Thursday, May 29, 2008

Open Source CEO Shoot-Out at CIO Magazine

Esther Schindler of CIO Magazine is hosting an executive online briefing on Open Source in the Enterprise. She has invited me and a number of much more famous CEOs to sound off on a variety of enterprise open source and Web 2.0 topics over the next week.

I am the open-source newcomer in the group, dragged kicking and screaming from my bad old proprietary software background as CEO of Nasdaq-listed Persistence Software into this brave new world of open source.

Despite being a newcomer, I have seen first-hand both the power and limitations of the open source model. At WaveMaker, I saw our download volumes soar by a factor of 20 in two days when we launched our open source product in February - from 50 downloads a day to over 1,000 downloads a day.

At the same time, I am now sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the revenue from all these downloads to show up. Will people really pay for a visual development tool for Web 2.0? Will they be willing to pay enough?

In short, the life of an open source CEO is full of excitement and terror!

The other illustrious open source executives in the CEO shoot-out include:
Somewhat of a cast of thousands, I will admit, but it should produce some interesting debate over the next week!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ajax GUI Tool For Postgres – Now Easier Than Ever

WaveMaker just released a new version of its open source development tool, available here, that includes out of the box support for the Postgres/EnterpriseDB database.

Before now, Postgres developers had very limited choices for building graphical front-ends to their databases. Tools like Navicat provide support for building client/server applications, however web application development requires complex hand-coding in PHP.

With this new release, WaveMaker is offering a visual development environment for Postgres that greatly reduces the amount of code required to build a rich internet application on top of Postgres. By eliminating much of the Web 2.0 learning curve, WaveMaker greatly increases the number of developers who can build Ajax applications.

This release also reaffirms WaveMaker's commitment to the EnterpriseDB Blade Program which is building a trusted ecosystem around the Postgres platform.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

SaaS Platforms For ISVs - Who Wins?

McKinsey & Company published a report predicting the market size for Software as a Service (SaaS) will exceed $37B market over the next 5 years. In particular, the report described the need for Independent Software Vendors to SaaS-enable their products using special-purpose SaaS development tools. Matt Asay also wrote recently that the growth of the top 60 software companies is driven by SaaS.

McKinsey claims that traditional J2EE and .NET platforms are poorly suited to building SaaS applications. According to McKinsey, this opens up a $3B market for Platform as a Service (PaaS) products from new entrants like WaveMaker, Coghead and SalesForce. From the article:

Although SaaS development platforms like SalesForce and Coghead have gotten a lot of attention, this market has so far been remarkably closed and proprietary. The Platform as a Service leader, SalesForce, has both a draconian hosting policy (host your apps and data anywhere, as long as it’s with us!) but also a proprietary language (who needs Java when you’ve got Apex!?).

Moving forward, the same trends driving open source adoption everywhere else in the industry will ultimately drive SaaS adoption of open source, particularly by ISVs whose business plan does not include a low multiple sale to their proprietary hosting provider. Future SaaS platforms will converge with traditional tools, offering on-demand development based on traditional programming languages with built-in tools for mash-up based development for basic users.

Development Problems for SaaS

SaaS is highly disruptive for existing hardware and software providers. SaaS platforms are different from traditional computing platforms like J2EE and .NET in three ways:
  • SaaS platforms contain new core components, such as web services APIs to integrate to other applications and usage-based billing capabilities. This disrupts existing platform providers like BEA and Microsoft.

  • SaaS platforms are designed for multi-tenancy, including global and tenant-specific data schemas, multi-layer administration and virtualization for scalability. This disrupts traditional ISVs like Oracle and SAP.

  • SaaS platform are delivered on-demand, not on premises. This threatens the business of traditional hardware providers like IBM and HP.

  • SaaS products need on-demand customization tools. As SalesForce has demonstrated, a complete SaaS application needs its own customization tools if it is to compete with enterprise solutions like Siebel and SAP.

  • SaaS products need on-demand integration capabilities. This includes ability to integrate with on-premises data (a notorious weakness of pure-cloud solutions like as well as with on-premise and on-demand web services.

SaaS Architecture Requirements

McKinsey identified three elements of a SaaS architectures:

  1. Development environment: an on-demand development platform for creating SaaS applications. This platform should be able to ship along with the application itself to allow customers to customize their application.

  2. Run-time environment: an on-demand infrastructufre to deliver applications. This can be a proprietary hosting environment like SalesForce, or an open hosting environment like Amazon EC2. Ideally, the customer should be able to deploy applications on-demand or on premises depending on their security, data integration and other requirements.

  3. Ecosystem for adding new capabilities to applications (e.g., SalesForce AppExchange). This ecosystem should also be able to access enterprise data and services located inside the enterprise firewall.

SaaS Is Make or Break for ISVs

According to McKinsey, SaaS has greatest impact on ISVs, delivering a 50-70% improvement in the level of features that can be delivered for a given investment in development and infrastructure.

For ISVs, SaaS platforms offer low upfront cost, rapid time to market (productive tools + pre-built components like billing) and high quality service delivery. In short, existing ISVs have a limited window to migrate their offerings to the SaaS platform or risk being obliterated by newcomers who get there first.

The lesson of SalesForce versus Siebel Systems is clear: existing ISVs should migrate their presentation layer to SaaS quickly while preserving their existing back end servers. Preserving existing back end logic requires a SaaS platform that supports traditional languages like Java.

Which Platform Will Win the ISV Business?

A battlefield is emerging between established mega-vendors and pure play SaaS vendors. The following factors will separate the winners from the losers in this market:

  • Build a robust offering: cutting edge technology, reliable, high quality.
  • Enable extensive customization: provide additional components that address SaaS-specific needs (e.g., authorization, billing, monitoring & management).
  • Monetize effectively: McKinsey identifies this as the most important success factor. The winning platform vendor will be the one which most effectively creates economic value for its ecosystems!
  • Drive ecosystem growth: enable partners to make money within the platform vendor’s community through collaboration, sharing of tools and best practices.

Although many of the early SaaS platforms are based on proprietary languages and tools, Gartner predicts that 90% of SaaS software will be based on open source within 2 years.

Evaluating SaaS Platforms For ISVs

Here are important criteria for ISVs to consider in evaluating SaaS platforms (sometimes called Platform as a Service, or PaaS):

  • Open hosting: can I move applications I build to another SaaS hosting providers? Many SaaS platforms lock the ISV into a proprietary hosting provider (e.g., SalesForce). ZDNet says that ISVs need to offer their SaaS software both on demand and on premises.
  • Full platform: does the SaaS platform offer a complete development solution with presentation layer, business logic, security, database and web services? Some SaaS platforms only offer part of the development stack (e.g., DabbleDB, Tibco GI)
  • Standard language: does the SaaS platform support development using a standard language such as Java? Many SaaS platforms are based on proprietary languages (e.g., Apex, the proprietary language for SalesForce).

Table: A Comparison of PaaS Vendors

* Proprietary language

Peter Laird also has a good SaaS platform review and Phil Wainwright’s has a good comparison of PaaS providers.

SaaS Platform Product Review - WaveMaker

WaveMaker is an open source, visual development platform for building Web 2.0 applications. The WaveMaker studio can be installed on a developer workstsation or delivered on-demand. WaveMaker creates standard Java applications based on Spring, Hibernate and Dojo that can be deployed in a SaaS or on premise architecture.

For ISVs, WaveMaker offers several compelling benefits:

  1. WaveMaker's visual studio provides a faster and more natural way to build rich internet applications than traditional hand-coding using Java and struts
  2. WaveMaker is completely open, making it portable across hosting providers and even enabling applications to be deployed on premise
  3. WaveMaker includes a complete development platform based on open source standards such as Spring, Hibernate and Dojo
  4. WaveMaker is based on the Java language, making it an ideal choice for ISVs who already develop in Java and don't want to migrate their existing server code.

WaveMaker can be downloaded here.

Summary - What ISVs Need From SaaS

Every ten years there is a dramatic shift in the development tools world: in the 80’s to client/server, in the ‘90s to three tier and now in the 00’s to SaaS. In each of these shifts, the dominant development tools providers have been supplanted by a new generation. This time around, the seismic shift is being driven by the on-demand architecture and the ISVs have the most urgent need to rebuild their solutions to remain competitive.

Over the next five years, we will see the 500 pound gorillas of the development world like Microsoft’s ASP.NET and Sun’s J2EE unseated. In their place will be new software platforms based on traditional languages that are specially designed to enable development of SaaS applications.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

WaveMaker Review: a Web 2.0 Aha Moment

Lewis Cunningham, a database architect for EnterpriseDB, recently posted a review of WaveMaker Visual Ajax Studio that included an aha moment:

When I created my data model, it automatically turned that into a series of web services. This means that the data interface is completely separate from the logic to use that data, allowing data to be decoupled and changed at any time. You can build your UI without ever seeing your database.

Lewis has uncovered an important shift in development being driven by the Web 2.0 architecture: scaffolded development. Ruby on Rails originated the idea of scaffolding as a way to get a web application up and running quickly without having to connect all the back end pieces.

As the developer fills in the back end details for data and web service binding, the scaffolding goes away. Thus ushers in a whole new era of Web 2.0 rapid application development - in which business users can mock-up an application and iterate quickly on a user design, then hand off their prototype for IT to develop (with or without underlying dummy data).

Go ahead, download Wavemaker and get see where Web 2.0 and RAD are taking us!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Java Has The Flu

I attended the JavaOne show this week, after a 4 year gap. What a difference - who knew Java could be so boring? On the other hand, this is what it feels like to go to a show for a technology that has lost half of its market share in the last 4 years (at least when measured by O'Reilly book sales - not a particularly reliable source but better than no source at all). If you don't like that source, check out Andi Gutman's recent post that Java is losing the battle for the modern web.

Let me be clear here - at WaveMaker, we have hitched our wagon to Java and hope very much that JavaOne is showing us the ghost of Java present, not the ghost of Java to come.

Trade shows in general have been eviscerated by the flood of technical information on the web. But even in the new "I'm only here for the Tchotchkes" world of conference attendees, this was a surprisingly desultory affair.

Aisle after aisle was populated almost solely by people in ugly sports shirts wearing a vacant gaze that we all reserve for particularly humiliating situations. In fact, the only booth which seemed to have any mojo was the - you guessed it - schwag booth from Sun.

This morning, I found out what was wrong. I got one of those delightful ALL CAPS emails from JavaOne informing me that we had all been the subject of a viral attack by the dreaded Norovirus. So that was it!

There is something seriously wrong, not just with JavaOne, but with Java. After 10 years, Java remains an extremely complex development environment with nothing even approaching an easy learning curve. Microsoft has gleefully filled this vacuum, driving a vast J2EE to .Net migration at the low end of the market that nobody in the Java world seems willing to acknowledge.

The Sun promise to put Java runtimes everywhere is meaningless if nobody wants to develop for those runtimes. Adobe and Microsoft are doing a far better job making their tools simple enough for mere mortals and focusing on the presentation layer.

The news at the show was that Sun's front end technology, JavaFX, was *still* not ready. The world needs Sun to stand behind one of the 200+ Ajax frameworks already out there, not create yet another one. While we're at it, why can't they just put more effort into an Ajax toolkit they have already "partnered" with, like Dojo?

Here is my prescription for curing the Java Flu:
  1. Fight for the low end: in modern warfare, death may come from above. In technology, death comes from below. Ten years from now, who will have more power over IT - web designers or core developers? If Microsoft and Adobe win the designers today, Java developers will be the Cobol developers of tomorrow.
  2. Make Java easier: something is wrong when very useful but also very complex code frameworks like Spring are considered the "easy" way to do Java development. Java needs to be easy enough for your mother to build her web-based phone list with it. I'm talking Hypercard/Filemaker/Access easy.
  3. Make Java prettier: just put a bullet in JavaFX and adopt something with momentum like Dojo or Ext. If you just can't stomach Javascript, then adopt GWT.
  4. Make Java fun: can't do this without doing the first three items. For an example of one attempt to make Java easy, check out the WaveMaker download.
Remember when people built cool web apps with Java? When was the last time you heard about a cool web app that wasn't written in Rails or PHP? OK, people still build lots of cool stuff in Java, but the love is gone and its just a day job now.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Postgres Plus Ajax = Web 2.0 Made Easy!

WaveMaker announced a partnership last week with Enterprise DB, specifically their blades program. Enterprise DB (based on Postgres) is being bundled with the next release of WaveMaker to beef up the database part of our Ajax development platform.

Now Lewis Cunningham, a Senior Solutions Architect for Enterprise DB, has posted a great WaveMaker product review. He compares WaveMaker to Oracle Forms and Oracle ApEx, with the difference that WaveMaker works with standard Java and the Oracle products only work with Oracle PL/SQL.

Lewis says:
Wavemaker Studio is much more of a GUI IDE than the ApEx application builder. ApEx looks and feels like HTML while Wavemaker looks and feel like a rich, desktop application. Wavemaker Studio just doesn't feel like you're running in a browser.

I will be posting about my progress with Wavemaker as I play with it. I am liking it now that I have it configured and working. I think one of the big things that both Postgres and EnterpriseDB have been missing is a very robust application tool. Wavemaker might just be the tool.
The cool thing about the WaveMaker/EnterpriseDB partnership is that it took exactly one phone call between myself and the Bob Zurek, the CTO of Enterprise DB, to "negotiate" the entire relationship. As I pointed out in the Silverado Rules for Open Source Success, open source is not just good for creating user communities, it rocks for creating vendors ecosystems too!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo economics - 2,000 downloads a day trumps all

Web 2.0 Expo was last week - 10,000 people attending a trade show for a market that doesn't exist anywhere but in our own minds. As is usual when we let our imaginations run wild, every one of those attendees was looking for something different.

For example, I was on a panel session entitled "Web 2.0 and the Breathing Enterprise" - it was a good session, but darned if I know what a breathing enterprise is, any more than I know what Enterprise 2.0 is.

After the second day, our team was thrilled because we had gotten over 200 leads and given almost 100 product demonstrations in two days. During that same time period, however, we had 4,000 WaveMaker downloads and over 100 new registrations to our WaveMaker community.

I'll take 100 people who have downloaded my product and used it enough to want to be part of my community over 100 tchotchke-seekers any day!