Next Generation of SOA is Here: Are You Taking Advantage?

[Cross posted from my JackBe blog]

Since blogging my 2013 BI predictions, I’ve come across ZapThink’s predictions and one of them caught my eye. No, it is not about Big Data. It’s about something that has gone out of fashion, almost. It was about SOA. Here is the excerpt from ZapThink:

Next generation SOA begins to coalesce – For years, ZapThink has touted the difference between the practice of SOA and purported implementations of SOA. Our mantra has always been that SOA is protocol and technology independent: it doesn’t require Web Services, or ESBs, or any of the heavyweight IT infrastructure that has given SOA its reputation of complexity and failure. With the rise of Cloud Computing, architects are increasingly realizing that the bits and pieces of SOA best practice – loose coupling, intermediary-based abstraction, and automated governance, to name a few – can and should be applied as appropriate, independent of the existence of any specific, funded SOA effort.               

Back when we started building our Presto platform at JackBe—seems long ago now—our goal was to actually build the bridge between all the services and data sources in an enterprise with the business users who really need to access it. Over time, we built our flagship Enterprise Mashup Server to fulfill this need and introduce this slice into the enterprise architecture as a meaningful way of extracting ROI from your SOA investments and delivering real value to end users and business users. Now, we do that and more.

For example, we’re delivering comprehensive insight into the full spectrum of operations for critical decision-making and for measuring the business impact of every occurrence. And we’re doing it all in real-time. We don’t advocate complex architectures or re-architecting your existing systems in the name of SOA. Why would you if there is a better way? We like to work with what already exists, leverage and complement them to bring the value of these otherwise inaccessible systems and data sources.

I like to think that we liberate these silos of information, bring them together in a quick, nimble and rapid way that we are known for, and generate new business value out of thin air. By correlating existing data sources and combining new and old information sources, we are able to mash them up to generate new insights in real-time for our customers. This now proven approach is already here and is what we have always believed as the continuation of the SOA marches toward the users. Such an approach already embraces the concepts of loose coupling, intermediary-based abstraction, and so forth, and yes also works with stringent security mechanisms already in place in your enterprise architecture.

So, the next generation of SOA is already here, you don’t need to wait for 2014 to take advantage of it. Are you ready to exploit it?

Big Data Gets a Real-Time Face-Lift

big-data[Cross posted from my JackBe blog]

Read through any technology publication, website or blog and I dare you to tell me you didn’t come across a Big Data story. Big Data is hyped. And that’s not the first time I’ve said that. In fact, the last time I addressed this topic I declared that one of the biggest problem with Big Data is the disconnect between how much it’s talked about and how much it’s understood. Cindi Howson of BI Scorecard recently hit the nail on the head by drawing an integral connection between Big Data and BI. She dared to say—against advice from a fellow Strata Conference attendee that it might be considered blasphemy—that Big Data is more than Hadoop. She couldn’t be more right.

And Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2012 prominently featured Big Data and linked it to various other emerging technologies, with Big Data just entering the “peak of inflated expectations” and predicts it will take 3-5 years to reach the “plateau of productivity.” But don’t just walk away. Big Data as much as it is hyped, is also real and it is here to stay and is making new inroads every day.

My colleague Dan Malks recently shared some of his 2013 BI predictions and now I would like to follow it up with a few of my own. Yes, I’m focusing on Big Data. But it also turns out—in a great minds think alike kind of way—that real-time intelligence will be a critical element to navigate the way in which we consume, analyze and leverage data of all types and from all places, for instant decision-making. Here goes…

  • Big Data will go more real-time, for real. Forget about batch processing. Data that is stashed away without the ability to understand it on a continuous real-time basis is just another old data warehouse, albeit a Big Data warehouse.
  • Business users will want direct access to insights derived from Big Data, again in real-time, and anywhere. Here I am talking about the kind of tooling and processes needed to make it easy for the business decision makers to have insights delivered to them in real-time from analyzing Big Data warehouses— especially on smartphones and tablets.
  • Big Data will get further segmented into Big Data, Big Small Data, Fast Big Data, and Fast Small Data, along the dimensions of speed/velocity, size and volume. The capabilities (technical and non-technical) needed to handle these are different for different segments.

That’s my two cents. What do you think will happen next year? Share your predictions with us in the comments section or on Twitter using the hashtag #BIin2013 for consideration in an upcoming post.

Are you ready for the Mobile App boom in your Enterprise?

My Enterprise App StoreI just saw this article by Larry Dignan on ZDNet titled Mobile app boom will tax enterprise IT. Larry quotes another paper by John McCarthy of Forrester Research called Mobile App Internet: Making Sense Of The 2011 Mobile Hysteria. This caught my eye and got me thinking of how we here at JackBe look at this area and how we try to address some of the issues pointed out by John McCarthy,  which I quote below. In addition to quoting them, I will try to address how we at JackBe address this need with our Presto Enterprise App Store and Apps offering as part of our Real-Time Intelligence solution:

  • Issue #1: The innovation cycle. Mobile apps typically require three to four releases a year. Multiply those releases by platform and you see a serious problem for enterprises, which are used to upgrades every two or three years. IT departments just aren’t ready to move that quick.
    How Presto addresses this: Nice one…but, we think differently. You see, when you build Apps using Presto, you are getting a platform on which you build, deploy and deliver mobile apps. Any apps deployed on Presto in your own private Enterprise App Store is easily managed as two distinct copies. One that is gone production in the App Store and on that remains in the Presto App Hub to enable App developers to continue iterating over it and to test those iterations independent of the App in the App Store. You have to use new ways of delivering features and functionality to your users rapidly. You can’t keep to the old ways of building and delivering applications like you used to in your IT department. Presto enables you to achieve this goal with the right set of tools and controls to manage your App development, deployment and post-deployment process.
  • Issue #2: Security. Security related issues for mobile app development can drive costs up three to four times.
    How Presto addresses this: This is an extremely important issue for Enterprises and a core architectural principle on which Presto is designed and built to leverage. Enterprises have already invested lot of time and resources to achieve the level of security they need. There is no need to start fresh. With Presto, we work with existing security frameworks and infrastructure and also provide a high-level policy engine that allows your IT department to control who gets to use what Apps and what data can be delivered to that user based on their entitlements and permissions.
  • Issue #3: User interfaces are hard. “The diversity of the platforms and the need to develop for the native device coupled with the purpose-built design of the apps will be very different from the browser-based development. This means a much greater focus on the overall user experience, not just the layout on the screen and the interactions but how you actually choose and design the narrow functions of the app,” said Forrester.
    How Presto addresses this: There is no question about this. UI is very subjective and getting an overall consistent user experience across your Apps is important. Presto comes with a tool called App Maker that helps you to generate consistent Apps utilizing many out-of-the-box (OOTB) visualizations that look great. In addition, since all Presto mobile apps are based on HTML, JavaScript and CSS, if you are not happy with the look and feel or the user experience of these ready Apps, you can customize them to your needs with minimal effort. Honestly, we are not totally there yet in Mobile visualizations yet, and this is what our team is working very hard right now. But, give it a try. With a little HTML/CSS/JS skills, you can get far with Presto than without it in your enterprise. Even without those skills, you can get OOTB Apps that provide good value for the minimal time and effort put into getting them out of Presto.
  • Issue #4: Back end systems need to deliver data more quickly. Mobile apps mean server-side issues. Mobile apps need data, say account balances and transactions, in 5 to 10 seconds. Enterprise databases may not be ready for big scale.
    How Presto addresses this: I see two problems in this area. First is about latency and scale; access to data in real-time with least latency for the user/device. It is indeed true that Enterprise databases may not be ready for this. However, not all Mobile apps need real-time transactional access. How real-time is real-time enough for your users? Do you want to know the balance as of this second? Or are you satisfied knowing your balance as of say 30 minutes ago? It depends. Presto has different approaches to solve it including real-time access to data sources and ability to cache data for specified time period to reduce latency and server load for data that doesn’t change every instant. The second issue is about how to obtain and deliver that data to the Apps. Presto makes it real simple and easy for you to plug your data sources securely and make them available for mobile Apps to interact with. Security is always guaranteed as the data access is bound by the prevailing security policies and systems in your Enterprise.
  • Issue #5: Where’s the budget? Support for these mobile applications is likely to be more difficult than generic email.
    How Presto addresses this: Probably true if you are talking about older ways of doing this. But with Presto, you can get real value really quickly. And supporting these mobile applications is of course going to be different than supporting generic email, but it does not have to be difficult. If you don’t believe me, give Presto a try. You can even get a free version of Presto that you can deploy in production for up to 5 users and see what I am talking about.

In conclusion, I would like to note an important point made in the Forrester report that our friends in the IT Services industry am sure will pay attention to:

Helping enterprises ride out the perfect storm of innovation is a $17B services opportunity. Firms will need help building mobile apps for employees and customers. Corporations will also need third-party services firms to manage the devices and apps as well as to set up and to administer their own private label enterprise app stores. And finally, the CIO and business executives will hire consultants to help their reengineer their business processes to take full advantage of the mobile and tablet apps and innovation.

But I also want to tell these CIOs and business executives that there is a new way to get your own private label enterprise app store and that you can get your own tablet/mobile apps to solve your business needs with innovation. Getting started does not have to break your bank. So, give Presto a try, and let me know if there is any way we can help. We are already helping several customers take advantage of our innovative platform to meet their business needs. I am sure we can help you too. We would be happy to do so!

Tablets : Pay Attention to this growing trend in Business computing

iPad Charts using Presto
iPad Charts using Presto

Tablets are increasingly becoming / going to become a standard weapon in the arms of biz people for real-time information. We at JackBe have a good emerging story in Presto for those who want to develop and deploy Mobile Enterprise Apps, especially for tablet based computing. Presto 3.1 has several capabilities that they can get started with today to build and deploy mobile apps within their enterprises securely.

Tablets are here to stay whether they are iPads or Androids, and it really gives an agile and mobile tool in the hands of business people who need information at their fingertips to make their daily decision making process effective and timely. We at JackBe will continue to enhance and enrich Presto for such mobile computing needs by delivering Real-Time Intelligence Apps in the Enterprise.

Introducing Presto 3.0: Freedom & Power for the User

[Cross-posted from my JackBe blog]


You might have heard that version 3.0 of Presto, our award-winning enterprise mashup platform, was announced just last week. The driving design premise of this release of Presto was simple but challenging: Organizations want to harvest and unleash the creativity of their ‘business developers’ and enhance the effectiveness and productivity of their end user communities. This is what you, our customers, partners and community members, told us.

With that in mind we focused on bringing enterprise data ‘out of hiding’, so to speak, by putting it in the hands of the users, while still adhering to enterprise IT architecture standards for security, governance, portability, and integration. I am happy and excited that most of the new features and enhancements that made their way into Presto 3.0 emphasize and support this goal.

Now that the product is launched, I thought some of you would appreciate a recap of some of the most important innovations in Presto 3.0. Here’s my list of the biggest and the best. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how we responded to your needs…

Tripling your power: You wanted more powerful capabilities in Wires, our visual drag-and-drop mashup maker. We enhanced our current blocks, and are introducing several new power packed blocks for easier mashing and leveraging the underlying features of the mashup platform. We went from 7 blocks in Presto 2.7 to around 25 blocks in our new version of Wires! New blocks include: Loop, Document, Select, Group, Document, CSV Generator, Data Decorator, Transformer, Mapper, Average, Counter, and more.

Making you richer: You wanted rich visual views on your Mashups. So we reengineered our product to provide lots of rich visualizations out of the box, and let you apply to them your mashups to create ‘Apps’ (we used to call these ‘Mashlets’). The result is a wizard-driven ‘App Maker’ with lots of rich viewing options that can be configured with no coding. And more of these visualizations will be added in the near future.

Helping you connect the dots: You wanted easier way to create collections of related Apps and even quickly wire Apps together to create a sophisticated integrated multi-App workspace. We are introducing Mashboard, a powerful drag and drop web based environment to assemble and wire several Apps, again with no coding necessary to make it all happen.

Letting you get under the hood: If you should need to customize these Apps, whether created using the wizard-driven App Maker or the powerful drag-and-drop Mashboard, you can simply open any App in a new web based App Editor, and edit your App specification, CSS, JavaScript, HTML. The App Editor also allows you to upload and download complete Apps as a package, so you can further customize and code in your own favorite tools (Sencha, Aptana, Dreamweaver, XCode, etc).

Helping you build bridges: You wanted to mashup Microsoft SharePoint lists and to share your Apps by way of SharePoint. We’ve introduced a new add-on called Mashup Sites for SharePoint which allows you to do just that: consume SharePoint lists into your mashups and to publish our Apps back to SharePoint as native WebParts. You can read more about this in Dan’s post from a few weeks back.

Making it simple to get around: You wanted an integrated experience with an easy-to-use user interface, instead of myriad of disconnected tools and utilities. We present you the Presto Hub, which integrates all the different tools and components of Presto into a centralized location.

Giving you more choices: You wanted more easier way to develop, test and publish mashups. Many of you found the jump from visually mashing up in Wires to coding EMML in our Eclipse-based Mashup Studio, a bit too high. So to make it easier and quicker to develop most of your EMML-driven mashups, we are introducing a new web based EMML Mashup Editor ‘lite’. Our Mashup Studio will of course be still offered since it comes with many power features for EMML developers.

Helping you give your stuff away: Finally, the best part. You have been building Apps over the years with no central place to host them. Sure you could distribute them by embedding them anywhere or publishing them to your portal server. However, we need a place where all these Apps are made available to the user community in your enterprise so that they can easily find, use and share these Apps. We call it the ‘Enterprise App Store’. (More on the App Store in my next post.)

And these are just the highlights! Presto 3.0 represents a massive improvement in capabilities, moving from a simple toolset that creates mashups to an integrated environment to handle the entire lifecycle on a Enterprise App, from ‘feeds’ to mashups to App to the App Store.

I hope you’ll agree that Presto 3.0 makes great strides towards our goal of empowering users to make, use and share the Apps that they need, while letting IT make it safe and secure to do so. We’re quite proud of Presto 3.0 and we’re eager to hear what you think!

Mashables > Mashups > Shareables

[Cross posted from Mashup Developer Community]

How exactly does the mashup process work? What does Presto really do? These are a couple of common newbie questions. I have had different explanations for this, but of late, I have narrowed down on the following elevator pitch (trust me, this textual explanation looks long, but I can explain really fast in person) that I have used successfully with other developers recently. So I thought I will share this with the community in case it helps others to understand the process and artifacts around enterprise mashups.

default/files/mashables2shareables_0.jpg

I found it easier to explain the whole mashup workflow using three terms: Mashables, Mashups and Shareables (OK, I confess, these may not be in the English Dictionary yet 🙂 ).

As a mashup developer or user, we need to start somewhere. To me that starting point is what I call Mashables. These are things that one can use, invoke to get data and send data. Things like services such as WSDL based web services, REST based web services,  RSS or Atom services, proprietary XML/RPC services, or even the conventional RDBMS tables, view and stored procedures. I would also include other items such as spreadsheets, XML documents and unstructured information on internal and external websites. These are the raw material for mashups. These need to be made Mashable! And this is exactly what happens when you ‘publish’ one of these things to Presto. It becomes a Mashable artifact that can be normalized, secured and managed.

And then comes the second thing called Mashups. I don’t want to go into a philosophical discussion about what a mashup is or isn’t. However, I think mashup is a user-driven, user-focused thing that encapsulates the kind of data processing and manipulation actions a user would normally do to turn any data into real information. Such actions include joining, merging, sorting, filtering, constructing, transforming, clipping, and so forth. And in Presto, a mashup is represented by an small file written using EMML (EMML is Enterprise Mashup Markup Language). EMML is an XML-based dynamic declarative domain specific mashup language. Again, a Mashup becomes this artifact which can be secured and managed just like the Mashables.

The third and final thing is the Shareables. Once you have Mashables, and Mashups, you want to be able to share them with co-workers, partners, friends, whoever. Shareables can be exposed as a service interface so others can use it as a REST or RSS or Atom or WSDL service. Another popular type of Shareable is what we call Mashlets, which are enterprise widgets that offer a rich interface to the Mashups. Mashlets are not full blown applicaitons, but can be small micro-applications that encapsulate a very specific functionality. Mashlets can be shared by publishing them on Wiki pages, blogs, websites, portal servers. You can even email a mashlet or call it directly from a smart phone like iPhone. Other types of shareables include mashups and services shared as REST urls, RSS feeds, data feeds, spreadsheets, email and so on.

There you have it. Now I can just describe Presto simply as a platform to securely create, publish, consume and collaborate with Mashables, Mashups, and Shareables !

Let me know what you think.

Presto Mashup Platform – Developer Edition

A few days ago, we released the complete Presto Enterprise Mashup Platform for all mashup developers to use free: Click here for more details and to download it. Enjoy!