Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nov 2007 - Misc Technical observations

(prompted by many things)

Social networks ~ MySpace/Google: join forces to launch a new social platform which has a set of APIs for developers to build social applications. The OpenSocial standards are designed to evolve through contributions from the open-source community and from partners like Friendster, LinkedIn, Ning, Six Apart, Plaxo and

IM ~ Meebo service: allows JavaScript or Flash applications to be registered so they can call on Meebo's APIs to send IMs to various IM systems.

Office ~ Document Standards: The South African government is to adopt ODF (i.e. not MS's OOXML). Many countries (Russia, Malaysia, Japan, France, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Norway, South Africa, Netherlands, Korea, Vietnam, Finland/Justice, British/Education, Australia/National Archives) have announced laws or rules that favor the use ODF (over proprietart formats such as MS's "Open XML"). Some are switching to OpenOffice (e.g. France is switching half a million government employees) others are using plug-ins to their existing MS Office suite.

Browser ~ Mozilla's Prism (was called WebRunner): lets Web applications to be stripped from the browser and work on the application if it were a traditional desktop program. It is in prototype, but can separate a Web application from its browser, drop it onto the desktop in its own window, and manage its icon and placement on the desktop like any locally installed program. It is stand-alone application, but they are working on a Firefox plug-in.

Industry consolidation ~ Iron Mountain buys Stratify: who make document discovery software. Iron Mountain sees benefits in combining Stratify's document discovery technology with its storage offerings/services (Cf. EMC and Documentum).

BI ~ IBM buys Cognos: for around $5b. IBM had partnered with Hyperion, BO, and Cognos for BI. Now the 3 major database vendors all have a BI offerings. IBM said they still intend to stay out of the applications space. Though boundary between applications and infrastructures is blurred (e.g. collaboration, communication etc.) They are sticking to SW infrastructures that link to services offerings. (Cf. SAP buys Business Objects, Oracle buys Hyperion, MS buys ProClarity)

Location ~ GeoXG: influenced by OGC/, publish "W3C Geospatial Vocabulary" and "W3C Geospatial Ontologies." The Vocabulary Report defines a basic ontology and OWL vocabulary for representation of geospatial properties for Web resources. The Ontologies Report supplies an overview and description of geospatial foundation ontologies to represent geospatial concepts and properties for use on the Web. Just as there are physical (IP address) and conceptual (domain) locators on
the Web, there are physical (coordinates, sreet addresses) and conceptual (placenames and political divisions).

Identity ~ Oracle Adaptive Access Manager: has 2 components: Adaptive Strong Authenticator and Adaptive Risk Manager. The Adaptive Access Manager adds turnkey Knowledge-Based Authentication and system monitoring dashboard features.

Open ~ Open Systems adoption in Gov: 55% of Gov agencies in the US have been involved in an open-source implementation. 29% who haven't adopted open-source software plan to do so in the next 6-12 months (leaving only 16% not using or planning to use Open source). 90% of those who have implemented open-source software said they believe their agency benefits.
Security is often a top reason for implementing open source and 88% of those in intelligence agencies said that their agencies can benefit from open source (NSA has been supporting a secure Linux project, called Security Enhanced Linux, since 2001). The bugs and backdoors are more quickly identified (and addressed) when everyone can see the source (Cf. MS's SW as the virus vector of choice).

Closed ~ MS's Oslo: (market badge Cf. .Net) will deliver a unified platform integrating services and modelling. It will include changes to: Visual Studio (model-driven design of distributed apps), System Center (direct deployment from aligned metadata repositories across server and tools productswith intermediate steps), BizTalk, .Net Framework (model-driven dev for WCF, WWF), ), etc. due next year. What MS means by Model driven is different from what others mean by MDA - and is more akin to 4GLs offered decades ago on closed prorietary stacks. Oslo has a modeling environment, a BP server and a new deployment models.

Closed vs Open ~ Linux vs Windows in Nigeria: Mandriva (Linux) will provide a customized Linux OS and support for 17,000 PCs for Nigerian schools. The IT Department (Technology Support Center - TSC), plans to wipe the computers' disks and install Windows XP. The agency funding the PCs wants to keep Mandriva Linux on the Classmate PCs. This highlights the battle being waged against business users/funders when their desire is for non-Windows solutions (e.g. by appealing to IT departments, who realise that if stable IT appliances are implemented their arcane knowledge of MS's support resource intensive solutions - will be of little value).

Phone ~ Google phone: wireless handhelds running Google applications and OS are expected 1st half of 2008. Google phones would be open i.e. interoperable with different carriers (not locked to a carrier), portable (run on HW form many vendors e.g. HTC). What is unclear is if it will be Linux based.

Phones ~ Phone to dominate web access: 75% of consumers worldwide will have a mobile phone by 2011. 1.5 billion new mobile consumers are expected to emerge over the next four years (60% from Asia Pac). Smartphone shipments could reach 300m next year (after doubling this year to 200m). Apple aims to sell 10 million iPhones next year.

Phones ~ LG KS20: has a 70mm QVGA touchscreen that dominates the front of the phone so looks a bit like an iPhone, but is cursed with a MS' OS (which is not as slick as a Apple Phone OS). It has tri-band GSM/3G/HSDPA (3.6Mbits ps), browser, Wi-Fi, handwriting recognition, 128MB memory, Micro SD card slot, Bluetooth 2.0, 2-megapixel camera, FM radio.

Phones ~ Google Android: is mobile phone platform (OS - Linux, APIs, customizable UI, mobile browser, IM protocol support, etc.). It supports a custom-built virtual machine called Dalvik designed to maximize application performance and security. Third parties will provide other drivers (e.g. Synaptics will provide Touch-screen driver). It is free, open and expected to results in phones by the second half of 2008 (from many vendors, including perhaps Google). The SDK (includes tutorials, sample code, plug-in for integrating with Eclipse) is available from the OHA Web site. A six-minute video shows two prototype phones that are running Android applications - one device shows a small-screen phone that integrates a contact list with calling capability and a Google Maps, a second prototype uses a larger touch screen (similar to an iPhone) offering a glimpse of 3-D and 2-D graphics capabilities that run over a 3G network. OHA members supporting the initiative include: China Mobile (world largest wireless carrier with 340m subscribers), Deutsche Telekom, HTC Corp, Qualcomm, Motorola, Sprint.

PCs ~ low cost: Everex introduces a $200 Linux desktop Wednesday and will introduce a $300 Linux Laptop. The Desktop (TC2502) has 1.5-GHz Via C7-D CPU, 512MB of RAM, 80GB drive, a DVD player and an Ethernet port (no monitor).

PCs ~ instant on: HyperSpace would offer instant-on functions including multimedia playback, e-mail, IM, browsing or remote system maintenance, all without the ridiculous time need to boot an OS such as Windows. HyperSpace is built on a VM (hypervisor) that is called the HyperCore that allows applications (of OSes) to run independently and concurrently on a single processor, in a way that prevents them from interfering with one another. Phoenix developed the BIOS that PCs run after they power on and before loading a full OS (e.g. Windows) and provides a standard interface to the HW components in a PC. HyperCore will run between the BIOS and the OS and HyperSpace will offer a quick-starting alternative to a full OS. It is very slowing starting to be recognised that MS's propensity for continually adding of new features to Windows (or Office for that matter), or just changing the ways existing features operate (or their UI), is going down a failed path. This is a reason it so hard to actually demonstrate business benefits for upgrading to their technologies that exceed the costs of those upgrades.

Devices ~ Phones a better basis for device that the PC: ARM provides 95% of the CPUs in Smartphones (Symbian, iPhone etc.) and their view is that emerging markets are better served by something evolving from the mobile phone end than something evolving from PC. ARM/Smartphone based devices may be more secure (i.e. ARM's architecture was originally for the Arcon PC which had fixed ROM so the OS was inviolate - so no viruses), cheaper to operated (and phones follow an appliance model - which is far cheaper than the PC model with its common operating environments and associated teams of LAN support people keeping up with continual changes to the OS), greener (they have lower power usage), are more reliable, and a communications oriented (which is increasingly the predominent use of PCs).

PC ~ Hasta la Vista, baby: Exhaustive testing confirms that Vista (SP1) is at least twice as slow as XP (on the same hardware). It is hard to see the business case (e.g. benefits) for implementing Vista in business except of technologist who will: have new technologies to play with, have more work to do - and the IT industry who will be able sell more HW, SW and services.

Storage ~ Flash disk: Samsung is producing sample 1.8-inch and 2.5-inch drives that have a sequential write speed of 100MBps and sequential read speed of 120MBps and use SSD (flash memory rather than magnetic storage). They consume about half the power of current SATA I interface drives and one-tenth the power of enterprise 15,000 rpm drives.

Storage ~ SATA 320Gb: Western Digital ships Scorpio 2.5-in (9.5mm form-factor) SATA (3Gbit/sec) hard drive that can store 320GB.

Storage ~ Volumes up, prices down: 134m hard drives shipped in Q3 (up 21%). Most laptop drives are around 100GB and $50 (320GB laptop drives are $65). Solid-state drive pricing are dropping but they are still an order of magniture (or more) more expensive than disks. Desktop drive prices are not dropping but capacity is increasing (approach 1TB).

Business operations: Oracle buy Interlace Systems: Interlace has software called Integrated Business Planning that integrates data from planning and operational systems to uncover gaps between financial and operational plans. It allows business planners to change operational assumptions and assess the business impact on operations. It uses a "change-based data modeling server" that pulls together data from disparate operational plans into an integrated model to allow multiple users to run what-if scenarios by changing operational assumptions and then see the outcome of the changes on business plans.

MS's comments: MS says "Anytime you're looking at a model, you're only looking at a piece of the application because each of those models is separate," "Today, modeling is really only something that a select group of users and a select group of companies can do,". MS's approach is not about UML (MS is not a a big supporter). A modeling language is part of Oslo (MS's will build its own) and MS say it will unify existing modeling languages ("similar to MS's CLR for application development"). CLR did nothing to "unify" development languages it just locked the execution to MS's proprietary OS. We can expect similiar from their modelling language i.e. it will lock models to their proprietary SW stack.

Infrastructure modeling: Wachovia is generating 3D models of its infrastructures using Tideway (Foundation is a tool for mapping dependencies among applications and hardware) and Intepoint (which focuses on visualization and event simulation for IT systems). The modelling goes down to servers in buildings at present and aims to provide a better visualization of IT assets, power consumption, etc.

Industry consolidation ~ EMC buy Voyence: to assist in the administration of changes in their network and security devices. VoyenceControl manages NW changes and configurations on multiple vendors' equipment.

Industry consolidation ~ Cisco buys Securent (its 125th acquistion) for $100 million. Securent's distributed policy platform lets companies administer, enforce and audit access to data, communications and applications in heterogeneous IT application environments.

Industry consolidation ~ Symantec is interested in buying companies that do: data loss prevention, transaction-based security, server management, and then complementary services across those three software domains

Management: Consolidation Discovery and Analysis Tool allows IBM resellers to evaluate smaller environments of 50 servers or fewer and suggest what IBM products/services should be bought. IBM suggests that server consolidation using virtualization technology can save up to 60% of IT costs while quadrupling utilisation.

Privacy ~ IBM PCI offerings: IBM has some new product/services to help customers tackle major elements of IT security and compliance project work in a more integrated fashion. Driven by privacy associated with PCI (payment card industry) standards. Basically it looks some existing tools bolted together with some services (Proventia Network Enterprise Scanner product with vulnerability checks tailored to address regulation requirements, Tivoli Compliance Insight Manager report templates customized to handle the different aspects of the PCI guidelines, etc.).

Service management ~ Europe ahead: Europe is ahead of North American counterparts in the adoption and execution of IT service management guidelines. Aberdeen say 55% of European businesses are managing their IT as a service according to ITIL best practice framework guidelines, compared to 33% in North America.

Service management ~ HP BSM: is an updated version of Business Service Management (BSM) that allows IT to gauge both technical performance of a service and its importance to employee productivity and customer service.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oct 2007 - Misc Technical observations

(prompted by many things)

Payment: Starhub (mobile operator in Singapore), will offer the payment service in conjunction with EZ-Link (government-owned company that operates a contactless payment service based on cards with near-field communication) technology. EZ-Link cards (or phones with embedded NFC chips, and a Java applet) can be used to pay for public transport in Singapore as well as purchases in some stores by waving them over a reader. A similar initiative was announced in September by SingTel and NETS (Network for Electronic Transfers) which operates a card-based payment system set up by local banks.

Social networks: MySpace will open its platform broadly to outside developers. Since opening its platform to external developers in May, Facebook has built up a catalog of about 6,000 applications, which it credits with increasing its members' engagement on the site and their enjoyment of it (Facebook's has grown to 47m active users today from 12 million in December). Last month MySpace had 114m unique visitors worldwide (up 72%), Facebook had 52m unique visitors (up 270%).

VoIP: Hutchison is offering free calls between Skype users through 3G mobile phones (2-megapixel camera, MPEG3 player, Bluetooth, 16MB expandable to 1GB with a Micro SD memory card). in UK, Australia, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland, Macau, and Sweden. Their new phone has a large button with Skype's logo that's used to launch calls and IMs. In the UK the handset is free with a a contract (starting at $25 a month).

Capgemini (France) has introduced Customer Care and Intelligence service (CC&I), that focuses on aligning clients' customer care operations with their overall business objectives, rather than merely improving the efficiency of customer care. It will become a stand-alone offering within the company’s BPO portfolio. The service will initially be offered to clients in the energy, utilities, and telecommunications services sectors. CC&I typically starts with specialty customer queues, and then extends the business and process insights to the volume, commodity part of an organization’s customer care.

Mobile UI: Mozilla's mobile Firefox should run on Symbian, Windows Mobile and Linux.

Mobile UI: Adobe wants to see 1 billion phones shipped with Flash Lite (a cut-down version of Flash Player that runs small apps). Flash Lite has been shipped on 300m
devices, and this year Adobe expects 250m Flash Lite phones to ship, giving it 27% of the global phone market. The most popular mobile application platform JME will come preinstalled on about 500 m devices this year. There are 3 billion mobile phones in use today far more than the 1 billion PCs currently in operation.

Mobile UI: Symbian is adding a new graphics architecture (ScreenPlay) as well as enhanced networking capabilities (Freeway) to its mobile OS. ScreenPlay allows for a layered effect (where different applications can deliver information and graphics on one screen) and is designed for the delivery of high-definition video, gaming, and animated interface (implemented in SW on low-end devices, and in HW on high end devices). Freeway is an IP networking architecture that will allow for seamless switching between high-speed networks such as 3G and WiMax.

Web UI: WebEx Connect desktop technology will host Oracle's Siebel CRM On Demand.
This will also give users the ability to integrate WebEx meetings with CRM prospecting activity reports.

Web UI: Google Web Tookit (GWT) is a popular way to develop Ajax applications (Java developers can create Ajax without needing to know JavaScript). This four-part seriesdemonstrates how to use the GWT and XForms to create a dynamic Web applications -

Web UI: XForms seven presentations on XForms (design experience, end-to-end solution development, case studies and driving business value through integration) are scheduled for 03 December at the XML 2007 Conference (Boston). Sessions include:
"Seeing is Believing: Intuitive Visual XForms Design" -
demonstrating that XForms can offer an order of magnitude simplification to the design and development of business applications.
"The Pure Declarative Approach: XForms in Real Estate Forms Case Study" - using almost no Java/JavaScript, mostly XML Schemas (to capture requirements), XML transforms (to create XForms), native XML databases (to store data),
Schematron (to store business rule checks), XQuery (to manipulate and report on XML datasets)
"Creating a Custom Editor for Everything" - how to use XForms to create a custom editor for an XML vocabulary
"XForms and the eXist XML database: a Perfect Couple" - how the XForms 1.1
submission module (which supports REST) can be used to perform CRUD
operations in eXist and how XForms can directly submit
XML database queries using XQuery 1.0 language implemented by eXist.
"XForms, XHTML, and RDFa for Internet-Facing Applications" - The applications include desktop widgets and gadgets, pure Ajax browser applications, web applications that use browser plug-ins such as formsPlayer, and complete standalone desktop applications, running independently of a browser.
"Composition and Choreography of Web Components in XForms" - a programming model for composing and controlling Web 2.0 documents based on the Model-View-Controller design of XForms.


BP/BR - SAP AG is buying Yasu small Indian software company that makes business rules management software to help beef up the BPM capabilities in its NetWeaver applications platform.

F#: MS plans to integrate F# into its Visual Studio. F# is based on the concepts of functional programming. Functional languages treat computation as the evaluation of mathematical functions.

SOA: SCA (Service Component Architecture) stands a good chance of being adopted. MS won't adopt it willingly as enable portability, but open systems vendors will. It is likely that it can avoid the probably CORBA had (partially the demand now for inter-operability is so much greater). Languages that will be supported in SCA cover most popular (non-Microsoft languages) e.g. COBOL, Ruby, Java, C, C++, BPEL, PHP etc.


Laptop: Asustek's Eee PC a low-cost ($340) laptop designed for children and emerging markets sells well. It is less than 1 kg, 7-inch LCD screen, Xandros/Linux, 900MHz Celeron M, 512MB of DDR2 DRAM, 4GB flash drive, built-in camera, speakers and a mic, and has 40 applications (Skype, Firefox, etc.).

Laptop: Intel's new Diamondville chips (extremely low voltage, Core 2 Duo processor, 10 watts) are aimed at low cost laptops ($150-200).

Tablet: Nokia N810 ($479) is a Linux-based WiFi tablet with, Mozilla browse, a camera, Skype, music player, GPS, touch screen and a slide-out full keyboard. It can be connected to cellular data networks via a Bluetooth connection to a mobile phone.

PC: Last quarter there were 67m PCs shipped worldwide (up 16% increase, attributed to a strong demand for laptops). Market shares: HP has 20%, Dell 17%, Lenovo, Acer, and Toshiba (the next 3 biggest)

Phones driving SaaS: MS's software-plus-services (i.e. attempting to extending its hegemony on PC, to the on-lines services market). CEO says: "There's no better way then the cell networks of the world to make this model happen," "The PC is the most powerful device, but the phone is the most popular,"

Phones: Microsoft built a custom Windows Mobile UI for a T-Mobile USA phone built by HTC. The Shadow has a home screen very different from other Windows Mobile phones with a slide a wheel to navigate through icons that take people directly to e-mail, music player and photos. This really seems to be a way to recognise that people want to distance themselves from the MS's usual offerings - awful UIs (not mention unreliable, slow, resource hungry and insecure) Cf. Apple's offerings.

Displays: Sharp LCD measures 55mm across the diagonal and is just 0.68 mm thick (currently the thinnest cell phone screen). AUO's screen is 47mm and 0.69mm thick. Most phones today have screens 1.5-2.5mm thick.

e-Paper: NTT are working on a keypad that changes icons depending on which application is being use. More work must be done to improve the technology e.g. response time, and a move to active matrix


Drives: Hitachi will provide 4Tb desktop and 1Tb laptop drives by around 2010

Solid-state: Alienware introduce a 64GB solid-state storage option for its desktop computers.

Solid-state: FlashMate combines HW, firmware and SW in a system application subsystem that manages a notebook computer's hard drive and enables notebook users to access content on the hard disk drive, without having to power on the notebook e.g. MP3 files, digital pictures, access email (avoiding Windows lengthy boot process).


DSL: Borland is adding domain-specific language capabilities to Together package for application modeling. The DSL Toolkit in Together 2007 is intended to overcome the complexity of UML models by enabling project teams to build model notations aligned with a business domain.


Mobile: MS System Center Mobile Device Manager IT administrators manage and secure Windows Mobile phones (focusing on its closed stack approach). Nokia supports the OMA DM (Open Mobile Alliance Device Management) standard in its devices so that any standards-compliant management console can communicate with the devices. Windows Mobile does not. Intellisync (Nokia) had to build a separate client to install on Windows Mobile devices in order to support Windows Mobile phones in the management software.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


(promoted by new UI frameworks being released)

It is far from clear what the architecture is for creating user interfaces. At present it does not seem a foregone conclusion that closed architecture advocated by Microsoft (i.e. built on proprietary client products and standards) will prevail. Some of the technologies include:

  • Adobe - Adobe's Pacifica is a service that will allow developers to integrate voice, messaging and presence information into applications built using Adobe Flex, AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) or Flash technologies. Flex is Adobe's environment for building RIAs (Rich Internet Apps) and AIR allows those applications to be moved to the desktop. CoCoMo is associated with the next version of Adobe's Connect Web conferencing service and enables parts of Connect's functionality to be integrated into other applications. With Adobe's Web technologies and hosted services, it is not necessary to install new client or server software to collaborate. Business Objects Xcelsius Connector to Adobe LiveCycle Data Services (for data-remoting, messaging, data-management) will allow Xcelius to be used for the visual transformation of analytic data from back-end systems and the graphics to be integrated on RIAs. Adobe and BO also aim to integrate the Flex development environment and Xcelsius to make it easier to create more visually interesting business-intelligence applications
  • AJAX - A common AJAX platfom is anticipated over mobile and desktop access providing a universal content and application platform. Critical areas to address include: JavaScript access to device APIs (a bridge to J2ME is possible), offline and disconnected operation, widgets, mashups, and security. Steps in the right will be: Apple, Nokia and Motorolla shipping WebKit/Mozilla browsers on their mobile phones.
  • XFORMS -
  • Lotus Forms - Web Form Server is an RIA platform that provides the capabilities of Lotus Forms directly to browsers (without the need to install rich client software). On demand page loading improves performance (e.g. it avoids loading data structures for pages not visited by the end-user) and page-level validity checking on page-change operations ensure users can't progress through a wizard experience unless the validity criteria for a page are met. Several new Xforms 1.1. features now supported.
  • Microsoft - MS would like MS Office/Outlook to key elements the UI framework. Unfortunately this locks users into a proprietary client architecture.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Common operating environment - why it doesn't make sense

A common operating environment is proposed as an intelligent strategy by many IT organisations. And it is an intelligent strategy for IT organisation (internal and external to propose) it keeps many people in work fiddling with technology that is best left alone. Unfortunately is not is not in fact a sound strategy for most businesses who would be better served by an appliance model. This model operates successfully in every other domain where their are hardware systems and operating systems. It has issues - but the issues are far less significant than the absurd costs, risks and complexity introduce the common operating environment (and what follows from it).

While most vendors talk about virtual clients, blades and phones and laptops are becoming increasing attractive to consumers and SMEs, many of the devices bought by large enterprises still of course are still desktop PCs.

Historically an enterprise clients were focus predominantly on an enterprise applications. Several trends are changing this:
  • SaaS is meaning that in many cases the applications (services if you prefer) being accessed by someone via enterprise device are not in fact delivered by the enterprise.
  • Externally facing systems mean that increasingly the applications provided by an enterprise are oriented at external parties where they will be access by devices that are not controlled by the enterprise delivering the service (this includes the case of a working accessing their enterprise systems from the home PC).
  • Phones are increasingly being allowed to access corporate systems. Few people are seriously suggest that everyone in an organistion must of should use the same phone (because most people would accept that different people have different needs).
So once it is accepted that the devices will access external applications, and the applications will be accessed by external devices - it is clear that one can't practically technically mandate a standard operating environment for users.

Any good application architecture being constructed (or revised) today - will recognise that heterogeneous client side environment e.g. they will be targeted at browsers (augmented by open technologies e.g. AJAX, Adobe, Flash etc.) and support dynamic (usually on-demand) deployment of client side code. The one exception are those applications built to try and lock people into Microsoft (e.g. via the use of their Office suite as a client side application GUI framework).

This is not an argument for unnecessary diversity of clients (or appliances) i.e. clearly if their a pool of people in an enterprise doing more or less the same thing the simplest things is for them all to have the same appliance. It does however suggest a different economic model, lifecycle and management paradigm. One that is far more economical and efficient than the one advocated my traditional IT advisors.