The IT Strategy Letter
June 9, 2003 (Subscribe)

Announcing IT Conversations: New ideas through your headphones!

IT Conversations are recorded (audio) interviews with the gurus of information technology. They're a new production of RDS Strategies LLC, and we hope you'll enjoy them. Stream IT Conversations to your desktop or laptop, or download them into your MP3 player and listen to them while you drive, workout, or sit on the beach with that piña colada.

As of today, we've published four terrific conversations:

  • Eric Newcomer, CTO of IONA, explains loosely coupled transactions.
  • Phil Windley, former CIO of the State of Utah discusses web services.
  • Tony Greenberg, CEO of Ramp^Rate, talks about C&W leaving the U.S.
  • WebV2 describes their "business-process connectivity" solution.

In future weeks, look (and listen) for conversations with:

  • Brent Sleeper of the Stencil Group, on web services
  • Eric Norlin of PingID, on digital identity
  • Russ Jones of Glenbrook Partners, on micropayments
  • Mark Potts, CTO of Talking Blocks, on active service-level management
  • Andy Astor of webMethods and WS-I
  • Phil Wainewright of
  • John McDowall, CTO of Grand Central Communications
  • Mark O'Neill, CTO of Vordell on web services security

Bookwatch: Loosely Coupled--The Missing Pieces of Web Services is still new (the official publication date is August 2003) and is therefore somewhat hard to find. Here are some tips as of today:

  • NerdBooks: US$27.59 and in stock. Best price for U.S. orders.
  • US$27.99, 2-3 days.
  • $31.99, 2-3 days (some days "unavailable").
  • Not in stock yet. :-(
  • CDN$38.69 (30% discount), within 24 hours.
  • RDS Press: US$39.99, direct from us, ships within 24 hours.
    (Not the cheapest, but the best source for fast or non-US delivery.) Review of the Week:

"I was *VERY* pleasantly surprised! Loosely Coupled is a great book: It is comprehensive yet easy to read. It provides thoughtful insight on what web services are and how they can help you address complex integration challenges."

--Edwin Khodabakchian, CEO, Collaxa
(Read more reviews.)

Web Services: Good or Bad for Systems Integrators? It depends on whom you ask. On one hand, the analysts at the small web-services specialist firm ZapThink wrote that systems integrators "will need to alter their business models to survive" due to "the appearance of more applications based on Web services." But 10 days later, the relative behemoth Gartner Dataquest said just the opposite: They wrote that the trend in web services "suggests a strong pick up in demand for developers and integrators with skills using XML, SOAP, .NET and Java."

Just proves there's more art than science in the analysis business.
Posted Tuesday, June 03, 2003 6:50:58 PM

Confusion Over Messaging? I think Phil Wainewright and John McDowall were comparing apples to oranges, and I may have made it worse rather than better.

There are two questions: (1) Where should we look for long-term messaging standards, and (2) what should we do in the meantime?

In his section entitled "The Environment," John considers the latter question. As CTO for Grand Central Communications, that's the world in which he lives. John points out that the parties to a system may be quite asymmetrical. They'll have different levels of sophistication and certainly different technologies. They can't assume JMS (Java), and virtually no one in his world runs ebMS. No universal messaging standard exists, so by definition (as John suggests) today's heterogeneous systems must be loosely coupled--not just in the sense of asynchronicity, but in terms of messaging at all layers. For now, web-services networks like Grand Central Communications play an important role in mediating disparate protocols, including messaging.

OTOH, Phil (and to some extent, I as well) were speaking about the former issue: the longer-term adoption of a universal messaging protocol. I'm convinced that there will eventually be such a standard, just as TCP/IP beat out its competitors (e.g., XNS and IPX) and HTTP and SSL have become ubiquitous. My point was that for different reasons, neither JMS nor ebMS can survive to ubiquity. (JMS because it's not language independent, and ebMS because of the ebXML-versus-WS politics.) Eventually, however, one protocol will rise to the top, we'll all use it, and the messaging-arbitration role for web-services networks like Grand Central will disappear.

In his earlier section, Messaging Categories, John deals with an altogether separate issue: the different levels and attributes of messaging systems. I accept that there are levels such as reliable/guaranteed/transactional (or whatever they should be called). But his other criteria are orthogonal to these. For example, all three of John's categories (even TCP/IP for that mater) would likely provide ordering, one/once only, and best-effort delivery. Systems that don't (such as SMTP) wouldn't even meet the most basic criteria for "reliable." Furthermore, these criteria aren't hierarchical in the same way as John's first three categories.

Finally, John pitches "minimalism" as loose coupling. That is to say that one should be able to link systems while requiring as little of them as possible. Again, that makes sense if there are no standards and if you're Grand Central. But as I have written previously, I expect this problem will go away within 24-36 months, once we have a universally accepted messaging protocol.
Posted Tuesday, June 03, 2003 12:35:16 AM

Spread for Web-Services Messaging? Speaking of messaging protocols, Brian Behlendorf of suggested I take a look at Spread, a language-independent open-source messaging service, which uses within its own products. Brian wondered if it might be a contender for a web-services messaging protocol. I hadn't heard of it, and since Brian's recommendations aren't to be taken lightly, I checked it out.

On first blush, Spread appears to be somewhat tightly coupled. It was initially developed to help share SSL session keys between load-balanced SSL servers, which illustrates its performance-centric bias. (Spread is implemented directly over UDP instead of TCP.) As is, Spread identifies messaging endpoints by <IPaddress>:<port>, so it must be used with both an abstraction layer and mechanisms for delayed binding in order to support loosely coupled SOAs.

Spread is designed to handle multiple messages between pairs of hosts or between a host and a broadcast or multicast group, and the protocol is session oriented. I wonder how well this would support some of the web-services message-exchange patterns (MEPs) such as fire-and-forget. Some semblance of a session is required in order to guarantee delivery and to be notified of failure, but in loosely coupled SOAs those sessions aren't between the ultimate endpoints--they're between endpoints and their local messaging services. Loosely coupled systems must be able to send and receive messages even when the other endpoint is unreachable. I wasn't able to determine whether Spread could handle such scenarios. [Brian later commented, "It's going to be hard, I believe, to find one protocol that provides the whole range of use cases. 'Low-latency reliable messaging' and 'fire-and-forget' feel like endpoints on that range.]

Certainly a package like Spread can be used as a messaging system between heterogeneous tightly coupled systems. But can it play a role in more loosely coupled web services? What do you think?
Posted Tuesday, June 03, 2003 1:07:09 AM

Asynchrony and Web Services. Ronald Schmelzer of ZapThink writes, "Implementing Web services simply as an extension of synchronous, object-oriented technologies and approaches will quickly complicate any effort to realize the benefits of an SOA. As a result, it is imperative for companies to implement asynchrony -- one of the three fundamental tenets of service-orientation -- in order to meet the requirements of long-running, business-critical processes."

I don't see that OO is in anyway tied to the synchronous model. They're orthogonal concepts. OTOH, Ron is certainly correct that asynchrony (asynchronicity?) is one of the requirements to support what Hagel and JSB refer to as LLLCATs: Long-Lived Loosely Coupled Asynchronous Transactions. [Source:]
Posted Saturday, June 07, 2003 8:40:40 AM 

Rules of Service Design. John McDowall has posted his ten Rules of Service Design. John and I will be discussing his list in a future edition of IT Conversations.
Posted Sunday, June 08, 2003 10:13:42 AM

The Exodus of Digital Island? "Cable & Wireless will exit the US [web-hosting] market completely and try to sell operations that include at least 12 data centers and more than 2,800 workers, the company said today...New C&W chief executive officer Francesco Caio refused to rule out the possibility that the company would place the US operations in Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reduce its exit costs." [Source: Carrier Hotels]
Posted Wednesday, June 04, 2003 8:34:29 AM

And in case you're caught in the C&W shakeup, or afraid your vendor might be next...

Recommendation. If you're looking for it services such as colocation, managed services, static or streaming content delivery, or other infrastructure, get in touch with Ramp^Rate. They often save clients up to 75% of what they are currently paying now for these services, and in most cases, their services are free to the client. They have a great proprietary measurement tool that weighs over 35 factors including financial, technical, performance, client testimonial, value, brand, reporting, contract flexibility, and SLA issues. Ramp^Rate has agreements with virtually all the major vendors (and the important specialty ones). Their clients include Microsoft, Disney, Miramax, iFilm, Sony, the NHL, Trend Micro, and [Disclosure: I'm an advisor to Ramp^Rate.]

You can hear a great interview with Ramp^Rate's CEO, Tony Greenberg, about C&W's exodus from the U.S. market and what it means to all of us on the all-new IT Conversations service produced by RDS Strategies LLC.

Doug's Recent Appearances and Webcasts

Loosely Coupled: Interoperability for Business Agility. (Webcast) Recorded 4/30/03 with John McDowall, CTO of Grand Central Communications.


Web Services Project Strategies. (Webcast) Recorded 4/21/03 with Brent Sheets at

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The IT Strategy Letter is published weekly by RDS Strategies LLC. Much -- but not all -- of the content is published earlier in Doug Kaye's weblogs.


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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"


Read More Reviews of Loosely Coupled