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Posts Tagged ‘web services’

JavaOne and Oracle’s OpenWorld 2010 Conference, Initial Thoughts

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I’ve been at Oracle’s combined JavaOne and OpenWorld events for two days.  I am here as both an attendee, learning from a variety of experts, and as a speaker.  Of course this is the first JavaOne since Oracle acquired Sun.  I have been to several JavaOne conferences over the years so I was curious how the event might be different.

One of the first changes that I’ve noticed is that due to the co-location of these two large conferences the venue is very different than when Sun ran JavaOne as a standalone event.  The time between sessions is a full half hour, probably due to the fact that you may find yourself going between venues that are several blocks apart.  I used to think that having getting from Moscone North the Moscone South took a while.   Now I’m walking from the Moscone center to a variety of hotels and back again.  Perhaps this is actually a health regime for programmers!

The new session pre-registration system is interesting. I don’t know if this system has been routine with Oracle’s other conferences but it is new to JavaOne.  Attendees go on-line and pre-register for the sessions they want to attend.  When you show up at the session your badge is scanned.  If you had registered you are allowed in.  If you didn’t preregister and the session is full you have to wait outside the room to see if anyone who registered fails to show up.

I think I like the system, with the assumption that they would stop people from entering when the room was full.  At previous conferences it seemed like popular sessions would just be standing room only, but that was probably a violation of fire codes.  The big advantage of this approach is that it reduces the likelihood of your investing the time to walk to the venue only to find out you can’t get in.  As long as you arranged your schedule on-line and you show up on-time, you’re guaranteed a seat.

Enough about new processes.  After all, I came here to co-present a session and to learn from a variety of others.

Paul Evans and I spoke on the topic of web services and their use with a rules engine. Specifically we were using JAX-WS and Drools.  We also threw in jUDDI to show the value of service location decoupling.  The session was well attended (essentially the room was full) and seemed to keep the attendees’ attention.  We had some good follow-up conversations regarding aspects of the presentation that caught people’s interest, which is always rewarding. The source code for the demonstration program is located at http://bit.ly/blueslate-javaone2010.

Since I am a speaker I have access to both JavaOne and OpenWorld sessions.  I took advantage of that by attending several OpenWorld sessions in addition to a bunch of JavaOne talks.


Successful Process Automation: A Summary

Monday, July 26th, 2010

InformationWeek Analytics (http://analytics.informationweek.com/index) invited me to write about the subject of process automation.  The article, part of their series covering application architectures, was released in July of this year.  It provided an opportunity for me to articulate the key components that are required to succeed in the automation of business processes.

Both the business and IT are positioned to make-or-break the use of process automation tools and techniques. The business must redefine its processes and operational rules so that work may be automated.  IT must provide the infrastructure and expertise to leverage the tools of the process automation trade.

Starting with the business there must be clearly defined processes by which work gets done.  Each process must be documented, including the points where decisions are made.  The rules for those decisions must then be documented.  Repetitive, low-value and low-risk decisions are immediate candidates for automation.

A key value point that must be reached in order to extract sustainable and meaningful value from process automation is measured in Straight Through Processing (STP).  STP requires that work arrive from a third-party and be automatically processed; returning a final decision and necessary output (letter, claim payment, etc.) without a person being involved in handling the work.

Most businesses begin using process automation tools without achieving any significant STP rate.  This is fine as a starting point so long as the business reviews the manual work, identifies groupings of work, focuses on the largest groupings (large may be based on manual effort, cost or simple volume) and looks to automate the decisions surrounding that group of work.  As STP is achieved for some work, the review process continues as more and more types of work are targeted for automation.

The end goal of process automation is to have people involved in truly exceptional, high-value, high-risk, business decisions.  The business benefits by having people attend to items that truly matter rather than dealing with a large amount background noise that lowers productivity, morale and client satisfaction.

All of this is great in theory but requires an information technology infrastructure that can meet these business objectives.


Business Ontologies and Semantic Technologies Class

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Semantic Arts’ training class entitled, “Designing and Building Business Ontologies.”  The course, led by Dave McComb and Simon Robe, provided an excellent introduction to semantic technologies and tools as well as coverage of ontological best practices.  I thoroughly enjoyed the 4-day class and achieved my principle goals in attending; namely to understand the semantic web landscape, including technologies such as RDF, RDFS, OWL, SPARQL, as well as the current state of tools and products in this space.

Both Dave and Simon have a deep understanding of this subject area.  They also work with clients using this technology so they bring real-world examples of where the technology shines and where it has limitations.  I recommend this class to anyone who is seeking to reach a baseline understanding of semantic technologies and ontology strategies.

Why am I so interested in semantic web technology?  I am convinced that structuring information such that it can be consumed by systems, in ways more automated than current data storage and association techniques allow, is required in order to achieve any meaningful advancement in the field of information technology (IT). Whether wiring together web services or setting up ETL jobs to create data marts, too much IT energy is wasted on repeatedly integrating data sources; essentially manually wiring together related information in the absence of the computer being able to wire it together autonomously!


Net Neutrality: Is There a Reason for Concern?

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Lately the subject of net neutrality has garnered a lot of attention.  As businesses large and small create an ever increasing set of offerings that require lots of bandwidth there is concern that the Internet infrastructure may not be able to keep data flowing smoothly

The core of the Internet’s bandwidth is provided by a few businesses.  These businesses exist to make money.  Fundamentally, when demand exceeds supply the cost of the good or service goes up.  In this case those costs might appear as increased charges for access or a slowing of one company’s data transfer versus another.

As in many debates there are two extreme positions represented by individuals, companies and trade groups.  In this case the dimension being debated is whether there is a need to legislate a message-neutral Internet (Net Neutrality)

The meaning of being “neutral” is that all data flowing across the Internet would be given equal priority.  The data being accessed by a doctor reading a CAT scan from a health records system would receive the same priority as someone watching a YouTube video.

Although the debate surrounds whether net neutrality should be a requirement, the reasons for taking a position vary.  I’ll start with concerns being shared by those that want a neutral net to be guaranteed.

Why Net Neutrality is Important

The Internet has served as a large and level playing field.  With a very small investment, companies can create a web presence that allows them to compete as peers of companies many times their size.

Unlike the brick-and-mortar world where the location, size, inventory, staff and ambiance of a store have direct monetary requirements, a web site is limited by the creativity and effort of a small team with an idea.  If Amazon and Google had needed to create an infrastructure on par with Waldenbooks or IBM in order to get started they would have had a much tougher journey.

Data on the Internet should be equally accessible.  It should not matter who my Internet Service provider (ISP) is.  Nor should my ISPs commercial relationships have a bearing on the service they provide to me to access the services of my choice.

If I choose to use services from my ISP’s competitor I should have access equivalent to using my ISP’s offering.  For instance, if I choose to use Google’s portal versus my ISP’s portal, the data sent by Google must not be impeded in favor of customer’s requesting my ISP’s content.

Network discrimination would dismantle the fundamental design of the Internet.  One of the original design goals for the Internet was its ability to get data from one place to another without regard for the actual content.  In other words, the underlying transport protocol knows nothing about web pages, SSH sessions, videos, and Flash applications.  It is this service agnosticism that has allowed myriad services to be created without having to fundamentally reengineer the Internet backbone.

An infrastructure that used to only routinely carry telnet and UUCP sessions now pass all manner of protocols and data.  Adding a layer of discrimination would require altering this higher-level agnosticism, since it is typically through inspection of the payload that one would arrive at decisions regarding varying the level of service.  This would lead the Internet down a road away from its open standards-based design.

There are other specific arguments made in favor of ensuring net neutrality.  In my opinion most of them relate to one of these I’ve mentioned.  So why oppose the requirement of net neutrality? (more…)

System of Record

Friday, February 20th, 2009

For years the phrase “system of record” was used by the IT team to connote the master database for a set of data (e.g. HR, Orders, Finance, etc.).  Different databases might be the “system of record” for a subset of the company’s data.  The key was to know which one housed the master information for each type of data.  These days the concept needs to be expanded.  The “system of record” must include business rules since business rules give our data its meaning.

As enterprises have moved toward service oriented architectures, one of the main advantages is to allow rapid access to data.  New applications, including those from external stakeholders (vendors, partners, customers), allow for further streamlining and automation of business processes.  These integrations allow our systems to be accessed by an arbitrary collection of applications.  The rules around our business operations must be automatically enforced regardless of the path by which the information arrives within our infrastructure.

In order to provide for the consistent application of rules when interacting with our data, it is the business rules which must filter the access to data.  Rules such as credit checks, minimum order quantities, user validation and so forth must be consistently applied whether the information is being manually entered into an application of our own creation, arriving via a web service call or read from a batch file.  This consistency is provided by the business rules, not the database. (more…)