Friday, December 31, 2010

Why MDM and SOA are shifting out of IT

Now I've said previously why MDM is required for successful SOA but there is another important piece around MDM and SOA that is happening at the moment and explains both why MDM and SOA haven't historically gone together and, crucially, why the new trends are liable to help bring them together next year.

Why SOA and MDM didn't go together
The first question is why historically MDM and SOA projects tended to not go together. Sure organisations would "do" SOA programmes and would "do" MDM programmes but rarely would the SOA programmes and MDM programmes be tightly joined. There are I think three reasons for this

1 - Different bits of IT
The first challenge is that MDM and SOA were normally done by different bits of IT with different mentalities. MDM was done by the "data" folks who worried about data warehouses and saw data as the most important thing in the world. SOA was done by the enterprise integration and architecture folks who worried about operational processes and integration. The MDM folks tended to have a post-transactional view of the world where things were "true" or "false" while the SOA folks tended to view things as "in processes" or "completed".

These different communities in IT have very different backgrounds and focuses. ETL, Data Warehouses and big databases rule in the MDM/Data side while fast transaction throughput is the key for the SOA folks.

2 - Different bits of vendors
The next challenge is that the vendors have exactly the same split in their view of the world. Look at IBM for instance. SOA is in the WebSphere brand while MDM is in the InfoSphere brand, two very different parts of IBM Software with independent management structures and teams, sure the idea is that they should co-operate and work together but we all know that different divisions in companies like to do things differently. This also means that you often get different sales people for the different pieces of software. Oracle for instance put MDM in the Applications area while SOA is in the Middleware space, if you want to use their MDM products with their middleware products (for instance using the MDM PIP) this means you have to deal with two different sales people to get what you want.

3 - They've been IT projects
The final reason is that MDM and SOA have traditionally been internal IT programmes owned and managed by IT and largely invisible to the business. This means that the two cultural elements above are then hard-baked into the solution which ensures that the SOA and MDM programmes are kept distinct.

Why its changing
So why is it changing? Well the first reason is that people have started finally realising that SOA is a business thing and needs to be viewed from a business architecture perspective. This has been a long time coming but finally it appears people are thinking about the challenges of business services, service value and the business architecture. At the same time MDM is shifting as well, firstly its shifting away from post transactional into an operational space which means it needs to consider operational processes and performance in a way it hasn't before, this means that the MDM/Data folks now have to not only talk to the SOA folks but they have to... shock horror... actually become MDM/SOA folks.

MDM is also shifting in that business people want to do more active information management, both in terms of newer analytical tools and secondly in terms of including that mastered and high-quality information into core operational processes. This means that the business realises that the old "data landfill" approaches which were poor before are massively hindering the analytical models and have a direct impact on the efficiency of the operational processes. By taking control recognising that Information needs Mastering the business is now actively taking over those processes and thus MDM is moving out of the background into being a key part of the corporate information strategy.

So that is why MDM and SOA are shifting out of IT, its because being within IT made them technically centric programmes that often failed to deliver the promised value. By enabling the business to more actively own its IT estate, through Business SOA, and its core information, through MDM, it suddenly ceases to be a question of competing IT cultures but a simple question of how to present a consistent operational and analytical view of the business.

SOA and MDM are made to be together.... that fixes the enterprise culture... but will it fix the vendors?

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Monday, December 20, 2010

When clouds really will be cloudy

People are talking about clouds and SaaS as the future, and I really believe that they are, in fact I'd say they are the present reality for leading companies. However one of the questions is always "where does this go"? Now there is one world that says "everything on the cloud and delivered via HTML 5". This is an interesting view but it misses out a couple of key questions
  1. When does Moore's Law go away?
  2. When is it really a cloud
The first point is that I'm sitting here with an iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro and AppleTV (I am a fanboi) with miles more processing at my disposal than commercial systems and websites I put live late in the last century. Clouds talk about dynamic deployment and portability... but normally within a specific data centre environment. When we think about services being consumed and co-ordinated and assume that this is being done over the internet then two questions raise themselves.
  1. What decides where a service is deployed?
  2. Why can't it be deployed to my phone?
What is the point of these questions? Well my son and I can play Need for Speed:Undercover with one of us "hosting" the game on the iPhone or iPad. This is therefore an example of a piece of Software being delivered "as a Service" from a mobile device to another device. Sure its a specific use case but its a very real one to scale up.

Why wouldn't the "Rich" interface still be deployed to the device but now as a client service? Why wouldn't the information cache and some clever software that proactively populates the cache be deployed to the local device?

Now folks like RightScale already do deployment and management across multiple cloud platforms and why wouldn't this be extended to ever more powerful mobile devices, laptops and other devices. Why couldn't my operating system be deployed as part of the cloud rather than just a consumer and the elements such as latency determine where the most effective deployment is for each service in a network? Think about all those apple iPhone apps running in the background on millions of devices... who needs more capacity than that and what latency problems when the app is actually spread across a few devices in the local area?

Now there are challenges to this but there are also big advantages, your data centres are cheap because you don't need them anymore, you just deploy to your clients devices.

This clearly isn't a solution for 2011 but it is something I firmly believe will happen and its driven by the power of devices. Sure HTML 5 is cool, sure Amazon AWS is neat and sure SaaS is wonderful.... but the day that clouds really become cloudy is when no-one can point at the great big data centre that it ultimately all connects to.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

MDM isn't a hub - its just simpler to implement it that way

One of the things about MDM that people often get wrong is the idea that MDM provides a central information hub around a given entity and its relationships.

It doesn't.

MDM provides 3 core facilities
  1. Cross-referencing of core entities between systems
  2. Standardisation around the critical "matching" attributes
  3. Synchronisation of attributes modified within multiple systems
Only one of these really requires some form of centralisation, the x-ref, the rest can be handled via governance processes and integration processes without requiring a central system. You can implement match and merge within the integration layer or end application then propagate those changes along.

However in the world of Simple IT and "doing one thing well" its liable to be much more effective to have an MDM solution that manages this integration and which is designed to do that integration rather than building it all yourself.

MDM doesn't require a central solution, you'll just probably find it simpler that way

However there are good reasons

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Stop blaming Oracle on Java

With Apache joining Doug Lea in walking out on the JCP the talk has been all about how this is Oracle's fault.

I disagree, the stagnation of Java and its issues very much started under Sun as the JavaSE 6 debacleshowed. The problem that Oracle have actually made is in leaving the same mentality and people in charge of Java rather than actually looking to refresh the leadership and focus it more on the Java market rather than an internal view of what that market should be.

So I don't blame Oracle for this debacle in the same way as I don't blame Oracle for putting JAX-WS into JavaSE or the massive amount of time that JavaSE 7 has taken. The reality is that Java lost its direction and started chasing "Joe-sixpack" and while Sun paid lip-service to Open Source they actually meant "their" open source when it came to Java rather than opening up to Apache.

As someone who championed, and still champions, Java as an environment it has been sad to see how intellectually stunted Java has become in the last 5 years and how myopic its leadership has been. That leadership appears to have made it through the acquisition pretty much unscathed and the attitudes have if anything become more hardline and more myopic due to the protection of a larger parent company.

Java needs new leadership, the current fiasco and the comments on the votes show that the current Java leadership in Oracle has the same problems of consensus building and intellectual direction as they had 5 years ago. Oracle has some fantastic intellectuals and some great leaders who can build consensus in the Java community but the bravest thing for them to do now would be to open up the door and appoint a leadership team from outside potentially one that included real representation from the major players and industry.

Oracle aren't the problem, they've just inherited the problem child and let the bad behaviour continue

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