October 5th, 2011

Let’s Talk iPhone

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iCloudWe all know what was rumored for several weeks, that the star of yesterday’s iPhone unveiling would not be the hardware. And it wasn’t. Sure it was upgraded: A5 versus A4, eight megapixels versus five etc. But the physical update ranked up there with Intel’s introduction of the 486 for emotional pull. For many loyal Apple customers, including myself, the news was disappointing on first impression.

Still, first impressions are not always the most accurate. The true star of yesterday’s event was the integration of the iPhone to the Cloud. From iCloud through Find My Friends, iTunes Match, Photo Stream, Backup and of course the Siri personal assistant, Apple has tethered its phone to a series of concentric Clouds that span the personal, familial and public.

Now, one can argue that every app on the iPhone has, in one way or another, always been a portal, in miniature, to some shared Web-like Cloud service. What makes yesterday’s series of Cloud announcements different is how intertwined these Cloud services have become with the core propositions of the iPhone. Apple has tried to tie Cloud to most of the primary functions of the iPhone: communication, music, photos, search, social networking, calendaring etc.

Clearly, Apple benefits from anchoring our devices to a Cloud of its own invention. Defecting to another phone platform will become more complicated and cumbersome because of the iPhone’s many Clouds. Despite this, there is no denying the benefit that accrues to me and every consumer of Apple products from the cocooning effect of the Cloud. Apple’s Cloud services simplify a range of tasks and make possible some like Siri, which would have been impossible otherwise.

Like all good innovators, Apple did not invent the idea of integrating the Cloud to a mobile device. Google has been experimenting with this for years. Even Amazon, with its new Kindle Fire, is leveraging its AWS Cloud to accelerate Web browsing. However, Apple has the mass market reach to truly make Cloud integration with mobile devices mainstream.

For enterprise software vendors like Oracle, IBM WebSphere and Layer 7 Technologies, which are marrying software with hardware to deliver integrated appliances, the lesson is obvious: software plus hardware may be incomplete. Perhaps a better mnemonic is: “Software. Hardware. Cloud. Complete.” This may explain why Larry Ellison chose to replace Mark Benioff’s Cloud keynote today at Oracle OpenWorld 2011 with his own.

October 5th, 2011

Let’s talk OAuth @RSAConference

RSA ConferenceA lot has changed about the state of OAuth since I last presented at RSA Conference. Last year, the enterprise was screaming for standardized mechanics to provide access control to their APIs. Back then, OAuth was merely on the Enterprise Architect’s radar. It’s now safe to say that OAuth 2.0 is poised to fill this gap. OAuth 2.0 is rich –different token types to accommodate different styles. The ‘bearer’ token type provides the simplicity of cookies, the ‘mac’ token type provides the security of hmac signatures. OAuth 2.0 also defines many different flows to accommodate different situations, involving either two or three parties. Because this rising standard addresses so many use cases, the infrastructure supporting it must remain flexible to cover all of the benefits. Let’s talk OAuth, see you @RSAConference London, Oct 13 2011 STAR-305.
October 4th, 2011

Software. Hardware. Complete.

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Category Amazon, VMware

ApplianceFor the fourth year in a row, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison used his Oracle OpenWorld opening address yesterday to showcase his vision for delivering software inside pre-configured and optimized hardware. Much has changed since he first stood on the stage at the Moscone Center in 2008, to introduce Exadata on HP hardware.  While his choice of hardware may no longer be HP, his interest in merging software and hardware into something that delivers more than its constituent parts has not diminished.

Now some will snicker that software inside a “pizza box” seems more like a decade-old vision than a foundation for the next ten years. Today, after all, the action is in the Cloud. But it’s never been an either/or situation. Larry Ellison probably knows more about Cloud than most, having funded Cloud pioneer Salesforce.com before launching its primary competitor, NetSuite. So his embrace of appliances doesn’t conflict with the adoption of Cloud. Quite the opposite – modularized software/hardware combinations will become the bedrock for those building Clouds, as evidenced by the EMC-Cisco-VMware joint VCE (Virtual Computing Environment) venture. The accelerated introduction of new appliances this week also demonstrates a larger truth: the enterprise will never be completely in the Cloud.

While the Cloud is great for delivering shared services or consuming specific types of application functionality without IT, it will never 100% replace an organization’s need for traditional software. Despite the whirlwind of innovation in the last 40 years, enterprises rarely replace what isn’t broken. For that reason, mainframes still underpin many of our everyday interactions with banks, insurance companies, travel sites and other enterprise entities.  Moreover, companies will always have the need to own select internal information infrastructure and incrementally add new components to this infrastructure. Appliances for some software tasks let them do this with less cost and complexity.

Layer 7 FormatsAt Layer 7, for several years now, we have been actively selling appliances to simplify integration, security and governance of applications shared with other applications both inside and outside enterprise boundaries. When we started, these appliances were primarily physical and the sharing was primarily internal. In the intervening years, the sharing has moved outside the DMZ and to apps residing on a mobile tablet like the iPad or in a Cloud like AWS. Moreover, our definition of “appliance” has evolved to reflect changing views of hardware virtualization. Today, we sell more “appliances” on VMware and AWS than we do hardware but the idea remains the same: remove the cost and complexity of application integration, application security and application governance with appliances.  One plus one sometimes can equal three!