Monthly Archives: August 2009

About application developers, platform licensing and bananas.

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I took the time yesterday evening to catch up with my reading, and came across some great posts about Application Platforms. Forrester’s Mike Gualtieri was inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Man in the mirror” and posted “Do Application Developers Need To Change Their Ways?”. He makes four recommendations to application developers – Understand the business in your bones”, “Be a developer not a coder”, “Use new technologies, but only when they make a difference”, and “Become Architects again”. As someone who evangelizes the abstraction of technological issues as a way to facilitate quality application development with a focus on the business solution, I am fully in agreement with Mike’s post. My recent post about A broader perspective on Google’s CHROME OS is very much along the same lines.

Another entry that I found highly relevant is John Rymer’s “Developers Want Unrestricted Downloads” (also on the Forrester blog). John relates to the recent work he did with Mike on CEP platforms, and forwards the argument that Platform vendors should offer unrestricted downloads for developers, in order to encourage them to adopt the platform and use it in production projects. And as far as survival goes, those vendors would collect revenue “as serious shops come back for deployment support including paid licenses”. We have the same passionate discussion time and again at Magic Software, in each licensing and pricing policy meeting. It is much easier said than done, in particular when your core product is the Platform. Megavendors such as Microsoft or IBM can and do promote much of their development technologies as lost leaders, compensating the freebies via (sometimes hefty) licenses on other parts of their technology that are required to complement the application environment. Most pure play vendors cannot afford that luxury, and in order to continue and innovate and support their operations they need to get revenue from almost any value added activity they perform. And when it comes to Open Source, the harsh reality is that there are very few vendors in this space who manage to survive independently for an extended period – most flare and then are either acquired or just fade away.

Let’s take both posts together – after all, it’s all about application development and John and Mike jointly report about it. Paraphrasing on Jackson’s song, Mike asks “What if application development professionals look in the mirror? What changes would you make to develop better applications?”. They also report that “Developers consistently tell us they want unrestricted platform downloads — no time bombs, no forced contacts with the vendor’s sales staff, no limited-function versions”. Let me take this reasoning boldly further. In other words, those developers who want unrestricted free platform downloads should be willing to do their own development work for free – hoping that their employer would find their work useful enough to pay them for subsequent support! Or maybe they should look in the mirror, and apply the same criteria they’d like for themselves to their fellow developers who develop platforms.

There’s also something to be learned from the banana merchants and the Max Havelaar foundation (incidently, the original story is related to Java – the island…). The foundation promotes fair trade and pay, and certifies that a minimal fair portion of the revenue from agricultural products from developing countries reaches the farmers who produced it. In the supermarket, Max Havelaar branded bananas are a bit more expensive than the non certified ones, yet they are very popular and sell well.

Would you rather buy Max Havelaar bananas? How about seriously evaluating a non-production version of an application platform that supports Mike’s recommendations?

More action in the Cloud with VMWare+SpringSource – and ISV’s getting encouraging results

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The proliferation of “everything-as-a-service” acronyms is often confusing, and merits an explanation and simplification. The VMware acquisition of SpringSource is an excellent illustration of the architecture. At the infrastructure level we find Operating System resources, which VMware encapsulates and virtualizes, offering shared hardware multitenancy but very limited elasticity. In order to increase the resource elasticity – which is the key factor of cost savings – virtualization needs to extend to the application level. That is the next layer, and I would expect that a tight integration of SpringSource with VMware would in fact provide this for Java based applications.

 This evolution has a lot of similarities to Microsoft’s move with Azure. Whereas Azure offers Cloud enablement for .NET applications, VMware+SpringSource would do the same for Java applications. However, in both cases this applies rather to newly developed applications – existing applications need to be redesigned in order to take advantage of the virtualization and resource abstraction features.

As I have noted in other posts, ISV’s who want to extend their portfolio and take advantage of the growing demand for SaaS need to work across multiple deployment models, where development and maintenance costs can double if they need to create the same application in more than one format.

 So the main challenge for most ISV’s is to manage an extended solution portfolio, continuing to service their current customer base with current deployment models while driving growth through Cloud Based deployment. VMware+SpringSource will facilitate this for Java oriented ISV’s, as the announcement states support for both traditional JEE deployments as well as Cloud based deployments.

 An alternative to the bottom-up approach of system infrastructure vendors such as VMware or Microsoft, comes from some Application Infrastructure vendors such as SalesForce.com or Magic Software. These vendors provide for some time already PaaS and SaaS/Cloud Enabled Application Platforms (SEAP), which deal with virtualization and elasticity by abstracting system resources from the applications, so that XaaS can be achieved at conventional data centres.

 Today I came across an account of a UK based ISV whose been there and done that – successfully, even in the present economy climate. Take a look at the story of FactoryMaster and how they manage take advantage of the new platforms.