Archive for the ‘Adobe’ Category

When not to salvage the legacy application

March 12, 2008 5 comments

One of the hardest things for organizations to do is to retire old applications. Unlike hardware that tends to be replaced on a regular cycle, old software sticks around way too long. It definitely over stays its welcome. I remember when I worked at John Hancock decades ago and watching as departments struggled to replace aging systems. While they were ready and willing to make the change, they often didn’t know precisely how these old systems worked. The developers never documented what they wrote and those people had retired years earlier.

Now you would think that the problem had gone away. In reality, the problem got worse with the advent of client/server computing where there was less structure applied to the development process. I came across a very old article I wrote back in 1996 that talked about a lot of those issues (please ignore the picture). Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, web based development came along. Instead of having a few hundred developers, the web brought the advent of thousands of developers all provide changes and updates to applications. We are now at a cross roads that is quite unique.

While we still have many aging applications that cannot be easily updated, we also have the need to move to Web 2.0 to create Rich Internet applications (RIA). Web 2.0 offers a way to dramatically transform the user experience. Organizations are looking to this approach to development to make access to knowledge and information much more immediate and intuitive than ever before. But the transition isn’t easy.

I got thinking a lot about the transition from client/server applications and old web based applications when I met with Nexaweb a few weeks ago. The company has been around since 2000 and specializes in the Web 2.0 space. While there has been a lot of hype around Web 2.0 it actually is a very pragmatic technology infrastructure. While I think that a lot of customers assume that you can just approach Web 2.0 as though it were a simple web application. The reality is quite different. In fact, good Web 2.0 applications have to be well architected. What I liked about what Nexaweb is doing is their approach to application modernization with a Web 2.0 spin. In essence, Nexaweb is focused on modernization of aging client/server applications by providing tooling that documents the existing code. It is designed to identify bad code and provides a tool to generate a model driven architecture. Like any good consulting organization, Nexaweb has leveraged best practices used to help its consulting clients move old applications to Web 2.0. Nexaweb is selling a set of productivity tools that can generate a model driven architecture. It is intended to generate code as part of this process. The company claims that it can reduce the cost of transforming old code by as much as 70 percent.

The new product called Nexaweb’s Enterprise Web Suite including a UML modeling tool, a reporting tool that identifies repetitive processes, and code that is no longer used. Clearly, Nexaweb isn’t the only company taking advantage of modeling tools and an architectural approach. But the fact that the company is focused on helping companies transform their aging client/server applications into modular, service oriented approach is a step forward. It is one of the set of companies focused on not just updating applications by transforming into Web 2.0. What stands out is the fact that Nexaweb seems to be combining application transformation into business services (can you say Service Oriented Architectures). However, I must add that IBM has been on this track for quite a few years. Through its industry models, IBM has been helping companies transform its aging areapplications into industry specific business services. In addition, Microsoft’s Silverlight and Adobe’s Air are adding a new level of sophistication to the momentum. WaveMaker, that I discussed in an earlier entry is making a contribution as well.

The trend is clear and it is good for customers. We are finally seeing software companies providing a path to moving code into the new world that is based on reusable, modular services that are architected. The next stage in the movement towards a service oriented architecture is applying this approach to the new generation of Web 2.0. Let me add a disclaimer — this isn’t magic. There is hard work here. None of these approaches or tools are automatic. They give customers a head start but there is hard work to be done. The alternative is to hold your breath and hope that things don’t break too quickly. There are so many promises of easy solutions to hard problems. There are solutions and tools that take the drudgery out of leaving legacy applications behind. But there is worthwhile hard work that really has to be done.

Is WaveMaker the Web 2.0 version of PowerBuilder?

November 30, 2007 3 comments

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 However, it also sells its framework.

The company is really just getting off the group but has about six customers including, 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.