Speaking personally – ‘Big Deals for Me’ of 2008

I am starting the New Year with reflections on the year just gone in the form of three ‘big deals for me’ that came out of 2008. I’ll discuss each of these ‘Big Deals for Me’ , how they are inter-related and where I expect them to lead in 2009 over the next couple of weeks via this blog.

Big Deal #1 – Cloud computing - Announcements from PDC in Los Angeles – Oct 2008

Cloud computing platforms will not sweep all else before them.

We all know that cloud computing is going to factor a lot more in the future of IT and subsequently the future of all of us as IT professionals. I don’t believe cloud computing is the ‘next big thing that will sweep all else before it” - but I can see why some folk would want to believe this. What I believe is more likely is that there will be an incorporation of ‘the cloud’ onto existing platform models including Client and Server.  This has always been the case in the past with major changes – for example mainframes and batch computing which by in large pre-dated ‘client’ and ‘server’ platform models still abound out there it is just that now a majority have switched to front to PC clients instead of using card readers and drum printers.

How platforms have become established in the past.

Market forces and ‘existing investments’ always dictate that new types of platforms first ‘attach’ themselves to existing models, then extend those existing models and finally subsume them if they are really that great. This more likely evolutionary rise to any prominence for the cloud is entirely consistent with the Software plus Services (S+S) strategic pattern that I have been talking about for the last couple of years. The announcement of Windows Azure (internet-scale cloud services platform which provides an operating system and a set of developer services that can be used individually or together) combines with past experience to create a clear strategy for cloud computing platforms for architects. That clear strategy is to attach (the cloud) from existing assets on existing platforms (client, server) rather than consider a ‘rip and replace’ strategy. Given current economic conditions and the emphasis they will inevitably place on the protection of ‘existing investments’ that architectural strategy is also consistent with the experience of new platform technologies that I just outlined earlier. The first step is for new platform models to ‘attach’ to existing models. The cloud platform will be no different. S+S provides patterns for that ‘attach’ strategy when attaching the cloud to existing Client and existing Server applications.

Gartner’s platform triangle.

If you think of the existing mainstream platform models as being ‘Client’ and ‘Server’ then I agree with Gartner’s summation of the PDC announcements about Azure when they say that cloud based Windows Azure is the ‘completion of the Microsoft platform triangle’. That summary though does not entirely acknowledge the very important facts that the Azure architecture is designed to be compatible with both the .NET platform (which already underpins client and server platform models) and the existing development platform - Visual Studio.  That means developers do not need to learn a whole new set of paradigms, libraries and development tools and can leverage both their existing knowledge and some of their existing building block ‘assets’.

Where to in 2009?

My own views are that , as it evolves, the addition of Cloud computing to the Microsoft platform triangle will drive two key thought processes in the coming year;

-          A renewed interest in architecture and software development best practices;

-          A whole new set of standards debates and standards initiatives.

Both of these ‘Driven thought processes’ feature in my in my other ‘big deals for 2008’ and I’ll explain the linkages when I outline those in the next couple of weeks in this blog.