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 That’s not exactly useful, but he referred to an as-yet-unpublished survey on project success rate that should be up on DDJ “soon”.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)


The Oracle David Chappell is not the same David you mean: Funny to see both move around in the same space. That happens with common names. I have the same issue here in the Netherlands.