November 29th, 2013

Ending the IoT Protocol Wars

Ending the IoT Protocol WarsIt’s been a while since my last blog post – not least because I have been traveling quite a bit to run Layer 7’s European API workshops together with my colleague Ronnie Mitra. The workshops (part of Layer7′s outreach program via the apiacademy.co) are vendor-neutral and focused on sharing API design and management best practices.

To be honest, I probably learn as much during these workshops as the participants do. It has certainly been striking to watch how our material evolves throughout the workshops. We constantly keep adding and tweaking material, based on what we learn. In particular, I’m struck by the amount of changes my IoT section has been going through.

Here is what I have learned regarding IoT protocols: It’s a zoo out there, with lots of protocols trying to become the next HTTP. And some candidates deploy a formidable array of marketing, making it exceedingly hard to cut through the fog.

My current shortlist of main contenders is (in alphabetical order):

I might add STOMP to that list, just for its simple brilliance. STOMP is a text-based messaging protocol that has recently been extended to allow for binary content. Additionally, I’ve recently started talking with some transportation companies and learning about their use of DDS, which might be another candidate for the shortlist.

In the corner of residing champion, we have JSON/HTTP. Not content to see this protocol pushed into early retirement, advocates have been developing some very interesting approaches that attempt to ensure the continuing relevance of HTTP for asynchronous small messages – WebSocket being the most well-known. Hypercat, Simple Thing Protocol and EventedAPI represent just a small sample of the interesting approaches emerging to support async eventing and messaging with HTTP.

Where does this leave a developer trying to choose the right protocol for that awesome winged steam punk toaster? I don’t really have the answer but there are some documents trying to tease out the differences. Take a look at the MQTT vs. CoAP comparison from 1248.io or the DDS/AMQP/MQTT/JMS/REST comparison from DDS champion PrismTech.

Based on what I’ve learned so far, only XMPP and DDS have significant commercial deployments while MQTT is being evaluated by almost every major vendor I have talked to. While MQTT’s use as the protocol powering Facebook’s messenger is a good demonstration of its scalability, I don’t think this constitutes a proof point for mission-critical commercial deployments. If you know of commercial deployments of MQTT, I’d love to hear about them.

Each protocol has weaknesses: MQTT appears to be weak in security; DDS seems to be complex to scale and has version dependencies; XMPP is considered heavy-weight. But they all have strengths too, of course: DDS has the deployments in the field to prove its relevance; XMPP supports EXI and WebSocket for efficiency and a proven track record; both DDS and XMPP are extremely mature and have built-in security. Given the industry interest in MQTT, I am sure that whatever security problems exist will be fixed in one of the next versions. The one puzzling piece is the absence of CoAP in a commercial deployment. Again, if you know of one, please let me know.

Where do I stand on all of this? Having watched technologies rise and fall, I think it’s very normal at this stage to have multiple contenders trying to improve on HTTP. What I try to keep in mind though is that both bandwidth and computing power seem to be on an ever-increasing trajectory, while at the same time becoming cheaper and cheaper. Reduction in power consumption and increase in battery capacity, mostly driven through mobile, further lowers the bar for mainstream technology to power even small devices. I would not be surprised if, after the initial phase, we continue to see HTTP and JSON being dominant. As geeks, we sometimes get too excited about efficiency gains while losing sight of the fact that, for most products, technology simply needs to be good enough. But I won’t complain if I am proven wrong this time.

And don’t just take my word for any of this. To help you learn more, here are a couple of other articles reviewing IoT protocols:

September 30th, 2013

Workshops, Workshops, Workshops!

Layer 7 API WorkshopsOne of the great things about my job is that I get to travel around the world sharing API design strategies, experiences and theories with people who are at the forefront of our industry. These interactions not only make it easier to design effective APIs, they also have the potential to spark ideas that can lead to real business transformation.

But we aren’t all lucky enough to get these types of opportunities and it’s often difficult to justify the cost of traveling to far-flung events in the modern business world. If you’re in that boat, then it’s your lucky day: our Layer 7 API Strategy Workshop series aims to bring all the experiences, discussions and networking opportunities practically to your doorstep.

Over the next two months, Mike Amundsen, Holger Reinhardt and I will be delivering a series of free workshops on API strategy, the principles of good API design and the keys to designing an API that will last. In addition to core aspects of effective API design, we will discuss the emerging trends of developer experience (DX), the Internet of Things (IoT) and DevOps as they pertain to the API universe.

Our tour kicked off in September with great events in San Antonio and Los Angeles and it will continue through October and November with the following stops:

It’s going to be an exhausting couple of months for us but we’re looking forward to having some great conversations with our attendees. So, come out and join us during what promises to be a very thought-provoking and engaging series of half-day events.

July 10th, 2013

Chicago, Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto

Layer 7 API WorkshopsOver the span of about two weeks, I’ll be visiting four cities, three countries and two continents, as part of Layer 7′s continuing free API Workshop series. Along the way, I’ll be joined in each city by great folks from both Layer 7 and CA Technologies.

Layer 7 has already hosted lots of How to Implement a Successful API Strategy workshops this year, across Europe and North America, with content delivered by my API Academy colleagues Ronnie Mitra, Alex Gaber, Holger Reinhardt and Matt McLarty. Over the last few months, I’ve had the pleasure to meet dozens of attendees working on some incredibly interesting projects using APIs on the Web and on internal networks.

Each half-day event includes high-level summaries of the most popular topics from our Introduction to APIs Workshop and API Design & Architecture Boot Camp and – like all our workshops – each is highly interactive. Whether you are just starting to consider incorporating APIs into your distribution model or are already well into a live implementation, these sessions provide a great way to see and hear how others are approaching the same space and to ask questions about how you and your organization can improve the design, implementation and lifecycle maintenance of your Web-based APIs.

Here’s where I’ll be during the next two weeks:

  • Chicago – Jul 16
    If you’re in the US Midwest, there are still a few open seats for this workshop.
    Register now >>
  • Sydney – Jul 24, Melbourne – Jul 25
    I’ll be joined at the Sydney and Melbourne events by Layer7′s CTO Scott Morrison.
    Register for Sydney >>
    Register for Melbourne >>
  • Toronto – Aug 1
    This one will include a presentation from Layer 7 co-founder Dimitri Sirota.
    Register now >>

We’re getting great feedback from attendees, so if you haven’t been able to attend one of our workshops yet this year, now is a great time to pick a location near you, sign up and see what the fuss is all about. One more thing: If you don’t see a convenient location on the list, don’t worry. We’re already gearing up for our fall schedule and you’ll be seeing lots of new locations and content appearing soon.

October 15th, 2012

API Workshops in Europe

Paris API WorkshopI had a great time presenting on API design and management trends at our London API Workshop a few weeks back. James Governor from RedMonk delivered an exciting talk on APIs, the need for API Management and some stark truths, like the fact that Java is still at the top of the programming pile. All of the trend talk and analysis was followed by a great real-world example when MoneySupermarket.com’s Cornelius Burger described his organization’s journey implementing the MoneySupermarket API with a SecureSpan API Proxy. We had excellent feedback on the event, so I know I wasn’t the only one who learned a lot from our speakers.

I was particularly impressed by the range of industries and organizations that were represented in the audience. We had developers from large enterprise shops, specialized Internet-focused start-ups and even a few entrepreneurs just getting started. I think this range of interest is indicative of the value of Web APIs for all and bodes well for a continued investment in designing great APIs, rather than just chucking them out into the ether.

Next up on the tour is our Paris API Workshop taking place tomorrow (Tuesday, October 16).  As always, we have a great set of speakers lined up, with Martin Duval from bluenove talking about building developer outreach programs and Benoit Herard from Orange Labs discussing their API launch. France has a  great start-up culture and a reputation for enterprises like Orange driving innovation, so I’m expecting good conversation, some excellent API Management presentations and – if I’m lucky – some great wines.

September 21st, 2012

Layer 7 at the International SOA, Cloud + Service Technology Symposium

SOA, Cloud + Service Technology SymposiumThe International SOA, Cloud + Service Technology Symposium takes place next week in London and the track titles remind me how much SOA has changed in the last 10 years. Mobile and cloud use cases have revolutionized the way we architect, deploy and manage SOA infrastructures, resulting in forward-looking tracks such as “New Service-Orientation Practices & Models” and “Emerging Service Technology Innovation.”

For the Layer 7 perspective on these service technology trends, come see our presentations throughout the week. On Monday, I’ll be speaking about how traditional SOA technologies such as the enterprise service bus (ESB) need to adapt to an evolving IT landscape. On Tuesday, our CTO Scott Morrison will be giving a closing keynote about “The New Governance”.  Wednesday brings an API Management Workshop at the Canadian High Commission, hosted by Layer 7 along with our customer MoneySupermarket.com and analyst firm RedMonk.

Layer 7 is a Founding Partner at the Symposium and we’re excited to welcome a who’s who of analysts, vendors and enterprises to join in the conversation. These illustrious attendees have helped to define the industry and revolutionize enterprise IT – and I’m looking forward to insightful speakers and great networking opportunities. For a more intimate conversation, stop by our booth (#110) to see a demo or discuss your SOA, cloud, API or mobile use cases.

London has shown an incredible amount of enthusiasm for sporting events this summer, from the Olympics and Paralympics to the Tour de France, which was won by a Brit for the first time in its history. Let’s keep that excitement going – see you at the Symposium!