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Loosely Coupled weblog

Friday, September 19, 2003

Enterprise architects get their SOx on
Expect a plethora of SOx and SOxx acronyms, warns the latest commentary from CBDI, as vendors and analysts introduce new service-oriented products and categories over the coming months.

It's good to see the SOx bandwagon gaining ground, but the bad news — as always at this stage in the hype cycle — is that the trail will likely prove harder and more tortuous than most travelers currently expect.

So what is the best way for an enterprise to start getting its SOx on? Jason Bloomberg of ZapThink has come up with the useful notion of the enterprise architect as the person charged with making sure SOx happens smoothly and efficiently.

Enterprise architecture, says Jason, is not just the technology infrastructure, but also the "people and organizational constructs" both within and beyond the enterprise. The enterprise architect therefore is a very special breed, someone who can see both sides of the technology/business divide, "understanding both how IT personnel provide and manage the Services available to the enterprise, as well as how line-of-business accesses and orchestrates those Services."

Finding the enterprise architects in an organization isn't very easy, says Jason, because they are scattered in many different roles and positions. But they're the key to implementing SOA, both for the organizations themselves, and for the vendors who seek to sell them their SOx wares:

"The enterprise architect audience is the sole audience that can both understand and value the SOA message, and incorporate these vendors' solutions into their SOA roadmaps today."

The whole article is worth a read, but I'm quoting it at length because we were having some internal discussions only this week about who exactly Loosely Coupled's audience is. And Jason's article is a timely and precise answer to that question. This website is for and about enterprise architects, and their journey to SOx.
posted by Phil Wainewright 3:17 AM (GMT) | comments | link

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Bill Gates and Steve Mills believe web services will reflate IT spending. It won't. It will decimate it.

Scott McNealy was closer to the truth earlier this week, when he told delegates at the company's SunNetworks 2003 conference that "businesses are getting overcharged for enterprise hardware and software by a factor of 10." Though as usual his reasoning was not as astute as his conclusion.

The truth is that a combination of factors mean that businesses today should be going into deals expecting to pay at least one-tenth the price they previously assumed for the same software functionality. That's what I mean, quite literally, by decimation. Among those factors, these are the main ones:

  • Open standards and open source reduce if not eliminate the cost of software infrastructure

  • Service re-use through shared infrastructure makes it possible to get an order of magnitude more productivity out of existing software and infrastructure assets

  • Globally sourced composite functionality drives down the cost of easily outsourced operations through brute-force competition

Put all those factors together, and shouldn't we be looking at a hundredfold cost reduction instead of merely tenfold? No, because considerations of reliability, usability and management complexity add new costs that will limit the available savings.

A tenfold reduction is scary enough, though. While it's true that a reduction in costs will encourage customers to budget for more projects, a tenfold increase in activity is hardly likely. Such a drastic drop in the cost of IT must inevitably imply a continued sharp reduction in IT spending.

Web services is a necessary step in the evolution of IT, and it's great to see IBM and Microsoft joining together to tout its benefits in such a public way. But no one should be counting on it reviving the industry's revenues anytime soon.
posted by Phil Wainewright 9:57 AM (GMT) | comments | link
Today, online application provider NetLedger changed its name to NetSuite, and announced the latest version of its software, NetSuite 9.0.

Tomorrow, NetSuite 9.0 goes live across the entire customer base.

That's on-demand software. I rest my case.
posted by Phil Wainewright 9:23 AM (GMT) | comments | link

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Prospecting for Adjoin
Computer Associates quietly acquired elements of a web services management startup called Adjoin Solutions two months ago, as revealed in our latest feature article, Top vendors buy into SOA management. Anyone looking for background about Adjoin will be disappointed to find their website is no longer live, and thus has long since disappeared from Google's cache. But not to worry. The Web being what it is, there are several useful documents still out there that give a good insight into what Adjoin was up to:

  • WebServices.Org republished the company's product launch press release in January this year

  • PerfectXML copied the text of the company's 'about' page for its online supplier directory

  • Best of all, published an analysis of the company by The451 to coincide with the January launch.

Reviewing the information, it seems that Adjoin's strategy was to offer a basic web services management product for around $10,000. That would have differentiated it from others in the web services management space, who offer more complex products with a much higher price tag. But the market wasn't yet ready to have that type of product pitched at it. Adjoin's thinking was that a low-cost management product would appeal to companies doing small, tactical web services projects. But in fact companies at that stage of adoption have not yet acknowledged the need to invest in management infrastructure. Whereas the companies that are investing in management infrastructure have much bigger budgets, and aren't going to be tempted by an entry-level product.

The other problem Adjoin will have encountered is the cost of sales and marketing. Sales cycles for web services management products are very extended at the moment. Even when a vendor does succeed, it's usually only for a pilot project that requires lots of handhelding and yet yields little immediate revenue. Offering a less complex product, as Adjoin planned, is perhaps a way of reducing the length of the sales cycle, but then you have to bear the cost of marketing sufficiently to reach those few customers who are poised to buy.

Interestingly, the background of Adjoin's founders is perhaps a clue to where they ought to have been looking for their most promising sales prospects. The company's CEO, Dennis Kelly, and VP of product development, Leo Parker, previously worked in the web services group at handheld computer maker Palm. There's an interesting PowerPoint deck of a presentation Kelly made to the Massachusetts Software & Internet Council in October last year, entitled Web Services will fail Without Systems Management, which is still downloadable (PPT, 1.9MB) from the Council's website. Slide 6 illustrates the sort of web services challenge the team faced at Palm, when it had to integrate various services — some of them from third parties — deliver them out to users over a wireless network, and simultaneously update subscription and usage information to a backend billing system.

This kind of real-time delivery of web-based services calls to mind the example of AgentWare, a user of AmberPoint's services management software, which we recently described in a feature article last month about Measuring services in a business context. There are large numbers of companies like these out there, delivering commercial services over the Web, and all of them have a services management problem. Mostly, they've solved it for now using in-house software, but as their businesses grow and they continue to develop their offerings, sooner or later they're going to turn to off-the-shelf management packages.

That probably explains why CA was interested in acquiring some of Adjoin's technology capabilities. It has a lot of service provider customers and so is close to the delivery channels (ISPs, hosting companies, telecoms and wireless providers) for online services. It probably already has several customers that could use the kind of capabilities Adjoin was developing, and so is in a position to find and close the deals that had proved so elusive for the startup.

PS [added 7:40 PM GMT]: It's good to see CNET picking up this story today, as part of its news item about WS-Manageability being presented to OASIS last week. Presumably this is the sort of rapid response editor-in-chief Jai Singh was thinking of in his article on the site's latest redesign, when he said, "we are still going to tell the Securities and Exchange Commission if you get your tech news any faster."

The fact is that the most interesting news is broken by specialist sites rather than by the likes of CNET, which does a great job of reporting the top stories very quickly, but which doesn't have the coverage and contacts to report every little event in every sector. That's why news of CA's acquisition of Adjoin was broken yesterday by Loosely Coupled, and why was the first site to run a story about the WS-Manageability submission, on Monday.

Looosely Coupled will always highlight stories if they break important news first, but if you really want the inside track on what's happening in the SOA and business process industries, you need to have both us and on your favorites list.
posted by Phil Wainewright 4:37 AM (GMT) | comments | link

Monday, September 15, 2003 guts web services
A redesign at CNET includes several new highlighted topics, tagged 'GetUpToSpeed', or GUTS for short. Web services is among six topics given the GUTS treatment — others include utility computing, Wi-Fi and VOIP.

So what doies consider to be the GUTS of web services? It's quite a useful, at-a-glance resource, with an extended list of recent web-services related headlines, links to various commentary and analysis articles, and a potted digest of the key players and what they're up to. Most radical of all is a weblog, which provides some topical editorializing from a member of the team.

The idea of using a weblog to comment on news developments is nothing new of course — indeed, if it were not such an obvious thing to do, we would be tempted to say that, where Loosely Coupled leads, CNET follows. However it has to be said (and indeed Phil Windley has already said it) CNET's idea of a weblog is a rather pale imitation of the real thing; they even choose to present it as a 'journal' although it is described elsewhere as a weblog.

I think the biggest disappointment is the failure to include an RSS feed. A feed of those headlines would be particularly welcome. I'm sure the powers that be at CNET are petrified with fear at the thought of losing traffic if they start delivering filtered RSS feeds, but I firmly believe they've got it wrong if that's their view. I know from Loosely Coupled's traffic logs that InfoWorld and Network World are getting visitors as a result of our publishing their RSS feeds on our news headlines aggregator page. I also know that gets good traffic (indeed all news sources do) from our headline news RSS feed. But I appreciate that it's difficult for old-Internet-economy media sites to fully grasp the emerging concept of 'content-as-a-service'. I therefore heartily commend CNET's expanded coverage of web services, and look forward to further enhancements that follow the example set by more adventurous emerging new media sites.
posted by Phil Wainewright 1:03 PM (GMT) | comments | link

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