Blog Posts from October 2007 (page 1 of 2)

Morning Coffee 121

  • My daughter had her tonsils & adenoids out on yesterday. It was a routine procedure and it went by-the-numbers, but any parent will tell you it’s hard to see your kid in a hospital bed.
  • Given the previous bullet, I’m not at the SOA/BPM conference for the big announcement. Don’t worry, there’s lots of other folks covering the news.
  • It was a crappy sports weekend in the Pierson house. Va Tech snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, Southern Cal never led at Oregon, the Capitals lost twice, and the Redskins got blown out by the Pats. At least the Caps won big yesterday in Toronto.
  • Speaking of the Capitals, Peter Bondra retired Monday. I still think it’s a travesty that he didn’t spend his whole career in DC, but I’ve made my peace with it.
  • Nick Malik has a great series on business operations models and how they apply to SOA. Regular readers should be unsurprised that I favor low standardization, though I can see the value of high integration. That makes the Coordinated Operating Model my fav, though I can see the benefit of the Diversified Model as well. I can’t wait to read what Nick has to say on changing models.
  • Speaking of Nick, I’m doing a roundtable with him on “Making SOA Work in the Enterprise” @ the Strategic Architect Forum. Should be fun. Sorry for the lack of linkage on this, but it’s an invite-only event.
  • Jezz Santos has a new series of white papers on building software factories. First up “Packaging with Visual Studio 2005
  • Aaron Skonnard has a new whitepaper on using the WCF LOB Adapter SDK with BTS 2006 R2. I’ve been building one of these things recently, so I’m looking forward to checking that out. (via Sam Gentile)
  • Tim Ewald looks at Resource Oriented Architecture (when did ROA become a TLA?) and wonders “what if your problem domain is more focused on processes than data?” I wonder that all the time. (via Jesus Rodriguez)
  • It’s not just durable messaging – Libor Soucek also disagrees with my opinions on centralized control. I agree 100% with Libor that centralized management would make operation’s lives “much, MUCH easier” as he puts it. However, that doesn’t make it feasible at any significant scale. Furthermore, I wouldn’t describe an approach that requires that “all services adopt [the] same common management interface” as “pragmatic”. Frankly, just the opposite.

The Worst of Both Worlds

David Pallmann of Neudesic responded to my comment that “Physically distributed but logically centralized” didn’t make any sense to me at all:

What exactly does this mean? To some this may sound like a contradiction.

This simply means that a bus is physically more like the point-to-point architecture (spread out, no hub) but functionally more like the hub-and-spoke architecture (pub-sub messaging, centralized configuration and activity tracking, easy change management).

Unfortunately, I wasn’t confused about the seeming contradictory nature of these concepts. In other words, I understand the “what” and “how” of David’s physically distributed/logically centralized approach.

I don’t understand the “why”. As in, “why would you want to do this?” or “why do you think this would work at any significant scale?”.

If we check out Neudesic’s page on their ESB product (which David pointed me to) we find the following blurb:

Centralized Management
The distributed nature of service oriented programming can create a management nightmare. Neuron·ESB supports this distributed architecture while simultaneously centralizing monitoring and configuration.

SOA’s “distributed nature” is it’s primary strength. SOA’s not primarily about standards or ease-of-connectivity – though those obviously play a role. It’s about enabling decentralized decision making. Since you can’t be both centralized and decentralized, enforcing centralized management basically negates SOA’s primary strength. This seems like the worst of both worlds to me. All the hassle of distributed decision making combined with all the hassle of centralized management.

Yes, decentralized decision making can create a management nightmare. Personally, a management nightmare is much more attractive anything centralized approaches have ever delivered in the IT industry.

Dare Obasanjo recently wrote “If You Fight the Web, You Will Lose“. He was talking about the Web as a Platform, but it’s good general advice. Can you imagine applying the marketing blurb above to the Internet at large?

Centralized Management
The distributed nature of service oriented programming the Internet can create a management nightmare. Neuron·ESB supports this distributed architecture while simultaneously centralizing monitoring and configuration.

If the Internet can somehow get by without centralized management, why can’t you?

Morning Coffee 120

  • Doing these morning coffee posts is a lot tougher since I cut back my blog reading. Where I used to have no trouble finding 4-5 coffee-worthy items every day, these days I seem to only get 1-2, if that.
  • After starting off 3-0 and 100% on the PK, the Caps dropped four in a row and have been miserable on special teams. The special teams woes continued last night against the Lightning, but they still won. Caps went 0-4 on the powerplay, and coughed up a short handed goal. But they also went 3-3 on the PK, so I guess it wasn’t all bad. Maybe my mother will stop calling for Hanlon’s job now. It’s a long season and as Peerless Prognosticator points out, the rebuild isn’t over.
  • Jomo Fisher, who helped Scott Hanselman auto-merge assemblies, has been digging around in F# of late. As it turns out, he’s joining the F# team so I’m thinking it’s not a huge stretch for him. If you’re a C# developer trying interested in getting a handle on this new F# thing, his blog is a good place to start.
  • Speaking of F#, Don Syme posts about yet another new F# feature: Async Workflows. Workflow is a bad term here IMO since it can be easily confused with WF. Regardless of it’s name, Async Workflows is about making .NET’s Async Programming model a first class citizen in F#. Robert Pickering has a good post explaining how this new feature works.
  • Microsoft sure has a lot of multi-threading / async-programming tools coming out. In addition to F# Async Workflows, there’s the Concurrency and Coordination Runtime, Parallel LINQ and the Task Parallel Library. I would hope all this work eventually coalesces as a coherent product offering.
  • Now that F# is being “producized”, I wonder if the language evolution will slow down. Async workflows were introduced in F# 1.9.2.9. Other recent changes include Computation Expressions (v1.9.2), Use Bindings (v1.9.2) and Active Patterns (v1.9.1). F# seems to churn more in minor releases than C# does in major releases. Of course, that’s because F# was a research project, not a “real” product. Now that it’s going to be a product, will the rate of innovation slow?

Morning Coffee 119

  • The biggest news of the week IMHO is Soma announcing the formation of an F# product team. Specifically, they will “fully integrate the F# language into Visual Studio and continue innovating and evolving F#.” Though Soma calls F# “another first-class programming language on the CLR”, I get the feeling there won’t be a “Visual F#” sku. Don Syme has more on the news.
  • In other Soma announcement news, Popfly is now in beta. More details on what’s new on the Popfly Team Blog. I haven’t played with Popfly in depth, but I think it’s got huge potential.
  • Scott Guthrie details the upcoming ASP.NET MVC Framework. Personally, I’m not building web apps much these days, so I’m not really invested one way or the other. Given the interest in this approach, it’s nice to see the ASP.NET team respond to the market, though I’m sure someone will complain that we’re trying to kill off the various open-source MVC Web frameworks that have sprung up.
  • Over in Windows Live, they shipped a new version of Live Search Maps, upgraded WL Photo Gallery (which I’ve been digging) to support Flickr and shipped an update to WL Accounts which allows you to link accounts.
  • The Clarius folks keep churning out great tools for software factory developers. The latest is the T4 editor, which brings intellisense, color syntax highlighting and property inspector support for Text Templating Transformation Toolkit (aka T4) files. T4 files are used for code generation in both DSL Toolkit and GAT.
  • David Pallman (again via Sam Gentile) suggests there are only three choices for infrastructure architecture: None/Point-to-point, Centralized/Hub-and-Spoke and Thin/Bus. I get the first two, but his explanation of the third goes to far into the “magic framework” category for my taste. “Physically distributed but logically centralized”? That doesn’t make any sense to me at all.
  • Fellowship of the Ring makes its way onto XBLM. Alas, not in HD so I’ll stick w/ my extended four hour DVD version thankyouverymuch.

Morning Coffee 118 – ITARC SoCal Edition

I’m not back on blog sabbatical, but between finishing my presentation and attending ITARC SoCal earlier this week – not to mention being sick – I didn’t have time to write anything. Normal Morning Coffee resumes tomorrow, here’s a summary of my notes from on my two days at ITARC.

Scott Ambler did the opening keynote on agile enterprise architecture strategy.

  • He claims that success is more prevalent in the industry that people think, because the industry has a narrow definition of success. If you change (aka widen) the definition, the success rate goes way up! That’s not exactly useful, but he referred to an as-yet-unpublished survey on project success rate that should be up on DDJ “soon”. I’d like to see that raw data.
  • While I agree with most of his points, Scott’s presentation style is very abrasive. For example, he makes the point that there is no one-size-fits-all process, which I couldn’t agree with more. But does he say it like that? No, he says “Repeatable processes? What an incredibly stupid idea!” even though the room is full of folks who probably think repeatable process is actually a good idea.
  • Scott suggested that unit tests are the best way to specify requirements. I’ve heard this before from agile practitioners, but something nags at me about it. Certainly, having executable requirements is a huge plus. But how can you be sure they’re the right requirements if the stakeholders can’t read them?
  • This keynote setup what turned out to be a major theme for the conference – traditional vs. non-traditional enterprise architecture. Or as I would characterize it: Industrial vs. Post Industrial architecture.

Simon Guest presented on user experience in architecture, which is his specialty these days. He lays out a UX model that was very compelling. I’m not sure if there’s a whitepaper version of this model (there should be) but you can see the model as he lays it out in powerpoint. I’ve seen Simon’s UX decks, but never actually seen him present it, so that was a treat.

I skipped Ted Neward’s session in order to take in something new. So I went to see Daniel Brookshier of No Magic talk about DoDAF – the Dept. of Defense Architecture Framework. I had met Daniel the night before at dinner and while No Magic primarily sells UML modeling tools, we seemed to agree that UML is most useful (in my opinion “at all useful”) when you imbue the vanilla models with custom semantics – aka you turn them into a DSL. So while I liked hanging out with Daniel, his DoDAF session did nothing except ensure I never work for the DoD. There’s no amount of money that’s worth dealing with the two dozen or so bureaucratic models that are all wholly isolated from anything that actually executes. Daniel kept saying how easy these models are to build. I’m sure they are, but that’s not the problem. Since they’re not an intrinsic part of a construction process, they won’t stay up to date. This was a very industrial approach – Daniel even stated at one point that he was “anti-Ambler”.

David Chappell did the second keynote on grid-enabled SOA.

  • When did David join Oracle? I guess I haven’t been paying much attention to competitors since I moved to MSIT.
  • There’s an article version of this presentation available, but I haven’t read it yet.
  • For me, the best part of this presentation was him acknowledging that there’s a need for non-stateless services, something he has blogged about recently. I’m not sure I agree with his framework for stateful interaction, but at least he’s admitting that it’s needed. Now if I could only convince the Connected Systems Division…
  • The rest of his talk was basically a sales pitch for the Coherence product Oracle recently bought. Basically, it’s a huge, multi-node, redundant, in-memory database. While I’m sure there are a few high-end problems out there – my immediate thought was travel and David mentioned SABRE is one of their customers – this is not a good general purpose solution, though David was positioning it as such.

My talk on “Moving Beyond Industrial Software” was after the second keynote. It was good, if sparsely attended. I’m doing it again @ the p&p Summit so I’ll post the slides and hopefully a recording after that.

I skipped the last session of the day to decompress, so the next session I went to was the day two opening keynote by Fred Waskiewicz, OMG’s Director of Standards. His talk, unsurprisingly, was on the value of standards – in particular, OMG’s standards. This was about as anti-Ambler, anti-agile, pro-industrial a presentation as you could make. I’d heard this spiel before, so I mostly tuned out. I did challenge Fred on his point that the UML models are at a higher level of abstraction than code. They’re not – they’re a visualization and they’re very useful, but they’re at the exact same level of abstraction as code. That’s why you can automatically generate the visualization in tools like Visual Studio’s class designer. Fred didn’t have much of a response to my question, though he did point out that some models like Business Process Models are, in fact, higher levels of abstraction.

Next was what I thought was the best presentation of the entire show, IASA Founder Paul Preiss on what architects need to know. Note, I’m not brown-nosing Paul here – I’m the guy that first decided to commit Microsoft as an IASA sponsor, so he has to like me even if I thought his session was crap. Paul talked about architect as a career, comparing it to doctors. He worries that he’s over-using that analogy, but software architect has much more in common career wise than it does with building architects IMO. I wonder where one might do their architecture residency? He also thinks of architects as “living governance”, saying that project managers answer to the stakeholders while architects are beholden to the stockholders. I like that approach to governance.

Finally, I attended Vince Casarez’s session on Web 2.0 in the enterprise. Vince is an Oracle VP and this turned into a sales pitch like David Chappell’s keynote did. I’m not sure what product it was, but it reminded me of QEDWiki from IBM that I saw at ETech last year, which isn’t a complement. If you’re going to build an enterprise mashup designer, is it just me or is “lots of code spew” a poor model. Why not go for something like Popfly or Pipes?

I left early the second day in order to get home before my kids went to sleep (which I failed at due to lack of naptime). Overall, the conference was pretty good, though a bit sparsely attended in part I think because they held it in San Diego. The Orange Country IASA user group is very popular, so I don’t understand why they didn’t just hold it around there somewhere. Live and learn, I guess. They did have to postpone the DC event until next year sometime. Here’s hoping I get invited to that as well as well as ITARC SoCal ’08 (note, that is brown-nosing a bit)