Thursday, October 25, 2007

Buzzword Watch: Tired of Hearing Canonical and Not Knowing What It Means In the World of SOA?

So, it's one of those things that drives you nuts when everyone is talking about a buzzword, and you haven't found the definition. Canonical in the context of SOA keeps popping up in the many briefings and product marketing conversations I've had these past 12 months, so I thought I'd share with you the definition as its being used.

Attempting to find a good definition...
So, I started with a good old Wikipedia try some months back and got this definition:

"Some circles in the field of computer science have borrowed this usage from mathematicians. It has come to mean "the usual or standard state or manner of something"; for example, "the canonical way to organize a file system is as a hierarchy, with extensions to make it a directed graph". XML Signature defines canonicalization as the process of converting XML content to a canonical form, to take into account changes that can invalidate a signature over that data (from JWSDP 1.6).

For an illuminating story about the word's use among computer scientists, see the Jargon File's entry for the word[1].

Some people have been known to use the noun canonicality; others use canonicity. In fields other than computer science, canonicity is this word's canonical form."

...led me to put it in the perspective of SOA
As you can imagine, the definition was utterly useless and left me still clueless. So here's what I'm starting to understand after talking to my Enterprise Architect gurus that "canonical" is often used in the context of SOA to:
  • Describe data models. Most of the gurus I talked to mentioned that this would be the superset of all data required to for a specific purpose, yet not reflect all the data. It may not be complete, but it would serve as the single model.
  • Explain how applications talk to each other. Often used in discussing messaging for SOA, it's about what metadata objects such as data types, values, and semantics are communicated to both the sending and receiving applications. The end result must be some agreement what is the right data, what does it mean to each party, and how the data will be used and shared.
  • Keep BPEL clean. In order to build a clean service repository, there exists an integration layer that transforms/mediates a variety of messages to a common format through common codes or an ESB. This layer sits between the service repository and the integration processes. Typical hub and spoke integration requires messages to be translated to an independent format and then into the required format. This allows you to add new applications by adding a translation layer making this more effective and reusable than point to point integration. It's common in most EAI approaches.
The bottom line
Often found in conversations about SOA, "canonical" refers to a design philosophy and approach that maps between the various data, messaging, and semantic frameworks used by multiple applications and systems. It's about an approach that allow for reuse of items, such as business processes, among different systems.

(The personal contents in this blog do not reflect the opinions, ideas, thoughts, points of view, and any other potential attribution of my current, past, or future employers.)
Copyrighted 2007 by R Wang. All rights reserved

Friday, October 12, 2007

News Analysis: Oracle Launches Hostile Bid for BEA

Oracle added fuel to fire in the rapidly consolidating enterprise software market today with a $6.7B unsolicited bid for BEA. Here are a few quick thoughts:
  • Oracle seeks to dominate middleware. Middleware platforms provide the nexus for software ecosystems. Each vendor's last mile solutions depend on a strong middleware tool and a community of individuals and solutions providers who build and extend the platform for vendors. Whoever owns the future platform, an applistructure on middleware or a SaaS platform like SalesForce will emerge as winners in the post internet era. Acquisition also marginalizes SAP NetWeaver's role as a standalone middleware solution.
  • BEA customer base attractive to Oracle's vertical ambitions. BEA brings high end custom dev clients to the table. With a blue chip base of the best internal IT shops, those in telecom, financial services, and public sector, Oracle or any acquirer could cement its leadership in middleware over IBM, MSFT, and SAP. These custom development shops represent the best and brightest user base and the most lucrative.
  • Oracle should expect a fight for BEA. Other vendors like SAP, IBM, and HP need BEA more than Oracle does. SAP's NetWeaver is among the weakest of middleware platforms, despite one of the strongest ecosystems. IBM will be threatened by an Oracle dominance in middleware. HP could use this as an entry point to gain traction in the market. SI's who've built a long term strategy around BEA as an independent platform may seek to assist BEA. Oracle's potential acquisition takes away the last remaining independent major middleware platform provider leaving future competitors without a large install base and a third party supplier.
  • Will Fusion Apps Still be Built on Fusion Middleware or BEA? Recent rumblings about a delay in Fusion apps delivery and the future of leadership in delivering Fusion apps, add speculation to whether or not Fusion Middleware will still be the basis of Fusion apps. (See the latest from Vinnie Mirchandani). The BEA platform reaches out to more non-Oracle shops and provides a truly open platform for integration with less lock in at the meta data and process levels.
The bottom line
Oracle's long term M&A strategy centers on gaining the biggest install base around not only business applications, but also middleware. At the end of the day, its still about selling more database and gaining the largest share of the IT wallet. With so much liquidity in the market, expect continued and accelerated consolidation along key battle grounds of middleware platforms such as MDM, BI, Portals, BPM, and other Information Management tools. Don't expect the competitors or BEA to sit still!

Next up: How will Oracle deal with all the redundant technology?

(The personal contents in this blog do not reflect the opinions, ideas, thoughts, points of view, and any other potential attribution of my current, past, or future employers.)
Copyrighted 2007 by R Wang. All rights reserved

Sunday, October 7, 2007

News Analysis: SAP Initiates Friendly Take Over of Business Objects

SAP Faces the Realities of A Consolidating Market and Ecosystem
In a not so surprise move to insiders, Goldman's efforts to tie up SAP and Business Objects proved fruitful as the two companies officially announced a friendly take over offer. (Press Release). In the press release, 2 key things were made clear:
  • Organic strategy not enough to meet stated targets to grow the market. Despite great success with organic growth, Oracle's acquisition strategy is making a dent. CEO of SAP, Henning Kagermann's quote from the press release says it all. ""The acquisition of Business Objects is in keeping with SAP’s stated strategy to double our addressable market by 2010 as announced in 2005,” said Kagermann. “SAP will accelerate its growth in the Business User segment, while complementing the company’s successful organic growth strategy."" What kind of acquisitions will SAP make to meet this self imposed target?
  • SAP evaluated Business Objects for more than just BI. After Oracle's takeover of Hyperion, SAP evaluated the impact to its overall solution centric ecosystem. Business Objects strong partner ecosystem played a key role in choosing Business Objects. It seems likely that Business Objects users may be forced onto NetWeaver in the long run.
The bottom line for end users
In general, hang tight and if you have the budget, negotiate longer maintenance contracts and buy new modules for significant discounts. In the history of post merger announcements, sales reps typically will be offering sweetheart deals to close out the quarter and status as an independent company. There are many win-win scenarios out there! If you are leaning towards SAP, find your SAP rep and put in the motion for a master agreement prior to merger for completion after the merger.

A quick analysis for end user scenarios:
  • SAP users who chose BOBJ. Basically SAP just validated your strategy of going with BOBJ over BW. You'll want to see if you can avoid being tied to NetWeaver in the future as existing SAP users often find NetWeaver connection charges to be the highest cost of ownership.
  • SAP users who don't have BOBJ. Here's your chance to buy BOBJ once its fully certified on NetWeaver. BOBJ built a great product, and XI on NetWeaver may prove to be quite solid and a significant improvement to BW. There is a reason why so many self-proclaimed "SAP Only" shops run BOBJ.
Key questions all users should ask:
  • Will Business Objects users be forced on to NetWeaver in the long run?
  • Can users ensure that they do not have to use NetWeaver?
  • Will key management change and who will replace them?
  • What impact will this have on post XI releases?
  • Does being a "separate company" in the SAP group work like the way Tomorrow Now works?
  • How will SAP continue to support non-SAP users?
  • How will SAP and BOBJ address MDM?
The bottom line for vendors and BI competitors.
BI remains one of the hottest areas of growth as users struggle to get information out of existing legacy packaged apps. As we move to a full Y2K replacement cycle, smart companies begin the discussion with their BI strategy then with upgrade. Expect the following:
  • BI market consolidation in full cycle. Oracle's acquisition of Hyperion signaled the beginning of market consolidation. Though glacial in speed, expect pressure to mount on the dwindling number of independent BI vendors. Cognos is the obvious next target with IBM, HP, and Oracle as potential suitors. Other vendors include IBI, Microstrategy, Actuate, and a very unlikely SAS.
  • Expect a hostile counter offer. Valuations of $4.6B euros $6.8B may be less than other vendors had anticipated. Hyperion's deal at $3.3B seemed quite high and previous industry murmurings had BO and Cognos valued north of $7B. Deep pocket vendors such as IBM, Oracle, and HP could set a counter for the quite valuable BOBJ install base.
  • Organic growth not enough for this market. After years of building a great organic strategy, even mighty SAP realizes that this industry requires strong acquisition skills for survival and growth of partner ecosystems. Acquisition analysis should follow white space mapping and charting of valuable competitor install bases. Each technology era and segment has had dominant acquires. Think of IBM, CA, Microsoft, Oracle, and Google. One may expect other vendors to reconsider their strategies.
(The personal contents in this blog do not reflect the opinions, ideas, thoughts, points of view, and any other potential attribution of my current, past, or future employers.)
Copyrighted 2007 by R Wang. All rights reserved

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Trip Report: DownUnder

(Copyrighted 2007. Photo by R Wang. All rights reserved)

Well, it's hard to beat the weather, scenery, and market in Australia and especially here in Sydney! Amidst this wonderful backdrop is an economic boom based on Financial Services, Public Sector, and Natural Resources, especially mining. In other economic news, real state pricing has hit a drop but not b/c of the US sub-prime scandal, but more along the retirement savings laws passed by the federal government which has moved a lot of money out of the real estate market. However, rents continue to rise while construction has halted.

(Copyrighted 2007. Photo by R Wang. All rights reserved)

On the technology front, there is a lot of activity supporting the 3 key industries. Enterprise apps remain hot as the country moves into the post-Y2K replacement cycle. In the context of globalization, as expected, China and India remain the talk of the country while the Aussie public sector heats up:
  • China's economic influence runs deep for natural resources. China continues to be Australia's largest importer of natural resources such as copper, coal, bauxite, iron ore, and nickel to name a few. The market is such a buzz that there aren't enough truck drivers to haul loads to ports, even with salaries hitting A$ 80,000 a year and miners are clearing A$150,000 or more with bonus. (Side note: The guy that drives the train from Rio Tinto's mine to the port in West Australia makes A$150,000 per year!). From a tech perspective, apps spending is up in the mining and exploration sector to support China's large appetite for natural resources. This means heightened interest in software replacements, upgrades, and new purchases. ERP, supply chain and TMS support, and other mining specific applications are garnering significant interest.
  • India's role continues in global delivery models for financial services. The continual labor arbitrage for services and back office functions drives the buzz with India. With most the Financial Services firms looking at these opportunities, the system integrators are playing out the global delivery models and many of the large multi-nationals are focused on business process outsourcing opportunities (BPO). From many conversations its clear that large scale ERP replacements are also on the way for Australian based financial service companies.
  • Consortia and shared services provide opportunities for the public sector. On the public sector side, IT spending for new projects continue with shared services organizations continuing to lead the way. These public service consortia have been among the early adopters of BPO. Agencies such as water, building departments, land administration among others have done a great job, especially in the rural states like Western Australia.
End users should begin the process of mapping business initiatives to software spending requirements. Business and IT projects should focus on 4 key drivers: growth, efficiency, regulatory compliance and strategy. One suggestion is to conduct a self-assessment of long term apps strategy readiness and to be focused on building a 5 -year apps strategy that includes organizational change, process optimization, technology readiness, and solutions centric ecosystem maturity.

For system integrators this means a ripe market where implementation services, apps replacement and upgrades, and outsourcing provide significant opportunities as customers look at their technology requirements in the context of business initiatives

(The personal contents in this blog do not reflect the opinions, ideas, thoughts, points of view, and any other potential attribution of my current, past, or future employers.)
Copyrighted 2007 by R Wang. All rights reserved