10.05.11

The Elegance of Steve Jobs

Posted in OS/Platforms, Technology Market Trends at 9:17 pm by Tony Baer

Outside of politicians there are few individuals that have truly changed the way we live. It’s more than coincidental that Steve Jobs named his company after the record company of The Beatles, the group of four individuals who changed the musical tastes of our generation.

Steve jobs’ life was obviously too short, but in that short life he crammed four public lives. He was one of the first in Silicon Valley who saw a personal future for the technology being invented there; that culminated with the Apple II. His next life introduced the GUI; after a false start with Lisa, the Mac was a fully realized system that made Apple the de facto publishing machine. It also transformed Apple into a corporation, a challenge for which Jobs was not yet prepared. His third life was NeXT, which provided the springboard for his final life #4, returning to Apple.

It would be an accomplishment on its own to say that Jobs returned Apple to its former glory. That’s an understatement. Under hjis (final) watch, Apple evolved from computer company, changing the way we consume music and media; significantly it was Jobs that finally got the record companies to agree on a common pricing model. Then he redefined the mobile experience with the iPhone, and introduced a new form of computing with the iPad.

In so doing, Apple has changed ouir lives and changed industries. Although music downloads were going to happen regardless of the iPod, it not only made CDs obsolete, but also record stores, and arguably, albums. It also made it more accessible for garage bands everywhere to distribute and bypass the record company, a situation from which the record companies shave yet to recover. It’s also changing the nature of the phone business, and realigning major handset providers.

But most of all we’ll miss Steve Jobs’ sense of style. The minimalism that was Apple provided a sense of elegance and peace that cuts through the noise of our everyday lives. For that alone, thank you Steve Jobs.

Mentax

08.19.11

HP does a 180 – Now it’s Apotheker’s Company

Posted in Business Intelligence, Cloud, Data Management, Database, OS/Platforms, Supply Chain Management, Technology Market Trends at 12:46 am by Tony Baer

HP chose the occasion of its Q3 earnings call to drop the bomb. The company that under Mark Hurd’s watch focused on Converged Infrastructure, spending almost $7 billion to buy Palm, 3COM, and 3PAR, is now pulling a 180 in ditching both the PC and Palm hardware business, and making an offer to buy Autonomy, one of the last major independent enterprise content management players, for roughly $11 billion.

At first glance, the deal makes perfect sense, given Leo Apotheker’s enterprise software orientation. From that standpoint, Apotheker has made some shrewd moves, putting aging enterprise data warehouse brand Neoview out of its misery, following up weeks later with the acquisition of Advanced SQL analytics platform provider Vertica. During the Q3 earnings call, Apotheker stated the obvious as to his comfort factor with Autonomy: “I have spent my entire professional life in software and it is a world that I know well. Autonomy is very complementary.”

There is potential synergy between Autonomy and Vertica, with Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch (who will stay on as head of the unit, reporting to Apotheker) that Autonomy’s user screens provide the long missing front end to Vertica, and that both would be bound by a common “information layer.” Of course, the acquisition not being final, he did not give details on what that layer is, but for now we’d assume that integration will be at presentation and reporting layer. There is clearly a lot more potential here — Vertica for now only holds structured data while Autonomy’s IDOL system holds everything else. In the long run we’d love to see federated metadata and also an extension of Vertica to handle unstructured data, just as Advanced SQL rivals like Teradata’s Aster Data already do.

Autonomy, according to my Ovum colleague Mike Davis who has tracked the company for years, is one of only three ECM providers that have mastered the universal document viewer – Oracle’s Stellent and an Australian open source player being the others. In contrast to HP (more about that in a moment), Autonomy is quite healthy with the latest quarterly revenues up 16% year over year, operating margins in the mid 40% range, and a run rate that will take the company to its first billion dollar year.

Autonomy is clearly a gem, but HP paid dearly for it. During Q&A on the earnings call, a Wall street analyst took matters back down to earth, asking whether HP got such a good deal, given that it was paying roughly 15% of its market cap for a company that will only add about 1% to its revenues.

Great, expensive acquisition aside, HP’s not doing so well these days. Excluding a few bright spots, such as its Fortify security software business, most of HP’s units are running behind last year. Q3 net revenue of $31.2 billion was up only 1% over last year, but down 2% when adjusted for constant currency. By contrast, IBM’s most recent results were up 12% and 5%, respectively, when currency adjusted. Dennis Howlett tweeted that it was now HP’s turn to undergo IBM’s near-death experience.

More specifically, HP Software was the bright spot with 20% growth year over year and 19.4% operating margin. By contrast, the printer and ink business – long HP’s cash cow – dropped 1% year over year with the economy dampening demand from the commercial side, not to mention supply chain disruptions from the Japanese tsunami.

By contrast, services grew only 4%, and is about to kick in yet another round of transformation. John Visenten, who ran HP’s Enterprise services in the Americas region, comes in to succeed Ann Livermore. The problem is, as Ovum colleague John Madden states it, HP’s services “has been in a constant state of transformation” that is making some customers’ patience wear thin. Ever since acquiring EDS, HP has been trying – and trying – to raise the legacy outsourcing business higher up the value chain, with its sights literally set in the cloud.

The trick is that as HP tries aiming higher up the software and services food chain, it deals with a market that has longer sales cycles and long-term customer relationships that prize stability. Admittedly, when Apotheker was named CEO last fall, along with enterprise software veteran ray Lane to the board, the conventional wisdom was that HP would train its focus on enterprise software. So to that extent, HP’s strategy over the past 9 months has been almost consistent – save for earlier pronouncements on the strategic role of the tablet and WebOS business inherited with Palm.

But HP has been around for much longer than 9 months, and its latest shifts in strategy must be viewed with a longer perspective. Traditionally an engineering company, HP grew into a motley assortment of businesses. Before spinning off its geeky Agilent unit in 1999, HP consisted of test instruments, midrange servers and PCs, a token software business, and lest we forget, that printer business. Since then:
• The 2001 acquisition of Compaq that cost a cool $25 billion, under Carly Fiorina’s watch. That pitted it against Dell and caused HP to assume an even more schizoid personality as consumer and enterprise brand.
• Under Mark Hurd’s reign, software might have grown a bit (they did purchase Mercury after unwittingly not killing off their OpenView business), but the focus was directed at infrastructure – storage, switches, and mobile devices as part of the Converged Infrastructure initiative.
• In the interim, HP swallowed EDS, succeeding at what it failed to do with its earlier ill-fated pitch for PwC.

Then (1) Hurd gets tossed out and (2) almost immediately lands at Oracle; (3) Oracle pulls support for HP Itanium servers, (4) HP sues Oracle, and (5) its Itanium business sinks through the floor.

That sets the scene for today’s announcements that HP is “evaluating a range of options” (code speak for likely divestment) for its PC and tablet business – although it will keep WebOS on life support as its last gasp in the mobile arena. A real long shot: HP’s only hope for WebOS might be Android OEMs not exactly tickled pink about Google’s going into the handset business by buying Motorola’s mobile unit.

There is logical rationale for dropping those businesses – PCs have always been a low margin business in both sales and service, in spite of what it claimed to be an extremely efficient supply chain. Although a third of its business, PCs were only 13% of HP’s profits, and have been declining in revenue for several years. PCs were big enough to provide a distraction and low enough margin to become a drain. And with Palm, HP gained an eloquent OS, but with a damaged brand that was too late to become the iOS alternative – Google had a 5-year headstart. Another one bites the dust.

Logical moves, but it’s fair to ask, what is an HP? Given HP’s twists, turns, and about-faces, a difficult one to answer. OK, HP is shedding its consumer businesses – except printers and ink because in normal times they are too lucrative – but HP still has all this infrastructure business. It hopes to rationalize all this in becoming a provider of cloud infrastructure and related services, with a focus on information management solutions.

As mentioned above, enterprises crave stability, yet HP’s track record over the past decade has been anything but. To be an enterprise provider, technology providers must demonstrate that they have a consistent strategy and staying power because enterprise clients don’t want to be left with orphaned technologies. To its credit, today’s announcements show the fruition of Apotheker’s enterprise software-focused strategy. But HP’s enterprise software customers and prospects need the assurance that HP won’t pull another about face when it comes time for Apotheker’s successor.

Postscript: Of course we all know how this one ended up. One good 180 deserved another. Exit Apotheker stage left. Enter Meg Whitman stage right. Reality has been reversed.

08.17.11

Google and Motorola: Quick Post Mortem

Posted in Application Development, Java, Mobile, OS/Platforms at 11:25 am by Tony Baer

There’s been plenty of excellent commentary on Google’s $12.5 billion deal for Motorola Mobility Inc. (MMI) over the past few days, and we’re certainly not going to rehash covered ground.

Clearly this is a lot of money that was invested defensively. Money that could have gone into research or acquisitions that would have grown the business or opened new markets.

Whatever.

That thought hit us this morning after reading a NY Times piece on the bull market for patents. It reinforced our thoughts after word of the deal broke: that this was money spent for arming Google against patent predators in courts of law. In this case, it’s predators sensing blood to slow down or at least exact royalties from the Android platform juggernaut.

Of course much of the issue stems from the subjective nature of software patents; that’s a longstanding issue given that the iterative nature of software development. It is simply difficult if not impossible to prove that a software innovation does not base itself in some way on prior invention. Furthermore, the fact that software relies on other software to operate makes the notion of software patents even more dubious.

This doesn’t mean that software developers should get away plagiarism. Although discovery is still underway, the evidence continues to get more damning in the Oracle-Google case over Dalvik, the Android VM that on closer inspection looks like the JVM in sheep’s clothing. The irony is that when Google was still pulling its (J)VM clean room act, the company at the other end of the line was Sun. To us, this is a reflection of Google’s Not-Invented-Here mentality. Would it have killed them to secure a JVM license at the time, as they could have gotten far more reasonable terms from Sun – rather than Oracle, the new sheriff in town.

Just askin’.

03.15.11

Big Data analytics in the cloud could be HP’s enterprise trump card

Posted in Application Development, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), Big Data, Business Intelligence, Cloud, Data Management, Enterprise Applications, OS/Platforms, Outsourcing, Rich Internet Apps., SaaS (Software as a Service) at 10:47 am by Tony Baer

Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts have kept us from attending Leo Apotheker’s keynote today before the HP Analyst Summit in San Francisco. But yesterday, he tipped his cards for his new software vision for HP before a group of investment analysts. HP’s software focus is not to reinvent the wheel – at least where it comes to enterprise apps. Apotheker has to put to rest that he’s not about to do a grudge match and buy the company that dismissed him. There is already plenty of coverage here, interesting comment from Tom Foremski (we agree with him about SAP being a non-starter), and the Software Advice guys who are conducting a poll.

To some extent this has been little surprise with HP’s already stated plans for WebOS and its recently announced acquisition of Vertica. We do have one question though: what happened to Converged Infrastructure?

For now, we’re not revisiting the acquisitions stakes, although if you follow #HPSummit twitter tags today, you’ll probably see lots of ideas floating around today after 9am Pacific time. We’ll instead focus on the kind of company HP wants to be, based on its stated objectives.

1. Develop a portfolio of cloud services from infrastructure to platform services and run the industry’s first open cloud marketplace that will combine a secure, scalable and trusted consumer app store and an enterprise application and services catalog.

This hits two points on the checklist: provide a natural market for all those PCs that HP sells. The next part is stating that HP wants to venture higher up the food chain than just sell lots of iron. That certainly makes sense. The next part is where we have a question: offering cloud services to consumers, the enterprise, and developers sounds at first blush that HP wants its cloud to be all things to all people.

The good news is that HP has a start on the developer side where it has been offering performance testing services for years – but is now catching up to providers like CollabNet (with which it is aligned and would make a logical acquisition candidate) and Rally in offering higher value planning services for the app lifecycle.

In the other areas – consumer apps and enterprise apps – HP is starting from square one. It obviously must separate the two, as cloud is just about the only thing that the two have in common.

For the consumer side, HP (like Google Android and everyone else) is playing catchup to Apple. It is not simply a matter of building it and expecting they will come. Apple has built an entire ecosystem around its iOS platform that has penetrated content and retail – challenging Amazon, not just Salesforce or a would-be HP, using its user experience as the basis for building a market for an audience that is dying to be captive. For its part, HP hopes to build WebOS to have the same “Wow!” factor as the iPhone/iPad experience. It’s got a huge uphill battle on its hands.

For the enterprise, it’s a more wide open space where only Salesforce’s AppExchange has made any meaningful mark. Again, the key is a unifying ecosystem, with the most likely outlet being enterprise outsourcing customers for HP’s Enterprise Services (the former EDS operation). The key principle is that when you build a market place, you have to identity who your customers are and give them a reason to visit. A key challenge, as we’ve stated in our day job, is that enterprise customers are not the enterprise equivalent of those $2.99 apps that you’ll see in the AppStore. The experience at Salesforce – the classic inversion of the long tail – is that the market is primarily for add-ons to the Salesforce.com CRM application or use of the Force.com development platform, but that most entries simply get buried deep down the list.

Enterprise apps marketplaces are not simply going to provide a cheaper channel for solutions that still require consultative sells. We’ve suggested that they adhere more to the user group model, which also includes forums, chats, exchanges of ideas, and by the way, places to get utilities that can make enterprise software programs more useful. Enterprise app stores are not an end in themselves, but a means for reinforcing a community — whether it be for a core enterprise app – or for HP, more likely, for the community of outsourcing customers that it already has.

2. Build webOS into a leading connectivity platform.
HP clearly hopes to replicate Apple’s success with iOS here – the key being that it wants to extend the next-generation Palm platform to its base of PCs and other devices. This one’s truly a Hail Mary pass designed to rescue the Palm platform from irrelevance in a market where iOS, Android, Adobe Flash, Blackberry, and Microsoft Windows 7/Silverlight are battling it out. Admittedly, mobile developers have always tolerated fragmentation as a fact of life in this space – but of course that was when the stakes (with feature phones) were rather modest. With smart device – in all its varied form factors from phone to tablet – becoming the next major consumer (and to some extent, enterprise) frontier, there’s a new battle afresh for mindshare. That mindshare will be built on the size of the third party app ecosystem that these platforms attract.

As Palm was always more an enterprise rather consumer platform – before the Blackberry eclipsed it – HP’s likely WebOS venue will be the enterprise space. Another uphill battle with Microsoft (that has the office apps), Blackberry (with its substantial corporate email base), and yes, Apple, where enterprise users are increasingly sneaking iPhones in the back door, just like they did with PCs 25 years ago,

3. Build presence with Big Data
Like (1), this also hits a key checkbox for where to sell all those HP PCs. HP has had a half-hearted presence with the discontinued Neoview business. The Vertica acquisition was clearly the first one that had Apotheker’s stamp on it. Of HP’s announced strategies, this is the one that aligns closest with the enterprise software strategy that we’ve all expected Apotheker to champion. Obviously Vertica is the first step here – and there are many logical acquisitions that could fill this out, as we’ve noted previously, regarding Tibco, Informatica, and Teradata. The importance is that classic business intelligence never really suffered through the recession, and arguably, big data is becoming the next frontier for BI that is becoming, not just a nice to have, but increasingly an expected cost of competition.

What’s interesting so far is that in all the talk about big Data, there’s been relatively scant attention paid to utilizing the cloud to provide the scaling to conduct such analytics. We foresee a market where organizations that don’t necessarily want to buy all that and that use large advanced analytics on an event-driven basis, to consume the cloud for their Hadoop – or Vertica – runs. Big Data analytics in the cloud could be HP’s enterprise trump card.

01.27.11

HP puts Neoview out of its misery

Posted in Business Intelligence, Data Management, Database, Enterprise Applications, OS/Platforms at 9:51 pm by Tony Baer

Rumors of Neoview’s death are no longer exaggerated. It was revealed this week that HP has decided to pull the plug on support for its data warehousing system by 2014. Speculation got louder after last week’s announcement that HP was partnering with Microsoft to release a $2 million data warehouse appliance built around SQL Server.

The problem was that Neoview never really fit in at HP. It wasn’t the timing – when HP announced the product in 2007, it was during a period when the economy was still booming, and more importantly, technology advancement placed Big Data and in-memory Fast Data into affordability beyond the Global 2000. In the past decade, a number of startups have emerged, offering advanced analytic databases, giving Teradata and Sybase IQ new competition.

Until ascension of Leo Apotheker, there were few people that understood the software business, and even fewer that really understood enterprise software. HP’s existing software business, which surprisingly doubled under Mark Hurd’s watch, remains a modest 3% of revenues. The good news is in the last few years, HP has made software a business — software is no longer an oxymoron over there. But the kind of software that HP sells is primarily infrastructure and geek-oriented: IT infrastructure and service management, application lifecycle management, and telecom network node management. Try to figure the synergy with business analytics and analytics.

Neoview itself was software that HP ended up with and half-heartedly (if that) tried to market. Originating as the NonStop SQL database of the former Tandem Computers fault tolerant midrange platform, the technology came to HP through Compaq’s 1997 acquisition of Tandem, and the subsequent HP acquisition of Compaq in 2002.

Ironically, HP’s cutting the cord on Neoview actually gives Apotheker a fresh chance to re-energize this side of the HP software business. There are numerous rising analytic database players out there; beyond Netezza, which was acquired by IBM; Greenplum, which was swooped up by EMC; and Sybase, which is now part of SAP, you have many upstarts that could provide HP golden opportunities to do more SQL Server like deals on terms that would likely be far more favorable to HP, while providing dress rehearsals for eventual acquisition.

The trick of course is that HP has to decide what it wants to be under the new Apotheker regime. Under Hurd, the mantra was converged infrastructure, which drove the Palm, 3Com, and 3PAR deals. So at this point, HP has some major digestion on its plate before looking for more big deals. We’ve speculated previously about the types of deals that Apotheker could do to push HP up the enterprise software food chain. But we’d suggest that HP take a deep breath: partner, staff up, and get to know this business first rather than repeat the same mistake twice.

10.12.10

Pragmatism over Harmony

Posted in Java, OS/Platforms at 1:04 pm by Tony Baer

Times like this morning, we can really appreciate that the east coast is the right coast, as you get a nice early start on the day. We caught announcement of IBM’s agreement with Oracle to shift JDK development efforts from Apache harmony to Oracle’s (formerly Sun’s) OpenJDK project for about 5 minutes as we were literally running to the JetBlue gate at JFK on the way to SFO. By the following morning, bright and early west coast time, the verdict was out: The announcement clearly knocks the pillars out from under Google’s Dalvik JVM project, which was based on Apache Harmony.

Good summaries of the announcement are available from Gavin Clarke; great commentary is available from Shain McGlaun, Carlo Daffara, and Sacha Labourey.

As Thinkovation’s Gary Barnett tweeted to us yesterday, the announcement was Deja moo all over again. We were recalling sitting in the audience at JavaOne 2005 where Steve Mills appeared in a video reiterating support for the Java Community process in spite of differences with Sun over its more-than-equal role in governing the JCP and, of course, IBM’s successful effort in cultivating Eclipse as the successful rival to Sun in the Java tooling space.

One of the critiques of Sun over the years regarding Java was that (1) they couldn’t make a viable business of it and (2) that their stewardship over the JCP and the OpenJDK was too heavy-handed. Well, the first critique would hardly apply to Oracle, with its recently filing of litigation with Google over the so-called clean room Darvik JVM which it created, based on content from the Apache Harmony JDK (the rival to OpenJDK with which IBM was heavily vested).

IBM’s Bob Sutor characterized the agreement as “the pragmatic choice,” providing a way to work with Oracle from the inside to open up access to the Java certification tests that it denied Apache.

Clearly the bystander is Google; with IBM’s agreement to dump Apache Harmony, Google is left exposed as its Dalvik code uses class libraries from the Harmony project that IBM has abandoned. In essence, IBM didn’t have a dog in the Oracle/Google fight over Android. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Google has become the giant pin cushion as it sits on piles of search ad dollars yet, as a player in the Java community, is an outsider whose not-invented here mentality has not exactly conjured grassroots support in the Java community.

Labourey, formerly of JBoss, summarized the prospects for the Red Hats of the world to essentially accept the new status quo. For Google, it’s another fact on the ground that, in the end, will likely result in its coming to a royalty settlement with Oracle sooner rather than later.

Oct. 20 Update — The Register’s Gavin Clarke has a scoop on the fallout at Apache.

05.06.10

SpringSource buying Gemstone: VMware’s written all over it

Posted in Application Development, Cloud, Data Management, Database, Middleware, Open Source, OS/Platforms, Virtualization at 4:30 pm by Tony Baer

There they go again. Barely a month after announcing the acquisition of message broker Rabbit Technologies, SpringSource is adding yet one more piece to its middleware stack: it has announced the acquisition of Gemstone for its distributed data caching technology.

SpringSource’s Rod Johnson told us that he was planning to acquire such a technology even before VMware came into the picture, but make no mistake about it, VMware’s presence upped the ante.

SpringSource has been looking to fill out its stack vs. Oracle and IBM ever since its cornerstone acquisition of Covalent (which brought the expertise behind Apache Tomcat and bequeathed the world tc Server) two years ago. Adding Gemstone’s Gemfire becomes SpringSource’s response to Oracle Coherence and IBM WebSphere XD. The technologies in question allow you to replicate data from varied sources into a single logical cache, which is critical if those sources are highly dispersed.

So what about VMware? Wasn’t SpringSource planning to grow its stack anyway? There are deeper stakes at play: VMware’s aspiration to make cloud and virtualization virtually synonymous – or at least to make virtualization essential to the cloud – falls apart if you don’t have a scalable, high performance way to manage and access data. Enterprises using the cloud are not likely to move all their data there, and need a solution that allows hybrid strategies that will invariably involve a mix of cloud- and on premised-based data resources to be managed and accessed efficiently. Distributed data caching is essential.

So the next question is why SpringSource, as a historically open source company that has always made open source acquisitions, buy open source Terracotta instead? Chances are, were SpringSource still independent, it probably would have, but VMware brings deeper pockets and deeper aspirations. Gemstone is the company that sold object-oriented databases back in the 90s, and once it grew obvious that they (and other OODBMS rivals like Object Store) weren’t going to become the next Oracles, they adapted their expertise to caching. Gemfire emerged in 2002 and provided Wall Street and defense agencies an off the shelf alternative to homegrown development or a best of breed strategy. By comparison, although Terracotta boasts several Wall Street clients, its core base is in web caching for high traffic B2C oriented websites.

Bottom line: VMware needs the scale.

There are other interesting pieces that Gemstone brings to the party. It is currently developing SQLFabric, a project that embeds the Apache Derby open source relational database into Gemfire to make its distributed data grid fully SQL-compliant, which would be very strategic to VMware and SpringSource. It also has a shot-in-the-dark project, MagLev, which is more a curiosity for the mother ship. Conceivably it could provide the impetus for SpringSource to extend to the Ruby environment, but would require a lot more development work to productize.

Obviously as the deal won’t close immediately, both entities must be coy about their plans other than the obvious commitment to integrate products.

But there’s another angle that will be worth exploring once the ink dries: SpringSource has been known for simplicity. The Spring framework provided a way to abstract all the complexity out of Java EE, while tc Server, based on Tomcat, carries but a subset of the bells and whistles of full Java EE stacks. But Gemfire is hardly simple, and the market for distributed data grids has been limited to organizations with extreme processing needs who have extreme expertise and extreme budgets. Yet the move to cloud will mean, as noted above, that the need for logical data grids will trickle down to more of the enterprise mainstream, although the scope of the problem won’t be as extreme. It would make sense for the Spring framework to extend its dependency injection to a “lite” version of Gemfire (Gemcloud?) to simplify the hassle of managing data inside and outside of the cloud.

03.23.10

Do we really need OSGi?

Posted in Cloud, Java, Middleware, OS/Platforms, Technology Market Trends, Virtualization at 7:28 pm by Tony Baer

With the coming of Spring (framework, season, take your choice), but more to the point, concurrent announcements of the OSGi Enterprise Edition 4.2 and the Eclipse Gemini and Virgo projects, debate over OSGi has renewed. OSGi has seen great success where it is not seen – as the framework for dispensing Eclipse plug-ins, and as the invisible engine by which most of the household name Java EE servers are now factored.

We’ve always been pretty bullish on what OSGi could do. It allows your server footprint to be truly dynamic – you can deploy and kill runtime components at will without taking the whole mess offline. There’s a potential sustainability appeal to any technology that helps reduce footprint – as less apps mean less server, less power, and less space.

Interestingly, OSGi could provide a lot of the elasticity at the appserver level that virtualization promises for OS images and cloud promises for application deployment. And there’s the rub – OSGi is hardly the only path to keeping your webfarm footprint contained. Significantly, while the goal is the same for each strategy – you only want as much resource as you need – they all take different ways of getting there. OSGi is a developer decision that addresses which application or middleware modules (or functionality) do you actually want running at any time, while virtualization and cloud are largely IT operations decisions pinpointing images and choice of what and how much infrastructure to provision.

Although the goal is common, the choice of strategy differs based on where elasticity is needed; furthermore, these are not all or nothing decisions. Conceivably, if you have a highly variable application that requires, not only different amounts of processing capacity, but different functionality at different times, then OSGi could complement your virtualization and/or cloud strategies. Let’s say you process market feeds, the composition and mix of which changes by time of day and which trading centers are active around the globe. Or your organization is number crunching end of period reports. Those are a couple possibilities.

The problem is in knowledge and awareness. For most IT customers, OSGi is a black box. It’s the way that WebSphere and WebLogic are architected. But that makes a difference to the vendors, not the customers because they don’t know how to provision OSGi bundles and there are no best practices for bundling bundles into bigger pieces that can be identified as tangible modules. There is still a lot of OSGi misinformation and still a lot of debate out there. Of course, while virtualization and cloud are much better known, there’s plenty of hype and debate about cloud, and concerns about unchecked use of virtualization.

So a couple years after OSGi gained critical mass vendor acceptance, there remains a lack of tooling for configuring OSGi servers, not to mention best practices for deploying them. SpringSource, one of the first to develop an OSGi server, has now donated the technology to Eclipse as reference implementation in Gemini, with Virgo becoming the technology development project. SpringSource’s commercial direction is tc Server, which commercializes the tiny Tomcat servlet container; as of March 8, VMware is pushing tc Server through its channels and for the next couple months, is giving away two production CPU licenses and 60 days evaluation support to VMware customers.

SpringSource’s fork in the road symbolizes the existential dilemma facing OSGi: if your goal is to simply reduce your web container footprint, 10-MByte Tomcat containers should do just fine. It scales out quite nicely as well, with LinkedIn serving 40 million web pages daily on Tomcat. So again, we ask, why do we need OSGi?

Give us your answers.

03.10.10

HP analyst meeting 2010: First Impressions

Posted in Application Development, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), Business Intelligence, Cloud, Data Management, IT Infrastructure, IT Services & Systems Integration, Legacy Systems, Networks, Outsourcing, Systems Management at 12:34 am by Tony Baer

Over the past few years, HP under Mark Hurd has steadily gotten its act together in refocusing on the company’s core strengths with an unforgiving eye on the bottom line. Sitting at HP’s annual analyst meeting in Boston this week, we found ourselves comparing notes with our impressions from last year. Last year, our attention was focused on Cloud Assure; this year, it’s the integraiton of EDS into the core businesss.

HP now bills itself as the world’s largest purely IT company and ninth in the Fortune 500. Of course, there’s the consumer side of HP that the world knows. But with the addition of EDS, HP finally has a credible enterprise computing story (as opposed to an enterprise server company). Now we’ll get plenty of flack from our friends at HP for that one – as HP has historically had the largest market share for SAP servers. But let’s face it; prior to EDS, the enterprise side of HP was primarily a distributed (read: Windows or UNIX) server business. Professional services was pretty shallow, with scant knowledge of the mainframes that remain the mainstay of corporate computing. Aside from communications and media, HP’s vertical industry practices were sparse, few, and far between. HP still lacks the vertical breadth of IBM, but with EDS has gained critical mass in sectors ranging from federal to manufacturing, transport, financial services, and retail, among others.

Having EDS also makes credible initiatives such as Application Transformation, a practice that helps enterprises prune, modernize, and rationalize their legacy application portfolios. Clearly, Application transformation is not a purely EDS offering; it was originated by Ann Livermore’s Enterprise Business group, draws upon HP Software assets such as discovery and dependency mapping, Universal CMDB, PPM, and the recently introduced IT Financial Management (ITFM) service. But to deliver, you need bodies and people that know the mainframe – where most of the apps being harvested or thinned out are. And that’s where EDS helps HP flesh this out to a real service.

But EDS is so 2009; the big news on the horizon is 3Com, a company that Cisco left in the dust before it rethought its product line and eked out a highly noticeable 30% market share for network devices in China. Once the deal is closed, 3Com will be front and center in HP’s converged computing initiative which until now primarily consisted of blades and Procurve VoIP devices. It gains a much wider range of network devices to compete head-on as Cisco itself goes up the stack to a unified server business. Once the 3com deal is closed, HP will have to invest significant time, energy, and resources to deliver on the converged computing vision with an integrated product line, rather than a bunch of offerings that fill the squares of a PowerPoint matrix chart.

According to Livermore, the company’s portfolio is “well balanced.” We’d beg to differ where it comes to software, which accounts for a paltry 3% of revenues (a figure that our friends at HP reiterated underestimated the real contribution of software to the business).

It’s the side of the business that suffered from (choose one) benign or malign neglect prior to the Mark Hurd era. HP originated network node management software for distributed networks, an offering that eventually morphed into the former OpenView product line. Yet HP was so oblivious to its own software products that at one point its server folks promoted bundling of rival product from CA. Nonetheless, somehow the old HP managed not to kill off Openview or Opencall (the product now at the heart of HP’s communications and media solutions) – although we suspect that was probably more out of neglect than intent.

Under Hurd, software became strategic, a development that lead to the transformational acquisition of Mercury, followed by Opsware. HP had the foresight to place the Mercury, Opsware, and Openview products within the same business unit as – in our view – the application lifecycle should encompass managing the runtime (although to this day HP has not really integrated Openview with Mercury Business Availability Center; the products still appeal to different IT audiences). But there are still holes – modest ones on the ALM side, but major ones elsewhere, like in business intelligence where Neoview sits alone. Or in the converged computing stack and cloud in a box offerings, which could use strong identity management.

Yet if HP is to become a more well-rounded enterprise computing company, it needs more infrastructural software building blocks. To our mind, Informatica would make a great addition that would point more attention to Neoview as a credible BI business, not to mention that Informatica’s data transformation capabilities could play key roles with its Application Transformation service.

We’re concerned that, as integration of 3Com is going to consume considerable energy in the coming year, that the software group may not have the resources to conduct the transformational acquisitions that are needed to more firmly entrench HP as an enterprise computing player. We hope that we’re proven wrong.

01.27.10

Oracle’s Sun Java Strategy: Business as Usual

Posted in Application Development, Cloud, Data Management, Database, Enterprise Applications, Java, Linux, Middleware, OS/Platforms, Rich Internet Apps., SOA & Web Services, Web 2.0 Apps at 5:58 pm by Tony Baer

In an otherwise pretty packed news day, we’d like to echo @mdl4’s sentiments about the respective importance of Apple’s and Oracle’s announcements: “Oracle finalized its purchase of Sun. Best thing to happen to Sun since Java. Also: I don’t give a sh#t about the iPad. I said it.”

There’s little new in observing that on the platform side, that Oracle’s acquisition of Sun is a means for turning the clock back to the days of turnkey systems in a post-appliance era. History truly has come full circle as Oracle in its original database incarnation was one of the prime forces that helped decouple software from hardware. Fast forward to the present, and customers are tired of complexity and just want things that work. Actually, that idea was responsible for the emergence of specialized appliances over the past decade for performing tasks ranging from SSL encryption/decryption to XML processing, firewalls, email, or specialized web databases.

The implication here is that the concept is elevated to enterprise level; instead of a specialized appliance, it’s your core instance of Oracle databases, middleware, or applications. And even there, it’s but a logical step forward from Oracle’s past practice of certifying specific configurations of its database on Sun (Sun was, and now has become again, Oracle’s reference development platform). That’s in essence the argument for Oracle to latch onto a processor architecture that is overmatched in investment by Intel for the x86 line. The argument could be raised than in an era of growing interest in cloud, as to whether Oracle is fighting the last war. That would be the case – except for the certainty that your data center has just as much chance of dying as your mainframe.

At the end of the day, it’s inevitably a question of second source. Dana Gardner opines that Oracle will replace Microsoft as the hedge to IBM. Gordon Haff contends that alternate platform sources are balkanizing as Cisco/EMC/VMware butts their virtualized x86 head into the picture and customers look to private clouds the way they once idealized grids.

The highlight for us was what happens to Sun’s Java portfolio, and as it turns out, the results are not far from what we anticipated last spring: Oracle’s products remain the flagship offerings. From looking at respective market shares, it would be pretty crazy for Oracle to have done otherwise

The general theme was that – yes – Sun’s portfolio will remain the “reference” technologies for the JCP standards, but that these are really only toys that developers should play with. When they get serious, they’re going to keep using WebLogic, not Glassfish. Ditto for:
• Java software development. You can play around with NetBeans, which Oracle’s middleware chief Thomas Kurian characterized as a “lightweight development environment,” but again, if you really want to develop enterprise-ready apps for the Oracle platform, you will still use JDeveloper, which of course is written for Oracle’s umbrella ADF framework that underlies its database, middleware, and applications offerings. That’s identical to Oracle’s existing posture with the old (mostly) BEA portfolio of Eclipse developer tools. Actually, the only thing that surprised us was that Oracle didn’t simply take NetBeans and set it free – as in donating it to Apache or some more obscure open source body.
• SOA, where Oracle’s SOA Suite remains front and center while Sun’s offerings go on maintenance.

We’re also not surprised as to the prominent role of JavaFX in Oracle’s RIA plans; it fills a vacuum created when Oracle terminated BEA’s former arrangement to bundle Adobe Flash/Flex development tooling. In actuality, Oracle has become RIA agnostic, as ADF could support any of the frameworks for client display, but JavaFX provides a technology that Oracle can call its own.

There were some interesting distinctions with identity management and access, where Sun inherited some formidable technologies that, believe it or not, originated with Netscape. Oracle Identity management will grab some provisioning technology from the Sun stack, but otherwise Oracle’s suite will remain the core attraction. But Sun’s identity and access management won’t be put out to pasture, as it will be promoted for midsized web installations.

There are much bigger pieces to Oracle’s announcements, but we’ll finish with what becomes of MySQL. In short there’s nothing surprising to the announcement that MySQL will be maintained in a separate open source business unit – the EU would not have allowed otherwise. But we’ve never bought into the story that Oracle would kill MySQL. Both databases aim at different markets. Just about the only difference that Oracle’s ownership of MySQL makes – besides reuniting it under the same corporate umbrella as the InnoDB data store – is that, well, like yeah, MySQL won’t morph into an enterprise database. Then again, even if MySQL had remained independent, that arguably it was never going to evolve to the same class of Oracle as the product would lose its beloved simplicity.

The more relevant question for MySQL is whether Oracle will fork development to favor Solaris on SPARC. This being open source, there would be nothing stopping the community from taking the law into its own hands.

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