Last Thursday I said I was struggling to sum up IBM’s Connect09 analyst conference. I still am. Given its now Tuesday and I still haven’t posted a roundup I think its time for a change of plans. Lets decouple this thing.
First off WebSphere.
The Connect09 session that most surprised me was Federated Connectivity – Smarter Integration Across and Beyond The Enterprise hosted by AIM General Manager Craig Hayman. AIM you say, what the hell is that? Its an IBM acronym – Application Integration and Middleware. Basically it means WebSphere, but also high revenue mainframe products like CICs and IMS, to help the business look big. Anything labeled SOA is AIM. Anything labeled ESB is AIM. Which brings us to the subject in hand.
I wasn’t really sure what the session would be about, but I expected some cloud and Big SOA stuff. I sat listening to a pitch that seemed to basically run: “We told you guys to do SOA but instead you did point to point ESB integration, and are now complaining you didn’t get the benefits of SOA, so now we have to offer you some products that make your poor architectural choices less of a problem. File under “federation”" (bear in mind these are my words, not IBM’s).
IBM talking to the “silos of services” customers built? Insert Clay Davis expletive here…
So there I was, probably tweeting or something, when suddenly I realised Craig was saying something pretty revolutionary. REST-style development and integration is part of the SOA world, and AIM is increasingly supporting REST in its products.
The new Service Federation Management product is not based on Big SOA WS-* style integration. On the contrary, its designed to be easy to use, to make point to point integration more programmatic. This is SOA as documentation, rather than SOA as specification. You see IBM has this thing called WebSphere Service Registry and Repository (WSRR), a tool for managing SOA services. While that may have initially meant implement UDDI, today we have a nice ATOM-based store, with a more metadata, and less WS-* specific approach. IBM took a flexible, modern approach to architecting WSRR, and it shows. And not a moment too soon. RedMonk has only been calling for enterprise REST, well, since forever.
While some have variously said SOA is Dead, or we need to rethink everything and move to Web Oriented Architecture… IBM had just pragmatically introduced the notion of RESTFUL SOA. Why not just integrate resources in much the same way you integrate services? Why make things hard for developers?
I have spent a lot of time working these issues, notably with Duane Nickull and Dion Hinchcliffe in our book Web 2.0 Architectures: What Entrepreneurs and Information Architects Need to Know. SOA is not evil. But the WS-* stack did get us off track for a while.
It is a core thesis of mine that the hard work that has been done over the last few years refactoring architectures, rethinking components, learning the web, breaking down monoliths, making service calls easier, is only now going to start paying real dividends. Organisations that have eaten their brocolli are now going to get to eat their ice-cream. My four year old would understand. Enterprises and ISVs that have done the hard work will now find that reusing these services really will be an awful lot easier. Discipline leads to Freedom.
As I said recently:
SOA is about Enterprise Architecture, which has a value. Architecture, Discipline, Freedom.
It turns out that some of the Web Services standards so beloved of a certain constituency that wanted to “do Corba right” are indeed flatlining, but SOA is actually in bloody good health.
To be fair to IBM it started down the road to REST a while ago. Without the choice of ATOM, WSRR would be a very different, inflexible, and tightly coupled piece of software. Genarro Cuomo, WebSphere CTO is a smart as anybody about the dangers of focusing too much on the edge cases, and not enough on the mainstream getting things done. See Project Zero.
I said to Craig: Hey This is REST, I never got the memo… quick as a flash he said: “you never read the memo”.
But just because IBM is now taking advantage of REST and more lightweight integration methods doesn’t mean its customers are. IBM’s main education efforts in SOA were about the style that is now being superceded. IBM customers are usually two to three, if not four to five, years behind current state of the art. Its time for IBM to start beating the drum for the new development and integration style. Customers are behind the curve. Federation is as good a place as any to start. I was quite taken with the demos of WebSphere end point to salesforce.com integration, for example.
While this post is about WebSphere, I should also note that the Rational Refactoring otherwise knows as Jazz is based on RESTful foundations. Indeed-one of the reasons IBM is finding it easier to integrate Rational, WebSphere and Tivoli artefacts and models is because of the emerging foundation – Hypermedia as the engine of Application State. The Lotus mashup stuff is of course REST oriented.
As RedMonk has noted before, IBM is the enterprise kingmaker. Well its time for the firm to anoint REST in AIM. Implementing it isn’t enough.
Get writing that memo Craig!
The timing of the Service Federation Management product is pretty much perfect. My predictions for 2009?
“Hybrid Cloud and On Premise models for the enterprise. Hybrid is now just the reality of how we get things done. Just as open source began as a fringe activity, but captured the mainstream, so SaaS and Cloud are increasingly just an economic and technical reality. Cloud doesn’t replace on premise, it augments it.”
IBM is RedMonk’s biggest client. IBM paid T&E for me to attend Connect09. The slide above is copyright IBM.