Friday, September 24, 2010

SOA – and a cloudy future!

I have just returned from a trip to Europe that included a number of “firsts” for me. This was the first trip where I drove a car in Germany, Italy, and France. It was my first time to see the lakes of northern Italy. It was the first time I swam in the Mediterranean along the French Riviera, the Côte d'Azur, and it was the first time I drove a car around the famous Nürburgring race track in the Eifel forest that separates Germany from Belgium. While I will not go into the specifics to do with any of these “firsts”, for readers who may be interested, check out the latest post to my social blog, Respect the ‘Ring!

The thought of “firsts”, however, takes me back to this year’s HPTF event in Las Vegas and to the presentations that were given. This is probably an opportune time to revisit some of the comments that were made as we head to the NonStop Symposium in San Jose. What really struck me was that, with the technology becoming available we can, for the first time, truly integrate our many, silo-ed business applications in a way that doesn’t require us to revisit the application code. It’s also the first time in a long while that many businesses will have the chance to lay the foundation for future business application deployment. It is, for many of us in IT, essentially the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to influence the direction of all future IT investments.

When I started to post blogs to this site the HPTF event was very much central to many of my editorials. Commentary I developed locked in on the messages first unveiled at the show that championed “Transform! Converge! Innovate!” and I have returned to this theme on several occasions. In the post of June 26, 2010 HPTF - Modernize! I wrote of how the message of transformation was deeply rooted in our desire, as IT professionals, to modernize and to break the innovation gridlock. Later, in the post of July 7, 2010 Just to keep the business functioning? I went on to observe how IT may be still uncertain about web services and the future of externalizing applications as web services, and yet, web services represent the best place to start on a path leading to the type of transformation and innovation corporations now are beginning to understand that they need!

You cannot separate the concept of modernization from initiatives to transform and to converge. Innovation, likewise, without having embraced modern technology, will be of little of value to companies expecting break-through solutions based on what they have relied upon in the past. In two previous blog posts on the topic of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) I looked at how the path to SOA had very humble beginnings and yet, looking further out, it is possibly the key to unlocking the potential that will arrive from hybrid packages and private clouds.

In the first part, of a three part SOA posting, August 27, 2010 SOA everything! Really? I reflected on how one company was looking to modernize the user experience and to do so, wanted to access NonStop applications from the industry-standard browser. I noted how today, SOA plays an important role in transforming business, as it has become the single most acceptable technology for integration and externalizing applications to the world at large. In the second part on SOA that I posted on September 4, 2010 There’s SOA and then, there’s Services! I pointed out how, as company’s IT looks ahead to possible greater deployment of private cloud computing, even more relevance will be placed on the need to externalize applications as services.

It should come as no surprise to anyone with ties to the technology underpinning business IT today that the simplest tasks often are embraced earliest. This has definitely been the case with modernization. as we modernized the user interface first leveraging the technology that blossomed with the arrival of the Internet. This too drove the requirements to modernize the network, and today we recognize the impact TCP/IP has had on business networks across all market segments. Even our approach to data, and our ability to perform analytics on petabytes of information, has seen us pursue the latest database technology, and modernizing the business applications themselves has seen companies transitioning to freshly-minted solutions even as they left behind relationships that have existed for decades.

In a recent conversation with Brad Poole of comForte, who will be giving a presentation on SOA and Web services at the NonStop Symposium next week, he talked of how he was beginning to see companies “mandate SOA for everything particularly when it comes to tying together once silo-ed applications.” While Brad will highlight some of the benefits of the CSL offerings, and the different performance options that come with CSL: he suggested that companies do see some relief ahead: “despite often marginal performance that can result, management persists with the understanding that, in time, Moore’s Law will come to their aid!” Common pipes or fabrics, and enterprise busses layered on top of Fiber Channel, InfiniBand, and in the case of NonStop, ServerNet, are relegating many former approaches to the legacy bin. According to Brad, and he will cover this in his presentation, “it’s been a gradual process but today, very few CIO’s want to chance their future to technologies other than SOA based on Web services!”

There’s no ducking the issue that IT needs to invest and be prepared for what clearly is coming down the path – cloud computing. Whether we elect to talk in terms of integration with public clouds or private, secured, enterprise clouds, investments we may make today that would steer us away from easily being able to accommodate this technology will have a very short lifecycle. Modernization can be considered an important attribute of Cloud Computing just as we consider SOA and Web services to be tangible examples of what is modern. Even if the only vehicle we use to integrate the services that are created is a service bus product, this still represents a dramatic step forward that clearly will assist those who elect to take the first step along this path towards greater innovation.

After all, while I experienced a number of “firsts”, businesses today stand on the threshold of being able to fully integrate their many application silo’s for the very first time. Surely, something we would not want to miss!

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