By Chris Harding, The Open Group
The big bang that started The Open Group Conference in Newport Beach was, appropriately, a presentation related to astronomy. Chris Gerty gave a keynote on Big Data at NASA, where he is Deputy Program Manager of the Open Innovation Program. He told us how visualizing deep space and its celestial bodies created understanding and enabled new discoveries. Everyone who attended felt inspired to explore the universe of Big Data during the rest of the conference. And that exploration – as is often the case with successful space missions – left us wondering what lies beyond.
The Big Data Conference Plenary
The second presentation on that Monday morning brought us down from the stars to the nuts and bolts of engineering. Mechanical devices require regular maintenance to keep functioning. Processing the mass of data generated during their operation can improve safety and cut costs. For example, airlines can overhaul aircraft engines when it needs doing, rather than on a fixed schedule that has to be frequent enough to prevent damage under most conditions, but might still fail to anticipate failure in unusual circumstances. David Potter and Ron Schuldt lead two of The Open Group initiatives, Quantum Lifecycle management (QLM) and the Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF). They explained how a semantic approach to product lifecycle management can facilitate the big-data processing needed to achieve this aim.
Chris Gerty was then joined by Andras Szakal, vice-president and chief technology officer at IBM US Federal IMT, Robert Weisman, chief executive officer of Build The Vision, and Jim Hietala, vice-president of Security at The Open Group, in a panel session on Big Data that was moderated by Dana Gardner of Interarbor Solutions. As always, Dana facilitated a fascinating discussion. Key points made by the panelists included: the trend to monetize data; the need to ensure veracity and usefulness; the need for security and privacy; the expectation that data warehouse technology will exist and evolve in parallel with map/reduce “on-the-fly” analysis; the importance of meaningful presentation of the data; integration with cloud and mobile technology; and the new ways in which Big Data can be used to deliver business value.
More on Big Data
In the afternoons of Monday and Tuesday, and on most of Wednesday, the conference split into streams. These have presentations that are more technical than the plenary, going deeper into their subjects. It’s a pity that you can’t be in all the streams at once. (At one point I couldn’t be in any of them, as there was an important side meeting to discuss the UDEF, which is in one of the areas that I support as forum director). Fortunately, there were a few great stream presentations that I did manage to get to.
On the Monday afternoon, Tom Plunkett and Janet Mostow of Oracle presented a reference architecture that combined Hadoop and NoSQL with traditional RDBMS, streaming, and complex event processing, to enable Big Data analysis. One application that they described was to trace the relations between particular genes and cancer. This could have big benefits in disease prediction and treatment. Another was to predict the movements of protesters at a demonstration through analysis of communications on social media. The police could then concentrate their forces in the right place at the right time.
Jason Bloomberg, president of Zapthink – now part of Dovel – is always thought-provoking. His presentation featured the need for governance vitality to cope with ever changing tools to handle Big Data of ever increasing size, “crowdsourcing” to channel the efforts of many people into solving a problem, and business transformation that is continuous rather than a one-time step from “as is” to “to be.”
Later in the week, I moderated a discussion on Architecting for Big Data in the Cloud. We had a well-balanced panel made up of TJ Virdi of Boeing, Mark Skilton of Capgemini and Tom Plunkett of Oracle. They made some excellent points. Big Data analysis provides business value by enabling better understanding, leading to better decisions. The analysis is often an iterative process, with new questions emerging as answers are found. There is no single application that does this analysis and provides the visualization needed for understanding, but there are a number of products that can be used to assist. The role of the data scientist in formulating the questions and configuring the visualization is critical. Reference models for the technology are emerging but there are as yet no commonly-accepted standards.
The New Enterprise Platform
Jogging is a great way of taking exercise at conferences, and I was able to go for a run most mornings before the meetings started at Newport Beach. Pacific Coast Highway isn’t the most interesting of tracks, but on Tuesday morning I was soon up in Castaways Park, pleasantly jogging through the carefully-nurtured natural coastal vegetation, with views over the ocean and its margin of high-priced homes, slipways, and yachts. I reflected as I ran that we had heard some interesting things about Big Data, but it is now an established topic. There must be something new coming over the horizon.
The answer to what this might be was suggested in the first presentation of that day’s plenary, Mary Ann Mezzapelle, security strategist for HP Enterprise Services, talked about the need to get security right for Big Data and the Cloud. But her scope was actually wider. She spoke of the need to secure the “third platform” – the term coined by IDC to describe the convergence of social, cloud and mobile computing with Big Data.
Securing Big Data
Mary Ann’s keynote was not about the third platform itself, but about what should be done to protect it. The new platform brings with it a new set of security threats, and the increasing scale of operation makes it increasingly important to get the security right. Mary Ann presented a thoughtful analysis founded on a risk-based approach.
She was followed by Adrian Lane, chief technology officer at Securosis, who pointed out that Big Data processing using NoSQL has a different architecture from traditional relational data processing, and requires different security solutions. This does not necessarily mean new techniques; existing techniques can be used in new ways. For example, Kerberos may be used to secure inter-node communications in map/reduce processing. Adrian’s presentation completed the Tuesday plenary sessions.
Service Oriented Architecture
The streams continued after the plenary. I went to the Distributed Services Architecture stream, which focused on SOA.
Bill Poole, enterprise architect at JourneyOne in Australia, described how to use the graphical architecture modeling language ArchiMate® to model service-oriented architectures. He illustrated this using a case study of a global mining organization that wanted to consolidate its two existing bespoke inventory management applications into a single commercial off-the-shelf application. It’s amazing how a real-world case study can make a topic come to life, and the audience certainly responded warmly to Bill’s excellent presentation.
Ali Arsanjani, chief technology officer for Business Performance and Service Optimization, and Heather Kreger, chief technology officer for International Standards, both at IBM, described the range of SOA standards published by The Open Group and available for use by enterprise architects. Ali was one of the brains that developed the SOA Reference Architecture, and Heather is a key player in international standards activities for SOA, where she has helped The Open Group’s Service Integration Maturity Model and SOA Governance Framework to become international standards, and is working on an international standard SOA reference architecture.
To start Wednesday’s Cloud Computing streams, TJ Virdi, senior enterprise architect at The Boeing Company, discussed use of TOGAF® to develop an Enterprise Architecture for a Cloud ecosystem. A large enterprise such as Boeing may use many Cloud service providers, enabling collaboration between corporate departments, partners, and regulators in a complex ecosystem. Architecting for this is a major challenge, and The Open Group’s TOGAF for Cloud Ecosystems project is working to provide guidance.
Stuart Boardman of KPN gave a different perspective on Cloud ecosystems, with a case study from the energy industry. An ecosystem may not necessarily be governed by a single entity, and the participants may not always be aware of each other. Energy generation and consumption in the Netherlands is part of a complex international ecosystem involving producers, consumers, transporters, and traders of many kinds. A participant may be involved in several ecosystems in several ways: a farmer for example, might consume energy, have wind turbines to produce it, and also participate in food production and transport ecosystems.
Penelope Gordon of 1-Plug Corporation explained how choice and use of business metrics can impact Cloud service providers. She worked through four examples: a start-up Software-as-a-Service provider requiring investment, an established company thinking of providing its products as cloud services, an IT department planning to offer an in-house private Cloud platform, and a government agency seeking budget for government Cloud.
Mark Skilton, director at Capgemini in the UK, gave a presentation titled “Digital Transformation and the Role of Cloud Computing.” He covered a very broad canvas of business transformation driven by technological change, and illustrated his theme with a case study from the pharmaceutical industry. New technology enables new business models, giving competitive advantage. Increasingly, the introduction of this technology is driven by the business, rather than the IT side of the enterprise, and it has major challenges for both sides. But what new technologies are in question? Mark’s presentation had Cloud in the title, but also featured social and mobile computing, and Big Data.
The New Trend
On Thursday morning I took a longer run, to and round Balboa Island. With only one road in or out, its main street of shops and restaurants is not a through route and the island has the feel of a real village. The SOA Work Group Steering Committee had found an excellent, and reasonably priced, Italian restaurant there the previous evening. There is a clear resurgence of interest in SOA, partly driven by the use of service orientation – the principle, rather than particular protocols – in Cloud Computing and other new technologies. That morning I took the track round the shoreline, and was reminded a little of Dylan Thomas’s “fishing boat bobbing sea.” Fishing here is for leisure rather than livelihood, but I suspected that the fishermen, like those of Thomas’s little Welsh village, spend more time in the bar than on the water.
I thought about how the conference sessions had indicated an emerging trend. This is not a new technology but the combination of four current technologies to create a new platform for enterprise IT: Social, Cloud, and Mobile computing, and Big Data. Mary Ann Mezzapelle’s presentation had referenced IDC’s “third platform.” Other discussions had mentioned Gartner’s “Nexus of forces,” the combination of Social, Cloud and Mobile computing with information that Gartner says is transforming the way people and businesses relate to technology, and will become a key differentiator of business and technology management. Mark Skilton had included these same four technologies in his presentation. Great minds, and analyst corporations, think alike!
I thought also about the examples and case studies in the stream presentations. Areas as diverse as healthcare, manufacturing, energy and policing are using the new technologies. Clearly, they can deliver major business benefits. The challenge for enterprise architects is to maximize those benefits through pragmatic architectures.
On the way back to the hotel, I remarked again on what I had noticed before, how beautifully neat and carefully maintained the front gardens bordering the sidewalk are. I almost felt that I was running through a public botanical garden. Is there some ordinance requiring people to keep their gardens tidy, with severe penalties for anyone who leaves a lawn or hedge unclipped? Is a miserable defaulter fitted with a ball and chain, not to be removed until the untidy vegetation has been properly trimmed, with nail clippers? Apparently not. People here keep their gardens tidy because they want to. The best standards are like that: universally followed, without use or threat of sanction.
Standards are an issue for the new enterprise platform. Apart from the underlying standards of the Internet, there really aren’t any. The area isn’t even mapped out. Vendors of Social, Cloud, Mobile, and Big Data products and services are trying to stake out as much valuable real estate as they can. They have no interest yet in boundaries with neatly-clipped hedges.
This is a stage that every new technology goes through. Then, as it matures, the vendors understand that their products and services have much more value when they conform to standards, just as properties have more value in an area where everything is neat and well-maintained.
It may be too soon to define those standards for the new enterprise platform, but it is certainly time to start mapping out the area, to understand its subdivisions and how they inter-relate, and to prepare the way for standards. Following the conference, The Open Group has announced a new Forum, provisionally titled Open Platform 3.0, to do just that.
The SOA and Cloud Work Groups
Thursday was my final day of meetings at the conference. The plenary and streams presentations were done. This day was for working meetings of the SOA and Cloud Work Groups. I also had an informal discussion with Ron Schuldt about a new approach for the UDEF, following up on the earlier UDEF side meeting. The conference hallways, as well as the meeting rooms, often see productive business done.
The SOA Work Group discussed a certification program for SOA professionals, and an update to the SOA Reference Architecture. The Open Group is working with ISO and the IEEE to define a standard SOA reference architecture that will have consensus across all three bodies.
The Cloud Work Group had met earlier to further the TOGAF for Cloud ecosystems project. Now it worked on its forthcoming white paper on business performance metrics. It also – though this was not on the original agenda – discussed Gartner’s Nexus of Forces, and the future role of the Work Group in mapping out the new enterprise platform.
Mapping the New Enterprise Platform
At the start of the conference we looked at how to map the stars. Big Data analytics enables people to visualize the universe in new ways, reach new understandings of what is in it and how it works, and point to new areas for future exploration.
As the conference progressed, we found that Big Data is part of a convergence of forces. Social, mobile, and Cloud Computing are being combined with Big Data to form a new enterprise platform. The development of this platform, and its roll-out to support innovative applications that deliver more business value, is what lies beyond Big Data.
At the end of the conference we were thinking about mapping the new enterprise platform. This will not require sophisticated data processing and analysis. It will take discussions to create a common understanding, and detailed committee work to draft the guidelines and standards. This work will be done by The Open Group’s new Open Platform 3.0 Forum.
The next Open Group conference is in the week of April 15, in Sydney, Australia. I’m told that there’s some great jogging there. More importantly, we’ll be reflecting on progress in mapping Open Platform 3.0, and thinking about what lies ahead. I’m looking forward to it already.
Dr. Chris Harding is Director for Interoperability and SOA at The Open Group. He has been with The Open Group for more than ten years, and is currently responsible for managing and supporting its work on interoperability, including SOA and interoperability aspects of Cloud Computing. He is a member of the BCS, the IEEE and the AEA, and is a certified TOGAF practitioner.
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