The Oracle Australia and New Zealand Middleware and Technology Blog.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Last Redroom Post

To all our readers and followers

this marks the last post ever to the current RedRoom site. We have moved the RedRoom blog to a new Oracle community site located at OJAM. Please redirect your RSS subscriptions to this new site as we will be posting our content here from this point moving forward.

Thank you to all, we have over 3500 followers of this site - we hope to see you all at OJAM in the future.

Paul & the RedRoom team.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oracle Launches 11gR2 and OJAM.BIZ


today, Oracle launches 11gR2 AND OJAM.BIZ.

OJAM.BIZ will replace the Red Room as Oracle ANZ's blog and establishes the world's first Oracle community portal.

Please join us at OJAM.BIZ


Monday, September 7, 2009


Red Room Followers - Watch This Space!!

We are working on an exciting development to the Red Room - launching this coming Thursday at the 11gR2 event at the Hilton Sydney.

More to come Thursday morning, stay tuned!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oracle releases Database 11g R2!!!

Oracle releases Database 11g R2!!! Consolidate, Compress, Control.

Today we announced the release of the latest version of the Oracle Database on Linux 32bit and 64bit. The install files can be downloaded off of the Oracle Technology Network by following the following link: 11g R2 Download There is also another dedicate site which can be found here: Oracle Database 11gR2 Homepage

We are continuing a tradition of innovation in the database with a large number of improvements and enhancements that are all aimed at making things easier for Database Administrators as well as proving to show some tangible returns and savings in the way the database is managed. The official release homepage is here:
There are some exciting new technologies in the database in this release and some of these include:

Advanced Compression for OLTP
-Ability to now compress ALL data types, both structured and unstructured data. Compress large application tables allowing for strong performance and storage reduction in transaction processing. Improve query performance by searching through less data and only searching for compressed data as opposed to needing to uncompress and then search.

Instance Caging
-We've improved the granularity of the amount of control you have over your databases by introducing the new technology known as "instance caging". With this technology i am able to maintain Service Level Agreements by allocating a number of cores in a large server for use with a particular instance of the database. Example, in a quad socket quad core server (16 CPU cores) i could allocate 8 of those cores at ALL TIMES to the database instance used by the ERP system, then another four cores to the CRM system and another four cores for datawarehouse usage. This way if an application ever needs excessive CPU then the other applications aren't affected, more importantly your ERP system will still be able to communicate with your ERP DB instance allowing for business continuance.

The ASM Cluster File System
-As expected the ASM cluster File System or ACFS can be used for Oracle database files and Oracle software binaries, however the new advancement is the ability to use "general-purpose" file systems in ACFS covering the ability to store non-Oracle related files. Read-only snapshot capability is present with up to 64 point-in-time copies of the file system data available.

We have released a whitepaper that sums up the new technologies available in Oracle DB 11g R2, this whitepaper can be found here: Oracle DB 11gR2 Whitepaper
Our direction can be seen as heading towards achieving a self-automated, self-healing database with focus on reducing costs for IT (storage/management) and raising the bar in High Availability.

Would love to hear your feedback on our latest release!

Happy Installing (with 40% fewer install steps) ;)


Thursday, August 27, 2009

SOA Projects In Crisis

Are you on Linkedin? I am. If you are, are you a member of the ZDNet Australia Group? You should be it's a good discussion community on all things tech headed up by Renai LeMay, Chris Duckett and Brian Haverty.I was really interested in this recent comment recent from Kevin McIsaac, "it seems SOA has been over-hyped (by middleware vendors like Oracle) many SOA projects are in crisis." and thought I'd respond.

It's a fair cop, guv. Yes, SOA has been over-hyped (by middleware vendors like Oracle)... and analysts and bloggers and industry commentators and many more folk besides. By the way, one thing I love about everything 2.0 is how we are all actually able to get through industry hype in a much more direct and meaningful way - ways like this in fact. And a couple or three things on SOA projects in crisis. I'm sure some are, but I would attest that it's not because they are SOA projects, it's because they projects. And there are projects in crisis in all aspects and all disciplines of our industry and others.

The key to avoiding failure is to stay faithful to certain principles of project governance that we have been able to identify based on our learnings from some of the many successful projects we have seen. Along with a few of my colleagues here at The Red Room we've riffed away recently about '10 Mistakes That Cause SOA Projects to Fail'. Some of the specific posts I would point you to are; this one from Anton Gouws on common project management pitfalls in SOA; Saul Cunningham writing about SOA as an architecture not a project; and one written by me on the value of simplicity.

And not all SOA projects are in crisis, here are some links to local customers that I know talking about their successful SOA projects - Greg Behrendt from Stanwell Corporation and Max Kennedy from Yarra Valley Water.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sweating COTS With Services

On a recent trip to Malaysia, I asked two local people how to get to a landmark, and I got two different answers. I realised though that without a common reference (map), I had no idea where the goal was, how I was going to get there, and whether the routes that were suggested were sound. Needless to say, I eventually got to my destination, much to delight of my taxi driver who financially benefited from the scenic journey!

Watching the palm trees fly past my taxi window I came to think about the state of architectures in organisations. We have all got to some state of working architecture. Architectures have grown organically or by acquisition as businesses have become successful. During the 1990’s COTS (Commercial off the Shelf) applications dominated the software architectural landscape with the promise of delivering pre-built industry processes. While the success of COTS applications delivering business value cannot be negated, as business requirements evolve, COTS applications have been customised, extended, and application bolt-ons and integration work have been inextricably bound to the actual application. All these tightly coupled “modifications” could become a major contributor towards the cost of an application upgrade, so much so it could even prohibit an organisation enjoying the benefits of a new version of their COTS application.

So how can we reduce the cost of ownership around COTS on the one hand, and at the same time improve the level of flexibility offered to the business?

Lets look at the cost of ownership challenge, particularly with regards upgrades. Today, many COTS applications such as Oracle E-Business Suite, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft and Siebel are service enabled. By using a services approach, application customisations, extensions and integrations can be built in a decoupled (loosely-coupled) manner. In other words service orientation can directly address the issues of customisations and extensions that are traditionally tightly bound to the application database schema and integrations that are point-to-point and heavily scripted, thereby facilitating smoother and cheaper application upgrades. Helio reduced their application integration effort by 50% through utilising reusable services.

What about flexibility? Using the same services approach, services from your COTS applications can be consumed and reused in numerous ways to form new composite applications or form part of flexible, enterprise-wide business processes. By decoupling the reliance of a business process to the underlying applications, the impact of application upgrades would be reduced, the speed of development work would be improved and flexibility will be introduced at the business process tier. ABN Amro and Dallas Fort Worth Airport are examples of organisations that benefited from adopting a process-centric approach to their business.

If you are wondering how you can go about maximising the value of your COTS investment, check out the Best Practice sites I found below…

E-Business Suite
JD Edwards

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ten Out Of Ten

I was thinking about 10 as I was putting this post together as it is the tenth in our series of ten on the death of SOA. I thought about Dudley Moore and Bo Derek in Blake Edwards '10'. I thought about Nigel Tufnel taking 10 all the way to 11 in 'This is Spinal Tap' - please take 51 seconds out of your busy day and watch this clip, you'll thank me for it. I finally settled on Ray and Charles Eames short documentary from 1977, 'Powers of Ten'. I liked how the powers of 10 idea fits with my thinking on architecture, the macro versus micro concerns that you are faced with, the importance of perspective, and the big picture.

Number 10 in this series brings us to letting the vendors drive the architecture. And I just love this one. Firstly I love the mental image of Larry Ellison, Sam Palmisano, Henning Kagermann and Vivek Ranadivé in a car together trying to decide where to go - that's once you've managed to get them in the same car in the first place.

And I love the absolute simplicity of this one. Hands up, who thinks that letting the vendors drive the architecture is a good idea? OK, so I know that hands-up as a device in a blog works about as well as it does on a podcast but that's not the point. If you do have your hand in the air then I need to take you on a brief English lesson. With thanks to the Macquarie Dictionary - "Vendor, noun, someone who vends or disposes of a thing by sale". Anglo-French, from vendre to sell, from Latin vendere. Newsflash, your vendor is trying to sell you something. Or even worse, your vendor is trying to dispose of something by sale - sounds bad doesn't it?

Disclosure, I work for a vendor, and yes I want to sell you something. There, I've said it. But I am not interested in selling you something once and disappearing. I know that the only way I can be successful is to build a long term relationship with my customers. I want to be able to keep doing business with my customers over the long term. Not just this quarter, or this year, but next year and the years to come. A mutually beneficial relationship where my customers are successful with the software and services that I can offer and I'm successful in seeing their projects delivered to production. That one-off sale is so last century, so 1.0, so shonky used-car-dealer that it's not even funny anymore. Maybe those sales people still exist - maybe those buyers still exist - but I don't recognise them from my experience. I have never met a customer that would be happy to let their vendor drive the architecture, and I have never met a vendor that would be able to.

Now, I get all a bit infinite monkey theorem here. You know the theory that states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. Let me explain, you can achieve your outcome with anyone driving that car - Larry, Sam, Henning, Vivek, it doesn't really matter. Given enough time - like the monkeys - each of their offerings will get you where you want to go. But you don't have enough time. And unlike the monkeys you certainly don't have infinite time. Yes, if you had unlimited time you can let the vendor drive the architecture and you'll get there. But given limited time and limited budget you need to find the vendor that you can share the driving with. When it's dark and raining. When you're tired. When you need someone to help you park or read the map. You need someone around that you can trust and rely on.

SOA isn't dead. It's not collateral damage roadkill as the vendors roar down the road in their architecure trucks. It's alive and well. If we return to Ann Thomas Manes of the Burton Group who started all this back in January, she wrote, "Although the word 'SOA' is dead, the requirement for service-oriented architecture is stronger than ever."

I think that's exactly what I've been trying to say all along.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Join Us For The Launch of Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g

Thanks to our good friends at NASA for the launch picture. This is the space shuttle Discovery blasting off on July 4 2006, click for the details of mission STS-121.

Our launch is at 8:00 AM, on Thursday July 9 at the Hilton Hotel - 488 George Street, Sydney.

We're launching Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g and you're invited, click here to register. We're going be joined by one of our product development Vice Presidents - Amit Jasuja - for the keynote session, and we'll follow that with overview sessions on the main product components of the 11g release - Identity Management, Enterprise 2.0, Application Grid and Service Oriented Architecture. Oh, and there's a lucky draw prize too!

7,350 years of development time have gone into this release so taking half a day out of your schedule seems a small price to pay. 7,350 years! That means that if you started developing today, you'd just be getting ready for your launch event in the year 9,359. By which time we will have all hung up our hydrogen powered personal jetpacks and just teleport oursleves everywhere right?

Once again, register here, and I look forward to seeing you there.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Turnbull's Fake Email

Hi all

There's been some interesting activity here in Australia this week surrounding an alleged email that purports to implicate the government in allegations of favouritism in assistance being offered to a car-dealer by the prime-minister's office. After a brief investigation, the Australian Federal Police announced that they had 'found' the email and identified it as a fake.

Interestingly enough, a few years ago, things would have been very different! Firstly, we wouldn't have been talking about an email but about a printed document. Secondly, locating and identifying the document as a fake would not have been as easy. With a physical document, creating a forgery can be achieved relatively simply and assuring its authenticity would be an expensive process. In the past few years, we've witnessed changes in the way that any organisation manages its information and with the quite-recent BAT and C7 cases here in Australia - now have changes coming through the court-system in the manner of practice notes leading to cheaper and easier eDiscovery activities and processes.

The government departments concerned in this case probably utilise a number of business-tools that made the discovery and identification of the email a quick and easy process and to be brutally honest, the perpetrators involved in this really should have known better. You simply cannot, today (and without some deep, deep, deep knowledge of the underlying systems) create a document and pass it off as something it isn't!

Whatever happens in the coming weeks - one thing's for sure, the real winner in this case is eDiscovery and the tools that support the processes required! I just would not want to be in Godwin Grech's shoes at the moment......


Thursday, June 4, 2009

It's the little things that count

I was thinking the other day about the new major features in Oracle DB 11g whilst preparing for a presentation when a thought occurred to me. What about all the other features in 11g? All the new features that were not "banner headlines" but that make life for people working with the Oracle database a whole lot easier. I then came across a list on the net with almost every single new feature in 11g over the previous release. These thoughts were then cemented when i attended the oracle user group meeting run by Alex Gorbachev (Pythian Group).

The main reason why these thoughts were cemented at the meetup with the oracle user group was because of one of the main discussions with Carl Young from Metcash. He spoke about how much easier life is now that he has migrated to Oracle 11g and about how it's the simple little things that have been changed, upgraded and produced in Oracle 11g that are allowing this to happen. Reduced bath report execution times, no more excel, improved performance through query caching (meaning he didn't have to rebuild the material based view aggregate), and the ability to store more data online are but a few of the main benefits Metcash has received by moving to 11g. The details of his migration can be found here and thanks to ZDnet for such a compelling read. Metcash in Oracle 11g upgrade

Alex also released a lot of the "tricks of the trade" in his presentation. Some of the interesting things that were spoken about involved Automatic Storage Management and RMAN's ability to check and verify the database.

The sydney user group presentation can be seen here:

with some comments about the meetup by Alex.

The group meets bi-weekly in the city (usually) over beer and pizza for a discussion about how Oracle is working in their environment whilst sharing experiences about moving to the latest technology. If you wish to sign up to future meetups the link can be found here:

All in all it was a good user group meeting. There were many topics discussed and it was awesome to hear about Carl Young and Metcash's transition to Oracle 11g.

The beer and pizza cliche for user groups was well lived up to as well. I'm looking forward ot the next one, which reminds me, we've just created a group on linkedin called "oracle red room". Sign up now, the link is here:


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Oracle/BEA: 12 months on.

I saw this headline recently in a 2003 article from Mining Journal and I thought it was great, "Some years, 12 months can seem like long time." (You may well ask why I was reading 6 year old back issues of Mining Journal but I'm sure you've all been in a dentists waiting room). Some years 12 months can indeed seem like a long time... but not this one, well, not for me anyway.

I really enjoyed reading this article from my friend Chris Duckett - OK, so I follow him on twitter, that means I can say he's my friend doesn't it? - on the Oracle/BEA acquisition 12 months on.

We get so caught up in the 'what if's?' in our industry that it's really good to take time out and look back at the 'what happeneds'. 12 months ago we were full of what if? Two major middleware product sets were coming together, what would survive and what would perish? And what did perish actually mean? Would Oracle force a BEA customer to move to an Oracle product? How would BEA products be supported? What would the future product strategy look like?

My summary is that the reality of the acquisition was nowhere near as doom-laden with grave concerns some had predicted. There were no forced migrations, in fact products that didn't make it front and centre into the plans for the future are still being enhanced and supported, as Derrick Wheeler says in Chris's piece, "
We were concerned about WebLogic Integration a little bit as to where that would fit... We've since been assured that we can purchase more licences and that we'll be supported — at least five years developed, another five years supported — that makes us feel more comfortable."

There were decisions about the product roadmap that needed to be taken, as Cameron Tuesly from Integral Technology Services says in the article, "
There was a few overlapping products, I have to say that I thought Oracle did a pretty good job of clarifying early on where they were going... I think they picked the right products, where there were two products they seemed to have picked the stronger one rather than the incumbent."

And there is some evidence that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts in these acquisitions, a sort of 2 + 2 = 5, in that the organisation is able to turn its big brains loose on new and innovative ways to combine some of the products together. Case in point here is the WebLogic Application Grid. Oracle had Coherence, BEA had JRockit... to use a catchphrase, "Will it blend?" Well, turns out they blended very well - without the dust, smoke and general destruction that our good friends at Blendtec will show you if you click on that last link.

Coherence is a highly clustered, highly fault tolerant in memory data cache
, JRockit is the fastest Java Virtual Machine in the world. Mix them together, add some management and operations control and you have the WebLogic Application Grid, bringing maximum performance, scalability, predictability and reliability on commodity hardware to Java applications.

So good on you Chris for taking a moment to reflect and examine what actually happened. I liked this quote from Chris Muir as I imagine a future 12 months from now, "... they are accumulating some of the best products in the world". That sounds good to me, working with some of the best products in the world.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Enterprise Consistency

Picture (c)

So, let's start with a tongue-in-cheek question.

What's the difference between a political leader (substitute you own relevant PM, president etc. here) and an ECM Solution?

The answer is of course, consistency! Most people vote for their political leadership on the basis that what they promise in their pre-election program is actually going to be stuck-to whilst they are in office. Of course, we all realise soon after election that the promises made previously are rarely upheld in full and quite often - are reversed entirely.

Organisations know that a database provides consistency in the storage of structured information. If you are running an application like Siebel or eBusinessSuite (SAP if you're mad, bad, loaded and have the palette for years of customisation) you rely upon the fact that a piece of information stored in a particular field will always be there - and other users in other parts of the world who use the same information will store their data in exactly the same way. Now, imagine for a minute that the applications used by an organisation stored the same data randomly in the database with a complex algorithm to be manually followed in order to locate the information. Imagine if this information concerned the number of customers ordering a piece of kit, or the financial records for the organisation - how long would it take the accounts department to balance the books at the end of the month or year if every record of income and expenditure had to be manually retrieved from a random storage system.


Funnily enough, there are a lot of organisation out there (and you know who you are) that manage their unstructured information is exactly this way! These organisations wouldn't consider themselves mad but I would question their sanity any day of the week. You see, things are changing rapidly in the world of enterprise information. We've all seen the slides that state how much data is being created daily and how much of it lives within databases as opposed to on file-systems etc. The thing is, it's all true and guess what - the stats show that it's only going to get worse; a LOT worse.

Think about structured data as being an animal's skeleton and unstructured information being the muscle, skin, organs and flesh. With just a skeleton, you could probably build a structure resembling closely what the animal looked like. With everything else, you bring that animal to life and allow it to live. This is the same as any organisation. Without the management of unstructured data - all you have is a skeleton, the flesh that brings life (or context!) is lost or simply REALLY, REALLY hard to find.

Organisations are being challenged to better manage their unstructured data. Here in Australia, the Federal Court has released its practice note that pretty much tells organisations that they had better get their act together else heavy fines and potentially jail-time can be placed on the organisation and its directors. ECM solutions can be really simple to implement and use effectively by an organisation. You don't need the overkill and complexity that a solution like Documentum or FileNet brings - in fact, the majority of these organisations customers only use a tiny subset of their overall functionality offered. Oracle's Unified Content and Records Management solution provides a simple to use, easily configurable, non-intrusive environment for managing unstructured information. Along with the Universal Online Archive, Image and Process Management and Information Rights Management solutions - an organisation can cover just about any requirement they have for managing what constitutes around 85% (and growing!) of their entire organisations information-set.

We are ready to sort-out an organisations enterprise information management craziness with real-world solutions for real-world problems. Consistency comes from using an ECM solution correctly - embedding the business-rules around information storage that make the location and retrieval of unstructured data as easy as for structured information.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Supercharge Your Applications

What do James Bond, W. O. Bentley and Shawn Fanning have in common?

Well you'll have to head to my presentation called "Supercharge Your Applications" over on slideshare to find out. They all feature in the presentation I gave recently at the InSync09 conference.

Here's a taster... Walter Owen Bentley once famously said, "There is no replacement for displacement" He proved this by taking the 'standard' 3.0 litre Bentley engine and increasing the capacity to 4.5 litres. But then he ran out of money. Just as he ran out of money, the designers that took over his work had run out of space. The engine bay of that car was only so big, they couldn't squeeze any more cylinders, any more capacity in there. So, in their quest to improve performance what did they do? They bolted on a supercharger (much to W. O.'s disgust, he hated forced induction) and took the output from 82kW to 140 kW.

And what does this all mean for you? Well, click here for the presentation to find out how you can bolt some already existing technology on to your applications to improve performance - say hello to Oracle Coherence.


Failure to implement and adhere to SOA Governance

Today we want to talk about a key reason that SOA does sometimes fail - lack of governance. I have asked Mervin Chiang from Leonardo Consulting to blog this for me. Mervin is one of Australia's leading BPM/Governance experts and has great insight into both the technical and business aspects of SOA/BPM projects. Over to you Mervin...

I have been a Business Process Management (BPM) practitioner for 5 years and in the last 2 have been working with companies to “Automate Business Processes” using Oracle Middleware technologies. You see, I try not to call it SOA, seeing that it has been getting a bad rep recently (see: SOA is dead). I see many similarities in both acronyms’ history…

The Birth – BPM, as a core concept, started very early and was not even called BPM. Someone smart (e.g. see: Scientific Management) realised that people work, and their work can be “chopped” up and studied and strung together... (A.k.a. “workflow”)

The Craze – Then we had Business Process Reengineering (BPR). “Let’s toss the organisation’s core processes in the air and see how it lands!”… “Ah, it landed well! Let’s spend money and lots of time to implement these process changes!” Meanwhile in the IT world the CIO goes… “Let’s toss our IT landscape in the air, screw on all web services in every hole and see how it lands! Then document it…” (A.k.a. “Enterprise” SOA)

The Epiphany – The statement: “Oh no! There are too many moving parts. How do we handle them?!” gave rise to BPM (keyword: Management).Much literature out there that talks about how SOA has failed or how we can save it, all point to the same realisation from the IT paradigm: SOA needs management… (A.k.a. SOA Governance)

Just as BPM, discusses the lifecycle of processes, we see the need to understand the service lifecycle. Also like processes, there are different “layers” of services (granularity). All These layers make up a service portfolio. So, how do we manage all these moving parts? In his article, Mike Kavis talks about design-time and run-time governance requirements. In addition to these two views I see the need for “management-time” or “continuous-improvement-time” governance.

At one of my recent customers, we’re using Oracle Fusion Middleware tools to achieve such an ecosystem. I call it an “ecosystem” or “platform” as this cannot be successful if only taken from a project level context (See Saul’s article on Viewing SOA as a project instead of an architecture).

Let’s start bottom-up shall we?

Oracle Service Registry (OSR) handles all the run-time knowledge of the services we have in the organisation’s landscape.

Oracle Enterprise Repository (OER) has knowledge at design-time of impact if one service, application system or business process were to change. It also talks to the OSR and has knowledge of usage to report on reusability of services.

Business Process Analysis (BPA) then uses information from the OER to build its catalogue or library of objects to aid during both design-time and continuous-improvement-time. We will use the BPA’s repository in various ways:

· To graphically represent the components of the Enterprise Architecture (EA)

· To launch process improvement, redesign and reengineering projects in alignment with the organisation’s strategic plan

· To do BPM itself

· To execute process automation projects (BPMN to BPEL, direct requirements implementation)

So, if we were to work top-down:

  1. Identify/discover requirements to improve, redesign or reengineer using BPA and start a project. BPA gives you an enterprise or cross-project view of the organisation.
  2. Analyse and (re)design your solution with the aid of BPA and OER. Run simulations in BPA, and undertand technical impacts with OER.
  3. Build and deploy your solution into OSR. The service catalogue will be synced in OER and BPA for future projects.
  4. Monitor performance to start round 2 of the lifecycle if needed (go back to point 1)

We’ve just talked about the tools that help us in this governance journey. There are also the challenges of people and process. The processes defined to do SOA governance are just as important as the people who will be carrying out these processes. In the customer example I mentioned earlier, we’ve used the publishing capabilities of BPA to communicate this to all roles involved in the business process and service lifecycle as an educational resource. We didn’t name it “governance” of course!

Ultimately, SOA governance as with anything; implementing software, BPM, building a house, getting married or having an operation, it’s the method of implementation itself and not the technology that determines success or failure. Just because I bought a shiny new scalpel doesn’t mean I am qualified to operate on you to take out your appendix!

Thanks Mervin for you valuable insights into how we should put Goverance at the core of SOA/BPM projects. However I will ensure that I don't end up at your surgery for my next operation! If you are interested in finding out more about the best practice of Governance and BPM technology you should check out Leonardo Consulting's Process Days Seminar in Sydney August 5-6.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Oracle Fusion Middleware Forum

Making IT Successful When IT Needs To Be!

The Oracle Fusion Middleware team recently held forums in Auckland (6th May), Brisbane (8th May) and Perth (12 May). These sessions were well attended, and delegates enjoyed the mix of listening to senior leaders from Oracle such as VP of Product Management, Ed Zou; interviews with some of our customers and having the chance to participate in panel discussions. The Sessions have been recorded as podcasts below for your listening pleasure.

Executive Breakfast Session
Customer Panel Discussion: Business and IT Transformation (45 min)
Michael Plon, Business Systems Manager Oil Search;
Jason Young, Managing Director SMS Technology Services BU, SMS Consulting;
Matt Wright, Product Manager Oracle Fusion Middleware APAC, Oracle Corporation

Fusion Middleware Forum
Oracle Keynote 1: Driving Business Efficiency and Expansion; Patterns for Success (38 min)
Ed Zou, Vice President Product Management, Oracle Fusion Middleware APAC, Oracle Corporation

Oracle Keynote 2: Delivering Efficiency and Expansion from the Ground Up (36 min)
Matt Wright, Product Manager Oracle Fusion Middleware APAC, Oracle Corporation

Customer Case Study Interview: Oil Search Limited (34 min)
Michael Plon, Business Systems Manager Oil Search Limited
In this Session, our Customer expert shares best practices and the pitfalls to watch out for to successfully implement Middleware solutions.

Best Practices for Your SOA Infrastructure and Projects (33 min)
Cary Dreelan, Technical Director, Groundhog Software

Extending and Integrating Applications (30 min)
Sean Hooper, Principal Consultant, Oracle Fusion Middleware ANZ, Oracle Corporation

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kiss and Tell

It's a kiss and tell SOA expose from The Red Room. The kiss is of course, 'keep it simple stupid' and I'm going to tell you all about it.

Continuing our occasional series here on the Red Room where Saul, Richard and I discuss 10 mistakes that cause SOA to fail.

One of the things I really like about SOA is the fact that it is deja-vu all over again. We've all been here before. COM/DCOM, CORBA, Object Oriented Programming, VB, Java... you name it. Central to each of these endeavours are some broadly shared concepts around abstraction, independence, reuse and so on. SOA is the next evolution of what we in IT have been trying to do since the Harvard Mark II was introduced to the Harvard Mark I. That is, keep it simple, or as described in the principles of the Agile Manifesto, "Simplicity - the art of maximizing the amount of work not done - is essential".

SOA is the latest, greatest, and indeed simplest way we've come up with to express this. There is a world of underlying complexity beneath simply booking your airline ticket or making a phone call or twittering absent mindedly from the bus stop. The complicated bits and bytes of 32 bit and 64 bit architectures. Of programming languages and compilers. Of formats and protocols and data structures. SOA allows us to simplify all that. It allows us to present to our business masters a set of capabilities that are interoperable, unbreakable, composable and reusable (thanks ZapThink).

Why do we make life so complicated? And this isn't just the IT industry, although lets face it we're pretty good at it. SOA give us the simplest way to present all the complex hard work we do it IT to the outside world. Yes there is a whole lot of iceberg under the water that is unseen but that's how it should be I think. We should be able to talk about what we do in simple terms, we should be able to make ourselves understood, or we'll all end up like 'Comic Book Guy' .

Homer: Welcome to the Internet, my friend. How can I help you?
Comic Book Guy: I'm interested in upgrading my 28.8 kilobaud Internet connection to a 1.5 megabit fiber optic T1 line. Will you be able to provide an IP router that's compatible with my token ring Ethernet LAN configuration?
Homer (staring blankly): Can I have some money now?

I'm not for a moment suggesting that implementing SOA correctly is simple. It isn't. It is a serious undertaking that needs serious planning and serious people to do it properly. But unless we focus on the simplicity instead of the complexity we're just going to make it un-necessarily hard for ourselves and our users. It's not rocket surgery after all.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

More Consolidation in the ECM Space

Hi all

As predicted a year ago, more consolidation is happening at the lower end of the ECM marketplace with today's announcement that Opentext will buy Vignette for between $300-$310m US.

This is interesting for a number of reasons (especially here in the APAC region).

Opentext bought Hummingbird a number of years ago - since then, they seem to have invested very little in integration between the two platforms. Customers have said to me that they are waiting for an announcement about whether a product they invested heavily in buying and implementing will be around in the future which gives the impression that Opentext remain undecided. Now that they have made their move on Vignette - where does that leave them in the market?

1. They will obviously gain market share simply by the Vignette customer-base. This doesn't make them stronger or give them a better offering - it just means that they have more customers to service.

2. Their product offering will become broader. Again, this isn't a sign of increasing strength - it just means that Opentext now have more capability in the web and portal space (as long as their customer and propects only need a ring-fenced solution). Vignette, albeit a player in the web and portal marketplace, don't offer their users much outside of a delivery platform or information managed by THEIR back-end. Customers who wanted to deliver information from other back-ends through the Vignette portal are generally taken down the path of expensive and extensive customisation to achieve their goals - often going down the simpler path of duplicating their information into Vignette leading them to question which content is actually correct and relevant.

3. This will give the Opentext and Vignette customers more choice. Yes it will, which one of our many document management solutions would you like to buy? Taking document-management for example, there are at least 3 solutions that you can now buy from Vignette - all of which are different, and which one will Opentext continue to push to the market (or will all-3 be supported long-term?)

Locally in the APAC market, there will be some management challenges to deal with for the consolidated organisation. At a global management level, there will be 3 sets of managers competing for position.

It will certainly be interesting to watch how this all pans out for Opentext and what decisions they make regarding strategy, management and product.


Monday, May 4, 2009

The Joys of MAA...

Oracle's Maximum Availability Architecture

Greetings All,

This is my first post for the Red Room. My name is David Centellas and I'm a field consultant specialising in Oracle Database and options with Maximum Availability Architecture and Datawarehousing on the side. I recently had the pleasure of sitting through a presentation given by Alex Gorbachev (MD of Pythian Group) at InSync '09' at the Hilton hotel in Sydney. Alex touched on some key points that many clients are asking today; mainly around Maximum Availability Architecture, Dataguard and Automatic Storage Management.

Here is a snippet in case you missed it:

One of the most interesting points that Alex pointed out was the uptake of Extended RAC into 'production' at client sites. He does go on to say it is a fairly advanced configuration; however it is working and working well in production. I thought I would take a bit of time to chat about what to think about when thinking about an Extended RAC. Here are some guidelines that need to be taken into account. As usual priority should be given to the following Oracle Best Practices in the implementation of such architectures and as Alex mentions in the video “Identifity what you really need for your business or organisation.”

Steven Chan had a really good diagram of MAA on his blog:

All we would have to do is think of Extended RAC as an extension of the “Database Tier”. All the rest of the principals remain the same.

As mentioned by Alex “The hardest part (is) as you separate the datacenters, the latency between the site(s) increase and this is where the challenges are coming from.” Network latency is one of the biggest issues when coming to extended cluster type scenarios however there are other rules of thumb that need to be addressed;

i) Extended RAC over distances of 10-20 KM's are possible without being project inhibitive (cost of a fibre link is another story ;)). It's not to say longer distance Extended RAC's are not possible, there are some customers with Extended RAC's over 50 KM's in distance, however there are specific measures and QOS in place to ensure this configuration is viable (as well as the use of Dark Fibre technologies for maximum throughput).

ii) Redundancy is key! Make sure there is never a single point of failure, this includes the remote link! Dual NIC's, multiple RAC nodes, Disk redundancy, power redundancy, UPS, etc...

iii) Amount of Data? Is the amount of changing data too much for the link to keep up with? If we get this one wrong then you will forever be chasing your tail trying to catch up with the primary RAC.

As Alex mentions “Try to be as simple as possible” in architecting such solutions.

Let's not forget:

1 Gbit
= 1 000 000 000 bits /sec
= 125 000 000 Bytes /sec
= 119.209 MegaBytes /sec

This is the theoretical limit of gigabit, however real world scenarios usually show a significant impact of up to 50% on this theoretical limit. Calculate Calculate Calculate. I remember I was at a client site couple of years back trying to diagnose a throughput problem that was occurring on the systems. We bet the pizza we had ordered (was about midnight in a government department in New Zealand) on what was the cause of the problem. I threw up that it was a gigabit bottleneck and he threw up that it was Hard Disk latency.

At the end of the day we performed our calculations and figured out it was a big of a mixture of both so we split the costs of the pizza; however this points out one of the classic schools of thought that ‘there’s no way we’ll be flooding a gigabit link’ and now I see it most of the time.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

SOA: What’s in it for me?

My colleague, Saul Cunningham, recently posted his thoughts on SOA and stated how it has to be a strategic play. He also went on to say that organisations who view SOA only within the scope of projects and point-to-point, service-based integration, will not achieve the benefits of a SOA-assisted enterprise architecture.

While I totally agree with his post, and I have seen many service-based integration examples that are not delivering the goods, I would like to focus on the people aspect of SOA. As Saul mentioned, SOA cuts across the organisation and affects many people and their roles. In doing so, SOA requires numerous people to communicate, collaborate and align with each other. The issue I see though if SOA requires such social behaviour, is how do we communicate the concept of SOA and the business value that can be achieved through the approach? I think one of the problems we face as technologists is that while we might understand concepts such as SOA, we struggle to have that business discussion. We fail to, on the one hand understand the challenges the business folks are trying to resolve and secondly we speak to them in context that they do not understand.

I felt this first hand at the recently held Insync09 conference. The majority of delegates I met were mostly applications managers, functional specialists and business analysts. I conducted an impromptu experiment to gauge what language would work with organisational profiles such as these folks, as traditionally their role in an organisation would be to ascertain the scope of a business issue, resolve it through applications and then integrate them. When asked by some folks what is SOA and how SOA could help; I spoke about the business agility, flexibility and service reuse benefits. Their eyes glazed over, which was expected. The conversation had no context to their world. There was nothing in it for them.

I then had the chance to present with Debra Lilley, an Oracle ACE Director and Deputy Chair of the Oracle User Group UK. We tackled a potential issue applications managers face, namely how processes such as order to cash could be extended beyond the traditional border of a business application. So we got them to think about the need for enterprise process, the services that already exist in available applications, and the need and benefits of moving away from point-to-point integration. Using a demonstration, the message went down very well as the delegates understood how their particular point of reference could change for the better. Debra was interviewed at the conference after our session, and explains the analogy she uses when trying to explain SOA and where she feels SOA can help applications specialists.

SOA purists might balk at the conversations we had, but I realised that while many of us understand how SOA can impact an enterprise architecture and support transformation initiatives and the greater business strategy, individuals impacted by any level of transformation require a conversational scope and approach that will contextualise the change to their frame of reference. In other words, what is in it for them.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Insync: Getting down to the business of SOA

In their journey towards adopting a SOA approach, organisations can be faced with a number a challenges. These roadblocks can often stifle SOA initiatives and reduce them to low ROI infrastructure integration projects. It is a concern to me that many initiatives follow this path.

While I spend my life in the world of technology, I am in the fortunate position of being exposed to a broad range of organisations attempting, maturing, succeeding and failing in their SOA journey. Two of my colleagues and I decided to compile a session at the Insyc Conference running on the 20th April in Sydney to address three key areas. (There is just so much you can cover in three hours!)

The first session will address strategies and tips on how to go about having the ever-important business discussion and how to approach building a business case. The second part of our afternoon will focus on preparing the IT organisation for transformation. We will cover topics such as the position and role of the CIO in the organisation, the relationship between IT and business, the potential need for an IT structural and role change, the development and resourcing of skills, the movement from architecture to execution, project selection, and the need for the establishment of a SOA Center of Excellence and governance framework. The last session of the day will focus on successful SOA execution. It will cover aspects of architecture, various enabling technologies that can support a SOA approach and execution strategies that organisations adopted, which eventually contributed towards their SOA journey and their eventual business transformation.

While our session is not the definitive guide on how to approach SOA, as the application of SOA is unique to every organisation, we hope that learnings gained from our interactions in the marketplace will be of benefit to other organisations embarking on their journey.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Viewing SOA as a project instead of an architecture

Recently a lot has been written about SOA's failure to deliver results and ROI. Wherever you turn you will find blogs, articles and opinion pieces saying what amounts to "At last the snake oil is exposed. Flush and lets ...".

And that's thing thing isn't it? Lets what exactly?

Lets go cloud computing? Lets go Web 2.0? Lets go mash-ups? Or whatever. Thing is will any of these turn out any different to the perceived failure of SOA in 5 years time? Why would they? Most of these concepts borrow from SOA ideas which were based on ideas that came before that. I am reminded of Larry Ellison describing the IT industry as being "more fashion-driven than women's fashion."

It all goes back to the fundamental truth that I often write and speak about . SOA/Distributed-computing/Web 2.0/Mash-ups/Cloud-computing/yada-yada-yada all need an architecture rather than the "let's go buy some software, do our project and be heroes". In fact this attitude is what created the mess that SOA et. al. was born to fix.

This was succinctly put by Anne Thomas Manes recently in a blog about called Measuring SOA Success/Failure. Anne's headlines are often read (eg. SOA is dead) but the content of what she writes is often not digested. Here are a few salient quotes that should be heard loud and clear:
  • Most organizations that I've spoken with are using service-oriented middleware to do integration (SOI rather than SOA). Very few companies are actually re-architecting their systems...
  • I have seen a small number of spectacular success stories. These companies have realized huge savings, they are able to deliver new solutions in significantly less time than before. All these companies adopted SOA as part of a much larger IT transformation effort...
  • And just in case you miss my point, I still strongly encourage organizations to invest in SOA. But my primary recommendation is to focus on architecture rather than technology.
Here we see that most organisations use SOA to do point-to-point integration with Web Services. No wonder we see no value - all you achieve is add yet another technology to the mess.

The goal rather needs to be the rationalisation of IT. Effort needs to be applied to streamline the business process by reducing the complexity and the application and data layers. But this is difficult. It involves political fights as it cuts across fiefdoms. It involves the hard work of forward planning. Don't confuse what I'm saying to mean that you have to "boil the ocean" upon the embarking of the good ship SOA. Not at all. The SOA journey is taken as a number of steps but the before we leave the dock we need to know where we (the whole organisation) are going and why. Then each step can be taken in the right sequence - it can be taken in context with the other steps.

I am getting increasingly frustrated as each wave of IT technology is deemed to be a failure and the software products are invariably identified as the culprit. I am reminded of an old adage "a poor workman blames his tools". Doesn't matter how good the tools are - if you start building without a plan (architecture) don't cry if you make a mess.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Free Speech, Common Sense and the use of Social Networking

Read an interesting post this morning on the Sydney Morning Herald website surrounding the case of some prison officers facing disciplinary action after posting some comments to a group on FaceBook.

We are all entitled to free-speech, to a degree of course, but what we must rely on is some common-sense! Most organisations will have an acceptable use policy for their equipment, networks, internet access, software, databases etc. that governs what they expect you to do and not-to-do within and outside of work hours on tools they provide you to do your job. They do not, however, govern what you do on your own time on your own equipment - but there's a catch. If you, in anyway, cause offence, defame or bring into disrepute in anyway the organisation you work for - you could be liable for disciplinary action. This is what the prison officers in question are facing right now.

Bottom line, be careful what you say and where you say it - FaceBook is NOT like having a chat over a beer in your local pub with a colleague who feels the same way. Actually, it is - but the difference being the conversation is recorded and played back to your boss the following day!

The Fake Paul Ricketts

Addendum [02-04-09] It's always nice to hear that great minds are thinking alike. The Real Kate Carruthers wrote an article about a similar topic - that of using systems like FaceBook and other abuses of IT in the workplace. Well worth checking out Kate and her article here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Light Bulb Effect interviews Jeff Kennedy

My friend and colleague Marc Caltabiano has interviewed Jeff Kennedy from the University of Auckland over on the Light Bulb Effect. It's a three part interview with Jeff riffing away on a number of topics - Enterprise Architeture, SOA, SaaS, Open Source and Green Computing - it's well worth a read.

And on the SOA meme Jeff has this to say, "
It is essential to recognise that SOA is a journey... and that SOA has a value proposition that cannot be realised for years to come... but that it's going to be vastly worthwhile."

I totally agree. As we've said before around these parts SOA is not dead, it's a journey, and there's a "vastly worthwhile" benefit along the way.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Breathing Life into Applications with Middleware

Oracle recently published a special report on what strategies business can explore in uncertain times.

I would like to add further commentary on what the authors stated.

Businesses have, for the most part, invested heavily in acquiring and building applications to assist them in driving business efficiencies. With the widespread adoption of ERP though, I feel that differentiation has begun to fade. So maybe the question we could ask ourselves is, what can we do today to deliver rapid value, utilising existing applications investments, and provide a sustainable platform for future growth? In addressing the challenge above, a number of key organisations I know of are reevaluating the role middleware performs in their architectures. They have achieved remarkable short-term results in areas such as consolidation and business process efficiencies, while at the same time underpinning their broader business transformation strategies.

Cost reduction through consolidation is high on the priority list of CIO’s. Adopting a service-oriented approach can support application consolidation. By identifying key business services delivered by existing applications and key processes that will drive business value, organisations can determine which of their applications they can retire, retain, or build out to agile composite applications.

Replacing expensive and unmanageable point-to-point integration with reusable services can further reduce architectural complexity and associated costs, allowing for more effort and funding to be injected into projects that would contribute towards the differentiation of the business.

In the longer term, application upgrades prove to be costly due to the level of customisation and extension conducted during its lifespan. Moving an application to a major point release could cost 20% (see document under whitepapers) of the original implementation cost. Performing customisations in an upgrade resilient services layer supports application upgrade pain reduction!

To hear more about how middleware can support and enhance your applications investment, our Oracle Australia team, together with our customers, will be delivering sessions at this years Oracle User Group in Sydney on the 20th and 21st April. I will be there too! Together will Debra Lilley, an Oracle ACE from the UK, we will discuss and demonstrate how businesses can use process management to facilitate transformation and how easy it is to extend your Oracle applications using Oracle BPEL Process Manager. See you there!

Friday, March 13, 2009

First thoughts on the Oracle Database Machine in Australia

Well its been a little over 4 months now since i started been involved with the Oracle Database Machine or DBM as i will call it here. The DBM is Oracle's first foray into the hardware appliance market.

In this tough economic climate its no surprise that every organisation wants to drive cost out of the business, in the front end and especially at the back end. The DBM couldn't have arrived at a better time to the market for our customers, here is an appliance datawarehouse designed for massive throughput from loading data, executing queries and presenting the important business intelligence back to the business. Speed in everything is essential but speed alone doesn't reduce costs, the real value in the DBM is the fact its an appliance. This is underrated IMHO especially now in this economic cliamate.

This week i needed to re image my laptop, Oracle gives you the option of Linux or Windows and being a secret techno i thought i would give Linux a try. Now i used to dabble in Unix but it was 20 years ago, and i was hoping not to venture near the text based utility vi. Anyway Linux did install pretty easy, actually i was surprised but then when i wanted to tailor it with dual head display, tool bars, gadgets, desktop search and adobe air for tweekdeck (the coolest twitter app) i suddenly realised all is not what it seemed. Suddenly i was thrust upon with desperate searches to see how to install RPM/BIN and remembering syntax for commands that mean nothing to me like chmod, bash and sudo. Wow i cant tell you how many hours i have sat at home getting this just right. Its hard since building Linux desktops isn't my profession so i wasted a lot of time taking in the knowledge of configuring a Linux.

This now takes me back to the appliance concept and specifically the DBM. Customers initially look at this box and dont appreciate the sum of the parts is far greater than any bill of materials can suggest. The DBM contains 8xHP DL360's, 14 Exadata Storage Cells with 12 disk in each, Infiniband,Oracle Unbreakable Linux, Enterprise Edition Database, RAC and Partitioning. So if you wanted an new warehouse and went to the effort of procuring the hardware, software and then looked and building the hardware units, loading drivers, os, database, RAC and ensuring its all up to date you are talking abut serious hours here. And in reality for most organisations its months not hours because your never going to dedicate resourcing 100%.

In these economic times we need to look at efficiency and productivity closer than ever. IT departments are there to make sure the user community and the business have the tools at their disposal to be productive, to automate repeatable processes and build a secure and compliant infrastructure. Its such a drain on resources to build a linux desktop as in my case or to procure a crate of hardware and a library of software to build something when you can just plug in an appliance.

The DBM offers great value when you consider Oracle with HP has done all this work for you, you can then focus on getting the most out of your new datawarehouse with new queries for the business, better ETL performance and headroom to cover the expected growth when the world recovers.

So today i have just touched on the appliance value of the Database Machine, over the next few weeks i will look at what really makes this box scream. The "Secret Sauce" will be my next post when i will discuss how the Storage Cells in the Database Machine are accelerating customers queries by factors over x100 times.

The Oracle Database Machine

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Project Management Pitfalls within SOA

Hi everyone. When the request came through to address the topic of project management within the context of SOA (our sixth part in our 10 part series), we could not think of a better person who works at the coal face, as Anton Gouws. Anton is our SOA Domain Lead for Oracle Consulting in APAC...

Project Managers: Know thy SOA

I have come across very few people that have really understood that SOA is not about solving an integration problem, but really about solving some very fundamental business issues (e.g. business agility, reduced maintenance cost, visibility of information, etc). Once people understand how a Services Orientated Architecture (with the focus on Architecture) is able to do this, their whole approach to implementation is changed. This is not rocket science but so few project managers (and customers) really understand this and it often leads to a host of SOA Implementation failures. For those of you that are still in the dark, I would urge you to have a look at the following SOA Video on YouTube.

Not understanding the principles of SOA by Project Managers often results in the following 2 key SOA Project Management mistakes. Now there are plenty more, but these are really fundamental to most issues:

Mistake 1: SOA without the Architecture
I can recall many Oracle Application projects, where I have been called in to help the team with their SOA implementation. On arrival at the site it becomes very apparent that this “SOA thing” is being equated to solving their integration issues. The Project manager also typically thinks that they are delivered on their SOA project commitments through the service enablement of the integration touchpoints. In my mind this is a BIG mistake, a massive opportunity loss for the customer and an outright project failure. On these projects rather than creating an architecture where common functionality (e.g. Credit Checking, Creation of an unique Customer across the organisation), business rules and information is available for all to use across applications and the organisation, they are perpetuating another silo’ed implementation that offers very little in terms of business agility and flexibility.
Below is a small checklist that you can go through to determine if your SOA project may not be using SOA architectural principals:

  1. Your integration team has never seen the business process that their integration code is suppose to support.

  2. No one is insisting on common functionality to be made available to the rest of the organisations.

  3. No one is fighting about ownership of data (e.g. customers, products, assets) or who is going to pay for the development of the service.

  4. No one is asking about the service lifecycle management.

  5. There are no canonical data models.

Mistake 2: Silo’d Teams
Having worked on many SOA projects, the most successful SOA projects that I have seen, typically follows a more Agile approach to project management (typically using Scrum). I believe the reason why this approach works so well on SOA projects is because it allows people across the project to rally around a particular activity (or business process) and provides the framework for rapid iterative development. This allows all the developers and business users to collaboratively work together to get the task at hand completed and breaks the traditional boundaries between the development communities (SOA Developers, Legacy Developers, Oracle Applications Developers, etc). Although this sounds easy enough, it is actually very difficult when you consider that many of your resources may be working off-shore and in different timezones and that communication issues across geographies are plenty. However these communication barriers have to be broken down for your SOA project to be successful and the communication to flow freely between team members.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Oracle Web2.0 Event PodCasts

Thank you to everybody who attended the recent Web2.0 events in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra during February 2009.

To listen to the recordings from the event, please select the session below.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

SOA where are the skills?

Hi Everyone. We are half way in our 10 part SOA series, and I thought it apt to address our ever present challenge, skills.

A number of writers on the Net are stating that the dearth of skill in the SOA arena is one of the main contributing factors for retarding SOA adoption. Burton even suggests that the CIO should be replaced. While I agree with some of their statements, and I will discuss them shortly, I believe that the lack of skill goes much deeper than just SOA skill. I believe that with the emergence of any new IT wave there is a time lag where skills development has to catch up with the technology. Speak to any IT vendor and you will get a common answer. The biggest challenge to the marketplace adopting their software is the lack of people to implement it. SOA just adds to the complexity of the problem, as it is an approach, not a product, and requires the application of a new set of skills from both business and IT.

So how can we resolve the skill predicament we are in right now with regards SOA? Seeing that SOA requires organisational transformation, lets begin at the top, with the CIO. To successfully embrace SOA, the CIO role can be one of the most important transformation agents. The CIO though will require some key qualities, including being a visionary, being strategic and being viewed as strategic by the organisation’s leadership team, and lastly being an excellent communicator and in doing so have the ability to sell technology requirements to the business. Without this executive agent in place, SOA initiatives face a high probability of failure.

If a CIO change agent is in place, the next big challenge is to understand very early on in the adoption of SOA 1) the extent to which a SOA approach will be adopted to successfully underpin business transformation, 2) the roles that would be required, and 3) the skills gap. I have heard so often that SOA is no problem, the developers and dba’s will just get retrained! Huh? There are a plethora of roles that need to be identified, with an enterprise architect with a mandate to enforce architecture being one of the critical roles. A number of organisations do not have architects, and some are not mandated to enforce standards. Apart from the enterprise architect; roles such as integration, data and process architects, process modellers, business analysts, product technology administrators, service developers and testers, security and governance specialists need to be considered. Pooling resources and forming a SOA Center of Excellence are good strategies to discover and build skill and should form part of an official change management program. As SOA has the potential to span all tiers of an organisation, business needs to be represented and roles such as software, hardware and network specialists need to be part of the CoE. If the SOA CoE discovers that there is an incorrect skill matrix, skill sets should be developed or replaced as early on in the transformation as possible.

My last thought, for now, on skills, is the internal resource development versus external consultant debate. I have seen organisations outsource their entire architecture, which in my opinion, is IT suicide. An organisation needs to own their IT strategy; a consultant won’t do it for them. So if you do not have the time to wait for internal skill development, where could a consultant make sense? Apart from the obvious analyst, developer and architectural skill that could be injected tactically into a project, I believe that hiring a third party mentor would have a profound impact. Adopting SOA can be fraught with failure by overlooking necessary strategies like forming a SOA Center of Excellence and Governance strategy. A consultant who has experienced that journey would be of great use.

While I have concentrated primarily on “hard” skills in this entry, maybe a topic that we can explore in the future is; do organisations and employees have sufficient social skills to support a SOA approach? SOA is, by its very nature, requires social behaviour. It is forcing siloed mentalities and traditional dogma to be replaced by collaborative workplaces where alignment between lines of business and with IT is critical. So in essence evaluating cultural readines and applying organisational change management will be as important as planning for and developing hard skills. Either way you look at it, both soft and hard skill development should be planned for from the inception stages of business transformation.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SOA – Pay Now or Pay Dearly

Hi, and welcome to our fourth topic on the 10-part SOA series. My section focuses on how a lack of investment in certain areas, can hamper and potentially derail business transformation strategies that are relying on a SOA approach.

When I hear the phrase “doing SOA on the cheap” it means one thing to me, viz the fundamental building blocks to facilitate SOA transformation have not been followed or understood. There are though a number of investment-poor symptoms that I think could warn you of impending SOA troubles. I would break them into people, processes and technology.

If you look at the people issue, I think the most important aspect here is investing in time. As time costs money I often see SOA relegated to the corridors of the IT department because it is then easier to control. I believe that as a SOA approach should underpin business transformation, sufficient time has to be spent with business to understand the overall strategy, to gain alignment, to facilitate role transformation, determine project priorities and decide upon a funding strategy. In terms of funding, I have heard that the “spare bodies” in the IT department get thrown at a SOA initiative because it is “high risk”; no-one understands the concept and no-one would fund it, so SOA will start off small with a couple of trained developers or DBAs and never grow beyond an experiment. SOA needs the most highly skilled technical and business resources, including key external consultants, that money can buy. You get what you pay for in this game, and what you don’t want are unskilled consultants and staff putting your business under unnecessary risk.

If you look at process, I would put governance into this category. I hear that governance can come later in SOA maturity because it is an expensive overhead. On the flip side I have seen SOA projects grow from a concept to production extremely quickly, and without the right policies and procedures in place potentially bad development practices could quickly become the norm, and the execution of services at runtime could be unmanaged. I believe in putting down rules quickly in a process to prevent costly rework later. Debates continue at what point governance should begin to develop. I would say you should think about governance before you build your first service.

The last category that you need to look at is technology, which would include development and the SOA enabling technologies. If you look at development, developing a bunch of services is pretty easy. The more difficult thing to do is develop services for reusability. It is estimated that creating a reusable service to a base service is anywhere between 30 and 200% more expensive. The flipside is that using a reusable service in further projects reduces development cost between 20 and 80% of the cost of developing a base service. While this makes logical sense, no IT project manager will factor in increased development costs to incorporate the notion of reusability, when it might not bring them benefit to their immediate project. I think another way of tackling this issue would be to apply governance that would ensure that services are built for reusability and services form part of a managed service lifecycle and development culture.

Choosing middleware technology can be tricky. When funding is lacking, often skunk works projects are built with anything that is freely available, with little or no consideration to the suitability of the technology to the business and no understanding of the manageability of the final architecture when the middleware infrastructure begins to mature across an enterprise. Ripping middleware out of architectures is a difficult process and making a hasty middleware decision early on in SOA adoption can prove costly in the long term.

So maybe a parting thought is if applying a SOA approach on a shoestring is not a wise decision, how can you get the funding to make it happen? For any transformation initiative, business executives need to understand what is required for them to achieve their business strategy. If SOA is the right approach and will deliver the required business value to help them achieve their business strategies, and they agree to the principles, then you will have the business case and the mandate to begin to invest properly in time, process and technology.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

All The President's SOA

I don't want to labour this point but it does make a nice introduction for what I want to write about this time out. I saw Paul Coby, CIO of British Airways present at a conference last year and one of his favourite phrases resonated with me, "There are no IT projects. Only business projects". He has a point. If you're doing technology for the sake of technology and not to help your customers or to improve your business then you're not doing it right. Now that's very easy for a high-flying CIO to say, how does he back it up. How, I wondered, does the thorny issue of executive sponsorship work itself out at BA?

Here's another quote for you, "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come." Victor Hugo this time. And, as I've blogged about before there is a single, simple, brilliant idea at the heart of SOA to prove that SOA's time has come, namely, building something once and re-using it is a good thing to do.

This famous quote of Victor Hugo is paraphrased in the movie 'The Contender'. As President Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) campaigns for his Vice Presidential nominee to be approved by the Senate he says "...there is no weapon as powerful as that of an idea whose time has come". As the nominee - Senator Laine Billings Hanson (Joan Allen) - finds out the idea is one thing, having some executive sponsorship to back it up is another. And lets face it, there is no better executive sponsorship than that of the President of the USA.

You probably won't have that level of sponsorship for your SOA efforts, so you'll have to settle for executive rather than presidential. What do you need from that executive for your SOA to succeed? What areas do they need to think about to help and support SOA in your organisation?

I've identified six areas;

1. Business Strategy and Process: Organisations need IT implementations that support the business and its changing needs. This is all about thinking about the business project, not the IT project. This is about providing an environment that links the management and measurement of IT with the management and measurement of the business strategy. This is where your sponsor is a key sounding board and information resource. What are the KPI's of your organisation and how does your planning in IT help to achieve them?

2. Architecture: Nearly all organisations that I have worked in fund and build IT by projects in lines of business. This leaves enterprise-wide processes and integration to be considered as afterthoughts and creates a barrier to change. The A in SOA helps organisations build an IT environment based on standards, distribution, loose coupling, re-use and business process representation that is designed to respond to change and will operate and integrate at the enterprise level, the executive level.

3. Building Blocks: A lack of consistency and repeatability in IT implementation hinders most organisations in achieving their goals with respect to IT budgets and agility. The building blocks metaphor offers a common, standards-based foundation on which companies can deliver IT, providing a basis for achieving consistency and maximising the ability to repeat successes by reusing implementations and the core infrastructure.

4. Projects and Applications: As in point 2 above, IT is traditionally developed by projects within lines of business – often creating excessive spending on duplicate functionality and compromising the integrity of enterprise processes. Executive sponsorship here helps you to catalogue, categorise, and modernise functions offered by systems and applications – standardising the manner in which those functions are offered, while reducing redundancy and promoting consistency. Duplication goes down, re-use goes up.

5. Organisation and Governance: The organic growth of our organisations has yielded an IT infrastructure that is difficult to manage and costly to change. Concentrate on creating an organisational structure and mandate - executive sponsorship needed here if you're going to mandate anything by the way - to govern the delivery of IT in standard ways, thereby enabling IT to meet the needs of the business and optimise IT utility.

6. Costs & Benefits:The $64,000 question. What is this going to cost to build? How much is it going to cost to run? More importantly, what are the predicted benefits from using it? And remember, an IT benefit without a Business benefit is not a benefit at all. Key development metrics, productivity measures, reuse measures, general best practices and internal/external benchmarking. And how does all of that link back to the Business Strategy outlined in Point 1?

My Brazilian colleague Marcelo Simoes has also penned a take on this recently with his "Five-Step Action Plan for Executives". He makes several good points in his piece and I particularly like his Fifth step - The victory dance.

More Jeff Bridges to close with. You're probably not going to get The Dude to sponsor your SOA efforts. But get yourself a sponsor. One that can think big, start small and move fast.