The Business Architect Cometh

[Forrester Principal Analyst Alexander Peters, PhD. and I collaborated on this research.]

You may have heard the term "business architect" in your travels; if you haven't, you soon will. A significant number of our clients are searching for these new leaders. Broadly, BAs are responsible for developing and managing an organization's business model and business technology (BT) agenda. The business architect fills the gap between business management and IT management. One way to bridge the gap is to make it someone's responsibility to do so.

In our research, we spoke to individuals occupying this crucial role in a large European agency, a large financial services firm, a regional healthcare provider, a diversified energy provider, and a logistics firm. The need for BAs is most acute in organizations that are in the midst of transforming their businesses and information systems.

The need for business architects is manifest, but what's less apparent to these firms is how this role should be structured, who should occupy it, and what a BA's responsibilities should be (as illustrated by wide variations in job ads for the position). In our research, we found two established models for the BA role:

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Future Of Business Rules Platforms: Events And Decision Management

Business rules platforms are a mature technology for automating decision and policy logic and for managing fast changes to that logic to keep up with business changes. Now customers are seeking more: capabilities allowing them to employ business rules to help detect and respond to business events hiding in streams of data and to automate decision life cycles. This research reveals how well vendors are responding to these new requirements.

Application development and delivery (AD&D) pros are taking business rules platforms in two new directions. The technology's future will be determined in large part by whether or not customers can successfully apply it to business event processing and decision life-cycle management.

Business event processing applications answer the question "What activities are happening in the business now that I need to know about?" by searching for patterns and values within several streams of actively flowing data. The streams almost always represent information about the real world, such as customer activity in a casino, stock prices fluctuating in real time, or the location of transportation vehicles and the goods they carry. AD&D professionals often build business-events applications using complex event processing (CEP) platforms — some of which use rules to define event patterns. Other AD&D professionals use business rules platforms to build business-events applications. These overlapping uses set the stage for the convergence of CEP and business rules platforms.

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Business Rules Platforms 2011: 3 Vendors Have Strongest Positions

After two years of vendor consolidation, which are the best business rules platforms for application development and delivery professionals to consider? In our judgment, based on growth rates, market presence, strength of product, and client interest, three vendors have risen to the leadership positions in this market, with two others coming on strong. IBM's ILOG has the strongest market position, but a surprising new alternative has gained strong initiative, and a one-time leader has lost momentum.

Although many application development and delivery (AD&D) professionals have experience implementing business rules platforms, Forrester's AD&D team has been receiving a continual flow of inquiries on this topic that suggests that clients want to know how the vendor landscape is changing and how those changes affect product choices. In fact, before evaluating a vendor's product features, clients consider the vendor's market momentum and the size of its customer base.

Our conclusion: The choices in business rules products have in fact changed, because the vendors have consolidated, expanded, and/or retrenched. Here is a picture of those changes:

As a result, the number of leading products has declined since we last evaluated business rules platforms. Some business rules vendors have expanded into other product categories. As a result, the decision to choose these vendors for a business rules product is more complex because business rules management is no longer their primary focus or their product sets include additional capabilities not directly related to business rules management. Within this category, there are:

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Forrester's PaaS Wave: Salesforce & Microsoft Lead, But The Race Is Far From Over

In Forrester's 149-criteria evaluation of 10 platform-as-a-service (PaaS) vendors, we found that Microsoft and salesforce.com led the pack because of their comprehensive features for application development and delivery pros and strong strategies in the category. Cordys, LongJump, Caspio, WorkXpress, WaveMaker, and Google were the next-strongest vendors (in order) in our analysis, followed by OrangeScape and Tibco Software. Our analysis shows which PaaS vendors are best for professional developers and which are best for business developers. Our analysis also reveals a very immature market with lots of potential risks for buyers.

The PaaS market is a sprawling, fast-changing, and immature market. Most PaaS vendors are small, and even big vendors like Google and Microsoft have incomplete, new products. Salesforce.com has the most mature PaaS, but it just acquired an entirely new PaaS product (Heroku), and its fit into the portfolio and strategy isn't yet clear. The PaaS market's immaturity is also evident in the relatively low scores registered by many of the vendors in our Wave analyses. Whereas many Forrester Waves have four or more Leaders, ours only has two.

Our evaluation of PaaS products for professional developers ("coders") uncovered a market in which salesforce.com — one of the PaaS pioneers — has built a powerful product, market position, and strategy and in which Microsoft has quickly also built a leading position.

Our evaluation of PaaS products for business developers ("business experts") uncovered a market in which salesforce.com is the only Leader. But upstart vendors — most notably Caspio and WorkXpress — provide very strong alternatives. Microsoft does not appear in this analysis because it does not yet offer tools for business experts in its Azure product line.

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How Cloud Computing Will Change Application Platforms

Cloud computing will bring demand for elastic application platforms.

Promises that cloud computing can save money and reduce time-to-market by automatically scaling applications (either up or down) oversimplify what it takes to develop application architectures to achieve these benefits of elastic scaling. Few of today's business applications are designed for elastic scaling, and most of those few involve complex coding unfamiliar to most enterprise developers. A new generation of application platforms for elastic applications is arriving to help remove this barrier to realizing cloud's benefits. Elastic application platforms (EAPs) will reduce the art of elastic architectures to the science of a platform. 

EAPs provide tools, frameworks, and services that automate many of the more complex aspects of elasticity. These include all the runtime services needed to manage elastic applications, full instrumentation for monitoring workloads and maintaining agreed-upon service levels, cloud provisioning, and, as appropriate, metering and billing systems. EAPs will make it normal for enterprise developers to deliver elastic applications — something that is decidedly not the norm today.

Forrester defines an elastic application platform as:

An application platform that automates elasticity of application transactions, services, and data, delivering high availability and performance using elastic resources.

We see organizations moving toward EAPs by extending their current web architectures, following one or more of four paths:

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The Future Of Java

Java’s future will be constrained by the bounds of Oracle's business model.

Drama has been running high since Oracle began to shape up the Java technology it acquired along with Sun Microsystems. Oracle ended the impasse over a new core Java release, set out a road map for the next two years, and began reorganizing Java's ineffectual governance. Oracle's Java road map and commitment to invest reassured enterprise customers and prevented a split with IBM but alienated many in the open source community. But Oracle's plans so far fail to address Java platforms' inherent complexity, which remains Java's Achilles' heel in head-to-head competition with Microsoft's.NET platform. Moreover, a controlled, top-down innovation model will limit Java's role as the basis for the "cloud" generation of platforms, rich Internet applications, and new development techniques ranging from languages such as Ruby to approaches such as business process management (BPM) and business rules. Conclusion: Java's future in the enterprise is alive and well but limited.

Oracle’s strategy for Java will change the Java ecosystem that has existed for 11 years.

  • Oracle will direct Java innovation. Oracle has made it clear that from this point forward, it will direct all innovation in core Java (Java SE). Oracle will happily accept the contributions of others through OpenJDK as long as those contributions align with Oracle's priorities.
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WebSphere 7 Reaffirms IBM's Java Platform Lead

 

With the seventh generation of its WebSphere software, IBM redefines the state of the art in Java platforms for the enterprise.

The WebSphere 7 product family provides application development and delivery pros with new ways to optimize their application architectures, more development frameworks, automatic transactional reliability, simpler configuration and management, and improved stack integration for BPM, portal, and eCommerce projects. For shops struggling with scale, complexity, and high performance in their Java applications, WebSphere 7 may offer both relief and a simpler, easier-to-manage stack. WebSphere 7 also lays the foundation for cloud architectures and multicore hardware.

IBM, Oracle, and Red Hat JBoss will play leapfrog in Java platforms for the foreseeable future. But clients should evaluate the three leading vendors of Java platforms based on their primary goals for their software, not just by comparing features (and certainly not by comparing public benchmarks). With WebSphere 7, IBM has created a transaction monitor for Java. This goal reflects IBM's primary goals of reliability, integrity, and manageability in WebSphere. In this way, WebSphere is IBM's CICS for the Internet age.

IBM's second primary goal is to create integrated platform stacks. The WebSphere Process Server-WebSphere ILOG-Business Space-WebSphere Application Server combination is one such stack; WebSphere Portal and WebSphere Commerce are other integrated stacks.

Customers should always check the reality before assuming comprehensive integration in IBM's burgeoning WebSphere portfolio. Stack integration will always be a moving target for customers because IBM adds so many acquisitions every year. But IBM's product management regime makes it fairly easy for clients to identify which IBM stacks have high internal integration and which do not.

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An Object Lesson In BT

Forrester has long advocated adoption of a “business technology” approach to replace traditional IT. “BT” recognizes the fundamental role information technology plays in all aspects of business – and the need for business decision-makers to be deeply involved in setting technology strategy, priorities, and even delivering solutions. But how does this tight coupling of business and technology decision-making actually work?

My colleague Alexander Peters and I have just witnessed a situation that illustrates that having the right organizational structure and technology-savvy businesspeople is crucial to a BT transition.

The organization developed an IT strategy 10 years ago based on three best practices:

  1. Major business processes would be implemented on a single, modern, flexible platform.

  2. The platform would employ SOA to ensure that it could adapt to unforeseen needs.

  3. The platform would run in the consolidated, scalable, and efficient data center of a service provider.

Today, the organization has not yet achieved its top goal of a single platform for all of its major processes. It has a new SOA/Java environment, but it processes a little more than half of the required workload. Older systems do the rest. Most disturbing:

  • The development investment has been many times greater than expected at the outset.

  • The annual cost of IT operations doubled versus the baseline.

  • System reliability went down with the new environment.
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App Development Managers Should Care About Oracle’s Suit Against Google

As much fun as the juicy details of the Oracle-Google lawsuit are, the meaning of the suit for enterprise application development managers is, well, philosophical. Aside from sweating over the legal status of your Android phone (if you own one), the lawsuit won’t create drama for your shop. But the long-term implications are serious. Henceforth, Java will be a marching band rather than a jazz collective. Oracle’s action will reduce the independent innovation that has made Java what it is, causing developers to seek new ideas from sources outside of Java. Your Java strategy, as a result, will get more complicated.

A little background: Since the late ’90s, the primary source of Java innovation has been open source projects that either fix Java limitations or provide low-cost alternatives to vendor products. But Java’s position as a wellspring of innovation has been declining in recent years as many Web developers shifted their attention to dynamic languages, pure Web protocols, XML programming, and other new ideas. This trend has been particularly pronounced in the client tier for Web applications, where alternative rich Internet application technologies including Ajax frameworks like Dojo and container-based platforms like Adobe Flash/Flex have replaced client-side Java. Java virtual machines are a foundation of these efforts, but the enterprise and mobile Java platforms are not.

In choosing Java’s future course, Oracle had two philosophies to choose from.

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Lest We Forget SAP

The "smart money" seems to be betting against SAP. I hear all the time about the company's bleak prospects for the future. A client conversation last week reminded me of how strong SAP’s position is, despite its many issues.

This client, a worldwide manufacturer, is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in SAP software for its worldwide supply chain, financial management and reporting, inventory and order management, etc. The new SAP environment will replace hundreds of disparate applications and, ideally, result in far more efficient operations, far better visibility into operations, and far more uniform products around the world. The members of this client’s SAP implementation team have finished SAP implementation marathons before (at other employers). They know the good, the bad, the ugly.

In this manufacturer, SAP is sticky for four reasons.

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