What Is Agile Integration?

If you Google the term “agile integration,” you’ll come up with about 30 million results, but they focus heavily on one area: continuous integration within agile development. That definition of agile integration is based on the build environment.

However, it is possible to have another definition for “agile integration,” one which looks at the platform architecture.

In this definition, “agile” doesn’t relate to the process or the infrastructure, but to the flexibility and adaptability — the agility — of the application architecture. Integration within this context has a more strategic role, as the architectural framework that defines the interoperability of services and with a focus on the application functionality.

Traditional v agile as an architectural approach

There are functional similarities between traditional integration and agile integration – like routing, connectivity, orchestration capabilities. The difference between traditional enterprise application integration and agile integration is not in the tasks performed, but in the strategic perspective of those tasks. Put simply, integration can be viewed as a necessary but often limited part of the infrastructure (traditional) or it could be viewed as the core framework of the application architecture (agile).

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The future of Java EE

At this stage the future of Java EE looks brighter than it has for quite a while as Oracle, working with Red Hat, IBM, other vendors and the wider community to move the specifications, TCKs and overall innovation to an open source foundation. I think in general most people in the Java community see this as positive but there are a few naysayers, even more of them in other non-JVM areas. The common thread throughout is along the lines of “who cares these days?” or “it’s far quicker and easier to accomplish the same things with framework X or language Y, anyway.” I’m not going to try to address all of the concerns which have been raised because many of the comments I’ve seen have clearly been subjective and bordering on click bait. However, I’m writing this piece to reiterate some things I’ve said over the years and which remain just as relevant today, in my opinion

I want to start though by saying that in all of this I am trying to remain objective. Of course in my current role I and Red Hat have a vested interest in Java EE but if you’ve known me long enough over the years you’ll know that I’m also a scientist and as such I base my opinions on observations and facts born out by those observations. If a fact or piece of data goes against a theory then I don’t ignore it, I review and likely update or replace the theory to match the facts. I’ve changed my opinion on many things throughout my career and I’m sure I will do so again.

OK so back to Java EE. Does this move to open source help the wider community? Is Java EE still relevant or has it had its day like so many technologies before it? I’m not going to link to other things I’ve written on Java EE and its future over the years as they’re easily searchable through your favourite engine. But in short, many people forget that Java EE represents an evolution of essential middleware capabilities which many mission critical applications require. It’s had a lot of bad press since its inception, some of it accurate and some of it less so. I think one of its big failings is that, like my favourite topic of transactions, it has been used and misused in environments where it wasn’t really appropriate. No stack or framework is going to be applicable to every problem space and of course developers are going to get frustrated if they try it and find it wanting and failing as a result.

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There is no magical OFF switch for legacy apps

I really dislike the term “legacy apps,” especially when it is used by vendors. It feels like they are calling my baby (i.e. my app) with a bad name.  I love the quote by Martin Fowler, “All we are doing is writing tomorrow’s legacy software today.”  I am certainly not advocating to stick to your old applications forever.  All applications and systems have a life-cycle that goes from build to retire. Somewhere in between lies the stage of renewing the capabilities of the system, often named as modernization, enhancement, or rehab. This is the most important phase from the perspective of extending the life of the application and enhancing the long term value harvested from it.

In IT, each generational transition has called for modernizing and redesigning applications, business processes and IT infrastructure to exploit new technologies’ capabilities and efficiencies. App modernization isn’t carried out as a fashion statement or status symbol but for hard business reasons. Regardless of the era, the benefits of a periodic app overhaul include better performance, more features, greater usability, and higher reliability.

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3 ways to effectively prepare for process improvements in your digital journey

In our journey to transform our ways of working, our focus on our customers wishes and our plans to pivot to a digital business there is always a need for process improvement.

While the transformation to a digital business can encompass many aspects that are new to your organization, there are always existing investments in technologies and processes that need to be evaluated.

Some can be modernized and migrated on to the new infrastructure that will support the digital business and others end up remaining in place as legacy systems of record.

One thing is for sure, evaluating existing business processes and looking to improve their effectiveness is going to be a necessary step. With that in mind, here are three ways to effectively prepare for process improvements in your digital journey.

1. Effective BPM theory

The first step in any journey is to plan effectively and gather as much information from the experts as you can. For this step you have many options, but the following example previews the open technology and tooling that will ensure you are ready to tackle process improvements.

2. Inventory existing processes

Identifying the list of existing processes in a business, both automated and non-automated processes will be the next step on the journey.

Businesses have processes in place that might be automated in some form, but showing signs of age or lack of effective execution. Others might have partial automation and exhibit a need for further automation at the time of evaluation. Finally, there can potentially be processes in your business that are crying out for automation and are hindering other processes with their lack of automation.

Collect all this information for evaluation without regard for size, level of automation or making decisions on priority for the next step.

3. Short list processes

Now that you’re able to browse all processes in your organization, identifying the short list where quick wins on process improvements is critical to the project’s success.
Everyone wants to see gains and building momentum with processes that can be improved both quickly and effectively builds confidence. Identify processes that have impact, are visible and can be effectively improved without having major impacts to the existing architecture or business process owner perceptions. This will be different for every organization, but crucial to building success and ensuring a smoother transition on your digital journey.
Armed with these three guidelines you’re ready to effectively prepare for process improvements in your digital journey.

Build competitive advantage with business process automation

Transparency is one of those words that can mean anything or nothing. Within agile development, an objective definition of transparency, according to the Scrum Alliance, is related to respect in communication: understanding technical issues, bringing in different team members for prioritization, communicating clearly when there are project changes, bad news, or new priorities. Transparent communication between business and IT teams creates an environment that is more agile, better grounded in business priorities, and more effective. But the question is … how do you get your business and IT teams together to begin with?

Today’s business environment presents an increasing number of challenges in consistently maintaining an organization’s business processes efficiently. You may be facing challenges to grow your business and stay competitive:

  1. No visibility into the automated systems to understand how, where, and when decisions are being made.
  2. Existing systems which don’t allow you to make changes quickly, yet introducing new products and services requires changing rules and processes.
  3. Lack of consistency in making critical decisions. Sometimes, decisions are left to chance.

Business process management (BPM) provides a way to tackle these challenges by enabling collaboration between business and IT users to bring transparency, agility and consistency to the organization’s workflow.

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Open Source… Driverless Cars?

If you follow this blog, you may have figured out that I spend a massively disproportionate amount of my time trawling various business related media sources with the reckless abandon of a rabid monkey hopped up on caffeine. Most people have hobbies like skiing, or mountain biking, but reading stuff is mine. I’m a nerd, and that’s how it works. Recently, I’ve made a habit of listening to various Motley Fool Podcasts in the morning. One of these podcasts is called Industry Focus, a podcast which drills into cool happenings in different industries every episode. A couple of days ago, I was listening to an Industry Focus Podcast that talked about the technology industry as it appeared at South by Southwest (SXSW).

On this podcast was a focus on comma.ai. comma.ai touts themselves as being “Ghost riding for the masses,” and the company makes an open source module which can be installed on pre-existing cars for $1,000 or less. As if that wasn’t intriguing enough, the podcast contained an extended interview with George Hotz, the man behind comma.ai. Hotz first rose from anonymity by being the first person to hack an iPhone. This guy tells it straight; as evidence, Hotz is quoted on his former feud with Elon Musk of Tesla in The Virge as saying, “I’m an Elon Musk fan. He jerked me around, I jerked him around, we’re even.”

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Five Links: Fun and Games Edition

Happy Friday, everyone.

As we kick off spring break season, let’s look at something a little lighter and happier: the gaming side of technology. Consumer design can be a huge driver even for enterprise technology; the simple UX of Apple products is now influencing design and experience expectations for backend systems. From nostalgia games to astronomical artwork, there is a lot of interesting stuff going on in the world. One of my favorite lines from Graceland (seriously, Paul Simon rocks, people): “These are the days of miracles and wonder.”

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Five Links: Band of Brothers Edition

Happy Friday, everyone.

Red Hat has a lot of corporate blogs (worth reading!), but a huge part of our culture as a company is collaboration and meritocracy. As in … letting our opinions be known. There’s a reason we actually made a t-shirt to commemorate our corporation-wide mailing list.

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From Pinterest

A lot of Red Hatters have personal blogs (or active LinkedIn postings) precisely because of the value that we as a group place on transparency, defending ideas, and innovation.

This week, I want to highlight some of the blogs by Red Hatters that I’ve read recently. I’m not even going to call this a “top 5,” because we have a lot of prolific and interesting writers on a million different topics. These are a random sampling of the blogs that I hit periodically.

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Five Links: Pattern Recognition Edition

Happy Friday, everyone.

When I was a reporter in Livingston, Montana, I wrote a story about a massive infrastructure campaign that was just kicking off — new sewer and water lines across town, changing traffic flows and redesigning streets, new green spaces and public art. I interviewed the primary architect, and he told me that the designs were influenced by A Pattern Language, published in 1977. That book has fascinated me; from the placement of a single window to the layout of an entire central business district, it breaks down the patterns of human behavior and then analyzes design techniques that best reinforce the desired patterns for a given space. It doesn’t say what should be done; it simply uses patterns to say if you want to accomplish Goal A, use Design Technique B.

In a roundabout way, this week’s series of links look at patterns and how they influence behavior.

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APIs Are The New Language of Collaboration

“Survival of the fit,” in Darwinian evolutionary theory, describes the mechanism of natural selection. The biological concept of fitness is defined as reproductive success. But could this also apply to modern business? Sustained growth might be the criterion for fitness in a business context. So why is sustained growth so difficult to achieve? Surprisingly, it is not for the lack of ideas but lack of ability to adapt to change and competition.

The fittest business can quickly innovate and adapt to competition and it can use its core competencies to extend itself in new ways. These organizations are often lean, mean, and learning machines using application programming interfaces (APIs). They are built on a foundation of cloud, mobile, big data analytics and social computing and they are generally connected to the internet of things, to extend and monetize the organization’s core assets for growth and  new value and revenue streams.

Even organizations born in different eras of digital transformation (mobile, internet-based, and client/server) that are successfully using APIs to achieve disruptive growth in their respective industries.

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