Thursday, January 31, 2008

Two Doors to Enterprise Web 2.0 Adoption

Ben Worthen of the WSJ recently posted an entry about Web 2.0 adoption. He sited a Forrester survey that concluded Enterprise Web 2.0 solutions would gain broad adoption in 2008 despite clear CIO resistance to the siren call of blogs and wikis.

As a strong proponent of Web 2.0 in the enterprise, we at WaveMaker want very much to see a rapid adoption of these technologies at the corporate level. On the other hand, wishing won't make it so - the grab-bag of technologies and ideas that constitute Web 2.0 are bound to confuse the IT community.

There are two possible observations here:
  1. Damn the data, full speed ahead. Just like drug companies that sink a great deal of money into disappointing clinical trials that they then attempt to spin into medical break-throughs, analyst firms like Forrester won’t sell many copies of a Web 2.0 report that concludes Web 2.0 ain’t happening in the enterprise anytime soon. Thus there is a strong incentive for the report authors to refute their own data in the survey summary.
  2. Web 2.0 is being pulled into the enterprise, not pushed. Since the PC, all client-side technologies have been pulled into the enterprise by business users, not pushed into the enterprise by central IT. The main themes of Web 2.0 – rich interface, collaboration and user-driven content – have more to do with how users interact with their computers than with computer infrastructure.
At my WebGuild panel this week, Rod Johnson of SpringSource observed that open source technologies like Spring and WaveMaker build unstoppable momentum within the IT organization by solving fundamental problems that much bigger players either cannot or will not solve.

For Spring, the tailwind came the intractable complexity of the EJB standard that left developers desperate for a simpler, more lightweight java application server. For WaveMaker, the tailwind comes from the complete dearth of visual tools for web development that would enable MS Access, Lotus Notes and PowerBuilder developers to come out of the client/server dark ages and build the kinds of web-based applications that their end users want.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

MySQL and Marten Mickos - When nice guys finish first

I wrote earlier about the kinder, gentler open source CEO. Now we are seeing that nice guys like MySQL's CEO Marten Mickos can finish first. The Sun acquisition of MySQL (also here in the WSJ)is not just an endorsement of the open source business model, it is also an endorsement of the MySQL culture.

I first got to know Marten several years ago when we were both trying to pull a soured business relationship between MySQL and a former business partner out of the ditch. That salvage effort proved unsuccessful, but I was struck by Marten's maturity and ethics, two character traits not always common among Silicon Valley CEOs.

In Jonathan Schwartz' announcement of the Sun acquisition in his blog, he adopted (no doubt unintentionally) the Stanford motto "die Luft der Freiheit weht" (the winds of freedom blow). The freedom offered by MySQL extends well beyond their database to the vibrant add-on community that surrounds MySQL.

As my wife likes to say when she reads about yet another messed up tech company (not infrequently one run by her husband), "the fish rots from the head down." The converse of course is also true. Companies run by people with a clear vision can see that vision reach far beyond the boundaries of their organization.

Sun can greatly accelerate MySQL's push into the enterprise. This of course is good news for WaveMaker, as we are already partnering with MySQL to provide a visual development platform for enterprise developers to replace their existing client/server tools, be they Oracle Forms, Lotus Notes, PowerBuilder or MS Access.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Facebook: The Roach Motel of Social Media

I have been on Facebook for 3 months and although my next comment will instantly brand me as tragically unhip, I find it a complete waste of time. I keep on expecting some sort of mystical Web 2.0 insight if I just stick with it for another week - instead, I just get more confirmation that Facebook is more of a step backwards than a step forwards.

This last week brought another blogger-driven Facebook tempest in a teapot when Robert Scoble tried to synchronize his Facebook contacts with his Plaxo contacts. Facebook shut his account down, drawing howls of protest from Kara Swisher at the WSJ and a typically thoughtful rebuttal from Nick Carr. By the way, Facebook already supports a one-way import of gmail contacts into Facebook.

There are two interesting points from an Enterprise Web 2.0 perspective here:
  1. There's no lock-in like SaaS lock-in. Software as a service offers a spectacular downside in the case that the service provider doesn't like the way you are trying to extend their service. At its most extreme, closed SaaS is the Roach Motel of enterprise software - your data and logic may check in, but they're never coming back out, as I wrote here.

  2. Scrape-ability will be an increasingly important battleground: I sit on the board of Kapow, a company that has powerful tools for gathering data from public web sites. If those web sites block access by bots (this is what happened in the Scoble kerfuffle)
In short, much of what is presented as Web 2.0 magic is really just lipstick on a tired old Web 1.0 pig. Here are three examples:
  1. Microsoft Silverlight: everything bloated and retro about Windows brought to Internet Explorer. Silverlight, despite its technical innovations, is yet another attempt to assimilate the recalcitrent web beast into the Microsoft borg.

  2. Adobe flex: everything proprietary and designer-wonkish about Flash brought to any browser. Given that enterprise developers are more interested in formatting data than getting their company logo to spin and then fade, making the design-heavy Flash language an enterprise standard is a lost cause.

  3. Facebook: if you liked AOL, you're gonna love Facebook! Facebook represents a cautionary tale for enterprises looking at SaaS solutions like SalesForce and Netsuite - make sure you have an ironclad way to get your data and logic back out!
ps to be fair, I do enjoy one application on Facebook, ilike, because it tells me when artists like Ryan Adams and Emmylou Harris are playing in San Francisco.