Blog Posts from June 2006 (page 1 of 3)

Gartner EA Summit Day Two

I didn’t post a day two wrap up of the Gartner EA Summit because I only made it to my session and booth duty right afterwards. That wasn’t the original plan – the pipes in the bathroom of my hotel room kept banging so I didn’t get much sleep.

My session went well. I heard from several people afterwards that it was their favorite session or that it was the highlight of the conference. Nice anecdotal evidence, but I still want to see the scores. They recorded the session, hopefully I can get it so I can publish it here. I had lots of great conversations afterwards (as expected). Maybe Gartner will have me back next year with twelve months of my new project under my belt.

One suggestion for the Gartner folks. Next year, don’t pick a logo with an arrow in it. I got a little confused when I first showed up because I followed the arrow and ended up on the wrong side of the hotel from the event. My friend Scott snapped this picture of a sign with two arrows pointing in different directions.

HawkEye on Entity Data Model Announcement

My pal Tim dropped me an email last week to let me know they (the ADO.NET team) were publishing their vNext vision around entities. Of course, they picked the week when I’m in San Diego! So I didn’t get a chance to look at it until today. In a nutshell, they are raising the level of abstraction for databases. Regular DevHawk readers know I talk about abstraction a lot around here. In fact, one of my earliest posts on this blog – 1 house, 2 kids and 5 jobs ago – was on Disruptive Programming Language Technologies. So this is a topic near and dear to my heart.

This is an amazingly good thing. Think of the impact VB had on the development industry, but bigger. The abstraction level of databases hasn’t been raised in decades. It’s about freaking time we did.

My only problem with the article is that it’s pretty obtuse. Referring to this as “Making the Conceptual Level Real” makes it sound much less exciting than it really is. Nobody refers to C# as a “conceptual” programming language. But if you use the terminology from the vision article, that’s exactly what it is. Machine code is the physical level, IL is the logical layer and C# would then be the conceptual layer. But lets say you build a compiler that compiles C# directly to machine code. Would it suddenly become the logical layer? Who knows? Who cares? Let’s just raise the level of abstraction and not get all caught up naming the level we’re currently at.

VB was introduced 15 years ago in 1991. Most developers in the industry are aware and remember the impact VB had (if you don’t, check out Billy HollisHistory of BASIC). The relational model was introduced 36 years ago, The first RDBMS was introduced in 28 years ago. I’d bet the majority of developers in the industry today don’t remember a time before databases. Hell, I was introduced 36 years old myself. (I’m sure my dad remembers programming before databases, but he doesn’t code much these days.)

As I said, this is going to be big and it’s about freaking time. So hats off to the ADO.NET team. Can’t wait to see this running. According to this, first CTP drop is August, so you don’t even have to wait too long.

Architecture by Powerpoint

Adam Stanley left the following comment about the MS booth @ the Gartner EA Summit and I just had to share.

One of the true revalations of being an enterprise architect is in the books that Microsoft was giving away. One on enterprise patterns, one of powerpoint. I do a lot of powerpoint! 😄

The book in question is Beyond Bullet Points, which I highly recommend to architects and non-architects alike.

Against School

Graham Glass called this article “thought provoking”. Calling that an understatement is an understatement it and of itself. The article is by John Taylor Gatto, former NY State and NYC teacher of the year. In this article, he completely shreds the modern school system. He describes our education system as “deliberately designed to produce mediocre intellects, to hamstring the inner life, to deny students appreciable leadership skills, and to ensure docile and incomplete citizens – all in order to render the populace ‘manageable’”.

I’ve long had issues with the education system (I’d say “of this country” but it’s fairly universal) but I couldn’t ever articulate them. I’ve been known to say stuff like “a diploma is evidence of attendance, not intelligence” and “never let school stand in the way of your education”. I got better at understanding the problem after reading The Third Wave. Toffler points out the need for an industrial society to have a mass education system to turn children into factory workers. But Toffler doesn’t really get into the downside of the mass education approach the way Gatto does. Note to self, pick up Gatto’s book The Underground History of American Education.

As I type this, I wonder if I’ll regret blogging this when my kids are in school. I can almost hear the argument now: “Dad, why should I have to go to school if you think it’s designed to produce mediocre intellects?” Frankly, I don’t have a good answer for that now and I doubt I’ll have a good one then. (“I don’t know. Go ask your mother.” Kidding!)

You know, now that I think about it, I’m looking forward to that conversation with my kids. Gatto suggests teaching your own children to be leaders and adventures instead of letting schools train them to be employees and servants. A frank discussion about the value of school sounds much more like leadership than servitude to me.

Update: You can read the book online for free or you can buy the book (and others) online from Gatto’s website.

Gartner EA Summit Day One

I’m in sunny San Diego for the Gartner Enterprise Architecture Summit. I’m presenting a sponsor session and case study tomorrow (MSFT is a platinum sponsor for the event) but I came in yesterday so I could attend a few sessions, meet a few customers and work the MS booth in the Solution Showcase. It’s my last event and deliverable for my old team before switching to the new role full time.

The first of two keynotes today was Richard Buchanan’s session on The New Enterprise Architecture: Time for Leadership. Pretty decent session, though much of it was pretty obvious. He even said at one point that this was “Strategic Enterprise Planning 101″. Not exactly the best way to kick of an EA summit, IMHO. However, he did make some interesting points:

  • It’s hard to quantify the value of business effectiveness. Richard’s quote on this was great: “What’s the dollar value of staying out of jail?”
  • He compared most of how IT is operated today as “looking in the mirror” (i.e. focusing on running what we already have). He suggested instead “looking out the window” (i.e. at the industry and the future).
  • I always say that architecture is the intersection of business and IT. Richard said “Architecture is a translation from business strategy to technology implementation. Architects must institutionalize this translation.” Close enough.
  • He also suggested that architects need to learn to speak the language of business. That’s good advice.
  • Richard did do a good job capturing the dynamic aspect of enterprise and IT architecture. It’s about change, not structure. He said “EA is not about the past or the present. It’s about the future.” Couldn’t agree more.

The second keynote was Werner Vogels talk Order in the Chaos: Building the Amazon.com Platform. This was a great talk. I know a little about how Amazon has evolved, but I had no idea that it powered websites like Target and Bebe. His talk was a little scattered – I’m guessing he’s not as used to speaking at events like this than the Gartner folks. There’s no way to do the talk justice without basically repeating it verbatim, but my key takeaways were:

  • Amazon naturally evolved from an application into a platform. This is fascinating and worthy of more study, esp. as I’m making the switch to MSFT’s internal IT department. Microsoft knows a thing or two about platforms, but I’m not sure how it applies inside IT.
  • Amazon sees it’s “secret sauce” as their ability to automate operations at scale. For example, handling over a million sellers in their system. That helps explain their moves into services like S3 and MTurk which at first glance seems at odds with their retail web site.
  • One of the key values to becoming a platform is being able to open it up to partners. Again, Microsoft knows a lot about opening a platform to partners, but I’m not sure how it applies inside IT.
  • Money Quote: “At Amazon, things are always failing. It’s not a bad thing, it’s a fact of life.” I’ve started theorizing about this on my own, good to know where to start looking for people putting this into practice.
  • Towards that end, he made probably the most interesting observation of the day. At Amazon, there is no wall between development and operations. Combined with the secret sauce of automating operations at scale and there is a good recipe for how enterprises need to run their IT department.

The final session I went to today was Nick Gall on Architecture for the Agile Enterprise: Integrating EA & SOA. The use of the term “agile” in this context was unfortunate, as he had no discussion of agile principles. He primarily focused on what he called Web Oriented Architecture or WOA. His formula for WOA was ‘WOA = SOA + WWW + REST” which seems redundant. Isn’t REST an attempt to capture the architectural style of the WWW? Anyway, this session wasn’t very good. He had about 15 minutes of really good content but you had to wade thru the other 45 minutes of crap to find it. For example, he spent about ten minutes talking about the value of using a small set common modular operations (i.e. the REST / WS-Transfer approach) before he used this great analogy:

Modularity can be open or closed. Closed modularity is like a jigsaw puzzle. There are lots of individual pieces, but they can only be put together one way. Open modularity is like a tangram puzzle. There are only seven pieces, but they can be put together in hundreds of different combinations.

That was a great analogy that really got the point across! Why not just start with that and skip the mumbo jumbo?

I missed the last session as I had to prep for booth duty. Even though this audience is very different from a typical MSFT event like TechEd, they still mobbed the booth for swag and a chance to win an Xbox 360. I had a few interesting architectural discussion, but mostly it was about the swag.

My session is tomorrow at 11am. I’m presenting Beyond SOA and a case study session on the Dell Integrated Desktop . Then there’s two more hours of booth duty tomorrow, but I’m hoping it’s more content and less swag this time as 1) I will have just presented so I’m hoping to get some questions and 2) everyone has already gotten their swag ration for the conference.