One of the things i most admire and like about IBM is that its such a broad church. All views are present (and correct). All views are tolerated. Part of this is down to a 100 year culture of respecting the individual. The company lives diversity; I often think of the Guidry brothers (hello Calvin), all of them black and proud and more than six feet tall, and all working at IBM as software engineers back in the day.
This post is not about race though; its about tribes and the future of IBM. Its about creative destruction and feeling free to play, to associate or disassociate. to couple or not to couple. Freedom of disassociation, if you like. IBM is a federation of tribes in a way that Microsoft isn’t.
Microsoft has some technical diversity and is full of amazingly bright people, but when Microsoft employees talk to each other about drinking the cool-aid its a tacit admission the company pushes towards a more singular vision; one driven largely by the history, character and experiences of leaders such as Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Jim Allchin. These guys have established articles of faith. Dogma. The cathedral is one reason the Scoble phenomenon continues to amaze.
Compare with IBM; there is no linguistic corrolary to “drinking the coolaid” at Big Blue. IBM doesn’t really have an equivalent spiritual leadership. Any day of the week i can talk to mainframe bigots, TPF gurus, Windows and IE Only true believers, J2EE nazis, RPG freaks, unabashed Unix uber alles gnarlheads, and people that think technology doesn’t matter (my big beef with IGS… of course technology matters) . IBM is how i described the future yesterday- “ fractured, diverse, legion.” Not much dogma.
There is not really an “IBM line” on any subject technically. Of course IBM has attempted to, and continues to, build frameworks that will notionallly tie everything together – SSA, SNA, Tivoli etc. Sometimes IBM has even succeeded in such endeavors–System 360, for example. I would advise you to read Adam Bosworth on the subject of complexity and arabesques of the Alhambra.
So what is the alternative to once and future frameworks, the latest of which is the WS-I stack? I try and keep an eye on the situation. I recently wrote these words: “IBM could ask Sam Ruby to establish a RESTful service integration strategy. WebSphere is an increasingly powerful platform, but it isn’t always necessary.”
For an argument as to how IBM is already doing this, you should read Koranteng’s Toli. Restful WebSphere indeed… Well it seems Sam is ready to articulate. This is a very powerful presentation when you consider the context and the billions of dollars at stake.
The more i think about what service oriented architecture means the more i realize loosely coupled has to go beyond lip service. Organizations as much as as architectures must be decoupled, so they can be remixed. Its just so much horse manure to talk about SOA without a formal commitment to loose coupling. That is, open documented interfaces across granular components or services, with no funny business and hidden calls. Interoperability is not just a marketing term. You can’t have SOA and attempt to drive lock in.
The more i think about the problems of SOA the more its clear the culture of a company will be as important in delivering it, from a vendor perspective, as any set of technical assets. Monoliths are not service oriented. But, we can’t break them down without freedom of disassociation. That is why Sam’s work is so important to the future of SWG; he will drive change into the mindset. RedMonk advises enterprises that SOA is not strictly technical, so much as an organizational approach and mindset. What i am now arguing is that cultural change is just as necessary for vendors in the space. If i am right, NetWeaver will get into trouble; SAP just isn’t bazaar enough.
When IBM first adopted open source technology in the shape of Linux, it was clear the effects would be far reaching and deeply disruptive. But really the disruption is only just beginning. Open source is not just a technology, its a state of mind. IBM’s new SWG meme is Radical Simplicity. PHP as a beneficiary.
Freedom of Disassociation – no wonder Tim uses the term loyal oppositionist.
Middleware- can i see it? Not if Sam has anything to do with it. But i will be able to view the source code…