I was at the Accenture Technology Architecture Workshop last week in London, as an invited member of the panel on "Platform Strategy" along with IBM, Microsoft, BEA, Oracle, Sun and SAP. It was a packed audience of senior management and architects and for once I decided that T-shirt and jeans were not appropriate.
For the panel, we were asked to give a brief 5 minute presentation on where we thought THE platform was going. I think we all agreed that there was not such thing as a single platform (another example where one-size does not fit all). There were a few minor differences of opinion on the importance of interoperability and portability. Each of us was asked to say something on SOA and the message was that it's important. At times it felt a bit like a sales pitch from one vendor or another to the audience; "things are great if only you'd use our products and services". I obviously kept Red Hat's offerings in the running, but pointed out that SOA isn't just about software: it's as much about the way in which you think about your systems and architect them. I pointed out that tooling (from all vendors) is still seriously lacking in this regard: it still encourages a closely coupled, distributed object approach for building applications. Not good.Then we were each asked to respond to the same set of questions:
- "With the complexity of standards around SOA, and with your company being a primary participant in driving standards, how are you going to make the approach to SOA easier for customers to consume?" Better tooling and education of sales forces/consultants in order to better educate the customer, were pretty much the agreed answers.
- "How do you view in the market the coexistence of 2 trends, one being Open Source and the other the traditional platform development? How do you take advantage of one or the other? Where is the trend going? What are you doing on Open Source and how (if) do you see this evolving?" Well there were the usual cries of how open source is good for certain things, but closed source was just as viable. It was pretty clear from the audience that they trust open source a lot more these days than they did several years ago. The fact that each of the vendors, even Microsoft, now does some activity in open source, spoke volumes.
I got some good vibrations from the panel discussion for our platform strategy as a whole and specifically for the SOA Platform. After the meeting these feelings were confirmed when I spoke with quite a few people from the audience. Everyone seemed to get the whole platform=stability equation. Some even said that it raised the chances of them using Red Hat middleware more now than in the past. I did wonder if I'd get pulled for us not having JBossAS 5.0 GA out yet, but instead concentrating on JBossAS 4.2 and the Enterprise Platform. That question came up twice, but both times it was as a "thank you" related directly to the stability aspect. One person even likened it to XP/2000 versus Vista: "We know we need to get there eventually, but at the moment the 4.x series gives us 95% of what we need now. All we were missing was stability and a solid base on which to deploy for the next 5 years."
Over all it was a great conference to attend!