Tag Archives: SOA

SOA – are we there yet?

Given that it is the end of January, this is also the end of the official prediction season. In this last 2008 prediction post I will cover SOA as we see it in the market.

The challenge of determining if how much SOA is actually happening is the fact that it’s very hard to define it. As anything that IBM leads the way in defining, it is a complex beast involving business process and definition of web service byte structure in one package making it impossible to follow.

In a recent investor talk, Larry Ellison mentioned a slow and long penetration for SOA. The view from the user side is quite different.

To answer the questions simply, SOA is happening big time! While it might not be with the exact service structure, anyone writing a new application today is going to architect it around separate and interchangeable logical modules that communicate through web services. It doesn’t get any more SOA than that.

What is driving this architectural change? As with all successful technology evolutions – the business. The business puts tremendous pressure on developers to come up with new features faster and cheaper. No other architecture today can match the “copy – paste” approach offered by composite applications connecting through web services. It is the de-facto standard.

The challenges facing SOA are probably now is moving from development and QA and into production and infrastructure. The dynamics involved in an constantly changing environment where some part of code is changing somewhere all the time are such that it is best described by one word “Chaos”. One developer could shake his winds on one side of the data center and by the time it gets to the business service relaying on that service on the other side, that service goes down all together.

For SOA to move to the next step, we need SOI (Service Oriented Infrastructure) which the equivalent of the checks and balances placed in any open and dynamic system.

SOI is aware of the application state and dependencies and is able to assure that not every user and service are treated equally as they are not created equal either.

The business is the reason for SOA and the business context is the missing link to make SOA a viable platform (meaning affordable) in production.

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Virtualization 2.008 – what is that all about?

Conversations around Virtualization in the second half of 2007 reminded me a lot of that once new term “The Internet” circa 1997. a TV sketch portrayed a host showing a guest around the house and as they pass through the room he explains “this is our living room, we have two internets, one behind the sofa and the other above the TV. this is our kitchen and there is internet right by the fridge and one above the oven. of course there is also one in the restroom and one in each bedroom” finally the guest stops her to ask her if she has any idea what the internet is to which she finally admits “not at all”.

a lot of conversations about virtualization sounds just like that, with people going and on about how virtualization is a strategic shift in the data center and such and how they have two of it everywhere but without ever explaining why and how.

so what is virtualization anyway? – to put in simple words, virtualization is the ability to separate the logical from the physical. bringing this definition down form the religious sphere, virtualization is about making one physical entity appear as multiple logical ones or multiple physical entities seem like one logical entity. the first type is one that includes server virtualization by placing a hypervisor that allows to run multiple OS environments in one physical server and has made a second coming since 2000 by VMware but has been around back in the good ole’ mainframe days. the second type of virtualization has actually been around the data center also since the mid 90’s as part of the network functionality at first and more recently by application switches (most commonly referred to as load balancers or application delivery controllers).

so looking beyond the brief history of virtualization forward, what we are going to see in 2008 will mostly be driven by the move of virtualization from development and lab areas to production environments. as this shift happens, we will see a commoditization of the hypervisor and a climb up the stack to allow virtualization to address the needs of production applications.

while this might come as a shock to a lot of people, the future of virtualization is closely tied to loosely coupled applications (mostly placed under that vague SOA umbrella which we will touch in the next post). that’s right, as in all previous shifts in infrastructure, it will be the application driving it forward.

to make it short, the dynamic needs of the business are driving a more dynamic environment at the application level which requires more real-time adaptability at the infrastructure. in fact, it requires a business policy driven infrastructure. a lot of small moving virtual components that shrink and grow based on business needs and can be moved around dynamically between physical machines and data centers seamlessly.

this means 3 things will happen this year in regards to virtualization:

1. moving away from the silo approach of treating server virtualization and network virtualization as two different things into a unified approach that synchronizes both into what will be just application infrastructure.

2. creation of a management tier that allows to link the infrastructure resources to the application and business needs

3. data center automation will become a must (reader beware – shameless plug to follow) – at the current pace of change in at the application level, code updates daily, demand for each application service and modules changes daily, unpredictably and most often, exponentially. manual operations to adjust to such changes are not only non-scalable cost wise, they are impossible to tune accurately with existing trial and error methodologies. the only way to turn those expensive lights out in the data center is to automate and automate the application infrastructure in real-time and based on service level policies.

bottom line – be on the lookout for the rise of Service Oriented Infrastructure built out of server virtualization coupled with network virtualization and orchestrated by an application aware automation tier that is able to take service level policies from the business and translate that to infrastructure changes.

2008 is all about the virtualization eco-system.

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Psst… want to know what’s going to happen in the data center in 2008?

We at B-hive spend a lot of time helping customers achieve optimal service levels to their business applications while improving the cost effectiveness of their data center operations. That gives us good insight into what is happening inside the data center and what things are going to happen in the near future.

I thought an appropriate way to start this post is by sharing our predictions for 2008 as we see it from the fluorescent lighten, cold, floating floors of our customer’s data centers.

This post will tackle the future of Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 – there has been much talk recently about the end of the Web 2.0 world as we know it. That sentiment has been exemplified by two recent events – media anti-sentiment towards the web2.0 poster child, (probably peaking with the Beacon story) and the VC community’s declining interest in financing new Web 2.0 ventures, illustrated recently by one of the largest Silicon Valley VCs, Kleiner Perkins, stating that they will not finance any new Web 2.0 companies.

From the way I see it, Web 2.0 is here to stay – the concepts of user generated content and social connectivity are just a technological adaptation to some of the most basic human traits (we share information and we have the need to belong to groups that define who we are and who we aren’t) and as such we will see the same technology making its way into the enterprise (my CRM could use some more collaboration tools and I am sure that crowd wisdom will turn to be a very important information source in virtual financial trading floors) or as a progression of any online application today (Fantasy Baseball, Mommy Groups). Sure, some of the recent users in Facebook might stop using, but that would be mostly the users who were not supposed to be on it in the first place (that includes most of the media writers covering Facebook today and all of my mom’s co-workers who are poking me on Facebook so they can see some baby pictures of my 7-month old).

Facebook’s target audience will just keep on using it in the same way we didn’t stop using IM or shopping online after the .com bust . On the contrary, the number of users will continue to climb and I am sure that given enough time, the financial model behind it will be fine-tuned.

As for the VC angle, yes VCs make it easier for new companies to launch, especially when they have a long technology development period. Guess what? Launching a web2.0 application today has been quite commoditized with platforms like Ning and many others allowing users to focus on creating the community and the rest is up to that magic viral touch. In the same way that anyone today can open an online-shop in Yahoo! or eBay without the need to get Web-Van style funding (more than $800m raised and they didn’t even have a sock-puppet on the payroll!). Web 2.0 is now a commodity application maturing from a hit driven market to a long tail eternal phase.

Next week – The future of the virtualized data center.

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