only need partial access to elements of the billing application. If the average access time to the application to give users what hey need is just 2 seconds, but it's only accessed in any 2 seconds by a maximum of 50 users, then in theory, you now only need 50 virtual machines (say across 5 physical machines/servers) to serve up that billing application process/automated workflow(s).

Of course, this is an overly simplistic example but certainly helps you understand how the OpenSpan virtual Broker works. You would also benefit from no user errors (since users won't be accessing the billing system directly) and could also benefit from multi-tasking. Multi-tasking might enable you to put data into 5 applications simultaneously (or read from) whereas a user, being only human, will only be able to update one application at once.

The savings from simply not having applications installed on desktops yet having the same capabilities, becomes huge.