Will mashups mash up your infrastucture?

One of the forecasts in the Lustratus predictions for 2008 Insight, available free of charge from the Lustratus web store, deals with the emergence and adoption of mashups.

At this moment it is unlcear how fast mashups will be adopted, but Lustratus thinks that any serious adoption will place massive strain on enterprise infrastructures, causing the unwary to buckle and collapse.

Mashups seem great. The user is suddenly in a position to create his or her own page layout with all the business applications needed to carry out this user’s activities. A great productivity boost, perhaps, but what are the impacts on the enterprise? Basically, as Lustratus points out, every desktop becomes an application. Instead of an IT department having to worry about 10 or 20 applications, all of a sudden there are 100s or even 1000s. Worse still, while traditional IT-controlled applications are usually controlled fairly rigorously with procedures, policies and management practices, the world of mashups could well be more akin to anarchy.

Fundamental to a productive mashup will be the need to drive the different business services required by the particular user, and therefore services will suddenly become tools used by hundreds in many different ways. All of this activity could create huge traffic increase as well as a generally uncoordinated style of operations, causing major difficulties for the infrastructure software trying to hold everything together.

Well, OK, maybe this is a little negative – but the point is, enterprise architects and management should start considering these issues now. Trying to sort this out when the genie is out of the bottle will be a lot more difficult…..

Steve

SOA for the scientific community – a practical example

I was intrigued to discover a discussion paper from the University of Southampton in the UK about how SOA is helping the scientific community.

The paper, entitled ‘A Collaborative Orthopaedic Research Environment’, describes how SOA has been used to enable a Virtual Research Environment for orthopaedic researchers to collaborate in the design, analysis and dissemination of experiments.

What I found most interesting were the reasons for using SOA as the base architecture for this environment. The key objective, based on input from the specialists who will use the system, was to provide an easy way to share scientific data and results from collaborative research. However, it was deemed essential that the system could also evolve based on the changing requirements of the user community. One example of change that the paper gives is that of knowing which of a wide range of protocols will be followed for a particular clinical trial. Not only do these vary considerably, but it appears they are also susceptible to changes in regulations.

The solution decided to utilize a coarse level of services, essentially using just four – to manage the trial-related data, analyse it, submit and disseminate related research articles and support discussion forums. However, through the reliance on SOA, these services are flexible and extensible, making it much easier to address the changing needs of this particular scientific discipline. In addition, the services are reusable, and some could therefore be usable for other scientific areas.

It’s good to see SOA being used to effectively address clear user needs in this way.

Steve

WS-Madness

OK, I think it is time to stop all the WS-Madness.

Web services standards have become a complete joke. As far as I can see, there are now at least 70 (seventy) web services standards and drafts – more than anyone could humanly want, and enough to create chaos, and completely negate the advantages of standards in the first place. Standards are supposed to increase choice, but with so many the likelihood is it will actually REDUCE choice (do you support standards 27, 39 and 40? no, I support 23, 42 and 63 though, any good?).

So, who is to blame for this debacle? Well, the blame is pretty evenly spread. Perhaps the most obvious target is the vendors, who have unashamedly used WS standards as a battleground to try to create differentiation from competition. So, by creating a standard that fits in with ones own design, it is then possible to use this as a reason for rejecting other players. However, vendors are easy targets – but are they really the villains here? After all, you could argue that they are just doing what they have to do – trying to compete, to win business and pay their employees / shareholders. The next obvious choice is the standards bodies themselves. Sadly, there are many ‘professional’ standards body members who get intellectual kudos from defining standards – whether they are worth anything or not. But even this may be missing the point.

Perhaps, instead, blame should be turned on users. The vendors have stepped in because of two things – the opportunity created by the desire for standards in the SOA space, and the vacuum resulting from the failure of users to take an active role. Similarly, standards bodies have leapt into the void because in a way they have to generate standards to have any worth in the world. But the real accusation is that the standards are rubbish – most are immature, many are useless or pedantic. In other words, they do not add value for SOA users and implementers. And isn’t this a case of users getting what they asked for? If users don’t want to get involved to ensure the RIGHT standards are created, that really mean something to users, then they cannot complain when others jump in to fill the vacuum.

My advice to users on web services standards is to ignore all but the important ones – SOAP, WSDL, WS-Security, and maybe WS-Addressing although this is not as mature as the other three. Then take a more active role to ensure these standards mature into what you actually NEED.

Steve

Comments on The Magic of Abstraction

Eric Kavanagh has just published an interesting article…

The Magic of Abstraction: Hierarchy Management and Decision-Making, at tdwi. At first I was a little put off by its highly academic style, but in fact it was very thought-provoking. This whole area of hierarchies is fascinating to me, but perhaps not from quite the same angle as Eric’s. I look at hierarchies, and particularly organizational hierarchies as a tool that can significantly increase field productivity, reduce costs, improve customer service and play a key role in compliance management. This subject is covered in detail in my Illuminatus Research paper on Organizational Hierarchy Management, although sadly this paper is not one of our free ones.

Eric discussed organizational, financial and product hierarchies, but one key category he did not mention that I am particularly interested in is household hierarchies – usually rolled up under the organizational hierarchy umbrella. This is a reflection of John Smith having the same address / telephone number as Jane Smith, and hence being assumed to be in the same household. The idea of this concept seems to offer all sorts of additional sales and service possibilities that might broaden a company’s market to a whole network of previously unaccessed hierarchies and customer prospects.

Of course, it also seems to smack a bit of ‘big brother’…

Steve