As Tim Bray says “Wow”. Here is the announcement post with a huge number of comments. This is discouraging. As I have argued before, we need the kinds of capabilities WinFS was striving for to make the next leap in managing information. I remain skeptical that database platforms are a sufficient solution for effective object management – they may be the necessary next step, but they are certainly not the ultimate answer.
There are no doubt many easier, shorter-term ways to get return on software development than a radically different operating system, but hopefully at some point there will be sufficient recognition by all the software infrastructure vendors that working together to build a modern OS would be worth it. On the other hand, perhaps what has happened to WinFS is really a sign that the days of huge operating systems are numbered. The problems are really bigger than any one platform. What kind of cross-platform infrastructure is feasible to accomplish the fluid, granular and meaningful interchange of content and behavior we know we need? This is a more interesting question than whether WinFS itself is dead.
UPDATE: There is a lot of commentary out there, but as usual Jon Udell has a view worth reading.
Nora Barnes has released the results of research into blogging from the Center for Marketing Research at UMass Dartmouth, where she is the Director and a Professor. This is a welcome addition to the sparse collection of research that has been conducted to date. The published report is free and is available (as a 1.3mb PDF) here, or from the Center, where there is also a link to a podcast of an interview with Nora, and links to comments from others on the study.
We’ve been monitoring acitivity in the BPM market with an eye on the connections between ECM and BPM technologies as they apply to content-centric business processes and applications. The evolution of BPM suites has been particularly interesting and in many ways, analogous to the patterns that formed the current ECM suite market. Technology convergence, vendor consolidation, a full slate of interchangeable acronyms, and rising levels of market confusion surrounding the definitive list of suite-level components are all evident as the BPM suite market continues to define itself. Sound familiar?
BPM suites are clearly an emerging market. Broadly defined as the ability to model, execute, simulate, and optimize business processes, the market consolidates technologies such as analytical modeling, rules design and execution, workflow, data aggregation, and process optimization into a single platform vision. Numerous pure-play BPM providers within each technology segment are evolving toward “the vision” in different ways.
I am positive that this is not a “never the twain shall meet” situation when it comes to content strategies and ECM technologies. Process and content are siblings; it is only a matter of time before many of the isolated technologies that support both will merge in a more tangible manner than simple workflow. This kind of ECM and BPM intersection is more complex than the traditional integration of the BPM market’s straight-through processing (STP) expertise with data-centric, transactional content. Rather, it will be an emerging focus on what we view as process content, or content that travels through a complex, human-driven, interactive, and iterative lifecycle.
EMC’s acquisition of ProActivity is a tangible indicator of this evolving intersection, demonstrated as well by BEA’s acquisition of Fuego, FileNet’s ongoing investment in its BPM components, the progression of DM/BPM players such as Global 360 and Hyland Software, and Lombardi Software’s integration with Microsoft Office. Stay tuned for more as the market heads toward cohesive vertical and horizontal solutions — critical for both traction and helping the user community understand implementation value. We’ll keep you posted.
CIO’s, Collaboration and Search
I spent a little time at two conferences this week: Collaborative Technologies, and the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. Both were good events with interesting content. There were multiple discussions where I wrote entire articles in my head, but of course I have no time to write them down. Of the few sessions at each event that I was able to go to there was a fair amount of overlap, which is interesting in itself. Here are some quick notes:
Collaboration was popular at both events.
The Google Enterprise Group keynoted both events. (Matthew Glotzbach, and Dave Girouard).
“Design for the end user”, “keep it simple” were heard often at both events – and not just from Google.
Both events had at least one major rant about the productivity-destroying power of meetings. (37Signals’ Jason Fried, and MIT’s Michael Schrage).
An interesting presentation about today’s actual organizational relationships: a combination of networked nodes, pyramid and diamond shaped, i.e., complex (NetAge’s Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps).
Evidence that IT does contribute to productivity from MIT’s Eric Brynjolfsson. Had a million questions about the research, which involved something like 1000 case studies, might follow-up.
CIO’s from Commonwealth of MA, BT Retail, Monster, and Orange all said IT budgets are going up, although Orange said it will cycle back down in 3-5 years. There is no more room to cut and IT is now seen as business enable/driver not only back room. I think it was the MA CIO who said that now “IT is Operations”.
CIO’s from Dunkin Donuts, TAC, and especially State Street, and CHEP said there was a long way to go before IT and business were truly working together, although it sounded like it was better than average in their own organizatons.
Discussion about Google-like search vs searching tagged and organized text. One questioner said the DoD had given up on XML tagging years ago. Which is of course wrong – what they did was to back-off forcing a single DTD and tag set on everyone, but the approach of tagging was been steadily growing. In fact at our own conference last week in DC we heard from senior officials at many agencies (for example CTO at the GPO and the Deputy CIO at NASA) who are enthusiastic (and realistic) about tagging.
“The Semantic Web is doomed” was heard more than once and this was at MIT! Of course they are right that the whole idea is flawed, but it was a bit surprising to here it here. (MIT’s Schrage was one the naysayers as was Fast’s Bjorn Olstad, and maybe MIT’s Tom Malone). This came up in Tom Malone’s panel on “Liberation Technologies” (e.g., blogs , wikis, RSS, collaborative tools, and user-driven content. Will content become open source in the same way that (some) code is? The CIO audience voted by a slight margin that technologies were more controlling than liberating. However, many voted both ways. There was a funny but long argument between the ever-vocal Schrage and Howard Dresner on whether email was a collaborative technology.
But it was fascinating how much interest there was in blog, wiki and RSS technology at our conference in Washington last week. Just as in the private sector, there is both more use of these technologies than most people realize, and strong interest once people hear about what other organizations are doing with them. See conference chair Tony Byrne’s comments on this in his article for Intelligent Enterprise magazine about the conference.
XML, and search were two other areas of intense interest.
This was a very gratifying event: the conference attendees were 90% government, and they were deeply engaged in the use of content technologies.
Since we have our conference on Content Technologies for Government in Washington this week I probably will not get to Tech-Ed which is at our new convention center here in Boston, even though it is less than 2 blocks away. But if I had the time, I would be there scouting out the new WinFS beta and the intriguing Project Orange, (which may be relevant to the previous post on Viper). Mary Jo Foley has a list of the top 10 things to watch for there. She and others have pointed to this post for some clues on Project Orange.
As we reported yesterday, IBM announced the release of DB2 9, which is the official release name for Viper, their effort to incorporate XML content into a relational database. Microsoft and Oracle have their own strategies for doing this, and once all their work settles down and starts to get seriously deployed, building enterprise applications will never be the same. It has been 20 years since the early demand for databases that could handle marked-up content (SGML back then), and there have been many products developed to manage SGML/XML repositories since then – Astoria, Berkley DB XML, Ipedo, Ixiasoft, Mark Logic, Software AG, Vasont, X-Hive, and XyEnterprise are some currrent examples.
There has been lots of debate over the years about the best approach to managing marked-up content, and it is safe to say that there is not a single answer. This means that you need to understand what the differences are between them – and it won’t be easy for those of you new to the unstructured data world – this is much trickier than the relational data world. In spite of the huge benefits of the major DB players providing serious XML support, the wide variety of content application requirements will ensure a long-term need for quite a few specialty vendors, whether they are targeting vertical applications or horizontal components. The good news is that even with many different XML application schemas, it continues to get easier to integrate all kinds of XML data.
Bill points to an article in eWeek here. Also see Dave Kellog’s comments and links to other articles.
Ross Mayfield reports that Socialtext has hooked-up with Dan Bricklin “…(inventor of VisiCalc) to exclusively distribute, redistribute and co-develop wikiCalc“. The wikiCalc beta has been released as an Open Source GPL distribution, and Socialtext will be releasing wikiCalc “under a more liberal and commercial friendly distribution”.
This is potentially very interesting as many existing enterprise wiki users are collaborating on projects where an integrated spreadsheet could add significantly to the utility of the application. We’ll be watching to see how enterprises pick-up and use this combo.