Is WaveMaker the Web 2.0 version of PowerBuilder?
Some meetings are just fun (I can’t always say that..sometimes I just want to run away and hide under my desk). But my meeting today with WaveMaker reminded me of the type of meetings I had in the .com days. I admit I was excited about what I heard. Now a disclaimer — I haven’t taken a look at the technology itself. I haven’t reviewed their architecture. But I tell you about what I heard and what I liked.
This is not a brand new company. It just changed its name from ActiveGrid (a great name if you are running a data grid company but awful if you are a development environment for web 2.0 for the enterprise).
A lot of the corporations I have worked with and talked to about their SOA strategies are frustrated by the show development groups that bring in cool tools without any knowledge or approval of IT. This problem is as old as IT itself. I remember when I worked at John Hancock in the 1980s, it was common for the actuaries to sneak PCs into their department so they could get something done because IT was backlogged.
The problem has gotten a lot worse since those days. Now, when a department brings in its own development tools and technology, it can cause massive security breaches because these innocent projects happen to touch corporate data and cause decisions to be made out of context. Yet, it continues to happen. It got worse in the Internet days and it is getting worse in the Web 2.0 days — we are all developers and we can use the web to do anything we need for our businesses.
So, what does the newly named WaveMaker do? They provide what they are calling the WaveMaker Visual Assembly Studio. It is a service based approach to development. Everything within the environment is a service. It has web services interfaces so that an organization can default to the corporate authentication and authorization model. The studio generates a pure Java application.
While the company is of the Open Source world — it offers a free version of its development studio to be used for testing purposes. It supports a open source developer community called dev.wavemaker.com. However, it also sells its framework.
The company is really just getting off the group but has about six customers including Macy.com, Brunswick Bowling, National Citibank in Cincinnati, Pioneer Energy, and American Express. Not a bad start. CEO, Chris Keene told me that the reason the company was able to sell to those companies is that the development environment gives the business user Web 2.0 type interactivity and graphical development while keeping control of the computing infrastructure.
What was most interesting to me is the connection that WaveMaker is making with PowerSoft and its PowerBuilder platform — the company that transformed the graphical development process. This was a company that I knew quite well. I tortured the management team when I labeled PowerBuilder the poster child of the Fat Client Syndrome — a term I coined in the early 90s. It is interesting to note that Mitch Kertzman, one of the founders of PowerSoft is an investor in WaveMaker. If the company follows Kertzman’s lead of creating graphical development for the masses of Cobol developers, the company might be on to a good thing.
But, of course, WaveMaker isn’t alone. Companies like Microsoft with Silverlight, Adobe with Flex, and a host of new players such as Nexaweb, Jackbe, and Kapow — I wrote about these companies in my January 20th entry.
What may be different about WaveMaker is the focus on a the connection between the free wheeling Web 2.0 world and the structured world of enterprise IT.