Wednesday 30 March 2011

The emperor is dressed in fluffy Clouds

After reading too many tweets, tweetups, events, papers and products about Cloud Integration, I decided to rant blog on this phenomenon. In my very first post on this blog, How Cloud computing will drive Enterprise Integration, I talked about a similar thing, and fortunately that was May 2009 but now applications are appearing and it's time to put an end to it, especially after I released my Perfect Integration eBook last week

Here's what I said back then:

So, I think it's good news. The real EDI experts are somewhat left alone in solving this riddle, unlike SOA where people claimed to have 20 years experience in something that was invented only months before

Tuesday 29 March 2011

From product to service: stealing first base?

The other day I read a post about how someone in a poor country is making a living by taking his washing machine across town (rather: slum) and selling it "by the wash", thus turning a product into a service. The rationale in this specific case is cheap washing machines from abroad pushing existing ones down the sales ladder

While I admire the entrepreneurial spirit here, I wonder whether this actually does good or bad. Yes it's a smart move to create a new market when your current one is under pressure, but what if your neighbour does the same with one of them new cheapo laundromats? Even worse, what if one of them cheap labour fellas comes overhere and starts competing with you?

Saturday 26 March 2011

The secret to success for Social Media? It's 1.0

In the Search for Social as I call it, people have been mesmerising, stating and claiming success for the Social Movement in various ways.
Email has been condemned to death as that wouldn't be fit for the Brave New World, Facebook has been proclaimed the best way to interact with your users or customers, Twitter has been famed as the way to get your people to collaborate and even I've tried to explain the reason behind Social in my Social Business (R)evolution

However, I now have found the true reason for Social's Success: it's the fact that its tools are closed and centralised - exactly that what is battled against by most if not all Social Advocates

Monday 21 March 2011

The Social CRM Magic Quadrant

I missed the Social CRM Summit today - twice. Not only did I not physically attend, but I was occupied with work and only found time in my lunch break to quickly scan a few tweets. Now it's after dinner, there are 700 tweets, and I am ready to analyse away

Of course I use @TheTwuniverse for collecting info (my pet project), it allows me to save the results as HTML but also to copy all and paste it so I can do some filtering

Sunday 20 March 2011

Perfect Integration 13 - the do's

Final post in the series, this is the summary and conclusion, to be used as some sort of checklist if you like

When conducting enterprise business application integration, within the enterprise IT landscape among applications and systems, or from there to others at another company or even directed towards the customer, here are the pragmatic rules:

Start at the business level, and write down which process it concerns. What is the business event, which its trigger, how often does it occur, how sensitive is the data? Why should this be automated, in other words, what is the manual alternative and the benefits and concerns of both?
Write out the functionality it concerns. List the entities, their cardinalities, and all attributes concerned, and describe them as complete as possible. Here's an example

Saturday 19 March 2011

Perfect Integration 12 - the dont's

I changed my mind and decided to end this series with positive do's, so this is the dont's one. Then again reserving no. 13 for the dont's was a superstitious move anyway, and as I'm neither religious nor superstitious (they usually travel in pairs), it's better this way

This post is about debunking TLA's and FLA's. XML, SOAP and REST primarily, but Webservices and other concepts whose added value is flimsy or even absent, will get proper attention

Thursday 17 March 2011

Perfect Integration 11 - Orchestration

I've compared the diversity of an IT application landscape and managing its information exchange in a uniform way to translation, with the European Parliament as a perfect example of translating dozens of languages via three intermediate languages. In IT, we only need one, as languages (syntaxes) there are far less complex than in the linguistic world

I've used a similar metaphor to explain how different transport protocols can be handled, by referring to James Bond's opening scenes, where he takes all kinds of transportation in order to escape death. He simply manages by getting off one kind of transportation, and getting on another one. Clever hey?

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Perfect Integration 10 - the missing link: envelope

With a common language, a common transport protocol, and the need to exercise the necessary translation and transformation on both levels in between, there is a growing need to be able to identify all "service requests" on a generic level too

Numerous and various requests will be made, in different formats, via different transport protocols. This certainly is not Utopia, but a pragmatic observation that is maintained in almost an evolutionary way: within successful companies IT systems, like people, are selected based on professional excellence (meaning specialist instead of generic properties).
Excelling in one area usually means being moderate in a few others, and being capable of good and generic integration is usually one of those. Intellectual supermodels, and good-looking scientists: they are either scarce or non-existent

When all those requests are being made in different ways too, it becomes nearly impossible, but at least very time-consuming and costly, to collect and streamline all the information. Whatever the flexibility on the messaging and transportation level may be, addressing all those variations must be made possible in a generic and structured way

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Perfect Integration 9 - history with hindsight

In the previous post, the history of Integration passed: point-to-point, EAI and ESB. For those who read and grasped post 1 through 7, it'll be clear why I favour which one - but let me explain it in more detail

What are the differences between the different historical approaches?

The crucial difference is that EAI describes a hub and spoke architecture, where proprietary messages to and from applications are translated by a central integration broker. Yes, that is the European Parliament post, among others.

As described, applications can plug in and out of the landscape this way, and the necessary transformation of information is taken care of by the central hub

Sunday 13 March 2011

Perfect Integration 8 - history of the last decades

In the first seven posts, the approaches to Integration have been shown. The architectural top-down approach, the common subset theme, and the central integration methods: messaging, transformation and transportation.
Now the approach to successful integration has been set out, a brief story about integration in the real IT world, over the last decades, is in its place

Point to point interfacing
Point to point connections, is a term that describes how applications can be connected. Point to point interfacing was commonly used to link applications together "in the early days", and was a reasonable solution as long as the scale of integration stayed small

Saturday 12 March 2011

Perfect Integration 7 - information exchange: transportation

[Image courtesy of Ferdinand Reus]

After creating and or choosing a common or generic format to exchange the information, there is one other field to explore: the facilitation of various communication protocols through which this information can be transported

What applies to messages, also applies to transport: a common language is to be advised as "main artery" for all the traffic. Besides that, each application must speak its own language here as well, and use its own infrastructure as much as possible. Adjusting applications for transport protocols can be even harder than doing so for messages: transport protocols are very, very static and rely on worldwide standards. Making your own version of it is highly unappreciated

Thursday 10 March 2011

Perfect Integration 6 - Common language: syntaxes

In the previous posts I explained semantics, syntax, and the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to get from diverse IT applications to one uniform business language. This post will take a deep dive into message formats such as Flat file, EDIFACT, XML and JSON

Ever wondered about the pros and cons of XML? JSON? What it is really? What other possible message syntaxes are?
When semantics and a logical structure has been defined, and functional groups and fields have been identified, just about any message format can be chosen.
Choosing message formats (or rather, predefining them) is a rather pragmatic measure that narrows down the margin for discussion when it comes to choosing a form for your common language

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Perfect Integration 5 - Common language: indirect translation

Number 5 in the series, this post is about indirect translation, in contrast with the direct translation shown in the previous post, which came with costly, exponential dependencies

When looking towards large-scale use of translators, e.g. the European Committee in Brussels, it is easily observed how these dependencies can be greatly reduced: all languages are first translated into English, French or German, after which either one of those is translated into the final destination language

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Perfect Integration 4 - Common language: direct translation

Update March 22 19:07 CET: extended this paragraph along the lines sketched in my comment below. Thanks Stuart
This post in the series is about my favourite subject: translation. Long, long, long ago I aspired to become an interpreter - but changed my mind. Still, I consider myself a linguist and a good one at that, speaking 6 languages of which 3 fluent. The existence of extreme diversity in languages of the world, and the same existence in diversity in an average enterprise IT landscape have always hooked my attention

Just like people speak different dialects and languages, so do applications: not one of them can perfectly understand the other without changing a thing. Even when interfacing between SAP systems, there will be differences on the technical level that have to be resolved.
So, how do you solve these misunderstandings at the technical level? How do you "translate" between the different languages and dialects spoken? One of the sides has to adapt, or maybe both? When, and how?
To answer that, let's look at the everyday world of natural languages. A completely different world, with an identical problem - and a working solution

Learning a language can be very hard and time-consuming, and very few will ever master a non-native language perfectly. Most of us know someone within the same country that has an accent and just can’t seem to get rid of it; those that have connections across the border might have heard other people speak their language and have difficulties understanding them. Or one has heard a colleague or neighbour speak a foreign language and, while not being able to speak that language fluently themselves, has good reason to suspect that there will be people on the other side having difficulties understanding that “version of the language”

Monday 7 March 2011

Perfect Integration 3 - Common language: semantics first

This post will elaborate on messaging and transformation (part I), and explain how information exchange works in the daily world, considering simple or complex information exchanges. That will then be related to IT, and the basic ways of “writing down” information in IT will be explained.

If you want to have a chat with someone else, what do you do?
First, a common theme to discuss has to be found - usually not that hard. The favourite ones in e.g. IT usually are new technologies, cars, and the occasional sports.
The topics then have to be found, which is a bit harder. Do we discuss hardware technologies, or software technologies, or is it architecture or open source we want to discuss?
If the topics have been identified, last but not least the definitions have to be checked: are we talking about the same subjects?

The Greek philosopher Socrates filled entire conversations, and books, with merely trying to establish that he and his counterpart were talking about the same thing. There are numerous occasions on which he talked half a dozen times or more to someone, only to mutually agree on the fact that they didn’t mean the same thing while using the same word, and then end the discussion.

Sunday 6 March 2011

A new kind of Capgemini Consulting, errrrr attrition

I was alerted on Twitter to this thoughtless, clumsy, mindless piece by Peter Sayer on PCWorld:

Capgemini Consulting, a specialist in strategy and transformation, is about to transform its own strategy for the second time in two years. To cope with the change, the company plans to recruit up to 1,000 staff this year, predominantly younger workers with social media and "digital transformation" skills, although it expects other staff to leave

Its title? Capgemini Consulting Readies 'a New Kind of Consulting'

Perfect Integration 2 - Common subset and transformation

Number two in the series, this post deals with the common subset found on all levels in the previous post:

  • what is the shared interest (Business)
  • which information do you want to share (Information)
  • which definitions are mutually exchangeable (Information Systems)
  • how do you want to exchange ideas (Infrastructure)

Information exchange form: messaging
After having agreed on mutual business and information to be exchanged, transferring information in a certain message layout from and to systems is the logical next step.

Saturday 5 March 2011

Perfect Integration 1 - Architectural Approach

First post in a series of 5-10, I will release all my views and opinions on the Art of Integration. I challenge you to disagree, and bash me with arguments and reasoning. Feel free to shoot from the hip and aim at the heart, anything goes really. I am absolutely convinced that I am right and spot-on on every single statement, sentence, and word

Itching already? Great. Let the games begin...