my recent reads..

Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters; From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima
Power Sources and Supplies: World Class Designs
Red Storm Rising
Locked On
Analog Circuits Cookbook
The Teeth Of The Tiger
Sharpe's Gold
Without Remorse
Practical Oscillator Handbook
Red Rabbit

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Does your team have "hustle"?

I was reminded recently of a quote from Frederick Brooks' classic The Mythical Man-Month
A baseball manager recognizes a nonphysical telent, hustle, as an essential gift of great players and great teams. It is the characteristic of running faster than necessary, moving sooner than necessary, trying harder than necessary. It is essential for great programming teams, too.

Hustle. You'll know it if you've got it, but if you don't, then how do you get it?

Knowing that you should even be asking this question is I think a good indicator that as a Project Manager you may even be on the road to becoming a great Leader! Peter Drucker wrote "Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant."

The term management has of course been so abused and ridiculed (thanks to Scott Adams et al and untold thousands who have assumed the title but not the competence) that its common usage is a far cry from Drucker's meaning, which I personally define as the nexus of (little-m) management [the science of knowing] and leadership [the art of making things happen].

So back to the question of hustle. Probably the most common problem I've seen in practice is that you have a team of really smart people, but they simply can't fix on what to hustle about. Either they've lost their way (like after a major release), or never found it in the first place (can't pin down some fundamental vision, design or architectural issues). Once you are underway however, a problem common to large projects is that your day-to-day/week-to-week work is just lost in this huge 18-month timeline. You can't hustle for 18-months straight, so why hustle at all?

Now anyone in the business of development will immediately think of a few methods-du-jour for tackling these kind of situations: scrum, prototyping, XP etc.

Common to these methods is the idea breaking problems down into achievable steps or iterations, and importantly emphasising the delivery of something concrete each time.

To generalise, they provide a sense of "where we are", and a series of tangible near-term goals for "where we want to go".

In other words, find a sense of purpose and you're on the way to unleashing some hustle.

Now isn't that what good leadership is all about? Having a clear vision. Understanding the people in your team, how they are motivated, how they are "blocked". And then creating the circumstances under which the team can realise the vision.

As a Project Manager responsible for delivering results, every tool deserves to be questioned and considered as part of your strategy.

Take something as fundamental as your project plan/gantt chart. Based on average software project success rates, there's upwards of a 70% chance your project plan is just lulling upper management into a false sense of security, while also serving as a daily reminder to the team of the impossibility of the task at hand. Why do you even bother?

If you are going to toil over one at all, consider whether it is really doing the job of communicating where we are/where we want to go to the team. Is the team reading it? Does the team even have access to it??

Is it posted up on the wall, and referred to whenever two or more team members are having a conversation? Or is it a crufty bit of detritus that lives in a folder that no-one other than the PM uses (and they don't have MS Project installed anyway)?

Worse yet, is the cryptic, mystical project plan actually contributing to the fuzziness of the team not really knowing exactly where we are or where we are going? And killing any hope of seeing some hustle..

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Migrating to a Virtual CVS Host

Seasons greetings to all! Of course, a few days off means time for some of those special projects that have been waiting in the wings;-)

I run a cvs repository for my personal use at home (migrating to subversion is a project for another xmas break). There are two stupid mistakes in the setup I've wanted to fix for a long time.
  1. It is running on the main machine I use for testing and development, which can lead to some tricky catch-22 situations. Duh!
  2. I've always used the servername to access the repository, which makes relocation a pain. This seems to be a problem common to the many development shops I have seen. Gold stars for actually using source control, but brickbats for not thinking of using a virtual host name before finding yourselves tied to a specific host!

The Relocation

Actually, by moving to a new server I mean old laptop .. it is easy to write-off a 256Mb 600MHz machine these days, but they really do make decent "network utility" servers! Running Linux of course. Ideal for just sitting in the corner and running your crucial network services day in, day out. Like cvs.

Since I was migrating the cvs repository from another Linux machine, the move was a piece of cake. The following notes assume Red Hat (or Oracle Linux), which is what I am running. It also assumes the cvs repository is at /cvsroot and the cvs user account is called cvs (just substitute your actual details where approriate).

CVS Setup - New Server
Most Linux distributions will already have the cvs server installed (but not configured or running). Since I'm on Red Hat, I can check for the cvs package using rpm:
$ rpm -qa | grep cvs

If you can't find the server package, download and install as appropirate for your distro.

Setting up the CVS Service
Create a new cvs user and group to own the repository.
[root@new server]# /usr/sbin/groupadd cvs
[root@new server]# /usr/sbin/useradd -g cvs cvs
[root@new server]# passwd cvs

Check that the service name is listed in /etc/services
$ grep cvspserver /etc/services
cvspserver 2401/tcp #cvs pserver process

To get the cvs server under xinetd control, create /etc/xinetd.d/cvspserver:
service cvspserver
socket_type = stream
protocol = tcp
wait = no
user = root
passenv = PATH
server = /usr/bin/cvs
server_args = --allow-root=/cvsroot -f pserver

Move the Repository Files
Normally at this point you would initialise a new repository if you are setting up a server from scratch (cvs -d /cvsroot init). However in this case I'm moving the repository files from the old to the new server. For me, this meant tar/gzip of the /cvsroot, ftp the archive to the new machine, and unzip to re-create /cvsroot.
[root@old server]# tar -zcvf cvsroot.tar.gz /cvsroot
[root@new server]# cd /
[root@new server]# ftp {file from old server}
[root@new server]# tar -zxvf cvsroot.tar.gz

Starting the Server
[root@new server]# /etc/init.d/xinetd restart

Switching to a Virtual Hostname

OK, now we get to the main point of the post - using cvs with a "virtual hostname". I mean of course using a name that belongs to the cvs service rather than any particular server, which will make future relocations to new servers a breeze if it becomes necessary.

So where I used to access "", I will now use "". These names can be resolved by DNS or hosts file. They could actually map to different IPs (i.e. use virtual IP address also), but in my case I have just setup "" as an alias for my new server's IP address.

To preconfigure the cvs environment for Linux users I add the following to /etc/profile:
export EDITOR=/bin/vi
export CVSROOT=:pserver:$

Migrating CVS Clients
Now what about all the cvs "clients"? Strict protocol would suggest you should make sure everything is checked in before the server move, and check out a fresh copy from the new server when it is ready. This is not really a nice way to go for at least two reasons:
  1. You'll probably miss something that needs checking in
  2. If you have directories with a mix of cvs controlled/non-controlled files you have an interesting mix-and-match problem to get everything back in sync
Fortunately there are some tricks you can employ to do an "in-place" migration of modules checked out on the client. Basically we just need to update the CVS/Root files with the details of the new server.

Here's a quick perl recipe for updating all of the CVS/Root files under the current directory in Linux:
perl -i.orig -pe "s/myacct\\;" $(find . -name Root)

On Windows, you can use the extended FOR syntax to descend the directory tree:
for /R %r in (Root?) do perl -i.orig -pe "s/myacct\\;" %r

These perl one-liners (-e) loop line-by-line (-p) through the file, modifying it in-place while also creating a backup file with the .orig suffix (-i.orig). Each line of the file is evaluated with the global search and replace regular expression (s///g).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

An Ode to SOA - The Story of Eric the Architect

I recently discovered the following manuscript in my attic. It was an emotional moment, being my chronicle of the friendship I shared with a pioneer of the information age. Ultimately rejected and disowned by is peers, Eric was a champion of all that is good in IT. I share this now, in the hope that future generations may see the error of their ways...

I'd like to tell you the story of my friend Eric. Known amongst his closest friends (like Greg) as "Eric the Architect", a veteran of the Enterprisey Wars.

He's had an amazing career. If you are of a certain age like Eric, you have grown up with the explosion of information technology in the enterprise. You may even share his experience of the great putsch to create a new, better world in which order and control reign over chaos and individualism.

I remember Eric telling me of his early days in the cabala, just starting out as a novice. Duely consecrated, Eric got a job in the dungeons of a well established banking institution. A silver-tongued pin-stripe jockey from Manhattan had convinced the MD to jump aboard the new business revolution. Delivering your quarterly report was no longer going to be dependent upon legions of handle-cranking, visor-tipping clerks. Blechley Park had marked the path. The transistor was upon us! Eric was trained in the art of COBOL. As an accolite, he got to experience the power passed down from the denizons on high. Early assignments introduced him to the adrenaline rush that comes from raising sheilded wing over the hoards of minions in whose hands the destiny of the Comapany had been entrusted. "Show us the light, Master!" they called out. And Eric replied: 004900 MOVE STACK-FRAME (S390) TO CURRENT-FRAME

But little did the heathens respect the God-given mission of Eric. Newly promoted to Sturmbanfurher, Eric struggled with disention and mutiny. Did they not understand that by submission to the higher powers that be, all could enjoy the magnificence of the Corporation? How dare they challenge Eric's mandate to engineer a perfect mechanism through mystical manipulation of the mainframe? To think the proletariat would rise up and demand their rights to having their own Personal Computer on their desk!

And there lie the seeds of the Great Corporate War. Oh, the devastation! Corporate plans laid to waste, lives ruined, as the forces of good were trapped in pitted battle with the revolutionaries and their new fangled "personal" computing machines. Some said it was the war to end all wars, but devilish forces were afoot.

Recollections of meeting Eric after the war are not pleasant. Seeing him slumped in a wicker chair with but a thin blanket draping his legs while we swilled gluwein in the crisp alpine air was more than a man can bear. The scars of battle were deep, but I was surprised by the tenacity of Eric's spirit. It seemed that defeat had done nothing but steel him for battles ahead.

In restrospect, it is hard to comprehend the circumstances by which some hyphenated upstart in a minor European duchy could re-ignite the forces of war. But set the world ablaze he did, and by the devious means of dragging the perfect and sacrosanct SGML into vulgar gutterism of the bastard child, HTML. Eric found that the comfortable detante negotiated and sanctioned by the power of the Ring of Tokens had been laid assunder.

Once more, the civilized world was thrown into the evil clutches of revisionism and subversion. Gnostic apostates proclaimed the false god of layered architecture. N-tiers were shed in remorse. Uberlieutenant Eric, sufficiently recovered from his wounds, slew into battle with a fierce war-cry that was heard to the ends of the earth. "Eeeaaaaaiiii!" he screamed. Many rallied to his call, and became the vanguard of EAI corps. You may have seen a photograph of them valiantly trying to raise the flag under an undying onslaught. Island by island, Eric fought the demonic forces back into a corner. "There is, was, and forever will be only one way to honour the gods of business!" he lambasted.

But the forces of darkness were not so easily asuaged. Foresaking conventional means, they resorted to guerilla tactics. Casting a web to ensnare the world. Your workmates, family, friends, even the rental scum down your street are not spared from the tenticles of the terrorist's poke.

I remember Eric telling me how it was like trying to sculpt jello. Think you have one spurt under control, and you are faced with another outbreak on your flank. Eric's armoury was deficient. A new weapon was required.

"So ... what did you do?" I pressed.

"So .. ahhhh .." he replied. I'd be kind to say it was heart-felt. As I sat there listening to him prattle on about how his compadres were testing their so-called "SOA bomb", version 2.0, under ultra-secret development, I knew I was listening to the meandering ramblings of a Hero of the Revolution whose time had passed.

"There, there.." I said.

"You must continue the good work, my Son!" His spindrift fingers clawed at my new Armani shirt. A moment's annoyance passed in my eyes, as I looked into the well-pools of emotion that seemd to kindle his only spark of life. Depressing, yes. But what can you really say to someone looking over the horizon at the Gucci-robed sickler? Not exactly an opportune moment to discuss how he may have been misguided.

"Don't worry, Father. The world is in safe hands." I murmered. "Global Megolith 2.0 has sued for peace. The ruby rises high in the sky in the constellation of Venus, just as the prophet foretold. Bands of insurgents are joining forces around the globe as we speak. You have not faught in vain. We understand now that just as there is an enemy within, there is also a friend. We are learning to make love (it's complicated), not war. We don't need to fight anymore!"

"Your work is done..." I sanctimoniously purred as I lay my hand upon his forehead and gently pressed his eyelids down (it doesn't work like in the movies, btw).

Fact, or science fiction? SOA world domination is still within our grasp...

Monday, December 17, 2007

WebCenter - First Thoughts. WATCH/HOLD

I just posted about installing Oracle WebCenter Wiki. So what do I think?

The current release of Oracle WebCenter is 10.1.3, and presents the first attempt at providing a Web 2.0 platform incorporating a (development) framework, integrated Services, and mobility ("WebCenter Anywhere"). The roadmap for 11g emphasises features focused on improving a developer’s productivity.

Having spent a bit of time going beyond the powerpoints and whitepapers, I guess I would emphasise the "..first attempt.." in the statement above. There are concerns I have about the product mission, the egregious approach to Open Source project integration, and a work-in-progress information architecture. While I'll be closely following Oracle's progress with WebCenter, my personal view is that a cautious "watch/hold" position is prudent.

WebCenter as an out-of-the-box Web 2.0 Experience?

The first reactions to WebCenter typically concerned it's positioning with respect to Oracle Portal. After many repetitions, I think Oracle have managed to get the message through that there's a distinct value prop for Portal (classic, monolithic Enterprise Portal) and WebCenter (platform and services for a loosly-coupled "Web 2.0" user experience).

However when it comes to WebCenter itself, there's still tension in the 10.1.3 version between two very different audiences/usages it targets.

Firstly, there's the developer audience. There's great emphasis by Oracle on WebCenter as a development framework in the whitepapers and podcasts (e.g. a great interview between Justin and Vince Casarez on Oracle Fusion Middleware Radio).

Oracle WebCenter injects new capabilities into the standard JavaServer Faces development environment to allow developers to create context-rich applications that satisfy these needs.

The catch is that at present developers are well served with JDeveloper and associated developer downloads. WebCenter's attraction seems mainly as a licence bundle of pre-existing Oracle products like Secure Enterprise Search, Content Database and the Mobility Server. There's nothing very Web 2.0 about all that, except that taken altogether, developers certainly could build Web 2.0-style.

In a wild daydream, you may have hoped WebCenter would be to Java what Rails is to Ruby. An opinionated, highly productive, pre-integrated framework. For now I'm afraid you will be disappointed.

The second audience I refer to is the IT Operations/Business audience. These are the people who don't expect to be coding, but want a quick Web 2.0 jumpstart for their enterprise. They don't have the time or inclination to take on the job of investigating, integrating and maintaining a hodge-podge of all the possible open source options. Basically they just want to install it, and are happy to pay for the convenience.

In other words, hoping that WebCenter is to Web 2.0 out-of-the-box experience what Astaro is to security appliances. Again, I'm afraid you would be disappointed for now. The 11g roadmap does include an out-of-the-box application to enable self-service community creation and management.

I guess my problem at this point is that I'm not convinced that Oracle have really decided where to take this. The development focus is clear, but it is not clear at all how much will end up being "only available WebCenter" - one could easily imagine WebCenter ending up as just a licensing artifact, with all the framework technology also available separately. And on the other hand, I have real concerns over the commitment to WebCenter becoming a killer "Web 2.0 appliance".

Personally I think Oracle may have misjudged the market on this. Of the 20 or so people I have had casual WebCenter discussion with, all bar two were just after a blog/wiki/discussions platform to install. That's hardly representative, but I have a feeling Oracle would be more succesful in the market if they just focused on delivering the "appliance", with all the supporting framework rolled into the JDeveloper/OracleAS/ADF base.

As it seems to be going, I wouldn't mind betting the primary audience for WebCenter will turn out to be Oracle's own Fusion Applications development team, with most customers just adopting it as a result of their Applications investment.

Open Source Closure?

I am actually much more concerned about the approach Oracle have taken to integrate 3rd party open source components into the WebCenter Services layer.

Take the "standards-based, open-source wiki server that is included with Oracle WebCenter" for example (words from the Technical whitepaper).

Oracle chose yawiki/jzwiki for their wiki component, and it certainly was (at least partially) an open source project. But in WebCenter, we seem to be dealing with a forked and closed source version. My concerns:
  • Oracle is not shipping source code for the Java classes in owc_wiki.ear

  • While some classes are available from the yawiki project, Oracle have made enhancements (I suspect the main cases being the controller to incorporate AdfAuthentiation; JSR-168 and WSRP portlet support). These are not provided as open source.

  • yawiki includes some packages (like jZonic-web.jar which contains the main controller framework) which are purportedly open source, but for which there seems to be no source code available on the Internet [Postscript: I take this back having since discovered that the source of jzonic-web.jar is from the femto module in the jZonic framework]

  • The version of the wiki in WebCenter has been forked from yawiki. There is no procedure provided to merge the yawiki main line. WebCenter wiki users seem to be completely dependent on Oracle to merge enhancements in yawiki into WebCenter updates. Or not.

  • There are already enhancements in yawiki that are not available in WebCenter (e.g. TagClouds, RSS feeds of page changes). And no procedure for adopting these enhancements.

  • The WebCenter wiki seems to only be supporting the file-based HSQLDB (see backup/restore procedures for example), despite the fact that yawiki has or promised relational database support - even Oracle!

  • Despite the customisation that Oracle have done to yawiki, there's currently no integration the content database component in WebCenter for content storage or tagging.

So I guess you could say I was underwhelmed. From a practical perspective of a wiki implementer, there seems to be little upside in chosing to go with WebCenter wiki over its true open source father, yawiki, or others such as xwiki. But some big downsides to consider.

I'd much prefer see Oracle take a very different tack with the integration of "open source" components into WebCenter.

  • Ship mainline version of the open source project (don't close the source)

  • Provide Oracle enhancements (for security integration etc) as patches to the open source project. Do not combine a version of the open source project with Oracle-written customisations, and ship as "closed source".

  • Where possible, contribute the "WebCenter" patch to the open source project so that it can be maintained in sync with that project.

  • Ideally, reach as many projects in the same category as possible (i.e. support a few different wikis in WebCenter). A great way to do this would be to encourage the community to do it themselves. Yawiki is OK, but there are certainly some great alternatives out there.

Wherefore art thou, my blog?

The WebCenter whitepapers repeatedly mention phrases like "key technologies such as wiki, RSS, and blogs". The Datasheet still specifically claims WebCenter has a "wiki/blog server for collaborative authoring of documents and sharing of ideas".

Wiki - got, despite concerns already discussed. RSS - some, but not in all places that it counts (like the wiki!). But blog? It's MIA!

I have a sneaking suspicion that this is because yawiki used to have a blog capability, but the project team wanted to rethink the approach and dropped it. It is now in the planned feature list;-)

OK, these things happen. But in the WebCenter 11g roadmap, Oracle seem to have defined blogs out of existence - at least in terms of their relevance for the "Enterprise"! Was this to gloss over the missing blog feature in yawiki? Or is there a real belief that blogging is not part of the Enterprise 2.0 model? I'm not sure which view concerns me most!

Blog? blog? Where's the blog support?

It is even more curious when you consider (as Bex Huff recently reminded us) Oracle Universal Content Management has Blogs, Wikis, and RSS Feeds. And the roadmap for WebCenter 11g has UCM replacing Content DB.


I've presented some pretty frank views on WebCenter after my "first look". Take my comments with a grain of salt though. I have not investigated the framework developer experience in detail yet. But I would say that Oracle has a lot riding on the 11g release. I hope they make it a more "opinionated" and cohesive release and get to knock down some of my concerns.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

WebCenter Wiki - Up and Running with OC4J 10.1.3

I finally had a chance to sit down with Oracle WebCenter recently, primarily to give the wiki functionality a test drive. I wanted to test in a virgin OC4J container (as opposed to the Preconfigured Standalone OC4J) just to make it interesting and see all the moving parts. As far as I could discover, there's not a great deal of information available on the topic. In this post I'm going to chronical the specific installation procedure I used to get WebCenter Wiki running under OCJ4

This is the end result we're after..

Documentation and Downloads

The documentation for WebCenter Wiki is a little obscure when it comes to installing in a "plain" OC4J container. It turns out to be pretty straight-forward, but just as mc said in the forums recently: "Oracle documentation just make it look difficult"!

I refered to the following materials for the install:

It can all get a bit confusing, but the following diagram illustrates the installation dependencies

There are four downloads required, all readily available from OTN:

Installation Procedure

I'm going to document the install steps here in the order I actually executed them. Variations are possible. I'm installing this under Windows XP, but the same applies on other platforms (just switch \ to / and use the appropriate command shell syntax).

1. Get the OC4J container running
To be precise, I am using "Oracle Containers for J2EE (OC4J) 10g Release 3 (". I won't cover in detail here. Basically you need to unpack and startup. The only thing you may need to configure are the port settings to avoid conflicts with other services.

2. Install PDK-Java
Details for installing the Oracle Portlet Development Kit are in index.html from the Oracle Portlet Container and PDK-Java download. Assuming we've exploded the download into "G:\pdksoftware", the following performs the installation into the home:

set ORACLE_HOME=G:\MyCache\oc4j_extended_101330
set J2EE_HOME=%ORACLE_HOME%\j2ee\home
set JAVA_HOME=C:\bin\jdk1.6.0_03
set PDKPATH=G:\pdksoftware
%JAVA_HOME%\bin\java -jar -classpath %ORACLE_HOME%\lib\xmlparserv2.jar -jar %PDKPATH%\pdk\jpdk\v2\pdkinstaller.jar %J2EE_HOME%

3. Install the Portal Container
From the same kit, we install the Portlet container

set ORACLE_HOME=G:\MyCache\oc4j_extended_101330
set J2EE_HOME=%ORACLE_HOME%\j2ee\home
set JAVA_HOME=C:\bin\jdk1.6.0_03
set PDKPATH=G:\pdksoftware
%JAVA_HOME%\bin\java -jar %PDKPATH%\pdk\portlet-container\portlet-server-install.jar %J2EE_HOME%

4. Install and Test the Sample Portlets
Using Enterprise Manager (http://localhost:8888/em or similar), go to the "Applications" tab and deploy the %PDKPATH%\pdk\jpdk\v2\jpdk.ear.

Once done, you should be able to successfully access the sample providers at http://localhost:8888/jpdk/providers/sample and get a page like the one shown on the right.

5. Install ADF
Explode the Oracle ADF Installer, which uses a silent "runInstaller" to install.

First, you'll need to update the file, paying particular attention to OracleHome, DesHome and type values. This is from my install:

# The absolute path to the directory containing the ADF jars to be installed.
# This is the location of the directory where you unzipped the
OracleHome = G:\\Sources\\incoming\\\\OracleAS\\ADF\\adfinstaller

# Home directory for the destination application server,
# where the ADF Jars need to be installed
DesHome = G:\\MyCache\\oc4j_extended_101330

# Specify the platform for the Application Server where the ADF libraries need
# to be installed. This has to be one of the following choices.
type = OC4J

And then run:
java -jar runinstaller.jar

Restart OC4J at this point.

BUT, if you were like me, my container failed to start at this point with Error initializing server: Shared library "" could not be found..

Annoying, but no panic. Edit ORACLE_HOME/j2ee/home/config/server.xml, re-order the shared library entry for "" (I moved it to just after the "oracle.persistence" shared library) and try to startup again.

NB: after getting to this point, I find my OC4J does not completely shutdown after issuing a shutdown request via RMI %ORACLE_HOME%\bin\oc4j -shutdown -port %RMIPORT% -password %adminpwd%. Leaving that problem for another day.. :sigh:

6. Install Oracle Wiki (finally)
Using Enterprise Manager (http://localhost:8888/em or similar), deploy the owc_wiki.ear from the Oracle WebCenter Additional Services CD

7. Configuring Security
If you try and hit the wiki now (http://localhost:8888/owc_wiki) you will probably get a 500 error because security is not started or configured.

For this test, I'm just going to use the out-of-the-box Java SSO File-Based Security Provider.

In EM, startup the Java SSO application (look under the application group "Middleware Services > Other Services"). If you try and access the wiki now, you should see a login form but get an error when you submit because we need to generate the Symmetric Key. Every time I go to do this, following the Java SSO documentation, I struggle to find the right link in EM.

To be clear, in 10.1.3 look for "SSO Configuration" on the Administration tab of the OC4J container (below). Go to the page, make sure "Generate new symmetric key" is checked, select your key type, and click "Apply". You will be prompted to restart OC4J.

Browse to the wiki again and we have .. Success!

8. Adding users
Remember we're using the JAZN XML security provider rather than OID or other directory. Andreas had a nice post recently on how to Add a user to the JavaSSO, and that's what I need to do to add a personal account for myself..

set ORACLE_HOME=G:\MyCache\oc4j_extended_101330
set J2EE_HOME=%ORACLE_HOME%\j2ee\home
set JAVA_HOME=C:\bin\jdk1.6.0_03

%JAVA_HOME%\bin\java -jar %J2EE_HOME%\jazn.jar -adduser paul password1
%JAVA_HOME%\bin\java -jar %J2EE_HOME%\jazn.jar -grantrole users paul

JAZN is a bit dumb compared to using a real directory, so you need to restart OC4J again to pick up the new credentials.

And there we go. Oracle Wiki up and running in OC4J. Just 8 "simple" steps;-)

Monday, December 10, 2007

What's With Oracle and Flex?

Adobe's Flex seems to be cropping up across the enterprise vendor space. It's made a clean sweep of the BI vendor products (a much smaller group these days). And now Flex seems to be making major inroads in SAP and Oracle.

I wonder however if this is real strategy at work, or just an example of a good cohesive solution filling the void in the midst of AJAX-chaos?

I'd commented before on SAP's adoption, and they seem to have stolen the limelight over the past year. It was easy to forget a no-fanfare announcement of Flex support by Oracle at OpenWorld 2006. It was just PR after all - and seems to have dropped off the Internet! But it seems one of the most lasting impressions of OpenWorld 2007 was the promiscuous proliferation of Flex in the various demos and announcements.

James Ward (the Adobe RIA Cowboy) reported the usage in his blog, and has apparently been working closely with Oracle on their adoption.

It was very interesting to hear RedMonk's Michael Coté picking this discussion up in their "RIA Weekly" podcasts - with gossip about OpenWorld sightings in Episode 01, with more depth about the specific product teams using Flex in Episode 02.

As James & Michael discuss, Oracle's adoption seems to be of the common "stick your widgets in our page" style. The flagship adoptions are so far MetaLink (selected pages only), and BI Publisher (yet to release).

Flex is pretty cool, I agree. But it is hard to discern a broad RIA strategy at work here.

AJAXWorld might have been controversial by splitting the RIA world into two camps (Should You Choose AJAX or Adobe?). Choose Ajax or Flex? I think Oracle's answer may simply be "we need to choose?"

Consider Oracle is also playing many other AJAX cards: OpenAJAX Alliance support; quite a bit of true AJAX used in various products; and "AJAX" support in ADF/JSF [although as far as I can figure, it's all IFrame-based].

Does any of this really tell us anything about the strategic direction for Oracle Fusion Applications UI technology?

Now that the Oracle AppsLab guys are Back from OpenWorld, I'd be really keen to hear their take on all this. In fact, I'd expect that guys like James Ward were engaged with OracleAppsLab and the AppsLab blog should be the place to get the inside running.

But back to my original, cynical observation. I have a sneaking suspicion that we're seeing Flex pop up all over the enterprise space for one simple reason: Adobe have a good pitch, and a product that is nicely wrapped up and walled in (even questions of Flex's openness seem to have fallen by the wayside). The AJAX elevator pitch just isn't in such good a shape.

Hence so much easy to push a top-down directive to "skin it with Flex". It may even accidentally be the best long term decision for your product.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Facebook's Gonna Tank!

Laurent Schneider just asked what LinkedIn is good for?. Good question. One I've been asking myself for the past couple of years as I've seen a dribble of invites coming in.

Then I changed jobs. Something I've done many times before - but all before the era of social networking. I'm ashamed to say I have more dud email addresses and phone numbers in my little black book than I care to mention ... and no way to try to get back in touch. This time is different. It hit me in a flash that with LinkedIn, I hope to never accidentally lose contact with good friends and collegues again.

There's nothing flash about LinkedIn, but it does what it does really well. Managing a network of contacts that trascend jobs, geography and time.

I'm also on Facebook of course. But just like Amber and Leo and many others are asking ... so what does it really do for you???

Sure, if you are not on Facebook you just have no Web2.0 cred because it is the uber-hyped social networking poster child of the moment. But will it ever be more than a footnote in Internet history? I think not. It's gonna tank, and fast.

To tell you the truth, something just didn't feel right the moment I got on Facebook.

First, there was the insidious commercialism. Initially very subtle. Like build your personal library .. but did you realise most "bookself/CD rack" application authors are skimming an Amazon kickback from your personal collection? And now the talk about advertising nicely targeted thanks to all the work you put into your profile. And who benefits? Zuckerberg I think. Certainly not you.

Networks are about respect and trust. This just doesn't smell right. And it is not about Microsoft taking a stake in Facebook, presumably to get placement rights. As it stands, I think Microsoft is the sweeter-smelling partner (at least with them I know where I stand).

Then there's the utility. While LinkedIn is a great example of a site that does one thing, and does it well, wherefore Facebook? All those Zombie invites, pokes and superpokes. Everyone's having a ball, but what are you achieving except repetitively and redundantly proving the network effect, spreading your vampire bites amongst your aledged "friends". But beyond these mickey-mouse apps, what can you do on Facebook? Feels real constrained to me. I have little control, and this is meant to be my network, my social networking home-site? No way, thanks.

Of course, now there's increasing discussion of the natural next step towards portable/unified social networking that is essentially shared infrastructure, just like DNS is for computers. OpenSocial is one attempt. Time will tell whether it is the solution. Regardless, we will move towards something of this nature. In such a world, what does Facebook offer? How is it differentiated? The shifting wisdom of the crowds will easily move on to the next post-MySpace, post-Facebook social site you must be on. Not that Facebook's going to disappear, just slowly receed into the background, over-taken by the new young punks.

Tim O'Reilly may not think Google/OpenSocial have it right yet, but he may be spot-on with his comment that..
I think Amazon is the only company that really understands that we're in the process of building an internet operating system, and is building services with the depth and power that will be required to create the next generation of computer applications

So while I will stay on Facebook, poke my friends and play Scrabulous with my sister, I'd run a mile before putting money into the company now. They're gonna tank. It'll happen fast, and probably sooner when we all expect.

Another great thought from xkcd

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Open Source IT System Management and Infrastructure 2.0

Interesting discussion between Michael Coté and John Willis on this recent RedMonk Radio podcast. John's got some great insights about the state of Enterprise Systems Management, and its not all about a wholesale shift to OpenNMS and Puppet.

The "Infrastructure 2.0" buzzword enters the conversation when talking about the shift towards infrastructure/hardware/storage-as-a-service, along the lines of Amazon's Elastic Computing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Oracle Database: Real World Scenarios - Troubleshooting and Tuning Seminar

If you are a serious database specialist in or around Singapore, I recommend you check out the Oracle Database: Real World Scenarios - Troubleshooting and Tuning Seminar that has been put together for Oracle University by Aat van Bart. It is running on 6th & 7th Dec.

Aat is one of my ex-collegues, so I know when he talks "real world" you can be sure this is the real deal;-)

This is one of a series of special events that Oracle University in Singapore have organised. Next is Steven Feuerstein's The Best of PL/SQL.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Oracle OpenWorld from Afar

The Bloggers at Openworld announcement promised to make this years conference a very different experience than ever before. Especially for people like myself who weren't able to attend. I'd like to add my big vote of thanks to the OTN, AppsLab and Oracle bloggers, whose combined efforts really did make this a great (first?) "virtual" OpenWorld.

Blogging In Action
By my last count we had 59 "openworld07" articles tagged at (37 in the official OTN tag cloud, 43 in Eddie Awad's Oracle OpenWorld News Aggregator and 26 tagged via Technorati). And so far 452 photos at Flickr.

I especially enjoyed the detailed conference diaries by Dimitri Gielis, Nathalie Roman and Doug Burns. Eddie Awad did a great job of community reporting outside the conference halls. They are just a few I enjoyed - too many other bloggers to mention, but on behalf of all the "virtual attendees" I thank you all!

Best Post has however got to be Oracle World and the invasion of the sports jacket on what is now one of my favourite blogs by the Sartorially Orientated Architects!

Suggestion #1 for the Community - Get our Common Tagging act together Eddie Awad posted some great tips for publishing and following OpenWorld. To be honest though, the adoption has been mixed. I suspect partially because there wasn't enough publicity or official sanction given to the ideas. I only noticed Eddie's post today - after the conference is over!

The most "wired" conference I've attended was ix2007 in Singapore, where instructions for twitter and tagging posts via Technorati were prominently included in the registration materials. It would be great to see this getting more official attention at OOW08.

If you blogged about OpenWorld, it's not too late to tag your posts "openworld07" and register with Technorati. And if you are reading Openworld articles, keep tagging them on!

Podcasts and Streaming
Justin did a bang-up job with the OTN TechCasts from OpenWorld (can't pick a highlight since they all had great people with really relevant stuff to say). And it truely is OpenWorld when you can catch the keynotes without even attending the conference.

Suggestion #2 - Publish a Podcast Feed for the Keynotes and it's not too late for Oracle to post some feeds for the video, highlights and full audio feeds - with properly tagged audo files! I'm happy to download them all individually, but it would have been even more convenient to be able to subscribe to the keynotes feed and have them pop up in my iPod as they are published.

And now .. the analysis
I guess the one thing we haven't seen a great deal of so far is analysis of what went down at OpenWorld. I'm sure that will surface over the next weeks and months. My attention was drawn to two key themes..
  • Virtualization The announcement of Oracle VM may prove to be a blockbuster if it is widely adopted in practice, I think once it is fully integrated with Enterprise Manager. It promises to completely change the game for how we build and maintain applications and technology infrastructure - from the bare-metal up, from one vendor.

  • Fusion Scorecard the years are ticking by since Oracle played the Fusion card. Vinnie Mirchandani is just one who is asking "Where are the Fusion Applications?" For the cynics, the organisational changes in development are just another indicator that Fusion is devolving into a Technology/BI story i.e. just futzing around the edges. The optimists however will point out that getting the technology platform right is essential, and is not even news (see for example Cliff Godwin's Fusion AppCast on the Fusion Strategy Office from Jul-07).
    The true test for Oracle will not only be the delivery of appropriately componentized Applications, but the business insight it can encapsulate in the platform (hence why it is more important than ever that Oracle Development usefully engage the community through events like OpenWorld and the customer advisory boards).
    It is one thing to enthuse about how bringing Web2.0 and social networking features to CRM will have sales people the world over swooning, and quite another to have a head-on collision with the "Real World"!

That's all for now. Again, thanks especially to Justin (OTN), Jake and Paul (AppsLab) and the many Oracle bloggers who turned Oracle OpenWorld 2007 into a global, networked event. Kudos!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

SOA and WS-BPEL - here for review

I was kindly invited by Packt Publishing to review Yuli Vasiliev's new book SOA and WS-BPEL. The review copy just arrived today in time for a quick scan.

I'm immediately drawn by the fact that this is one book that clearly goes beyond smarchitectural blurgh and gets down to concrete details. The focus is on showing how you can create solutions with an open source or freely available toolset - specifically PHP and ActiveBPEL. And when it comes the database of course you expect MySQL, but I am very pleased to see that Yuli also gives full coverage of using (freely available) Oracle Database XE.

Looks like a few days of fun ahead as I work through the book in more detail. I'll be sure to post my review when I'm done.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rejoining the Oracle Social Mix

To the AppsLab team - a big thank you! As I mentioned in my last post, I'm now ex-Oracle, and one of the transition pains was cutting myself off from the internal Oracle Connect social networking site. But no sooner do I leave, and they graciously launch Oracle Mix - which is basically the combination of the IdeasFactory and Connect, but now open to the world. Yes!

I hope this is only the beginning, and we see some rapid development of the site into a premier channel for the Oracle community. I imagine a great deal of the effort in the 5-6 week development period went into integrating and refactoring the AppsLab code, and porting to the Oracle AS + jruby environment, so I'll be gentle with my comments for now;-)

I guess the main nudge I'd like to give the team would be to think a bit more about the idea generation/innovation process and adapt the site to suit. To be frank, I was getting a little disillusioned by the IdeaFactory because it was turning into a dumping ground - literally thousands of ideas going in, but little sight of what benefit was coming out.

Good ideas are hard to find - Scott Berkun does a grand job of demolishing this falsehood in The Myths of Innovation (required reading I would recommend for anyone working on "innovation tools"). The implication being that there should be no surprise in Oracle Mix attracting many great ideas, but more important is what happens next..

Do they get adopted by an Idea Angel to champion the cause? Do they get the protection and attention to make the transition from Idea to Innovation?

And perhaps even more significantly, how will the community learn about "Ideas that make it"? This will be critical to stimulate a virtuous feedback cycle that encourages people to submit more ideas because they can see it is worthwhile.

Dell included this critical ingredient for their IdeaStorm site in the simplest of ways .. Ideas in Action is just a blog of stories about how they have adopted and implemented ideas submitted and voted by their users:

I guess there are a few other points I could get cranky about, like some minor usability issues, and the bad policy of only allowing full features to users with "verified customer emails" (Dell's IdeaStorm doesn't). But I'll lay off for now, because overall I think the AppsLab team have made a fantastic start and I want to give them every encouragement to keep hammering away at this stuff!

Oracle Mix is truely a breath of fresh air!

NB: See Paul and Rich's launch announcements.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Moving on .. to new laptop art!

Well, today is my first as a member of the Oracle Alumni. It was sad to leave all of the great people and friends I've made over the years at Oracle, but greener pastures beckoned etc etc.

I don't expect the change will affect the blog much (bar editing the disclaimer), since it has never really been so specifically about what I do at work.

What it has changed is my choice of laptop art! Switching machines is traumatic at the best of times no matter how carefully you have backed up. For the time being I've switched to an old Compaq Presario we had at home called "Sunshine". It may no longer be the fastest chip in the mill, but it has a custom paint job to care for me through this transition;-)

I've always wanted to pimp my PC! It's more common these days to find designer cases and stick-ons, but not full custom jobs. This is acrylic with a hardy varnish finish. Unlike a spray job, it creates a nice texture that actually feels great under your wrists.

It's a long story why I painted a Care Bear, but I daresay it makes it the cutest Compaq ever. I can almost half imagine myself firing up on wireless at Starbucks;-) Boy am I glad it isn't Hello Kitty!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Blogging as RWT (Remedial Writing Therapy)

A collegue of mine said I must have a case of blog-addiction since I'm maintaining two personal blogs - tardate and pratalife - as well as a group internal blog. So of course, how could I respond other than by blogging about it? ;-)

For me, the motivation to blog actually stems from a recognition that after 20 years of a technical consulting career I find myself with a kind of literary disability! I've been trained too well to think and write like this:

  • Background

    • Early years: enjoyed art. English teacher voted me "most likely to write a novel"

    • Shift to science/math high school major

    • 4 years of engineering/computing degree

    • 20 years in IT - development/project management/consulting

  • Understanding of the problem

    • Think in bullet points

    • Focus on logical presentation of argument/point-of-view

    • Descriptive and narrative writing not needed

      • (may be spoken)

      • drop adjectives - except for sales-related like "best practice", "open standards-based", "agile"

  • Solution

    • Start a blog

    • Start writing full sentences again

    • Focus on story-line, experiment with techniques for getting a message across

    • Cover wider range of topics and subject matter

    • Form of Remedial Writing Therapy (RWT)

  • Benefits

    • Rediscover vocabulary

    • Build story-telling skills

    • Rekindle interest in broader range of intellectual pursuits

    • Even with a small audience, some chance of feedback

  • Not in scope

    • Won't help learning how to use a real pen again!

So is it working? I think so. The first effect I noticed is an almost immediate improvement in my ability to sit down with a topic, get into a flow and quickly produce a finished piece. Remember essay writing at school? Yes, like that.

I will leave you to be the judge of whether what I have to say makes any sense or is of any interest!

NB: Yes, you may have noticed my homage to Aaron Swartz' Powerpoint Remix, which is included in Joel Spolsky's excellent anthology The Best Software Writing I

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Registering namespaces with SOAP::Lite

About time to post about something ... too many OpEd pieces of late!

An interesting question came up on the soaplite mailing list concerning how to modify the namespaces registered in the SOAP envelope. Documentation is not especially clear on this point.

Of course, a quick hack is to attach a full namespace to an element directly, as in:
SOAP::Data->name('itemName')->attr({'xmlns:mns' => 'http://my.namespace'})

With version SOAP::Lite 0.65 and above, the register_ns serializer method helps to correctly construct the envelope, as shown in the following example:
#!/usr/bin/perl -w
# $Id$

use strict;

#SOAP::serializer->register_ns requires 0.65
use SOAP::Lite 0.65 +trace => 'debug';

my $soap = SOAP::Lite
->proxy( 'http://localhost/blah/DummyService' );

my $serializer = $soap->serializer();
$serializer->register_ns( 'http://my.namespace', 'mns' );

my $som = $soap->call(
=> SOAP::Data->name('mns:description' => 'an item in my namespace')->type('mns:mytype')

This generates the following SOAP request:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<mns:description xsi:type="mns:mytype">an item in my namespace</mns:description>

A blog about nothing (was: a can of worms)

Jake is right .. this is getting a little too much like Seinfeld.

So many posts about bloggers at OpenWorld.

Seems to me a storm in a teacup (admittedly, roughly the same size as a can of worms, but probably shouldn't be confused - print picture on right for easy reference). Most of it driven by a comparison to what "other" companies do.

As an avid blog reader, I'm actually more interested in an intelligent post from someone who has taken some time to reflect and write about their usage of the software (be it from a project, production or just playing with an OTN download).

Don't get me wrong, I definitely see value in blogging from OpenWorld - as much for the community buzz as discussion of the latest and greatest OpenWorld news. But to put too much emphasis on this I think actually plays into the hands of the supposed PR and Marketing heavies (everything focused around a single, well orchestrated event).

Since I also represent a "global audience" (living in Singapore), there's also the geographic factor. Notwithstanding whether travel costs are reimbursed, I never expect an event centred around a single location in the US to fully represent the diversity of the blogging community I'm so comfortable with.

As such, I'd be even more impressed if we saw OTN podcasts evolve into a more interactive channel (e.g. using talkshoe a la net@nite) to give true, open access for the community to key execs (and then blog about it).

Then there is the question of disclosure. Mary Ann Davidson just posted a poignant discussion of disclosure. Although arrowed at a security audience, the timing is perfect for the opening of Jake's can of worms;-)

I just can't seem to get myself worked up over this either. Perhaps something I drank last night? Or perhaps I've just got a bit more faith in the sophistication of the audience that is now growing up with blogging et al. Two factors: influence (declared or not) stands out like a sore thumb (or else why is it so easy to recognise the executive blogs that are straight out of the marketing playbook). Second, thanks to the magic of RSS I'm not just listening to one person's voice.

So all in all, I reckon getting free registration is a pretty good first step (despite the fact that other companies may do more for you). It's not like the information won't be available for all to see and share after the show, so if you want the prestige of having the first blog post up on a particular subject maybe paying some of your own way ain't such a bad deal.

I would make one concession however: I do think it would be in Oracle and the community's best interest for Oracle to have some flexibility when it comes to the (very) few bloggers who have truely crossed the line and are in fact analyst/press and should thus be treated as such.

So much for my post about nothing;-)

Disclosure: since I work at Oracle, I never expected a blogger invite (and I wasn't able to wangle an employee seat), so perhaps that explains my disinterest in getting all het up about the issue!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: Enterprise 3.0 - the only one that really matters

Today is Blog Action Day - a day for bloggers around the world to put the environment on the agenda. Look out for tens of thousands of posts on tree planting, cycling to work and sorting your rubbish. And probably some lively coverage of climate change. My little blog here is (supposedly) technical, so I'd better keep my comments on the environment in context.

Prevailing wisdom

I guess it is the prevailing wisdom that IT hasn't got a lot to do with the environment, short of cutting down on office lighting, dealing with toxic waste, and of course any personal contribution IT workers make as everyday citizens of the world.

But things are changing. I've noticed greening of the data center becoming much more prominent in the IT press of late - for example, a recent c|net news article on Squeezing green from the data center. Tackling the data center is probably the most obvious initiative because it is where there is a concentration of power usage (and wastage). Getting green can easily show quick bottom-line benefits.

Greening Enterprise Applications

However, I think there is perhaps a far more significant consideration for IT .. the role Enterprise application vendors should have in providing software that helps companies around the world manage their operations, not only to maximise profitability, but meet their environmental obligations (and hopefully show a bottom-line benefit as a result).

I posted on this topic the other week (Why SOX Won't Keep Your Feet Dry), so I won't rehash all the arguments here.

The bottom line is that I believe over the next few years, we'll find businesses looking to their Enterprise Application vendors to provide the leadership, best practices and solutions to help them manage profitable, green operations. Vendors that can deliver will win, those that can't will get side-lined.

Ironically, it's countries like China, which don't have the best environmental track record, that also have the most to gain, and given their projected growth rates are likely to be at the forefront of this trend. And a good thing that will be too!
NB: I'm at a workshop with a very large company in China this week, so I may have a chance the test this theory with their leaders. Maybe I'll get to post some reinforcement of this view ... or maybe a retraction and a rethink;-)

Rethinking Enterprise 3.0

Justin Kestelyn posted a good wrap of the Web/Enterprise-2.0 dust-up that's been feeding some good discussion in the Oracle blogs of late. But it's easy to lose the historical perspective. When all is said and done, is *2.0 such a big deal?

  • Technically - web apps caught up with what client apps could do a decade earlier. Finally!

  • Socially - the people seized the power of the new technology and began to drive their own agenda. Just as they always do. Remember the 18th century pamphleteers - the bloggers of their day?

I'm going to cast a different point of view here: the *2.0 debate will historically prove to be pretty irrelevant.

What really does matter however is Enterprise 3 - as in, the next stage of IT evolution that recognises software as a vital part of civilization's cability to address the environmental challenges of the 3rd millenia. For the sake of the planet and human society.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Oracle/SAP Battlelines for the Future Enterprise - take #2

OK, I jumped the gun by about 12 hours when I posted my little pitch on why the battle for enterprise developer mindshare will prove more significant than the recent focus on BI acquisitions by Oracle and SAP.

Now we have the news that Oracle is offering to buy BEA Systems. Long a favourite speculation, its amazing to see it really happen. If this goes through it will basically make IBM and Oracle the two leading Enterprise Java Platform providers.

Certainly Oracle couldn't risk BEA ending up in SAP's hands, and Oracle has long been strategically committed to Java. But holding such a strong hand could be a problem if it leads to a kind of Java-only tunnel vision.

Oracle/SAP Battlelines for the Future Enterprise

The big news in the enterprise over the past week has of course been SAP's aquisition of Business Objects. While this definitely marks another major milestone in the consolidation of the BI industry, there's some questioning on just how important this will prove to be in the long term.

My personal feeling is that in a few years we may look back and realise that all the BI news obscured the real story of the day ... James Governor's post on Mashing up SAP may appear to be an innocent conference write-up, but could be seen as one of the early shots fired in the ultimate battle between SAP and Oracle for the enterprise developer (dressed up as "Enterprise Mashups" or "Enterprise 2.0" if you wish).

I'm expecting this to be a key battleground over the next couple of years. By 2009, we'll begin to see full convergence of the *2.0/RIA trend along with the componentisation/service-enablement of the ERP suites (call it SOA or SCA). This will herald a new era of enterprise development, where customers will expect to buy and configure standard software components from Oracle/SAP, but then deploy for use within highly tailored and personalised "user-interaction environments" (web pages or portals in today's terminology, but on steroids).

If this is the future, then the application back-end risks commoditisation and the vendor that owns the hearts and minds of the enterprise development community will take the crown. And SIs who make their bacon implementing enterprise applications have had their warning: one day soon you will wake up and the world will have changed. Not ready? Sorry, you're out of business.

In this context, Web 2.0 has just been a warm-up lap for taking on the enterprise.

We can see the battle lines being drawn. I think the Adobe-SAP partnership, which has been getting a lot of positive press of late, may go down in history as way more significant than BO. Events like RedMonk's enterprise mashup track at the upcoming SAP TechEd in Munich continue to highlight their embrace of the rich internet application development community.

I like their theme ... "driving accidental awesomeness" ... the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed (William Gibson).

Of course, Oracle has not been silent. One could even argue that just like the Hyperion acquisition prompted SAP to move on BO, it was Oracle's vision for Fusion Applications got the ball rolling in the first place. As I've blogged before though, Oracle appears to be a little slow to embrace the implications for enterprise developers ... that is, until Oracle AppsLab hit the scene.

Oracle has done a great deal to attract diverse developer audiences (from PHP to .NET to an interesting category of "non-PHP scripting languages"), but this is generally not applications-related. Of course it's own application development strategy currently remains firmly committed to Java and ADF in particular. What will be most interesting is how we see Oracle incorporate the needs of (non-ADF) "mashup" developers as Fusion Applications become concrete.

So in one sense it appears Oracle and SAP are pursuing diametrically opposed strategies - SAP hunting for communities to "adopt" and build (like Adobe), whereas the Oracle approach is perhaps a bit more like "build it well, and they will come". It will be interesting to watch this one play out ...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Some good books and sounds...

Turns out I'm mainly using my PrataLife blog for music and book reviews. Thought I'd post a summary here of what I've been through over the past few months..

First, fiction:
If there's one single recommendation I'd make, it would be to check out Terry Fallis' The Best Laid Plans. It's a delight - as a (free) podcast novel, and soon I will hopefully have the real, physical book in my hands...

Along the way I've snuck in a few music faves such as Gwen Stefani's The Sweet Escape (also with a mention of Japan's incredible Uplift Spice) and Rush's Exit.. Stage Left.


I first heard about BillMonk on the Ruby on Rails podcast. It's a really neat concept, helping you to track and share bills and things you might lend. The podcast is very interesting because it of course covers the rails aspects as well as the story behind the site itself.

You can use the site stand-alone, but it also has good integration with facebook - which is what I've been testing with some of my friends.

Well worth checking out if you share a house or often end up splitting meal or vacation bills with friends - or even just to keep track of movies or books you may lend out.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Ballmer Peak and the Programmers' Paradox

xkcd wrote up the Ballmer Peak recently. got me thinking about what I call the Programmer's Paradox, which is the lag in creativity behind skill on the inebriation scale. This has been shown to explain why you are more likely to wake up with pizza on your face than a finished program after that "flash of inspiration" last night. Here's my graphic...

original post from pratalife..

Why SOX won't keep your feet dry

I had the privilege of listening to Kevin Walsh's "30/30" presentation last week. Kevin is Oracle's CTO for Asia Pacific and has a long and illustrious career which makes him uniquely qualified to deliver this talk - the theme of which is to look 30 years back in IT history to get a perspective on how far we have come, and then attempt to look 30 years into the future (with all due disclaimers). Take a 30 year view, and things get distinctly freaky - nanotech, quantum computing and so on.

It's actually the second time I've heard the presentation, but this time I happened to have just finished Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers (my review is here).

Now, Kevin's theme was technology so I can't fault his focus, but I got to thinking that within the 30-year timeframe one of the biggest challenges facing the world is climate change, and this must surely have an impact on what we know today as "business software".

Now, before you say "pish!" and dismiss this as an eco-nut rant, consider three facts of importance:

  1. that climate change is upon us - we have reached the tipping point [by 2005 we had refereed proof of global warming]

  2. that the change is for the worse - the only disagreement being about the specific effects our planet will need to endure

  3. that while human activity is not the only contributor, we know that it is a factor, and more importantly we know ways in which our impact can be lessened (Bex Huff just had a great post about the greenest cars; you may be surprised)

So the question is really no longer should we act but will we?

Green-thinking Enterprise Software

Of course in 2007, the prevailing mentality is that enterprise software hasn't got alot to do with the environment. It's the power companies, OPEC and so on that matter, right? Take a look at the OpenWorld session agenda, and it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the environment is ... well, off the agenda. On the Oracle corporate website you will find an environmental statement much along the lines of any "non-energy related" company. We turn our lights off at night etc etc.

I couldn't find an environmental statement on the SAP site, which is strange since I thought the Europeans were renowned for their green intelligence. SAP Environmental Compliance is covered under GRC, but looking further at the SAP Mining or Oil&Gas industry marketing sites and the promise is simply to help you lower costs, increase profitability, and improve competitiveness.

I reckon this is something that needs to change.

Fundamental to the health of the planet (and future of the human race) is the efficiency and carbon load firstly of the power grid, and secondly transportation. While governments and consumers have a significant role, on the whole it is business that is either the direct power user, or are the mediator of our demand. And what do businesses around the world rely on to operate efficiently and profitably? Why, that wonderful class of enterprisey software of course - which for the majority of companies means SAP or Oracle, the behemoths of the industry.

Enterprise software has three extremely important potentials when it comes to the envirnmental agenda:

  • It provides unprecendented access to manage and report on end-to-end operations - supply chain, manaufacturing, distribution, retail and so on

  • It facilitates the reduction of data to financal metrics

  • Good enterprise software done well has the ability to promulgate best practice across industry and across the globe.

In other words, why shouldn't the CEO's dashboard be displaying the company's envirnomental performance alongside traditional measures, and most importantly (if you want to see behavioural changes), show the cost impact to the company as a result? Completed your energy audit and started to implement recommendations? Great - just watch the benefits start flowing to the bottom line.

Or to put it another way - enterprise software has a critical role to play in ensuring that our ability to execute on the environmental agenda can keep up with our save-the-planet rhetoric.

The Tao of SOX and what it has to do with the Environment

Unfortunately SOX won't keep your feet dry as water levels rise, nor may you need them to keep warm.

But it is instructive how SOX has swept the world of enterprise software, and arguably stems from just a couple of cases of massive corporate fraud in the US and one in Europe. Within a few years, the legislative impact has spread around the globe, and all enterprise software companies worth their salt have a SOX or Basell II position.

It has spawned a new "industry" called Governance, Risk and Compliance (or variations thereof). While this can and does incorporate safety, health and environmental aspects of corporate governance, the SOX pendulum is still swinging and the focus remains squarely fixed on financial aspects only. Checkout the Oracle GRC materials and you'll find (with some effort) a scant 1 or 2 indefinite references to the environment. SAP's Environmental Compliance material does seem to read better. RedMonk's James Governor has been giving some good coverage of GRC offerings, including the environmental aspect.

Just like SOX has had a major impact on our economic environment in such a short time, I think we need a similar revolution concerning our actual environment.

I hate to say it, but in the US it may just be a matter of a few more years of class 4-5 hurricanes to trigger a change. A government facing continued multi-billion relief budgets and a population clamouring for "something to be done", is a government ready to act.

So we're not just talking about a salve for the conscience. The insurance industry will be heard also, and I'm sure that carries quite a bit of weight on Capitol Hill. From the Wall Street journal 7 May 2003:
With all the talk of potential shareholder lawsuits against industrial emitters of greenhouse gases, the second largest re-insurance firm, Swiss Re, has announced that it is considering denying coverage, starting with directors' and officers' liability policies, to companies it decides aren't doing enough to reduce their output of greenhouse gases.

Why China could be the turning point

Across the globe, there is nothing conceptual about the environmental challenges facing China, and so much stems from the thirst for power to drive its growth.

As usual, any stats about China are boggling: 120-odd new coal-fired power stations in the current decade, and more to come each year (despite the fact that they also project to commission 2 nuclear power stations a year for the next few decades).

With typical PRC pragmatism, there are signs that China knows it needs to act and has already adopted the goals of reducing its national energy intensity by 4 percent each year and obtaining 15 percent of the country's energy from renewable sources by 2020. Expect ever-tougher environmental laws being executed in China.

So while the China market for Enterprise Software booms, I think it is also fair to expect that within a few years software that just offers to implement efficient and profitable business processes will not cut it. The products that sell will be those that also help companies to meet their environmental obligations.

This trend could produce some interesting outcomes. The expectation will of course be that the western products (notably Oracle and SAP) must surely incorporate all the environmental best practice. If this is found not to be the case (hmmm?), it would open an opportunity for one of the Chinese ERP vendors to develop and sell a product properly configured for the local market. After which, we find the vendor turn around and sell their environmentally-best-practice enterprise software back into the US and European markets, a la Lenovo?

Why the Enterprise Software vendors need to wake up

Well, to stay in business and make alot of money seems a pretty good reason.

We could be talking as little as 5 years for the worm to turn - a few more hurricanes hitting the US, and China rapidly awakening to the fact that it's ecomonic success is so heavily dependent upon the environment.

At that point, you will not be the most important enterprise software company if you do not have adequate environmental, health and safety capabilities baked into your offering. You will not be welcome, useful or relevant.

So where is the Oracle/SAP Environmental Management System, Carbon Ledger or the Energy Audit and Reporting System? The problem is that most of the enterprise software has not been designed with an environmental agenda in mind.

So what's an enterprisey company to do?

  • Launch your environmental mission statement at your OpenWorld/Sapphire/etc. The mission? To be the most important enterprise software partner helping business meet their environmental commitments across the globe.

  • Short-term, beef up the environmental focus of your Governance, Risk & Compliance-type offering. It should be the easiest quick-fix.

  • Commit say 20% of R&D to baking environmental capabilities into core business services (application components)

Bonus marks may be awarded if you want to point out that for all it's good work, the Gates Foundation will be pretty irrelevant should humanity face the worst outcomes predicted by those modelling climate change. So Larry could help fix the planet, give Bill a bloody nose ... and make money doing it;-) Perfect!

Through the looking glass

If my rant hasn't been kookie enough already, I'll go out on a limb and humbly make some 30-year predictions ....

  • The world survived to 2037. So far. But the jury is still out as to whether we have acted just-in-time or just-too-late.

  • By 2037, value investors on the stock markets pay as much note of CPS (carbon-per-share) as EPS (earnings-per-share).

  • Some years earlier, Oracle donated an installation of Database 20q (quantum edition) to globally consolidate carbon emission, energy distribution and planetary metrics, and drive the climate change models used for the daily briefings to the leaders of all UN member states.

  • Oracle released Fusion Applications 20e (environmental edition), which as the marketing material states is "used by 9 out of 10 Global Fortune 1000 companies to meet or exceed the environment-neutral operating standards as required by law while maximising benefits for their shareholders, employees and community".

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

SOA/Enterprise 2.0. The Rebel Alliance takes on Deathstar-2.0

What is the driving force for *2.0 in the enterprise? Deathstar-2.0 jokes aside, Billy (Fusion ECM) and Jake (AppsLab) have been nutting this out. Billy's in the "its all about the data" camp, and Jake's taking the "power to the people" stance. Bex has chipped in with a view that "its about knowledge".

You may think its a cop-out, but I think its a case of you're all right. Depends on what perspective you want to take.

Yes, its all about me, but in the same way that driving around town is all about me. Until a semi wants to cut into my lane. On the road we have established ways of collaborating to keep things moving nicely (signals, lane markers, the odd toot of a horn). It's all about me in the sense that I want to safely get to where I'm going. But the roads department has a broader objective.

I'd suggest that the real difference with Web-2.0 in the wild is that there really is no broader objective to speak of. I blog. I like. That's good enough for me.

But in an enterprise, there's always an over-riding agenda that's bigger than any individual: profitability, customer satisfaction, market share etc. If that's not front of mind, you deserve a pink slip .. give you lots of time for facebook!

With that in mind, I'd like to share a visualisation of the enterprise I call the "SOA Sphere". Not perfect, by tries to cram a number of key concepts together:

  • Information (data/knowledge) is the core asset of an organisation

  • Business Services/processes/applications collaborate with users and act upon the knowledge base

  • Security is an all-encompassing capability; a key enabler of innovation

  • People live, breath and work together in the environment that these services create. No distinction really between employees, customers, partners or the great unwashed