Excel-to-SOAP, notable announcements, KnowNow RSS, and a compelling plea for simplicity. Keeping things simple (the KISS principle) has become a significant theme this week. Adam Bosworth laid down the philosophical justification for simplicity in computing, but there were many other separate items in the news that conformed to the same principles, including my own postings arguing for the elimination from enterprise integration strategies ultimately of J2EE and more immediately of ESB, to which I'd like to acknowledge Ross Mason's thoughtful response.
# Excel-to-SOAP add-in. The one item that really made me sit up and look this week didn't come from an expected quarter. It was a release from an as-yet little-noticed web services network startup: StrikeIron Announces Beta Release of OnDemand Web Services for Excel. This is a plug-in that aims to make it easy for users to access and use web services directly from Excel. The software lets you add services from StrikeIron's directory using drop-down menus, or you can paste in the URL for the WSDL directly. Then you can assign input and output operations to cells in the spreadsheet. This is not exactly at the level where your mom could use it, but it's a helluva lot closer than anything else that I've seen yet, and it's good enough to empower Excel power users to start accessing and manipulating web services on demand. That's a compelling proposition. Kudos to StrikeIron for getting it working.
# Lots of announcements to interest enterprise architects at Gartner's Application Integration and Web Services Summit this week, which more or less confirms this event as the leading one for the SOA market just now; it'll be interesting to see if it can retain that positioning next year. I felt that the news coverage was a bit patchy, though, which perhaps is a sign that journalists are starting to get either bored or confused with/about web services and SOA. I can sympathize; there is certainly a surfeit of buzzwords to contend with in the field. Anyhow, for the record, these are the announcements that I felt were the notable ones made by vendors at or around the event, arranged in alphabetical order to avoid any bias:
# KnowNow offers RSS management. This was an interesting item from CRN: KnowNow CEO Readies RSS Management Plan. It turns out the company is using its services messaging software to streamline RSS for enterprise applications. There are a couple of examples in the article, which is an interview with the company's CEO. I get the feeling there's an element of him using the RSS label to make it sound hipper and simpler than it actually is in practice, but whether it's a neat example of applying simple technologies to cut through complexity or just a clever bit of marketing, it seems worth a closer look.
# Keeping it simple and sloppy was Adam Bosworth's elegant plea in the transcript of his ISCOC04 talk posted to his weblog: "... it is the human side, the flexible side, the organic side of the Web that is going to be important and not the dry and analytic and taxonomical side, not the systematized and rigid and stratified side that will matter." He later referenced a great follow-up posting by Sriram Krishnan, Tyranny of the Geeks: "Seems silly doesnt it that after so many decades of computing, computer software is so dumb that it cant figure out a file which is 99% correct?" All in all it's been a good week for simplicity. On Monday, IBM's Bob Sutor was writing that, "In my opinion, WS-I needs to act like the simplicity police and the more customers that are involved in the process, the better ... It's not the number of specs, but how they fit together and provide the power we need ... we do need security, we do need transactions, reliability, workflow, and things like that, but we can all commit ourselves to keeping the overall design as elegant as possible." Amen to that.