You can tell you’re at a techie conference when the CEO’s opening address steps you through the generations of IT history. Tibco CEO Vivek Ranadivé, who roughly a decade ago wrote a book on the power of real-time information, is now telling us that real-time isn’t fast enough; you need to be able to predict the foreseeable future based on patterns that are emerging today. What was kind of amusing was that as he was drawing Tibco’s vision of event-driven architecture (EDA), events took their own turn as his slide presentation anticipated what Ranadive was going to talk about next, and advanced from the EDA architectural diagram to the next shot before he was through. Check out Dana’s Gardner’s ZDNet blog for another account of Ranadive’s keynote.
TUCON 2008 provided some interesting tidbits of a company in transition. Like most major software players, it came off a good 2007 and, Q1 2008 wasn’t too shabby either (like the rest of the software industry, we’re waiting for Q3 and 4 to see if Tibco and its peers can handle the truth). Like most active mid-tier players, the company is embarking on a SOA transition that hasn’t always been well explained to its customers. In part it’s due to the fact that Tibco has had to layer over a legacy, the penalty paid for being the first on the block, but mostly it’s due to the fact that the company has not adequately communicated its message as to how all the pieces are fitting together. With Tibco ONE, which seeks to unify the design experience across all its tools, busses, and process engines, it’s made an auspicious start. But to date, the company lacks a web page to explain what the ActveMatrix brand is, and the vision and message behind it. Enter “Tibco ActiveMatrix” in Google today, and aside from point product listings, you’ll get a SOA landing page with a list of ActiveMatrix products underneath it.
The highlights of Tibco’s announcements include a welcome addition to run time SOA governance, Service Performance Manager, which cleverly bundles some of its Business Events complex event processing technology to tell you whether you’re meeting the Service Level Agreements, at least from a performance standpoint. It takes the assumption that service levels are a classic complex event processing problem, especially given the kinds of highly scaled and highly distributed networks that Tibco customers tend to have. We attended a live podcast recording session led by Dana Gardner that featured independent analyst Joe McKendrick, IDC analyst Sandy Rogers, Tibco SOA marketing manager Rourke McNamara, and Allstate technology solutions VP Anthony Abbatista that plumbed the topic to more detail, which should be published soon by Gardner and Tibco.
What’s missing (and Tibco is hardly alone here) is the link with the actual systems performance side of the house. Ironically, an announcement made at the show that BMC will OEM ActiveMatrix as the SOA platform to integrate its Business Service Management (BSM) products was a bit anticlimactic, as it was not about adding any tie-ins between SOA service performance management and IT service management. The challenge is that, if service levels on a service are tanking, it would be nice to either automatically trigger a trouble ticket and/or initiate an action to trigger something like a hypervisor manager to automatically spawn some new VMware or similar containers.
The problem is that the issue has yet to be adequately defined, there are no standards for specifying how such an interprocess communication might be initiated, and finally, there’s the age-old problem of organizational silos: service level management of SOA is part of run time governance, which tends to be the domain of the software development organization. Meanwhile, IT service levels in the data center are the domains of service operators. Even were technologies and standards adopted, you’d have the challenge of marketing a joint solution to two different entry points in the IT organization, something that will only happen when a CIO bangs heads together.
A couple other interesting developments coming up in the pipe today included some early fruits of a budding technology partnership between Tibco and Microsoft that, actually, have little to do with each other. The first is the ability for Microsoft .NET development shops that have Tibco licenses to invoke Tibco’s EMS messaging technology from Windows Communications Foundation (WCF) in place of something like Microsoft’s own MSMQ – this was the result of joint customers like Allstate that said, we’ve got sizable .NET installed base, and we want our .NET apps to talk to Tibco’s busses without having to do lots of translation. From a more strategic point, the relationship makes sense because, aside from Eclipse-based tooling, Tibco is not your typical Java EE provider because it relies on busses, rather than servers. So there’s no reason why Tibco shouldn’t have closer ties to Microsoft.
The final piece for today was Tibco doing something really weird – a software company going into the custom appliance business. It’s for a special use case: high-end financial services houses (maybe later telcos) who are so neck deep in algorithmic trading that they need to process such huge throughputs with practically no latency. They are packaging Rendezvous (the message bus on which the company was founded) in a box, with the idea being to provide supercharged throughput to financial service clients who are demanding it.
Although folks like Oracle gave the practice a bad name in the past (recall the “Raw Iron” 8i database appliance?), recently it’s not been so unusual for ISVs to embed their stuff in silicon. But typically it’s commodity silicon using commodity pieces of the Linux kernel. What makes this different is that Tibco is doing custom silicon -– think of their boxes as ASICS on steroids. In the short run, Tibco can count on an addressable market numbering in the hundreds. When it comes to silicon, that’s probably a few seconds of production, which means huge expense and high risk as the market is so modest. We understand the need from Tibco’s customer base, and of course the unusual nature of the problem, but we wonder in an age of commodity hardware, how a company not experienced with this side of the market is successfully going to navigate upwind.