Thinking About Software Machines

John R. Rymer

During the past two weeks, I received two client Inquiries about specialized Java hardware and Larry Ellison announced v2 of Oracle's "database machine."

These two seemingly disconnected events made me ask: Is specialized hardware for software inevitable? Last year, we saw TIBCO announce a messaging appliance too. And IBM has a robust business in XML and security appliances. Will growing volumes of data, messages, and logical operations force us to adopt specialized hardware, abandoning the unbundled software model IBM introduced back when real Hippies roamed the Earth?

The client Inquiries were from firms having to invest heavily in infrastructure and still struggling to keep up with their Java processing loads. Both had seen Azul Systems, found its touted performance numbers compelling, but wondered: "Where are the other competitors?" Answer: I don't see any others doing what Azul does.

Why? My answer: Too few customers buy this way -- particularly from a startup with a proprietary software machine. IBM, HP, Intel, and the other big vendors don't see enough of a market yet to take the plunge.

With its database machine, Oracle claims impressive advances in I/O and query speeds, and disk compression. But the company says it has 20 customers for this product. For a new model and a new product, that's not bad. But I think it helps answer my question: Only the tippy top of the enterprise food chain really needs software machines for general purpose products like databases, Java application servers, and message processing. The majority of customers can use other software techniques to keep growing without being locked into proprietary software machines. Virtualization, distributed caching, in-memory databases, optimized garbage collection, and alternative database structures come to mind.

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Which is it, shortage of mainframe skills ... or jobs?

Phil Murphy

Murphy_p_small   

There is a lot of noise lately from 2 camps - one swears that the availability of people with mainframe skills is drying up rapidly - they either forecast dire shortages, or note problems hiring for certain positions internally. Most of the trade press articles are firmly in this camp.

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How do you define an "application" for app portfolio mgt purposes?

Phil Murphy

Murphy_p_small   Once apon a time ... the definition of an application was easy - firms built accounts payable, general ledger, purchasing, order entry, and other applications to meet the automation needs of the business. The applications were written as monolithic collections of functionality that were dedicated to accomplishing key business functions and had relatively clear boundaries.

However, over the years, technology shifts have resulted in "applications" that don't fit the earlier simplistic definitions. DLLs, Services / SOA, ASPs and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) all bent the definition of an "application" from its previous form. Looking forward, Cloud computing promises to alter the definition once again.

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Is open systems dead? Does code portability matter?

John R. Rymer

Jeffrey Hammond and I did a Teleconference today for clients about the first release of Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g. One of the big areas of concern among attendees was an old chestnut that I actually haven't seen for awhile: Portability. The basic question: If we develop for Oracle's stack, are we locked into it?

Jeffrey and I have documented the basic risks of lock-in we see in Fusion Middleware 11g in our analysis (http://www.forrester.com/go?docid=55043). I don't want to revisit that analysis here; rather, I'm more interested in why we suddenly heard this concern..

I've been writing about software technology roughly since the birth of the "open systems" movement during the late '80s. At that time, open systems meant SQL relational DBMS + Unix at its core, with DCE and CORBA sometimes tossed into the mix as well. The concern for code portability extended to Java's "write once, run ... anywhere" promise in 1995. And then I think it started to die.

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The Rise Of The Collaborative Cloud

Holger Kisker

Salesforce.com announces Service Cloud 2

 

On 9/9/09 Salesforce.com announced the launch of Service Cloud 2, a new set of three collaborative offerings: Salesforce Knowledge, Salesforce Answers and Salesforce for Twitter.

 

With Salesforce Knowledge companies can share data in the Service Cloud, Salesforce Answers enables companies to create communities to capture knowledge and Salesforce for Twitter allows companies to screen and participate in the 45mio user Twitter community directly from the service cloud.

 

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Head Of BI Job Description

Boris Evelson

Boris Evelson By Boris Evelson

I get many requests from Forrester clients to describe job requirements for a head of BI team, department, solutions center, etc. While Forrester does not have a formal description of such requirements, if I map such requirements to all BI best practices that I write about, here’s what I come up with:

  • Champion and rally the organization around BI. Educate senior non-IT executives on the value of BI: without measurement, there’s no management. Be able to argue that business, not IT, should own BI.
  • Build and support BI business cases (BI ROI)
  • Understand Key Performance Measures and Indicators that drive company measurement, reporting and analytics across functions like
    • Sales  
    • Marketing  
    • Customer Service  
    • Finance  
    • Operations/Logistics  
    • HR  
    • IT/Systems  
    • Compliance and Risk Management  
  • Understand how these metrics and measures align and track against overall business strategies, goals and objectives.
  • Be proficient in all aspects of BI and Information Management processes, technologies and architectures such as
    • BI delivery mechanisms: portals, thin/thick clients, email/mobile phone alerts, etc  
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As Eclipse Kits for Cloud Arrive, Amazon Deployment Wins

John R. Rymer

Amazon's announcement on August 26th of its Eclipse toolkit added another Eclipse-cloud option for Java developers. Here is a table comparing these four: Amazon AWS Eclipse Toolkit, Google Plug-In for Eclipse, Stax Platform for Amazon EC2, and the planned next major release of SpringSource Cloud Foundry. (Cloud Foundry today provides a Web interface, but will embrace Eclipse.)
Eclipse cloud kits 

Several observations jump out at me:

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5 Ways Not To Waste Time On Twitter

Mike Gualtieri

Mike_Gualtieri_Forrester Twitter is the social media darling of 2009. The micro-blogging machine was the fourth most visited site after Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube for the week ending June 27, 2009, according to Hitwise.

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Open letter to Information Week BI In Healthcare article readers

Boris Evelson

Boris Evelson By Boris Evelson

I am so glad that my Information Week article BI in Healthcare is receiving interest and mostly positive feedback. I believe that this is indeed a very important topic to write about, especially considering how behind the times the industry is, and what a unique opportunity we have right now to get it right. We so strongly believe that this is such a critical IT issue and challenge, that Forrester is even bending its own rules slightly – typically all our research is “role” based, not industry based, as we most often find that challenges and requirements by role are almost always very similar across industries. Healthcare and public sectors seem to be a big exception, and therefore, I and some of my colleagues do plan to publish more Healthcare IT specific research. For example, I am currently in the middle of surveying top 30+ BI vendors specializing in Healthcare against 40+ criteria. Stay tuned to the results of this research. And my colleague, Craig LeClair (http://www.forrester.com/rb/search/results.jsp?N=0+11226), is in the midst of conducting research on EMR best practices.

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Should Application Portfolio Management Start With Business Process Assessments?

Phil Murphy

Murphy_p_small  I heard an interesting comment from an executive at one of the big services firms - that application portfolio management (APM) efforts must begin by mapping business processes for the applications. I really don't agree, but thought it would make an interesting topic to discuss here. Part of the argument stems from how services firms are routinely engaged - to take action against one application or a group of applications to transform, re-engineer business processes, reengineer, refactor or otherwise modernize an application. All are useful activities and techniques, but they are not portfolio management techniques - they are modernization techniques. Modernization and APM live together on a continuum of application activity that includes in order:

  • Modernization - the actions we can take against an existing application - monitor & maintain, modernize in some way, replace (rewrite/pkg) or retire.
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