IT Forecast is Partly Cloudy (II)

Last week, we opened the Pandora’s Box about the inevitability of the cloud. And we spoke of the tension between SOA and WOA camps as to which is the best means for getting services from or providing services to the cloud.

You can bet with the Web 2.0 Expo this week that there is plenty of noise about the cloud. For some, it’s so much noise that the whole notion of cloud computing, or the cloud itself, has become rather foggy.

One of the arguments over SOA is that the web services standards that are used for implementation have generated intimidating layers of complexity, and that web-oriented alternatives (e.g., WOA) are far more straightforward and far better fits for the web development skills that are already commonplace.

So there will be a flurry of announcements. A few examples: Kapow Technologies for instance, is launching an on demand mashup server, providing black box capabilities like Excel plug-ins for data services out in the cloud. Meanwhile Serena is teaming with Cap Gemini to launch a sandbox enabling business professionals to design and compose a mashup without the need for programming skills.

One of the more interesting announcements from a lineage standpoint is the emergence from its cocoon of SnapLogic, a startup with a WOA-oriented takeoff on RSS that it promotes as “Really Simple Integration.” Started by Informatica founder Gaurav Dhillon, SnapLogic represents a closing of the circle for simplified data access. Just as Informatica was the first to adopt a visual, component-based approach to developing database integrations, SnapLogic is doing same with resources that are accessible over the web.

It’s based on an HTTP server that supports RESTful services; a repository comprised of metadata written in HTML; generic resources for reading, transforming, and writing data; and support of Java and various dynamic scripting languages on the server, and multiple web output formats including HTML pages, RSS or ATOM feeds, and JSON (a JavaScript-based data interchange format).

Using RESTful style, each data source is treated as a resource. In turn, access to those resources can be managed, not through adding tokens or other entitlement technologies, but by making each individual or class of individual’s access a separate URI. Imagine, if you will, table, where the columns are data sources and the rows are specific users. Such tables could be fed by directories and internal access control tools, or the HTML metadata repository, rather than adding a separate layer of complexity for access and authentication.

Providing a clever way for RESTful services to become reusable, SnapLogic helps flesh out the vision of WOA, which is could be nicknamed, technology that is just good enough to get the data you need, wherever it sits out in the cloud. Don’t mistake the elegance of simplicity; although web-oriented approaches essentially take the user friendliness of client/server database apps to the web, the simplicity of the architecture rules out embedding properties or sophisticated capabilities such as federated identity, orchestration, security assertions that come with WS-standards. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if your app doesn’t necessarily involve processes involving high sensitive data or require high performance. But if they do, there’s no reason why they can’t be implemented within secured environments where all the necessary governance and performance are applied extrinsically.

But what’s interesting is that with emergence of the cloud, SnapLogic and StrikeIron offer approachable alternatives that let you have your data services without the reengineering baggage.

One thought on “IT Forecast is Partly Cloudy (II)”

  1. All you need to know about mashups you can learn from your son’s Lego blocks. I’ve been pursuing that architectural model for some time now and the payoff is huge. The inspiration came from my kids. We bought them several different Lego sets when they were young. I’ll never forget one evening just after the first Gulf War broke out and we all had a ringside seat on the evening news. Next thing I know, my boys are coming out with their latest Lego creations. Tanks, APC’s, fighter jets, all crafted wonderfully from Lego blocks that came from sets of such blocks that had nothing to do with such creations. For example, the “door” on the Armored Personnel Carrier might be the drawbridge from the Medieval Casle set. What makes all this work? A well thought out interface of pins and sockets that allow every block to connect in some small fashion to every other block. Where one block can “consume” just the “pins” that it fits and leave the other pins for other blocks. I use XML for the “pins.” Each block just extracts from the XML data stream what it needs and contributes it’s product to the stream for others to consume. Thus it “consumes” pins with its “sockets” and in turn provides relevant “pins” for other blocks to consume. In this fashion, end users of the “blocks” can craft things that I as the “block builder’ never envisioned. It’s just software Legos for big boys and girls.

Comments are closed.