Calling all integration experts!

Remember the old Universal Translator as modeled here by the late Mr. Spock? One of the first (or perhaps future?) examples of integration solutions, and certainly one of the most fondly remembere! But at its heart, it is also an almost perfect representation of the integration challenges today. Many years ago, there was EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) which was all about integrating homegrown applications with purchased package applications and/or alien applications brought in from Mergers and Acquisitions activity. The challenge was to find a way to make these applications from different planets communicate with one another to increase return on assets and provide a complete view of enterprise activity. EAI tools appeared from vendors such as TIBCO, SeeBeyond, IBM, Vitria, Progress Software, Software AG and webMethods to mention just a few.

Then there came the SOA initiative. By building computer systems with applications in the form of reusable chunks of business functionality (called services) the integration challenge could be met by enabling different applications to share common services.

Now the eternal wheel is turning once again, with the integration challenge clothed in yet another disguise. This time it is all about integrating systems with completely different usage a resource characteristics such as mobile devices, IoT components and traditional servers, but also applications of completely new types such as mobile apps and cloud-based SaaS solutions. In an echo of the past, lines of business are increasingly going out and buying cloud-based services to solve their immediate business needs, or paying a third-party developer to create the App they want, only to then turn to IT to get them to integrate the new solutions with the corporate systems of record.

Once again the vendors will respond to these user needs, probably extending and redeveloping their existing integration solutions or maybe adding new pieces where required. But as you look for potential partners to help you with this next wave of integration challenges, it is worth keeping in mind possibly the most important fact of all; a fact that has been evident throughout the decades of integration challenges to date. Every single time the integration challenge has surged to the top of the priority list, the key differentiator contributing to eventual success is not the smarts built into the tools and software / appliances on offer. Rather it is all about the advice and guidance you can get from people with extensive experience in integration challenges. Whether from vendors or service providers, these skills are absolutely essential. When it comes down to it, the technical challenges of integration are just the tip of the iceberg; all the real challenges are how you plan what you are going to do and how you work across disciplines and departments to ensure the solution is right for your company. You don’t have the time to learn this – find a partner who has spent years steeped in integration and listen to what they have to say!

Oracle BPM improving

I sat in on the latest Oracle webinar yesterday to hear about its latest developments with its Oracle BPM offering. have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I have been a little harsh in the past about Oracle BPM, but it seems Oracle is finally getting its BPM act together. Process Composer (the Oracle ‘business user’ environment) now offers Oracle BPM Web Forms, an intuitive and easy to use tool to allow user forms to quickly be assembled. The business analyst or architect can assemble whatever user form makes the most sense for each step of the workflow, using a palette of handy selections for such elements as phone numbers, addresses, text input boxes etc.. The mechanism for adding a rule into a process flow is also pretty simple, although of course it assumes a developer has already set up the relevant options for rule specification. Oracle has even started to add Process Accelerators to provide process templates for a small selection of business needs, for example employee onboarding.

I did get one surprise though – this may not be new, but it certainly was to me. Apparently, as well as offering the ability to run Oracle BPM on Oracle’s WebLogic Suite, Oracle also supports IBM WebSphere as the application server layer ūüėģ

So Oracle got Sun – but why?

I guess I am missing something. Maybe I’m just dumb. But I don’t understand why Oracle bought Sun – unless it was just so Larry could stick two fingers up to IBM.

Am I the only one? The Oracle marketing material has a number of claims as to why the purchase makes sense. In an open letter, the Oracle President points out that

Oracle can now ensure continued innovation and investment in Java technology for the benefit of customers and the Java community.

Hmmmm. As long as SUN was bought by¬†someone, eg IBM, this would have happened anyway. All Oracle has done is take on¬†the cost of doing this for the good of the industry.¬†It couldn’t turn Java into a more proprietary platform because that would destroy the brand. So that doesn’t explain it.

And again,

Oracle plans to engineer and deliver an integrated system‚ÄĒapplications to disk‚ÄĒwhere all the pieces fit and work together

OK –¬†so Oracle plans to sell Solaris boxes with Oracle¬†DB and middleware software preloaded. Well – yes, but is this going to work? IBM’s figures yesterday confirmed¬†that hardware sales have taken a beating so far this year, with customers looking for more¬†cost effective options. As people look at virtualization, or using¬†a cloud, is the¬†outlook for server sales that convincing? And if Oracle sees this as a crafty way to get Oracle DB licenses into new customer sites, this is a real stretch –¬†one of the hardest things¬†customers ever do is decide to migrate between DB suppliers.¬†Admittedly,¬†SUN Solaris is¬†the most popular operating system for Oracle databases, so there may be some¬†new sales to¬†be made making things better integrated¬†for¬†Oracle/Sun clients, but I¬†can’t believe this is too extensive.

But perhaps this points to the real reason for the acquisition.¬†SUN was losing money hand over fist, and could have been in danger of¬†running out of steam….and while any purchaser would look after Java, they might not be¬†so friendly towards Solaris.¬†To reiterate the position,¬†in Oracle’s own words in its open letter

The Sun Solaris operating system is the leading platform for the Oracle database

Was the real¬†reason that Oracle couldn’t risk Solaris losing its¬†vitality, or even worse falling into enemy hands? Was this, in fact, a purely defensive move, forced on Oracle by IBM’s stated interest in SUN? This seems the¬†most likely reasoning to me.


Will Swordfish make its point?

The ECLIPSE organization has finally made its announcement of the first release ofSwordfish, the open source ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) framework.

A lot of the work for Swordfish has come from Sopera, a German open source company that has developed an offering around the DeutschePost service bus development. Sopera offers a valid and competent framework for service integration, and therefore it is assumed that Swordfish might also work.

So, will Swordfish make a successful strike at the ESB market? So far, open source ESB projects have not had a great deal of success, and as far as 2009 goes Lustratus has forecast that open source projects will suffer due to the lack of the necessary people resources to turn open source frameworks into a useful user implementation. However, Swordfish has the backing of the influential ECLIPSE organization, which has done a lot to standardize the look and feel of many software infrastructure tools.

Looking at the¬†initial marketing thrust for Swordfish, things don’t look to¬†good. From the announcement letter, the top functional bullet reads

Support for distributed deployment, which results in more scalable and reliable application deployments by removing a central coordinating server.

Well – duh! This is not new – it is part of the basic definition of what an ESB does! However, this initiative is still worth watching, despite the ill-fated marketing attempts so far. ECLIPSE has significant industry backing for its GUI look-and-feel stuff, and indeed most of the big industry names like IBM, Oracle and SAP are involved in the running of ECLIPSE, and provide a lot of the financial backing.

It is this that might be the source of most excitement with Swordfish. Oracle and IBM both actively market and sell their own ESBs, and SAP offers its own equivalent functionality as part of its NetWeaver set of offerings. I wonder how they feel about ECLIPSE driving an open-source ESB version that competes on functionality and is free? I would love to be a fly on the wall in internal ECLIPSE meetings about the future of Swordfish.


Why Oracle should buy Tibco next

Only a few months ago, I said that Tibco would not be bought…

…and stated:

“With Tibco, there is no obvious buyer (as Oracle was with BEA) nor is there a neat fit into one of the majors (as BusinessObjects was with SAP).¬† Of the 4 listed by the “Analysts” quoted above, only IBM would make any sense.¬† And Oracle, except that it is busy trying to eat BEA.”

I now wish to recant and disagree with Steve’s view that HP will get the prize.¬† Now that Oracle has BEA, the next obvious target for it is Tibco and it should move quickly before IBM steps in.¬† Here are my reasons:

– Tibco has the only big league competition to IBM’s WebSphere-MQ in the message oriented middleware space.¬† It is used widely in the largest financial services companies, telcos and beyond.¬† With Tibco combined with Oracle’s database etc and BEA’s application server, Oracle would have the fire-power to take on IBM’s hold in these accounts.

– Tibco has developed its BusinessWorks integration product which plays in the SOA/EDA/BPM space.¬† This is one of the best development tools I have seen in this space as well as being mature.¬† Combined with Oracle’s and BEA’s reach, BusinessWorks could deliver in the SOA marketplace in a way that it can’t with a standalone Tibco.

– It would only cost $1.4bn (plus a bit of course). :-).

And finally what both Oracle and IBM have shown is that in this market there is no such thing as buying a company too soon – if you don’t buy, somebody else will.


p.s. I don’t have shares in Tibco.

Why Tibco won’t be bought next

Ranadive, CEO of Tibco, has announced that Tibco board would of course consider offers.

And after the recent news about Business Objects and BEA, such offers may seen inevitable.¬† Jeff Schenider of MomentumSI for instance argues that we have entered a period of inevitable consolidation.¬† While I certainly think we are already in an era of big-4 and the rest, that does not necessarily mean that every ‘small’ software company (and remember these are only small in comparison to the giants) must be bought.

The Reuter’s piece covering Ranadive’s statement comments that “Analysts have said suitors for Tibco could include IBM (NYSE: IBM), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HP), Sun Microsystems (NSDQ: JAVA), and EMC (NYSE: EMC).”

I personally wonder.  On the one hand you could ask why not?  Tibco has excellent top tier customers who use its long standing messaging products for core business processing.  It also has some of the best SOA products in its BusinessWorks portfolio Рcombining enterprise grade reliability with good tooling.  However, I think you need to look a little deeper about the two acquisitions which sparked this consolidation talk:

BusinessObjects is in what should to be the hot growth area over the coming years Рbusiness intelligence Рand thus is perfect for the vendors who want to find a new thing to sell to their customer base or a new way to justify their existing product line (by adding a BI layer on top).  Business Objects should have been a target for IBM and Oracle as well as SAP.

BEA was generally believed to be a long term target for Oracle – BEA had after all used the application server wave to capture business from so many of Oracle’s enterprise customers.¬† Oracle first took quite a while to take application servers seriously and then took quite a while to become competitive.¬† Buying BEA finishes the job off quickly and gets back ownership of all those straying BEA customers.

With Tibco, there is no obvious buyer (as Oracle was with BEA) nor is there a neat fit into one of the majors (as BusinessObjects was with SAP).¬† Of the 4 listed by the “Analysts” quoted above, only IBM would make any sense.¬† And Oracle, except that it is busy trying to eat BEA.¬† Therefore, I don’t see Tibco being bought except unless it is Skyped (bought for over the odds to avoid somebody else buying it).


Oracle moves to buy BEA: The end of the J2EE era?

Oracle has finally done what so many rumours have pointed to for at least a few years:

made an offer to buy BEA.¬† I am sure that there will be much comment on the challenges of dealing with the total overlap between BEA’s core product – the WebLogic applications server – and Oracle’s application server (both in the top three by most measures of market size).¬† The move should also take the wind out of speculation that Oracle will make a spoiler bid for Business Objects.

The writing off of BEA as a business by some has been totally over-stated.  However, I think if this bid is successful it does marks the end of the J2EE era.  Not that I am suggesting that J2EE application servers are going to go away of course.  Rather, the world has moved on from what created that market in the late nineties.  At one end of the spectrum, the focus has moved back towards technology independent architectures with SOA (just as CORBA attempted to do in the pre-J2EE days Рall be it by creating another set of technology).  At the other end, lighter weight approaches such as Spring have superceded the heavier and more complex EJB model (which to be fair has also moved with the times but probably too late).

It is also worth noting that the disappearance of the large enterprise focused ISVs continues Рin one week we appear to be losing another two.  It is beginning to look like that the enterprise software market is heading for a strongly polarised world made up of a big-four (MS, Oracle, IBM and SAP) with a huge gap to the next division.



I have been involved in some recent research into event-driven architecture (EDA) and its relationship to service-oriented architecture (SOA), as a result of confusion abounding over the two concepts.

Some people seem to think EDA = SOA 2.0. Others that they are already doing EDA in their SOA implementations because they are using asynchronous communications such as a JMS or IBM WebSphereMQ. This confusion is exacerbated by vendors with their own agendas – TIBCO has been banging the EDA drum for ages as the preferred way to go to solve integration problems, IBM has just held a massive event to drive its own SOA agenda, Oracle seem to be trying to straddle the two approaches, and complex event processing (CEP) vendors like Progress have their own stories about EDA.

My own analysis, together with Dr. Ronan Bradley, also of Lustratus, has concluded that as is so often the case, the problem comes down to confusion over terminology. EDA is an architecture, just like SOA. It is a way of running operations, and before anyone starts to ask whether I am on the side of SOA or EDA, the two can happily coexist. But the confusion arises when people start to use EDA as a term to refer to particular implementations rather than to the architecture itself.

In fact, we identified 3 major ways that EDA relates to SOA, and concluded that EDA may have a key role to play as SOA matures – to deal with the increasing management complexity of widescale SOA deployments through a ‘management by exception’ approach.

For those interested in reading the detailed research, Lustratus has published an Insight on the subject, available at the Lustratus site.