The IT Strategy Letter
A digest of Doug Kaye's weblogs for the month ending May 31, 2002

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I'm Back!

Ahh, three weeks in Spain. Fun, beautiful, exciting and cheap. It's not just that a dollar buys about 1.1 Euros, but almost everything in Spain costs 25%-50% less than in the U.S. So many tapas; so little time.

I got through the 2,500+ email messages (mostly spam, of course), and have nearly caught up on web-hosting and web-services reading. Not much has changed during May, but the volume of stuff to read and digest hasn't diminished.



I'll be giving two public presentations in San Francisco in June:

Keynote's Global Internet Performance Conference
June 11, 2002, San Francisco

Software Development Forum E-Business SIG
June 18, 2002, San Francisco

From May 18, 2002, you can hear my interview on the WebTalkGuys Radio Show using RealAudio or WinMedia.


Web Services Strategies
Web Hosting Strategies
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Web Services Strategies

BIG Brains. I attended a great 90-minute meeting in San Francisco with a panel consisting of some of our industry's leading gurus:

  • Lee Gomes, Wall St. Journal, Moderator
  • John Hagel, Author, Net Gain
  • Todd Hewlin, The Chasm Group
  • Lawrence Lessig, Stanford University
Here are some interesting quotes that relate to web services. I had to type them on my Blackberry, since I managed to forget to take along pen and paper.
  • Hagel thinks many of the typical investment opportunities don't exist in web services because the major vendors have already filled many of the niches. However, he still sees substantial opportunities in what he calls "shared enabling services." (See his service grid in Your Next IT Strategy by Hagel and John Seely Brown in Harvard Business Review. $6 to download the PDF.) Hagel and Brown are both part of 12 Entrepreneuring, which incubated Grand Central Communications, one of those shared enabling service companies.
  • Hagel has a new book about web services coming out in October. It's entitled, "Out of the Box."
  • Hagel described how enterprises go through binge/purge cycles in which they go overboard with a new technology, only to later reject it. But he thinks web services are here to stay. He's otimistic because web services have a valuable and pragmatic business proposition: they'e driven by operating-cost reduction. He expressed surprise that web services are not first being deployed (as many recommend) within the enterprise, but rather at the edge of the enterprise in order to communicate with business partners. He described how Eastman Chemical spun out its logistics business (transportation of chemicals) and now offers its capabilities to others via web services.
  • Lessig (an attorney/professor/author) said he was hopeful about web services because they encourage innovation at the endpoints of the network. This turned out to be a major theme (beyond web services), and refers to the idea that the network should be "plain vanilla" as opposed to trying to innovate within the infrastructure. He reminded us that in 1984, when AT&T was broken up, the courts told them, "You just sell pipes, and don't tell people what they can and can't do with them." Larry is concerned that AOL/Time Warner and others are restricting innovation because they control both content and infrastructure. [As an aside, Lessig also feels that Open Access won't work, "...because the Baby Bells are so good at screwing their competition."] I've been meaning to read Larry's latest book, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World. Just ordered a copy.
  • Hewlin likes business services as a growth technology. He thinks there's a lot more room to unbundle particularly clerical services, similar to what's happened in the past with payroll services.
  • Given that the conversations were about web services and intellectual property, I asked the panel for their opinions regarding the effect of patents on standards, and the W3C's RAND (Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) policy on patents. A lively discussion ensued, but to no conclusion.
  • Although it started out looking like the Hagel/Hewlin show, Lessig dominated the second half, particularly with his thoughts on innovation. "For 200 out of our country's 210 years, we didn't ban technologies." He used the handgun as a sarcastic but real example. We've never banned handguns, even though they can be used for illegal purposes. Yet the technology behind Napster was essentially destroyed merely because of its potential to support illegal activities, and even though its owners suggested they could eliminate 98% of illegal use. The U.S. Supreme Court used to say, "It's not our job to deal with this." As another example, after eight years of adjudication, they decided not to ban VCRs even though VCRs have the potential to be used for illegal purposes. The court found that doing so would unreasonably restrict innovation and the legal benefits of VCRs. The current court is taking a very different approach. Imagine, as Lessig suggests, if Xerox had developed and tried to sell the photocopier in the current climate.
Good stuff. I'll make a point of attending more of the Big-SF events.
Posted Wednesday, May 29, 2002 10:14:30 PM   

The Elusive ebXML. Am I the only one having trouble getting my arms around ebXML? I have the feeling there's too much process-talk here, but I guess that's what it's all about. I spent most of a year (1973) working at the United Nations in New York, and I can almost taste the UN-style bureaucracy that must be involved with UN/CEFACT's development of these standards.

As much as the ebXML proponents claim they're seeing widespread adoption, and although IBM's Bob Sutor was involved with the original development of ebXML, it's my impression that IBM and Microsoft still aren't committed. In some ways, ebXML and some aspects of web services seem to be evolving in parallel rather than converging. For instance, there appear to be four competing business-process protocols: XLang (Microsoft), WSFL (IBM), BPML (Sun and BEA) and BPSS (ebXML).

Some resources:

  • ebXML Primer. Sean Gallagher (Baseline) has put together one of the best short summaries. Print the PDF file to get the whole thing.
  • Eric Knorr (ZDNet) has written a few good articles including ebXML: A B2B Standard on Hold ("Sun is the only big technology company still pushing ebXML"), and Web Services Meet Process Management ("Rumor has it that IBM and Microsoft may be collaborating on a hybrid of XLang and WSFL.")
  • In Overview of ebXML Specifications (from September, 2001), Sun's Lori Houston presents just that: a readable intro to the many elements of ebXML. But here's a clue: "Like any standards effort, ebXML is a work in progress."
  • Dieter Jenz is perhaps the most prolific ebXML proponent. His article, "Where Are We With ebXML? presents a somewhat different introductory perspective. Dieter, the eternal optimist, says, "Without any doubt, industry leaders such as IBM, Sun Microsystems and Oracle will follow."
  • And then there's the ebXML specifications, also a good site for tracking ebXML progress.
One thing I've gleaned from these and other articles is that ebXML, having evolved from EDI, appears to be strictly a document-exchange concept. There don't seem to be any facilities for transactions or remote procedure calls. Am I right?
Posted Thursday, May 30, 2002 9:23:50 AM   

Application Firewalls. One advantage of using HTTP as the transport for web services is that IP ports 80 and 443 (for SSL) are often already "open" through corporate firewalls. But it's a two-way street, and web services hosted on these ports are, therefore, easy to reach (and hack) from the outside world. One solution is the development and deployment of application-layer firewalls: devices that look deeper into packets in order to determine their legitimacy. Two recent articles:

  • eWeek: "Developers such as RSA Security Inc., Oblix Inc. and even networking manufacturer Cisco Systems Inc. are starting to take a more holistic approach to security with new products that address key Web services security matters."
  • Gartner: "By 2004, 30 percent of all buffer overflow attacks will be carried over HTTP tunneling."
Posted Thursday, May 30, 2002 7:58:14 AM   

Transactions over Web Services. "Traditional models, which involve an entity such as a transaction manager having strict control over the transaction participants, are clearly not suited for web services." This white paper by Muhammad F. Kaleem on addresses web services transactions, the BTP protocol, and Hewlett-Packard's BTP implementation.
Posted Wednesday, May 22, 2002 12:42:46 AM   

Web Hosting Strategies

Managed Services or DIY? My Internet World guest editorial for May

Beware of Wimpy SLAs. And my May editorial for The Web Host Industry Review.

CIO Insight has published an interesting research study on outsourcing. A few highlights:

  • The projected trend for 2002 is to cut back on outsourcing the functions that have been outsourced most frequently: most notably the development and hosting of applications and Web sites, due perhaps to the availability of dot-com veterans and laid-off IT staff.
  • Demand for web-site development outsourcing services is projected to drop from 42% last year to 30% this year, while demand for web hosting should decline from 44% to 33%.
  • Web-site hosting was employed far more by smaller than larger companies, 58% to 38%, respectively.
  • The use of service-level agreements rose from 66% in 2001 to 81% in 2002, with 86% saying they intend to use SLAs in the future. Uptime level guarantees also rose, from 49% to 65%.
Posted Thursday, May 30, 2002 9:39:34 AM   

Internet Acceleration. Peter Christy and John Katsaros of NetsEdge Research Group have launched this new web site to focus on Site Acceleration. Peter and John are the top independent analysts in the content-delivery world, having sold their previous company in the same space to Jupiter Media Metrix. Sign up for the email newsletter they've been publishing for the past 3+ months.
Posted Tuesday, May 21, 2002 8:28:35 PM 

App Servers Want to Be Free. "The market has been expecting the commoditisation of the application server space for some time. HP has been giving away its product for some months and now Sun is doing the same with its core capabilities. It can only be a short time before IBM follows suit but it is questionable whether BEA can afford to do the same." [The Register]
Posted Thursday, May 30, 2002 7:59:58 AM   

The Stability of Exodus. Adam Eisner (The WHIR) thinks Exodus has returned in a new and improved form under the ownership of Cable and Wireless. I was still trying to figure out how C&W was integrating the Exodus brand with those of C&W and Digital Island. Here's the skinny: "As of April 1, 2002, all hosting and content delivery services historically offered by Cable & Wireless, Digital Island and Exodus will be managed by one business division and marketed in the United States as Exodus, a Cable & Wireless Service, and in the rest of the world as Cable & Wireless." The sales force has been integrated. Try calling either a Digital Island or Exodus office. They'll answer the phone, "Exodus, a Cable and Wireless Service." [Thanks: Rolyn Acosta, Digital Island, err...Exodus]
Posted Friday, May 24, 2002 5:36:23 AM 

Tips for Building a Small E-Commerce Site. If you need to build your first on-line storefront complete with credit-card transaction processing, this article by Liam Eagle is a good place to start.
Posted Friday, May 24, 2002 5:30:47 AM  

Hosting Services as Consultants. Rawlson King over at The WHIR thinks web-hosting services need to increase their consulting and other non-commodity offerings in order to compete and survive. If you're a customer, Rawlson's article may give you new insight as to what to look for.

"According to Gartner research, while the grand majority of leading enterprises will continue to outsource their technical infrastructure, many will opt not to select their current external service provider for the job...Outsourced Web hosting will need to become more customized to the requirements of their recipients."
Posted Friday, May 24, 2002 5:24:38 AM 

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"...essential reading for anyone seeking to deploy this technology."

--John Hagel, III,
management consultant
and author of
"Out of the Box"


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