Irregular Injection of Opinion
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 Wednesday, 26 September 2007
Debunking the Analysts on Microsoft SOA Strategy

This was originally posted by meon our Intergen Company Blog. Reposted here for completeness.

Service Oriented Architecture: everyone is still talking about it. Recently there was a bit of a blog-o-thread happening among a bunch of US analysts about Microsoft’s SOA strategy. I refer in particular to articles by Lorraine Lawson at IT Business Edge and Dana Gardner at ZDNet.

Gardner is right when he says ‘SOA is a style and conceptual computing framework, not a reason to upgrade.’ Yet, maybe through lack of time at the coalface, he thinks that massive upgrades are required to put this framework in place. The answer couldn’t be further from the truth. The vision of SOA, that is systems demarcating themselves into atomic reusable services accessible by explicitly defined interfaces and open protocols, is easily implementable in the old faithful .NET 1.0 of several years ago. Sure you may not be able to pass transaction scope across interface boundaries or rely on non-transport level message delivery guarantees, but if people are required to upgrade in pursuit of these features then it must surely be called for what it is - the evolution and maturation of the entire SOA ecosystem - there were no vendors offering this six years ago, let alone Microsoft.

Even among its chief critics, Microsoft is considered a key initiator and implementer of the broad set of  WS-* standards. The irony of the criticism levelled at Microsoft in the above articles is that, unlike the other vendors mentioned, the Microsoft stack does not require expensive application servers (beyond the operating system and the cost of that pales against say WebSphere) to actually make the conceptual framework of SOA a concrete reality.

Criticism is levelled at the Connected Systems Division vision of agility in SOA applications. Having seen the future, to an extent, this is somewhere that I think shows great promise. It’s arguable whether we’ll actually be able to compartmentalize enterprise applications much longer. Increasingly I see organisations where our approach, even in relation to users on the ground, is about surfacing features out of a broader IT ecosystem within the organisation.  The future of IT agility will centre on the recombination of existing services and function more than it will the creation of new ones.

Lawson’s focus is a lot closer to the coal face. However twice in her post she notes some association between what she calls ‘Open Code’ and SOA. For example:

“I think what’s confusing matters is Microsoft’s inability, thus far, to reconcile SOA’s demands for open code and standards with a business model that’s thrived on proprietary solutions.”

This could not be further from the truth. While SOA certainly demands Open Standards it most explicitly frees us from the need to have ‘Open Code’. By making the boundaries of the application explicit and well described we are freed from knowing anything of their internal workings - if communication with a service requires us to see the ‘Open Code’ then we have surely failed. The SOA landscape and vision is very much one of highly optimised proprietary systems communicating by way of poorly optimised, but open, protocols. As Microsoft moves from a Desktop and Operating Systems company to being a broader vendor of both those tools and more vertically focused platforms it is inevitable that those teams, at the very least, will see the value in exposing their revenue generating applications for use by other vendors platforms. To ignore the need to have Sharepoint Server or Microsoft CRM participate in a broader Serviced ecosystem is to ignore a good portion of the market who don’t buy into the Windows Everywhere vision.

While analysts in glass towers gaze at their Service Oriented Navels, there are a good chunk of us out in the world making at least part of their utopian vision a reality. They would do well to talk amongst us in addition to themselves every once in a while.

.NET|Wednesday, 26 September 2007 03:27:51 UTC|Comments [2]|    

 Wednesday, 12 September 2007
Getting Admin from the Vista Search Box

I'm a huge fan of the Vista search box.

Press the Windows Key -> Type What You Want -> Hit Enter

Wham... no moe mousing around.

Just got a hot tip from Kate Gregory that pressing Ctrl-Shift-Enter runs the program 'As Administrator'

.NET|Wednesday, 12 September 2007 21:28:04 UTC|Comments [4]|    

 Monday, 10 September 2007
Silverlight 1.0 Ships.... Linux support coming.

Press release here

Big news is that Microsoft and Novell are tag teaming to take the Mono Moonlight project forward- thus Silverlight on Linux.

One of the team @ Intergen, James Newton-King has some source code in the Moonlight tree himself....

In fact James has just released a new verion of his JSON.Net library

.NET|Monday, 10 September 2007 05:36:17 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Sunday, 09 September 2007
IIS Log Analyzer - An Office Open XML Example

The team @ Intergen (Simon 'Skip' Gardiner of Kognition fame was the project lead) have been beavering away recently on an Open Source application for parsing and reporting on IIS log files.

It's called IIS Log Analyzer and it shows how easy it is to use the Office Open XML file formats to do document generation.

While the application is hosted inside Excel (by way of Visual Studio Tools for Office) all the document generation is done with plain old XML generation and some help from the .NET packaging APIs.

OOXML really does open up a wealth of additional options for doing document generation really easily.

Check it out here:

.NET | Intergen|Sunday, 09 September 2007 03:28:08 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Friday, 07 September 2007
A Day Out Of The Office...... Tamarack + Payette River

Went paddling and mountain biking in Idaho today.... had a blast.

Photos here:

That *should* be a public link....

Adventure Sports | Photography | Travel|Friday, 07 September 2007 03:51:54 UTC|Comments [1]|    

 Wednesday, 29 August 2007
A Question on ODF.....

The Standards Meeting last week decended quite quickly into OOXML vs ODF.... a KEY argument from the ODF side was that OOXML was too long- had too much detail.

So here is a question. Is ODF under-specified?

Do any of the implementations of ODF to date implement it *without* including proprietary extensions? As Stephen McGibbon posits- “implementations effectively have no option but to implement proprietary extensions”.

PoliTechLaw|Wednesday, 29 August 2007 00:44:21 UTC|Comments [0]|    

Former ECMA Cheif on OOXML standardisation

Computerworld (US) have a great article on the whole OOXML standardization row.

This article makes great reading with the following useful points from Jan Van Den Beld.

  • Any standard is going to have flaws in it.
    Certainly ODF will have flaws (the inability to represent the billions of historic documents acurately being one of them). Can you imaging the furore had Microsoft and Apple and the legions of Microsoft developers around the world waged war on ODF as it went through the process?
  • A long standard isn't necessarily bad- Java was over 8000 pages when Sun submitted it to ECMA. IBM are still a member of ECMA and one is OBLIGED to ask why they didn't kick up such a stink around OOXML as it went theough the ECMA Technical Comittee?
  • ECMA and ISO have fast tracked technically similar standards before- the example he gives are DVD formats.
    Multiple, similar standards, while "not a good result, are, because of patent wars, often an inevitable result," he said.
    Of course the war here is not around patents- but if you think that there is any hope of harmonizing OOXML and ODF then just look at the comments from Gary Edwards (he's the Editor of the original ODF standard). “The current memebership of the OASIS ODF TC is clearly and uequivocably on record as opposed to the interoperability the marketplace is screaming for.“



PoliTechLaw|Wednesday, 29 August 2007 00:11:05 UTC|Comments [1]|    

 Sunday, 26 August 2007
Canon 40D vs Nikon - Have Canon dropped the ball?

So I recently got myself a second hand 20D as I was sick of waiting for the 40D.

Both the 40D and D300 were announced this week and the Nikon, from my point of view, craps all over the Canon.

I'm not yet really wedded to a particular lens mount and the D300 with the option to step up later to the Full Frame high spped D3 is looking pretty bloody good. I'm going to do some playing with both bodies over the coming weeks- saving my pennies for a US or Singapore shopping spree later in the year.

Of course Canon shit all over Nikon when it comes to Lenses.....

Photography|Sunday, 26 August 2007 06:09:25 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Saturday, 25 August 2007

Germany yes with comments

US yes with comments. Voting here. IBM, Oracle, Farance against. IEEE abstaining.

Brazil no with comments. News item on ZDNet. A friend who was at the meeting tells me that this was a decision passed/pushed down from government circles.

PoliTechLaw|Saturday, 25 August 2007 06:42:38 UTC|Comments [3]|    

A Response To Don Christie re OOXML and Jim from Fronde

I would have simply posted this as a response on the NZ Open Source Society blog. But the requirement for me to register kinda put me off so here goes. This is a direct response to some of the comments in this post from Don Christie. For the record I was at the ENTIRE Standards New Zealand ECMA 376 meeting.

“The tone of this comment was unexpected, and perhaps even libelous to those that participated the two day Standards NZ workshop on OOXML this week.”

As I said to Ken from IBM on Friday..... ‘Is that a legal opinion Don?’. I found the commentary by the NZOSS the most valuable of all the objectors. They had actually done some of their own research and brought along their own expertise. Contrast this with Ken from IBM who basically just read out the same old IBM crap that has been parroted at pretty much every meeting around the world and, of course, having told all that he was not a lawyer Ken then proceeded to proffer an opinion on the intellectual property issues.

I’m pretty comfortable that the comments by Jim and particularly Doug Casement were targeted not at Kiwi folk like the NZOSS or myself.... but rather were targeted at the obvious corporate interests in the room seeking to further their commercial ends. I speak here of course about Microsoft, IBM and Google NZ (if you can call a contract lobbyist ‘Google NZ’).

“Of course the technical debate was rigorous and sometimes very detailed, but it was also valuable as the Mircosoft expert from Redmond, Gray Knowlton, asserted. That was also the direct feedback I received from all members of the SNZ committee present. Indeed, they seemed pleased that the meeting hadn't descended into name calling and zealotry that people like yourself and Rod Drury had been predicting.”

I would agree with Don that the meeting was remarkably well behaved and really didn’t descend into the sort of Black and White bigotry that one might have expected given the participants. I do however continue to note my concern at the obvious hopes of some participants (Don included) that the process might be used as a means to effect competitive change in the market- such matters are not an interest of the ISO standardisation process and I have placed such concerns on the record. I actually felt that the technical conversations didn’t add all that much value over actually just sitting and reading the documentation. In particular I found the IBM technical comments, the ECMA response document and the NZOSS white paper particularly useful. Have read a LARGE amount of documentation on the issue over the past few months I am confident that there were no new major technical issues raised here in New Zealand that have not already been aired elsewhere- I also note that ECMA has publicly committed to resolving these technical issues at the Ballot Resolution meeting stage and that a number of other standards bodies (German and USA on Friday) have voted Yes with Comments on this basis.

“The fact that all the NZ government agencies took the time to consult, run workshops and, come to a common conclusion and to send four representatives to the SNZ workshops is an indication of the importance of this issue, Microsoft and software in general to our country.”

I MUST add a little more detail here. The ‘New Zealand Government Agencies’ were a very interesting bunch. They were certainly well prepared though lacked technical depth and seemed to have a bee in their bonnet around screen readers. They slipped a couple of times (though corrected) into saying they represented the views of the New Zealand Government- something that they clearly did not. The point I want to pick up on here however is that at the end they felt the need to respond to comments by Microsoft that only a small section of Government was represented- said response was by way of reading out some of the agencies involved in their consultation from a list they had carried with them. When I asked the SIMPLE question that this list be added into the Standards NZ record they refused. Their reason? ‘Participation in the workshop by government agencies was confidential’. As such I hardly think that the statement sets out the fact of the matter-certainly the four people at the table reflected the views of ‘some’ of the Government agencies, BUT, the actual extent of their mandate shall remain unknown. I do wonder if an Official Information Act Request might reveal more details. I was, quite frankly, ASTOUNDED at their response to my request to put the participants on the record.

PoliTechLaw|Saturday, 25 August 2007 06:21:36 UTC|Comments [0]|    

Standards New Zealand Meeting on Office Open XML

I shall not restate the issue here- If you need to get some context around what I’m about to rant about take a look at this post from Rod and the comments around it.

I was one of the 20 or so attendees at a standards New Zealand meeting to discuss the vote by New Zealand to JTC1 on the ratification of ECMA 376 as an ISO standard.

I’m going to try and quickly remember who was there.

Pat Rossiter from Hyperion Management Services

Tom Robinson from Kowhai Computing

Colin Jackson from Google New Zealand ( is Colin’s personal site, he was there either as a contractor or volunteer for Google. I think he was also one of the Technical Advisors to the Government Agencies working group)

Lars Rasmussen from Google Australia

Richard Donaldson and Liz (last name forgotten) from the New Zealand Computer Society

Three people from IBM (one from Canada, two from NZ)

Three people from Microsoft (one from NZ, one from US, one from Singapore)

Matthew Cruickshank, Don Christie and one other person (who I don’t think said anything the entire time- he was in charge of stopping Matthew’s laptop going into power save mode while he gave a  presentation though which was useful) from the NZ Open Source Society

Four people from The ‘New Zealand Government Agencies’.

Myself J representing Intergen

Peter Lambrechsten from Novell (although Peter told me on Friday that he wasn’t actually representing Novell views but rather his own... not quite sure what all that was about really...)

There were also plenty of people there from Standards NZ.

The meeting was very well behaved and really not the sort of OSS vs Microsoft death match that you’d think it might have turned into.

It started out with some introductions from the COO of Standards and then an introduction to the whole ISO/IEC JTC1 structure by Nelson Proctor of standards. I asked Nelson if he could explain the relationship between ECMA and JTC1 and he ended up going on a bit of a diatribe about how ECMA is not a ‘real’ standards body.... which wasn’t particularly useful. What I was really trying to have explained was the details around the ECMA liaison with JTC1 and thus the Fast Track process. I probably should have pushed back a bit harder but it was the first question of the day.....

We then kicked of proceedings proper with a discussion of 5 questions (3 on Thu and 2 on Fri) + a ‘What is good for NZ Inc’ session on Friday afternoon.

The questions were those from the Free Software Foundation here (my Foxit PDF Reader is failing on cut and paste so I can’t paste the actual Standards NZ ones). Basically of the Free Software Foundation questions we covered verbatim #1, #2, #3, #4, #6. The question of Dual Standards, #5, was covered several times through the other questions.

The process for each question was basically Microsoft and IBM got to have a say and then it was basically a roundtable of questions and comments. This ranged from detailed discussion around technical points to simply reading out a prepared statement.

Ken Matheson presented for IBM and Gray Knowlton for Microsoft.

I’m going to post on each of the questions separately as I get time over the next couple of days- I’m feeling a bit crook with a cold and cut my days skiing at Cadrona very short @ about 1:30pm because I was feeling very broken.

PoliTechLaw|Saturday, 25 August 2007 06:18:56 UTC|Comments [1]|