Tag Archives: Web 2.0

Cloud semantics and Ground-Level observations

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I am commenting every once and a while on SOA and Cloud discussions at ebizQ forums. Recently I noticed a growing sensitivity to semantics – Private vs. Public Cloud, Web vs. Cloud, Web 3.0…

This prompted me to post here a couple of recent comments I made on the Cloud Computing forum

How much “Cloud” are “Private Clouds”?

I do not think that Cloud is about semantics, but rather about practice and reality within a concept. My personal experience shows that Enterprises are indeed implementing “Cloud Architecture” solutions which are substituting fat Client-Server implementations, but mostly using the traditional business model (perpetual ownership and in-house or hosted location) – when it concerns core and customized solutions. Cloud based infrastructure and applications delivered as a service and on-demand are indeed still limited to “commodity solutions” – collaboration, CRM, etc…

I described a couple of cases in The Extended Enterprise – from vision to reality with Rich Internet Application technology, and I find a consensus with many industry analysts that these types of implementations are well part of what they observe as Cloud implementations. I do not care much about how it is named, and if people prefer to reserve “Cloud” for a more restrictive checklisted definition that’s fine with me – but what I describe above is a very tangible reality of an application architecture that leverages internet based technologies – hosting resources, communications and clients.

Is “Web” distinct from “Cloud”?

I must admit that I do not understand very well the distinction between Web and Cloud. For me, Cloud is an integral part of the Web, relating to several aspects of it – in particular architecture and ubiquitous access to hardware and software resources. So they are converged already.

I perceive the Cloud “phenomenon” as firming up the business nature of the Web on the IT side, paving the way for Enterprises to exploit the Web not only for communication related aspects (from email to ecommerce and marketing) but also for the deployment of core applications. I am presently involved in such a project that brings the notion of “play list” to a composite application for financial brokers and portfolio managers in a global financial institution, incorporating most of the “bells and whistles” of Web2.0 user experience and a hybrid Cloud and Legacy backend. That is what I consider as Convergence – but the main converging domains here are Web and traditional Enterprise IT.

In my opinion, semantics are necessary for a meaningful communication, but let’s not overdo it. And how do you see it?

WEB 2.0 and Cloud Computing for the Enterprise

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Today I came across a post by Yoni Barel that I liked very much – The business of cloud computing. Yoni works for ActionBase, and has actually crossed over from the Consumer oriented Internet to the Enterprise side.

Yoni’s assessment of the Enterprise attitude to technology is very relevant in a (virtual) world where the trends are set by attic designs and exploratory stints. Some of these are very cool and attractive, but not always usable and reliable enough for the Enterprise. In this respect, ActionBase walks a fine line, taking the ubiquitous Chat paradigm into the constrained and compliant Enterprise to deliver a cool collaborative experience.

 This pours more water onto the mill of what Enterprise 2.0 is about and Enterprise RIA. Ofer Spiegel published recently a highly recommended paper about Building a User Interface to Deliver Optimal User Experience  – making very useful distinctions between Rich User Interface and Rich User Experience, in particular when it comes to Enterprise Applications.

Yoni also discusses the pertinence of Cloud Computing as the principal computing platform for a business, touching upon the controversy that McKenzie raised a few months ago. The bottom line according to both, is that at present Cloud based infrastructure such as Amazon EC2 is great for temporary and overflow needs, but wholly owned infrastructure (on-premise or hosted) is still more suitable for the basic core infrastructure.

Impressions from RIA World

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I attended today the RIA World convention in Munich, and took away some interesting observations and thoughts.

Enterprise 2.0 and RIA are still very fuzzy – used by everyone, but no one at my session ventured to offer a definition. Very much like Phil Wainewright suggested yesterday on ebizQ, many people associate Enterprise 2.0 with social networking in the enterprise context and RIA’s with flashy effects in the Browser. This being said, it was interesting to note the frequent nods and acknowledging expressions as I brought up Enterprise RIA issues and challenges – the tiered architecture, the connectivity iceberg, and the potential benefits.

Also interesting was to see the increasing awareness of uniPaaS, evidenced by Golo Roden in his sessions about RIA platforms, Ajax and Flex.

At the Microsoft pod I finally saw my first Silverlight based Enterprise RIA – a CRM implementation by Cas Software, with a Silverlight Client and a Linux and JEE backend…

I also met my old buddy Hans-Jochen Fink, one of the pioneering partners of Magic Software in Germany. As we were musing over some old “war stories” and our first encounter at Cebit over 20 years ago (we actually closed a deal at the show), we noted the amazing decline of trade shows and event attendance. That is where the web has tremendously changed the buying behavior. Nowadays, when buyers finally interact with a vendor, they often know more about the vendor’s product than the salesperson they talk to. That knowledge is obtained from the Web – so that’s where vendors should be, rather than at trade shows. The question that follows is what to do with the huge exhibition centers that proliferated in recent decades. RIA World was one of three Internet related conventions that ran simultaneously at the new Munich Trade Fare, but nevertheless these occupied a couple of small floors and the huge place remained mostly empty.

I’m looking for new ideas and reasons to have these conventions – it is still fun to meet the people, but we have find some good business reasons to drive these.

Qualifying the need for Enterprise RIA

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I have frequently written and commented about Enterprise RIA’s, here and elsewhere. One of my concerns in relation to RIA is terminology, and I’ve asked around for idea’s about a more appropriate name – to no avail. Yet, my colleagues did relate to it and brought up a few ideas and findings.

You might want to have a look at Ofer Spiegel’s blog posting on the topic. Also Amit Ben-Zvi recently summarized a discussion on this topic that a group of us had recently, trying to define the application context best suited for Enterprise Rich Internet Applications. We identified 5 key attributes, which need to be present simultaneously in order to qualify a good context for a RIA:

  • The users are away from the office, and require remote (Internet) access
  • The application is actually a stateful process, is highly interactive, and requires a rich and dynamic front end with many data fields. If a static HTML form is good enough for the process then look no further – but if it is a dynamic form that keeps changing according to the input provided then RIA might be appropriate
  • The application should be a core process for the organization (e.g. CRM, finance/ERP, marketing, inventory)
  • Requires on-line connectivity/synchronization
  • It is a centralized process with significant human interaction

We did find, though, a pretty broad consens in differentiating Enterprise from Consumer RIA’s:  the “Richness” in Enterprise RIA’s is first and foremost about the interaction, in contrast to Consumer RIA’s which focus essentially on Rich Media output (which brings me back to propose to use different terms for Enterprise RIA and Consumer RIA ).

Enterprise 2.0 Applications actually deliver their promised value

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Last week I spent a lot of time going over case stories around application platform, trying to crystallize drivers and benefits. Yesterday came up a very related question at the ebizQ Web 2.0 Forum (www.ebizq.net/blogs/ebizq_forum/2009/05), in which I am a regular commentator: In What Area of an Enterprise is Web 2.0 Most Underutilized?. Here’s my comment on that.

While collaboration at large (including wikis, blogs and networking) is probably the most widespread Web 2.0 practice to penetrate the enterprise, I find that Enterprise 2.0 applications and UI’s are the most underutilized. That is understandable, since it is in that area that enterprises have extensive investments and legacies, and changing and evolving applications is complex and expensive. Yet, that is probably the area that will have a very significant business impact. We start to see the first implementations, which are indeed delivering the expected benefits. Here’s a recent example I came across – a project which I think is pretty representative of Enterprise 2.0 applications – in the general context of Web 2.0 and “millennial” lifestyle.

The enterprise at the heart of this story produces an innovative “millennial” outdoors consumer product, which is taking its time penetrating the market. In order to accelerate the penetration, they decided to accompany the web and viral marketing campaigns with group events, in which they let groups experience the product. That required their channel partners to organize such events, publish details, register participants, and handle the logistics. The solution had to deal with a combination of requirements that are usually handled by distinct software product – Content Management, Process Management, Procurement, Accounting, Resource Allocation and more. The business case did not justify a long and expensive project and the acquisition and integration of several systems, and this was well beyond the scope of Situational Applications. so the CIO saw here an opportunity to use one of the new platforms that claim agile development and Enterprise 2.0 capabilities. The objective was to provide the various functions in a “cloud” manner, from a single location and a single application to partners and visitors wherever they are. The specification described a Rich Internet Application for the use of the channel partners and implementers, and a dynamic web portal to promote the events and handle registration. Using one of the new RIA platforms (Magic Software’s uniPaaS in this case), they were able to address in one project the varied user personas and use cases, with the appropriate mix of Browser based interaction for visitors and rich interactive clients for power users – all part of a single application. Moreover, given the pure Web Architecture, the entire deployment is in a single data center and no local installation is required. It enables to on-board new partners and scale up the channel with practically no IT hassle – a truly agile operation.

I think that one of the reasons for the slow adoption is also the scarcity of appropriate application infrastructure. But it is probably only a matter of time before this would change.