Saturday, December 31, 2011

PaaS 2.0?

A while ago I has some things to say about people trying to add a version number to SOA. At the time it was 2.0 and I like to think I had a little to do with the fact that it died almost as quickly as it was created. I won't go into details, but the interested reader can catch up on it all later.

Now a friend who got caught in the SOA 2.0 crossfire came to me recently and pointed out that some people are now trying to coin the term 'PaaS 2.0' and asked my opinion. At first I didn't know what to think because the original reasons I was against SOA 2.0 didn't seem to apply here because PaaS is so poorly understood. There are no fundamental architectural principles around which it has grown. There are very few examples that everyone agrees upon. There's not even an accepted definition!

But that's when it hit me! How can you assign a version to something that is so I'll defined? It's not like the Web, for instance, where it made sense to have a 2.0. Ok there's some good stuff from the likes of NIST, but there's no agreed reference architecture for PaaS, so how precisely can you say something is PaaS 2.0? The answer is that you can't. Now that doesn't mean you won't be able to do so eventually, but there are quite a few prerequisites that have to be satisfied before that can occur.

So what does this mean? Am I against PaaS 2.0 as I was with its SOA cousin? Yes I am, but for different reasons. As I outlined above, I think it's wrong to try to version something that it so ill defined. Let's figured out what PaaS 1.0 is first!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Future of Middleware

I think it's fair to say that despite my years in industry I'm still an academic at heart. I like the ability to spend time working on a problem without the usual product deadlines. Of course there's the potential that you come up with something that has little relevance to the real world, but that can be mitigated by staying close to industry through funding, sponsorship or other relationships. Often in industry we don't have the luxury of spending years coming up with the perfect solution and whilst it's for very good reasons, it can be frustrating at times for those involved.

But we all make the best of what we have to work with and I love my current position, despite the fact I get to spend less time researching than I would like. In fact in some ways I now understand what Santosh has been doing for years in directing and pushing others in the right directions, whilst at the same time wanting to get more involved himself but not quite having enough time to do it all.

Therefore, I take any opportunity I can find to dive back into research, write papers, code etc. And attend, and possibly/hopefully present at conferences and workshops that are often dominated by the research community, though obviously with practical overtones. The Middleware conference is one such event that I love to participate with in one way or another. Over the years I've had papers there and been on the program committee, and not once have I been disappointed by the quality of submissions.

So it was great to be asked to write a paper with Santosh and Stuart on the future of middleware for FOME. Truth be told, Santosh did the bulk of the writing and his co-authors provided the disparate data and input that he's excellent at being able to form into a coherent whole. The result is a great paper that I presented in Portugal earlier this month. It went down well and I got a lot of good feedback, both from the academics present as well as industrial participants.

But the real high for me was just being at the workshop and listening to all of the other presentations. I had a wonderful time meeting with others there and getting as immersed in the research atmosphere as it's possible to do in 48 hours. I could cast my mind back many years to when I was in full-time research and compare and contrast with today. I got a lot out of the many conversations I had with researchers, both old and new to the field. I hope I had a positive impact on them too, because I came away invigorated and my mind full of new possibilities.