Thursday, December 13, 2007

My little pet peeves of 2007 (and earlier) that will still be so in 2008 – can you relate? Do they all have something to do with “integration”? I think so.

I have four programmable TV remotes in my house, and not one works everything, all of the time – consistently.

I have a fairly nice (not cheap) German Mercedes that can go faster than I dare, that has electronics running at light speed over a fiber Optic backbone, opens the doors by a simple touch, doesn’t need a key to start and even knows exactly how far the car in front is and even brakes for me if I get a little careless. However, this piece of German Engineering does not actually seem capable of simply knowing that British Summer Time is different now. The time on my clock will always be out for 3-4 weeks a year by an hour. (Even though the built in GPS knows exactly where I am and what the time is to the nearest nano second!!!

Just when I thought we might actually be headed to some resemblance of a standard with more and more of my devices supporting the same 5v mini USB to charge and connect devices – my dreams have been shattered. My wife’s new Motorola phone actually detects that the same mini connector we used to share now reports on her phone that it’s the wrong adapter and won’t charge. Oh well, at least the phone is smart enough now to report the “error” – progress 

The electronics used for stop-lights at the junctions I seem to frequent will remain broken so that at 2am in the morning (after a late night out), they will remain almost permanently at red despite the fact no other cars seem to be coming in any other direction (I reported a ground sensor out over a year ago and despite trying, DOT can’t seem to fix it so I won’t bother to report the other one thousand or so I seem to run into!!).

Oh, and I brought a new Apple Itouch in 2007 and in 2008, the browser will still crash more than my windows desktop and it does not support copy and paste – and yes – I do miss Copy and Paste – on this device at least.

Here’s a toast to 2008 and may all things be more integrated than in 2007 – thanks at least, in some part to me and what we do at OpenSpan - for software anyway!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Enterprise Applications

I really enjoyed this post and as an importantly, all of the replies to it.

Khoi Vinh, posted

If it looks Like a Cow, Swims like a Dolphin and Quacks Like a Duck, it must be Enterprise Software..

It really does show just how many companies are struggling with their enterprise applications and of course cannot just get rid of them (else they wouldn't be struggling, right?). I am absolutely not convinced that even the new applications we are building are not going to fall into the same traps, because alarmingly, there are not many answers to this problem, even with hindsight!

As you know, I am a big advocate of enabling agile and flexible API’s into Enterprise Applications. You can do so much more once these API’s exist. Of course, if the Enterprise Application doesn’t have an API or the right one for you, you can use OpenSpan to provide it. Using OpenSpan to enable your application to be customizable too is pretty cool, even if I do say so myself!

Anyway, enjoy this post and the great replies, it speaks for itself, IMHO. (Yes I’ve replied a couple of times as well).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Agile SOA - without the wait

Create Web Services by wrapping legacy applications - now that's agile

You have a workflow that involves 2 legacy (10 year old) windows applications (say written in VB and C++), a legacy web application (say 2 years old with embedded DHTML and Ajax), a packaged Java application and an SAAS application like This workflow (transaction) is carried out 10’s of thousands of times every day by hundreds of users.

How quickly would you expect to build a service around some or all of this process? 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years perhaps?

Assuming you can persuade your SAAS and packaged application vendors to do their share in your timeframe, there is still no telling really how long this will take. All of the business logic needs to be replicated, that so far took thousands of man years to develop and assuming you actually know where to find it! In the mean time of course, your business user requirements around improving and extending this workflow are not standing still. Indeed they must not stand still in today’s competitive environment.

What if you could wrap these existing applications and workflows, and have your SOA that way? What if you could taking any of your (or your vendors) existing web services (if they exist yet) and have them participate immediately in these workflows without waiting the 1, 3, 5, or 10 years? You wouldn't even need to understand your existing business logic because it would automatically get carried forward in the wrapping.

At OpenSpan, we believe in SOA but we believe it should not take away the critical importance of remaining Agile. This applies to remaining Agile around the deployment of SOA as you build it out as well as being agile around changing business requirements. If you build a web service, your existing applications should be able to consume it right now (see Last Mile of SOA).

A successful SOA strategy will be an Agile SOA strategy. IT and Business both win with this approach. IT get to work on their long term SOA strategy yet remain the superstars for introducing SOA immediately, and whilst continuing to deliver on the ever changing real-world business needs.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

If only all PC applications were Open

They can be.

For quite some time, has had some really good integration with Microsoft Outlook. I love the fact that whilst in Outlook, I can click a button that pushes the email or the contact information into the relevant contact in A way cool benefit to me as a business user. There are other vendor applications that have some cool close ties with Outlook and other Office components but compared to the number of applications out there, there are relatively few that integrate so closely.

So, it begs the question, why are so few applications tightly coupled like this?. Why should integration only be limited to those vendors that chose to tie their solutions to other vendors product, like Microsoft Office. If only any application could be tied to Outlook in the same way, even if the original developers didn’t build that functionality into their application.

OpenSpan can take virtually any application and enable this cool plug-in capability with Office, even if you don’t own the application or have any source code. With OpenSpan’s ability to rapidly give applications an API where one previously didn’t exist, existing applications extensibility takes on a new lease on life!

In fact, you are not limited to just Microsoft Office either! Ever wanted to integrate one of your applications to Google Office? Now you can and you don’t have to be a hard core developer to do it!

There are a lot of things you can do, now there are ways to give existing applications virtually instant API’s.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Next New thing – that’s the problem!

I am confident I have found a Holy Grail. The root cause of most project failures and the main ingredient for the mess we have, and continue to have around Enterprise Applications and Integration. Scarily, I also think new projects, and even SOA are likely to suffer from the same root cause and will NOT be the panacea everyone hoped for. We are seeing evidence of that now. I see no big fix on the Horizon either, for future projects in IT and the types of problems we have today, will be the same problems we’ll have 10 years from now! Am I sticking my neck out here?

When I look back, since I started in IT 30 years ago, there has always been the “next new thing” in technology. This fact is not disputed but the penny dropped for me last year when I thought about the relationship to this fact when you add one other major ingredient – PEOPLE.

Is it not true that most people working in technology and especially in some form of development, only want to be working on the next “new thing”? Is it not also true, these same people get bored really quickly with the “new thing”, often before it even gets “old”.

Smart people in technology get bored at around the 18 month marker and want to be working on the next “new thing”. This is my Holy Grail and I am not sure that it’s ever going to be fixable. At least acknowledging this fact should allow us to prepare for it!

18 months is not long enough for most projects, not even close and if the smart people who started them are not around for the completion, testing, roll-out and continued evolution of the applications, it is no wonder the expectations are rarely met.

You can certainly do no wrong by breaking down projects into smaller pieces where feasible. This will help and that’s certainly a prospect of SOA, if done right. For Quick wins, look to smaller projects and products that can consume these “new” services from existing applications!

This Holy Grail is good for companies like mine, that will help the tens of thousands of companies that have hundreds of thousands of applications that need to be enhanced to do more now than what was originally delivered. The fact OpenSpan can take 25 year old and 1 week old applications/technologies and tie them together to deliver what users need today, goes a long way to allowing the “Next New Thing” projects to finally exceed original expectations.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

SOA Failures

My thoughts around SOA is for the Rich man, not the poor man is panning out after I found a link to an Article by Gartner (thanks to Tekrati) confirming such. This is a scary (but realistic) outlook and why companies should be looking to complimentary alternatives whilst on this path to SOA Nirvana!

"Gartner predicts that by 2010, less than 25 percent of large companies will have the sufficient technical and organisational skills necessary to deliver enterprise wide SOA"....

Why SOA deployments fail

SOA is the right road, just that it's a very long road and also not the only road. Bear that in mind when you are trying to solve business problems, Right Now!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Last Mile of SOA.. What's that?

Have a web service you want to write or someone else's you'd like to consume? Say an address validation web service, a trouble ticketing log web service, a web service that monitors and records information into your analytical systems or even a simple web service that creates a shipping record into one of the main shipping company systems.

All very well and good but how the heck do you consume a web service when it's likely going to involve some heavy lifting development effort to get it into your existing applications (assuming too, you own those systems)?

What we call the last mile of SOA, really means integrating web services RIGHT NOW. Since OpenSpan inserts itself into running desktop applications, it can intercept what a user does, what data is where and even what the application does with that data. Armed with all that information (and no coding), OpenSpan allows even complex Web Services to be integrated with that information, based upon any event or trigger from the user, you define. Until Legacy systems go away (never), this approach is one of the most immediate and agile approaches to integrating web services and legacy systems. Real-time desktop application integration has come of age.

As you will read (see news), our new partnership with Aspect Software, enables their customers to interact with the Aspect Web Services, Right Now, without ripping out the back end, which would normally take years and large development efforts.

The last mile of SOA may seem like a strange term to describe some of what we do, but it's as good as any... and it works..

Monday, August 13, 2007

Fix what we already have - AGAIN

Airtran cancelled a flight for me and my family getting ready to go on a vacation because at the last minute, a first officer was a no show. The plane was there but no first officer. Fair enough, this stuff happens.

Rebooking 200 people on other flights was bad enough although they did use technology to do this. The slow and sad part involved manual integration - 2 men and 2 phones. 1 person at the gate, reading out bag tag numbers to someone on the tarmac was approximately 5 minutes per passenger.

So, in the end, Airtran couldn't transfer people to new flights fast enough because they overlooked this manual process that would not be so difficult actually to automate.

So, before you look to sweat the big back end integration projects, look to sort out the little stuff first! You'll be surprised at the customer / end user / business satisfaction rates going up.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Fix what we already have - FIRST

Why is there still no integration here? It’s 2007 for blimey sake!

Can we please stop all the hype around the next ‘fad’ in tech and get what we already have WORKING please! Real world example from last weekend:

I went into an Apple store to DROP $3800 on an Apple Pro Notebook and Final Cut for my son, who's a budding Director. First ever Apple purchase experience here:

1. they did not have the machine in the store (fair enough)
2. they then tell me to go check out the other local stores (I told THEM to check for me)
3. they had to phone around the other stores (yes, phone)
4. they pulled up the apple site to order one (which showed a 3 week delivery)
5. they told me I could PHONE the store every day to see if any “came in” (by chance)
6. they told me they only get deliveries mon-fri and this was saturday
7. they had no clue when they would get the next Mac book pro delivery. (NO CLUE)
8. I told my son to call the store the very next morning (even though it was Sunday and there were no deliveries, I was skeptical)
9. Miraculously they had one in stock and we picked it up within the hour

20 very nice Apple sales people in the store and we, the consumer, in 2007 had to PHONE in to check every day!

This is a pretty easy problem to fix in 2007 but my guess is, the guys in charge of the software for this enterprise might be just a little too focused on their next EA strategy (hype) to be ready in the year 2020. By which time, I predict THIS particular problem still won’t be fixed anyway.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Virtualization –now Web 2.0 and Legacy Fat clients have a lot in common!

If you think you understand all of the terms surrounding Virtualization, check out and see if you learn anything new!

I am going the use the term “Virtualization” loosely in this post though since there are many things I love about “Virtualization. I think it could actually be one of the biggest evolution changes in computing since the advent of “GUI”.

If you are old enough to remember, the earliest deployments of applications to end users was never an issue. Plug in and connect a dumb terminal (green screen) to the mainframe and a user was up a running. If the application changed on the mainframe, immediately the user saw it. If you added more processors/gateways /disks to the mainframe, it could easily serve up more and more users. Maybe that’s simplifying all of this but if you throw enough “smarts” around virtualization then you get most of this back. No? We all know technology comes around in waves so I really love this one because I am old enough to remember!

Virtualization is not so new BUT now we have unbelievable cost effective CPU / Memory power to really kick it up a big notch overnight. Tape (rack) enough virtualization pieces together and you get all of the benefits around ease of deployment the mainframe had.

I also read somewhere that today’s enterprise servers only utilize about 10% of their capability. Funny, barring a very pushy enterprise salesman, enterprises wouldn’t buy more processor hardware until they had utilized 60-80% capacity of what they had. Virtualization fixes that gap for today’s servers by easily allowing a single processor to be more fully utilized (another “what comes around moment”).

There are many things to write and love about virtualization but one close to my own heart, you might not have considered, is around the fat client (G)UI. The fat client has a bad rap because whilst there is no doubt, fat client GUI’s are very enterprise user friendly and powerful (rich), the management around their application deployment sucks. However, virtualization makes the deployment problem go away, quite literally over night.

People originally thought the zero footprint browser approach would solve the fat client deployment issue. However whilst the browser wasn’t fat, it lacked any richness in UI of the fat clients to satisfy enterprise users. Years of trying to add the rich UI to the browser through ActiveX (I shudder here), scripts (lots), DHTML, Ajax, Flash etc., has left us in quite a mess. Where is the business logic now? Who supports what and where? Fat Clients perhaps are not so bad then if we have solved the deployment issue?

Someone has to say this. Web 2.0 (I use that term loosely to describe any asynchronous event driven web like UI) is really a fat client in disguise. Disguised by the fact the web browser is now so fat, it allows for real-time interactions with a server application that has been written to support code that runs inside the client model as well as the server. I’m not beating up on Web 2.0, just making sure we all agree, it’s not really new, for the enterprise user at least.

The way I see the Web 2.0 going is we are going to see the new 4GL like visual tools allowing us to build self deployable rich applications for enterprise users and that’s cool. However I for one think that, thanks to virtualization, existing legacy fat client applications will be around for a lot longer than people ever imagined and that’s cool too. Unless you have a real business case (the money and time) to take this risky approach to rip and replace your legacy applications, I wouldn’t bother just yet. I would concentrate first on making any rich legacy application (old or new) you use today, much smarter. There are tools out there that enable this (like OpenSpan) and the business benefits are huge. This allows you to focus on your EA strategy (including SOA) over the long term whilst at the same time, providing real agile business benefits to your users around what they already use.

And remember, once an application is delivered to a business user (through it’s UI), it must play nicely with all of the other applications found there. Otherwise, you’ll find out quite quickly, your users won’t be happy that your new Web 2.0 applications will be just as silo’d (un-integrated) as the other applications they have.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Did someone say integration?

Has it really been 8 weeks since my very first "blog"....? I thought I was going to blog more once I’d started but things have been so busy here at OpenSpan (for the good) that I just haven't had a lot of time. Enough of the excuses, I’m back.

I try to read everything that’s being written (sensibly or not) in my field around integration, SOA, Services, Mash-ups, “rip and replace”, Composites and all that. Integration is a subject that’s been around since the birth of computing and will be around when the sun heats up too much for us to care (integration will then be of the inter-planetary or inter-galactic nature).

I read a lot over at ITbusiness edge which I think does a phenomenal job of finding, referencing and commenting on “everything” integration. I think its worth a visit to their site at Click on the “new articles” under “integrating the enterprise”. Loraine Lawson writes some excellent “Cliff Note” summaries and blogs to create debates and discussions around the hottest topics. Her experience at seeing the wood through the trees allows us to get some real serious discussion going around some really important topics.
I recently read an interesting reference from Loraine ( referring to an article from Gregor Hohpe who’s a Software Architect over at Google. Gregor wrote about a recent experience at a “Mash-up camp in Silicon Valley” which linked me to his real site at

Gregor, like me has obviously been around this space for a very long time and I hope soon to try and connect with him. He faces all of the realities of integration and is not lost in all the buzz-word hype that many get lost in. In fact Gregor seems to have a “science” around this problem (patterns). I like what I’m reading so far so I’ll dig deeper and follow him for sure.

Mash-ups (whatever we call them) have one common problem.. They rarely actually replace an application, especially in the enterprise. Unless the new UI replaces all the functionality of the original application (unlikely) it still needs to be supported or even running in case the business needs to do something the new mash-up doesn’t do. As we know, replacing enterprise applications (used by a user) is one of the hardest challenges IT has to face. More on that in another blog!

Lastly, for today, and as you all know, we at OpenSpan do things very differently (even though sometimes it appears we are all the same). The robust technology we’ve built that allows us to insert ourselves into running applications for real-time integration is having a real impact at some very large enterprise customers. However, the great news is that it also applies just as easily to small and medium size businesses, whom often get left behind when it comes to integrating applications (cost). I’m starting to like the term “Agile Integration” as it applies to every size enterprise and will post more on why I think the alternative big “fat” (too long) integration projects fail.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Why is Integration such a big problem in Tech?

I’m starting this blog to share my 25 year experiences within the enterprise application development and integration space. This is a space where things have always been in a constant change and no more so, in my view, than today.

My first company, Pixel Innovations was started in the early days of “intelligent terminal emulators” where the goal was to integrate 2 extremely different worlds - the PC and very unintelligent 80x24 green screen. Starting with adding color (not just bold and underline), in those days, making an old “legacy” application “sexier” and “easier to use” was hot. Perhaps not a lot different than today except the list of technologies involved in bringing different applications together in the enterprise today is large. After going through the fat-client-thin-client to zero client and middleware integration changes, I sold Pixel to Quovadx (nasdaq:QVDX) in 2001.

Today, I have the pleasure of being the CEO of OpenSpan which I became involved in, in 2004. OpenSpan quite frankly had built a product that I really did not believe could be built. After being in the integration world for so long, I knew immediately their approach was unique and I jumped at the chance to run the company. We attracted top tier Venture Capital firms Matrix Partners and Sigma Partners and also brought on board a strong management team, of who most helped take JBOSS to their eventual acquisition by Red Hat. They were all as excited by the opportunity to change the integration landscape as I was.

So, why is Integration such a big problem in Tech?

Every time a new application is delivered in the enterprise to a user, on their Windows (most likely) desktop, it's a sad fact that that application probably won't be able to talk to any of the other applications on that users desktop! OK, that's not quite true - good old fashioned copy and paste (the number one desktop integration solution in use today) will probably still work! It's a strange world today when everything you read about talks about solving the worlds integration problems and yet copy and paste really is the number one desktop application integration solution. Sure, there is a ton of integration going on behind the scenes and there is no belittling the effort going on there. However I am always amused (or saddened) by the fact that users MS Office application doesn't really talk to their CRM system or the Billing application doesn't really talk to the document imaging system.

The truth is, there are more silo’s of applications on the desktop today still (and growing) then there are truly integrated server based solutions. Applications, by the time they reach the user will assume for the most part, they are the only application on that users desktop and won’t talk to anything else. Whether you are using a host green screen client, a Rich internet Application or just a plain ol' vanilla web page, chances are you are still using copy and paste for "enterprise" (workflow) tasks. What we are excited about at OpenSpan with what we are calling “the new enterprise desktop”, is now, as new applications arrive at the desktop (Rich, fat, thin, web, host), we can almost instantly “enable” them to integrate intelligently with any of the existing applications found there too. Even now, with newer Web 2.0 solutions arriving on the scene, like Google Applications for the enterprise, OpenSpan enables them to work with all the other enterprise applications – all without the need for any back end programming. Imagine integrating all of your existing desktop applications, without code, quickly and easy, today. Add a web service to an existing application in hours, not months or years – that’s the way it always should have been in my view.

Most business people think of integration as being a long development undertaking because their experience has taught them that for the last 20 years or more. The “new enterprise desktop” from OpenSpan provides an iterative ROI approach. A recent customer saved over $5m a year by automating a large group of user workflows. 8 desktop applications were integrated in under 10 days. Now the customer has been trained to manage these new integrations and workflows through the OpenSpan Studio visual IDE so they can keep building ROI after ROI. A nice and long awaited change for the integration world. Why is Integration such a big problem in Tech? It doesn't always have to be now.