Archive for the 'cloud' Category

The dangers of early “formalization”

March 30, 2009     |     posted by gluecon

If you’ve been watching cloud computing at all, you’ve undoubtedly seen the whole brouhaha over the Open Cloud manifesto. I won’t recount it here, mostly because – frankly – I can’t tell what’s actually going on there anymore. So and so said one thing, while thanking so and so, who declined to comment on three organizational….BLECH!

What I will say is this: Gluecon, as you all know by now, is not YACCE (yet another cloud computing event). We’ve got plenty of YACCE’s and 90% of them will be dead within 18 months (bet on it). But, cloud computing the topic is a big part of what we want to talk about at Glue (even if it’s only one part). And, now that I’ve seen several people and articles mention the idea that this whole open cloud brouhaha points to the need for a “formalization of the standards process” around cloud computing, I want to throw in my 2 cents.

First, a quick caveat: I’m not an engineer. If pushed, I can stretch my limits of programming into writing one line of code for active server pages. As such, I’ve never sat on a body that writes standards. I have, however, been involved with them (I was an active member of the Liberty Alliance for some time), and have been an observer of “standards” for some time. The “standards” that inform my thoughts on this include things like RSS, XML (or more properly, XML-RPC), all of the liberty alliance specs, jabber (xmpp), OpenID, XRI and XRD (now XRDS, or something), and the mess that was/is WS-*.

That said, here’s my part-gut feel, part observer experience of it all:

“Formalizing the standards process” only ever does one thing well — SLOW DOWN ADOPTION.

That is not to say that formalized standards processes (and bodies) don’t have their place. They do. But they shouldn’t be formalized at too early a stage, as they do only one thing really well (say it with me) — SLOW DOWN ADOPTION. The reason they slow down adoption is really quite simple — if I’m an “enterprise guy” that’s looking at adopting cloud stuff, I don’t want to have to adopt things 3 or 4 times because my budgets are scarce, my time is even more scarce, and screwing up something like this will get me fired. As soon as some group of vendors says, “we’re forming a body to formalize the standards process,” my reaction as the enterprise guy is to say — “whoa, brakes time!” As it’s much easier for me to delay my adoption by 6, 12 or 18 months. And I can do so under the rational thought process of — “by waiting, I’ll ensure I adopt a standard.”

Of course, there’s not a single cloud vendor on the planet that wants to see adoption of their products slow down.

So what’s a cloud vendor to do? Realize that it’s not about “formalizing standards,” it’s about driving adoption.

RSS didn’t succeed because it was standardized. It succeeded because it was adopted. The same thing goes for XMPP. And the inverse hold true as well – organizations like the liberty alliance have ended up largely giving in to other standards because theirs weren’t being adopted in the ways they’d hoped for. Similarly, there’s an awful lot of heat around OpenID, and folks there will claim adoption — but we have yet to really see it ignite.

My point is: real “standards” come about through adoption first, and a formalized process second. Not the other way around.

Notably, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are among those absent from the open cloud manifesto. Does that pose an “adoption problem?”– oh yea.

Look, the big guys are gonna jockey for position, and I don’t care WHAT they say, they’re always going to want to preserve some sort of angle for themselves. Always. That’s the nature of the beast.

Without a “formalized standards process” will the cloud go through a proliferation of differing “standards” and a period of confusion and lock-in? Of course. But I’d still argue that going that route leads to faster adoption than formalizing the standards process too early.

Am I wrong? Well, we’re gonna find out (and you can show up at Glue and tell me so).

Sticky platforms

March 25, 2009     |     posted by gluecon

This blog post about Leo Laporte’s strained relationship with Twitter has me thinking this morning. The post outlines the “dangers” of twitter (using the front men of Laporte and Dave Winer) as a “closed” or “centralized” system. Now, as a twitter user (and fan), I completely get the closed and centralized argument, but I think it’s a bit off.

Since time immemorial, techies have talked about “lock-in,” specifically the dangers of lock-in when it comes to platforms. Microsoft’s past predatory behavior probably didn’t help much, but I do think a lot of things have changed.

These days platforms are expected to have APIs and to allow for some level of data portability. Those that don’t are quickly ridiculed and often shamed into changing (at least somewhat). We can argue about whether Twitter is “too closed,” but what we can’t argue is that Twitter is a modern day version of the “walled garden” (circa AOL). We can’t even argue that about Facebook. The old walled gardens were just that — walled. As in closed. As in, you ain’t getting an app in or info out until you have 7 meetings with our biz dev guy. [Later: a friend reminds me that the "7 meetings with a biz dev guy" practice is currently how LinkedIn operates, thus making LinkedIn the new AOL.]

That’s just not the case anymore. And the debate should change accordingly.

It’s no longer a matter of open or closed. It’s a matter of how open (closed is off the table as an option). And once you enter the realm of “how open,” you’ve now firmly stepped into the topical topography of Glue. Gluecon is really all about how open. Platforms can “get sticky.” So can architectures (WOA vs. SOA) and clouds. The question is to what extent and through what mechanisms.The way we talk about these problems matters. Getting stuck in the “open vs. closed” platform debate just keeps us going in circles in 1998. To advance things we need to be hammering away at the “hows and whys” of making platforms, clouds and architectures sticky — where “sticky” may mean interoperable, integrated, federated, whatever.

Returning to the Laporte post, can we put the Twitter pandora back in the box? I doubt it (sorry laconica). But we can begin talking through the glue of platforms.All of which begs the logical question: what platform (and underlying cloud) discussions will we be having at Gluecon? Short answer: plenty (and note to vendors: we will discuss your platforms whether you’re there or not – sorry). Long answer: Facebook,, Azure (and the Geneva toolset), Twitter, Google, and even just the good ole interweb itself.

Come help us move the discussion forward.

Exploding myths #1: The Cloud is “easy”

March 16, 2009     |     posted by gluecon

Partner-in-crime Brad Feld has an interesting post up today entitled, “Cloud Computing Streak Marks.” The post’s impetus was some communication Brad received talking about how the “cloud” was going to be so easy “his mom could do it.” The punchline:

Oh, and my mother is really smart, but I’m betting that “The solution is to override the base64encoder and set the authorization property manually OR potentially use the Apache Http client rather than the built-in JDK client” doesn’t mean much to her.

Brad couldn’t be more right. As I look at the Glue agenda, I’m struck by just how difficult it is to make all of this stuff be easy. And that’s really the point: the goal of the cloud is to be easy, but achieving that goal probably means 5-7 years (YEARS!) of really hard stuff. JDKs, JSON, XMPP, WOA, REST, SAML, OAuth, XRD, and SimpleDB aren’t easy (even if you know what the hell that all means)!

Fortunately, <registration pitch> we’re assembling a bunch of incredibly smart folks for you to talk with, work with, build with and chill with at Glue – so register today </registration pitch>. ;-)

A down day leads to an agenda refresh

February 9, 2009     |     posted by gluecon

I’m a bit under the weather today, so I ended canceling my Monday phone calls (which makes Tueday through Thursday hellish, of course). That left me with some “easy time” to work on the Glue agenda – something which I get more excited about every day. Here are some updates:

1. In case you missed it earlier David Heinemeier Hansson and Mitch Kapor were announced as Keynote speakers.

2. To that I’ve now added Josh Elman (of the Facebook Platform group) and Bob Frankston (co-creator of VisiCalc). Facebook’s recent movements around “openness” should provide a pretty fertile foundation for Josh talking about what “gluing together the web” looks like from Facebook’s perspective, and Bob (who is just flat out, scary smart) will be addressing how we need to re-think some of our assumptions around bindings, platforms and achieving the structures of simplicity needed for innovation.

3. Keynotes are always fun to ooh and ahhh over, but when you really start to dig into Glue’s agenda, things get truly glorious (hat tip to Will Ferrell). Sidenote: I’m now writing about stuff that, for the most part, hasn’t even been updated on the agenda page yet.

4. Pam Dingle, of Nulli Secundus (and one of the smartest “identity people” I know) is going to be leading a workshop session on the “domain-less” enterprise. That is, “how far could a company get today, with the tools and protocols available to them, towards creating a business where employees could access exactly the same work environment from any computer in any location, without any concept of being inside or outside a network perimeter. ” The session will take a look at what’s available in the way of distributed identity tools, and specifically show how to do this with Microsoft’s beta Geneva set of tools, as well as a “how to” with open source tools. [sidenote: those of you that have seen me write about optimism in the past know that I love Pam's blog's name.]

5. A session around Data Portability will feature Daniela Barbosa and Chris Saad from the Data Portability Working Group and Ben Metcalfe with a perspective of what he thinks is right and wrong about data portability. I think this discussion is *vital* to the overall Glue picture, and I’m hoping this talk (in particular) draws a bunch of the cloud computing crowd.

6. There’s a session coming together around Cloud database standards. The whole idea actually comes from a post that Albert Wenger wrote, and the session is meant to tease out some of the threads around what I’m finding to be a REALLY important topic to this whole “glue mess” (databases, that is). We’ve enlisted Alex Iskold of Adaptive Blue so far (Alex made a key design decision around SimpleDB), and I’ve got invites out to some Google folks, etc. [sidenote: I applaud Alex's product naming choice. ]

7. There are a whole bunch of sessions coming together around web app description languages (needed?), cloud interoperability on a grand scale (possible?), the open social stack, and how RESful APIs play into rich internet applications….and so much more.

8. I’m also adding some key moderators/discussion leaders — notably, Jeff Nolan and Stewart Alsop (of Alsop Louie Partners).

9. Don’t forget all of the already announced stuff around Web Oriented Archiecture (Aaron Fulkerson), Harnessing the Cloud (Mike West of Saugatech Research), Leveraging API infrastructure (Kevin Matheny from Best Buy and Oren Michels from Mashery), Complex event processing across web apps (Mike Clymer), etc etc.

10. And the best part of all? The agenda isn’t even CLOSE to finished, so the goodies are just gonna keep on rolling in. Topics yet to come: data integration and mashups, web app integration, glue metrics, gluing together devices and data, social networks and glue, the evolution of the client-server model, etc.

I really hope you’re gonna choose to join us for Gluecon. If you wanna get lost in the crowds and listen to some non-impactful stuff, go somewhere else. If you want intimacy, connections, and sessions and interactions with impact, come to Glue. Seriously. (last sidenote: don’t just take my word for it, ask Pete Warden or Sameer Patel, or Zoli Erdos about the kinds of interactions you can expect.)

Creating Silos

January 17, 2009     |     posted by gluecon

I came across this Infoworld article about Gartner’s predictions for the business intelligence market (aside: I think business intelligence will be a much bigger part of this year’s Defrag conference), and this specific bit hit me (emphasis mine):

“So business units will increase spending on packaged analytics, including corporate performance management, predictive analytics, and online marketing BI wares. In so doing, however, they “risk creating silos of applications and information, which will limit cross-function analysis, add complexity, and delay corporate planning and execution of changes,” said Nigel Rayner, research vice president at Gartner, in a prepared statement.”

There’s something very interesting happening in enterprise software. Business units are starting to purchase software (as a service) that uses the web as a platform (obviously). And because of that, the “silo” problem is going to get radically worse – and fast. The problems that result are not just business process oriented, but are also fundamentally architectural in nature.

Of course, the larger problem isn’t just in the enterprise. The “problem” (opportunity) lies in the web becoming the platform.

The IT function inside of enterprises spent an enormous amount of money and time in the late 90s trying to solve the “enterprise application integration” problem. Huge companies were made in the process (Oracle, CA, heck – just about everybody). But just as that problem is at least partially under control, we’re now facing the web application integration problem. (sidenote: I’m officially claiming “WAI” as an acronym.)

Web application integration is the meta-theme for Glue. It’s what brings together cloud computing, APIs, WOA, data integration, identity, context, the open social stack –all of it. It is important that we realize that this trend is being driven not only by the innovation that’s occurred around the web as platform over the last few years (call it “web 2.0″), but also by the adoption of software by *business units*.

This fundamental shift will remake IT in the enterprise as we know it (over the next 10 years). We can already begin to see that in statements about how business units have “lost faith” in IT’s ability to deliver what business units need. And what’s the result? Business units are now just providing it for themselves. The architectural implications of that bit alone are enormous. But I’m assuming that IT units are not just going to go quietly into that dark night. CIOs and enterprise architects aren’t just going to give up their livelihood. Nor should they. The problems created by business unit adoption (complexity, lack of cross-app functionality, a completely un-orchestrated approach to IT) can ultimately lead us to a place where technology is giving business ZERO productivity gains.

So, what’s an enterprise architect to do? Begin to understand the shovels and picks and tools that will help “glue” it all together. It doesn’t really matter what the software *does* (it could be BI, or expense management, or CRM, or identity management), what matters is how it interacts and intersects with other applications.

Getting a handle on it means understanding the nuts and bolts of things like scaling APIs, XMPP, event driven architecture, running apps in the cloud, cross-app context, etc. It means that some of the seemingly “consumer facing” problems and solutions that exist today will be the foundation for enterprise solutions tomorrow.

If IT simply allows silos to be created all over again on the web, the problem will be much worse this time around. The web is open, networked, and, in a sense, not tame-able. It calls for the kind of radically distributed architecture that SOA has promised and (largely by no fault of it’s own) failed to deliver. It’s the big opportunity that Glue is addressing. And I’d love to hear your thoughts about how to address it properly.

Glue begins to take shape

November 20, 2008     |     posted by gluecon

It seems like everyone is naming their product “Glue” these days (for the record, our first post here was on March 18th, 2008), but that’s cool because Glue the conference is already starting to take shape. Our sponsors now include: Amazon Web Services, Gnip, MindTouch, NewsGator, Ping Identity, Microsoft, Cloud Ave, and Saugatuck Technology Research. A few notes, then:

  • As I’ve been chatting with folks about Glue, the “vision” of what Glue will be has started to come into focus a bit more. It all begins with the assumption that the web is the platform, and then asks, “now what?” Put another way, Glue is exploring what it means when applications are just assumed to live on the web. The result is that three topics have immediately crystallized: cloud computing (infrastructure glue), data integration (data glue – where “data” means everything from mashups to identity), and web oriented architecture (or, what happens beyond SOA?). The format for topics like this is clearly a technical one, and folks I’ve spoken with are indicating a real hunger for a conference that’s going to “go deep.” Format-wise, that’ll mean technical workshops, open spaces and hack-a-thons situated around more traditional “content.”

  • So, what kind of “specific” topic ideas have I started to receive? Jud Valeski of Gnip has offered up some great ideas that are indicative of the level/kind of stuff I think we’ll end up having at Glue (quoting Jud):  1) “How do we evolve past LAMP” – the old, client-server-desktop, app building model died a long time ago, yet the “new way” hasn’t been as good replacement in a lot of ways. why? how do we solve this?  2) “Keep it simple stupid” [WOA] = the best glues are often as simple as tree sap, highly complex chemically engineered glues are often overboard.  3) “Is the real cloud, actually glue?” – deploying code to virtualized instances is cool and all, but the cloud/glue is really abstracting the layers (e.g. data/db/big-table) and making those accessible in an “instance” independent way.
  • That’s just one topic area, but you get the point. Really “meaty” stuff.We’re still way early in the process, but we’re now officially working on this, so I’d love to hear from you. If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor, please email me ( Or, if you’re feeling nutty and wanna register early (pre-agenda), go do so. The code “early1″ will get you $50 bucks off of the already insanely-low price of $395.00.

A Sunday Morning Update

October 26, 2008     |     posted by gluecon

Quietly quietly, things are beginning to take their initial shape for the inaugural Glue conference. The naysayers point to O’Reilly shuttering events and say that launching a conference like Glue is crazy in 2009. I point to past experience, and Glue’s pricing model, and say that Glue will be a huge hit. In fact, we’re already seeing lots of interest:

1. Glue’s advisory board now includes Zoli Erdos of Cloud Ave, Phil Wainewright of ZDNet, Chris Shipley of DEMO and Guidewire Group, and Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures.

2. Glue’s initial sponsors now include Gnip, Amazon Web Services, MindTouch and Cloud Ave.

So, what’s next? Well, as we begin to flesh out the sponsor list, I’ll also start digging into topic ideas. We know that the cloudification of everything will be important, but I also want to make sure we keep a firm hand on the rudder of web oriented architecture (WOA) and how things like widgets, federated identity, and data mash-ups are stitching together (or should I say “gluing”) everything from content, to data to identity.

Why should you think about coming to Glue before we even have an agenda posted? Glue will be a technical, “workshop-y” look at everything that developers (both independent and enterprise) and architects need to understand as more and more and all applications move to the web as platform. And you just can’t get that anywhere else – now or in 2009. You certainly can’t get it for only $395 (for a 2 day conference). Register now.