Server Based Computing

Webapps ftw

Dorothy and the Tornado
I am, not the biggest fan of "Native Apps", e.g. applications that one has to install on you phone or tablet that are nothing more than a browser reading an RSS feed and displaying the results in a fancy way. Silos.

And ... without letting the user know, send lots of data of the tablet (location, contacts etc) to the mothership. Think about it, would you install "cnn.exe" on your windows host just to access one site? Would you download "microsoft.dmg" to see the website from the other side? Hell no, native apps must die, silos will fall down. I have been ranting about this for a long time, 2008, again and recent in my famous there is an app for that, it is called a browser post.

With progresive design being the standard and with modern mobile browsers honering the tags like VIDEO, a "HTML-Apps" will crush native apps. Not everybody shares that vision, but in broader sense it is clear that webapps will dominate above native apps in the mobile space; they are easy central to update and by definition cross platform.

As stated before, the browser is the OS.

If this is true, there is no reason to stop at a specific devices like a mobile. And indeed, Google docs replaced the office suite and as can be sen below, with pure HTML you can even do photobooth alike effects.
Yet another case for non native apps, see this camera website

And now garageband is having a hard time with a browser based -less UI more interaction with friend- tool called jamwithchrome.
Jam with chrome.

One day, the browser will be the OS and we will all have big fat thin clients again with a mixture of local data and apps and remote data and apps. Al I wish for is that -despite the fact that I wish every company as much sicess as they can get- Google will not be the new Microsoft and Chrome not the new IE.

Pat Patterson wrote an OpenSSO module for Drupal

Dear friend Pat Patterson (twitter) pinged me the other day to let me know he actually wrote a module for Drupal. If you do not know Pat, he is the leading authority when it comes to all things "Identity Management"; process, vision and actual code in Sun's OpenSSO project (Sun's open version of the previous proprietary Sun Access Manager. And now Pat released OpenSSO module for Drupal.

Identity management is complex, it is more then 1 slide per second or a technical solution. The biggest problem in ID management is trust, procedures as well as installed base. Migrating a corporation with thousands of employees that is fully AD based (like most enterprises are) towards something like OpenID is impossible. And OpenID by itself only solves parts of the AAA problem. Where OpenSSo might for a corporation migrating towards a more open way of dealing with identities ("persons") a far more better way.

Logging in to a website with Single Sign On (or more often: Single Log On) is only a small part of the problem of an enterprise. Sure, an increasing part since more and more applications are webbased; AJAX replaced RDP and ICA for many tasks. But still, only a small part. So if one wants to push Drupal into the heart of an enterprise as an Intra- or extranet, one needs to understand that OpenID / OAUTH might be good for an all webbased company, but not for any company that is older then 10 years.

OpenSSO however is. And Pat's work to integrate this into Drupal sure helps. Thanks Pat!

When webpages become webapplications... the influence on statistics.

When web pages become web applications. Then page reloads are history and you interact with your webapplicationin your browser in the page and with AJAX/AHAH you will get the data in and out of the page. Nothing new, that is what the marketeers label web 2.0.

But when users interact with pages without having to reload ... when pages become application .. this also means that traditional ways of measuring user activity that are hosted and used as a service, such as Google Analytics, will not be able to tell you what a user has done on a pageapplication.

There used to be a time when the success of a website was measured in "hits", way back in the nineties. Then -due to the fact webpages consisted of many HTML elements like Cascading Style Sheets- the success was measured in pageviews. For the last couple of years, the success is measured in unique visitors since advertisers are not that interested in serving the same ad for the 10th times to the same person. And now, due to AJAX, we have to find a new way of measuring the success of webapplication.

Yahoo! understands this and has been offering Yahoo! User Interface services for some time now for free that can be used by a webmaster to give a more rich feeling towards the user. This way, Yahoo still gets to see who is doing what on a website and can offer this as a Analytics competitor as well as use the data for having a better advertising offering with behavioral targeting. The downside is however that to make your pages application, you do more then some icing on the cake; User Interface gadgets are nice. But the real deal is in enriching your data for webapplication use, not just your user interface.

AJAX-As-A-Service (as a new way of Server Based Computing) suffers the same problems as the old way of doing Server based Computing like Citrix has; looking to the world through a straw. Local data and terminal screens from remote do not mix well; a document that is saved on a local harddisk and accessed via a terminal service application still need lots of bandwidth and leads to high latency. The same kind of poblems you encounter when you use hosted AJAX service that are not integrated with your site; the (meta)data of the user is on the webserver and the AJAX application is served from another webserver not able to access all rich metadata.

Therefor only websites that are based on a Content Management Systems that is old will use these kind of services, modern CMS-es like Drupal ship with their own plug-able extend-able AJAX library. And if that CMS enables you to turn a web-page into a webapplication, you have two options to have the right statistics based on the right data; logging from the CMS or raw logging from your website. Drupal never has been good in providing logging analyses; it is good for technical webmasters but the analyses is not usefull at all for marketeers and managers. Analysing raw logging yourself is IMHO still the best way; you also get to see those firefox users that block urchin or have the best firefox plugin aivalble installed. However, it takes time and most of the reporting is by far not as fancy as Google Analytics.

So we will see how AJAX will influence web-analytics, maybe CMS-es will provide better statistics?

OpenSource and clouds

There are two big trends in ICT; Service a a Service (SaaS) and Open Source Software (OSS). And I do think those two go hand in hand and are reflecting changes that are coming towards the ICT landscape. When I say "hand in hand", I do mean that they are complementary (like people are in a relationship) but also that the are in contrast of each other (like in many relationships). It is my opinion that you either outsource
(parts of your) IT activities, or build the solution yourself. You will either use a cloud to deliver your needs, or make your own cloud. It will either be service from the Microsoft's or you will have to build and manage the solution by yourself. You either well use a cheap commodity service with limited customisation to have the complete freedom to fit the software to your business objectives. Let me try to make clear why this is my opinion and how this influences your role as a user or provider of ICT services.

Recent trends have shown that release cycles of software have become shorter and shorter; to keep ahead of our competitors you have to be able to release early and often.

Release early and release often as a way to be able to quickly add new features for the future, fix problems for the current software and to prevent that software becomes obsolete ("end of life"). The perpetual beta as the new adagium. Where flickr was able to deploy during it's booming period a new codebase every 15 minutes, Microsoft was able to make a new operating 7 years. One is using the "service" (cloud) way of offering it's software, the other is using the "fat client" approach. So on one hand proprietary fat client software s facing competition from cloud based services. Sure Google Docs is not as feature rich or reliable as the Office suite of Microsoft but most agree that this is just a question of time and network reliability; in due time Google Apps will be good enough for the masses. Mind you, most if not all cloud services are proprietary and are doing well; salesforce as the most prominent example.

On the other hand, proprietary software faces problems from the Open Source alternatives. is a real competitor for MS-Office, the Ubuntu distribution beats Microsoft in many areas and MySQL is giving the absurd licence fees of Oracle a hard time. If proprietary closed source software wants to stay in business, they have to move. Not to a "long tail" niche but in the other direction, to the left side of the tail where you can offer a highly standardised yet customisable version of their product. That way they are able to release early and often and go for a low margin per product sold but sell a lot. So I do think that closed source software has to move towards a service model, away from the client into the data centre.

This means that the other trend (Open Source Software) -that has written "release early and often" written all over it- will dominate the Do It Yourself area. OSS will be used by people and companies that have time and resources to fulfill their needs via highly customisable software. You will see this first with applications that are by nature webbased; the can move to the cloud with less legacy baggage. Software with much interaction with local legacy products will follow later, much later in some case So Office Automation for existing companies will take some serious time to migrate to the cloud since hybrid solutions (some data local, some in the cloud) will be rather expensive and complex to many from security, identity and manageability point of view.

One of the webbased applications that will dominte the "DIY" will be Drupal. It i already the best Content Mangement System ("looking outside") on the market and it is moving more in the direction of the core of business processes ("looking inside"). Drupal will more and more be used as both a frontend system and a backend system; a system where you can aggregate and enrich data for internal use that can be pushed towards for example an external Drupal site.

If you follow this logic (proprietary moving towards commodity cloud service, Open Source solutions towards customisable client service) you might conclude with me that Open Surce CMS-es have nothing to fear from closed source CMS-es like sharepoint. Sharepoint will be the shell around your office data if you want to use that from a cloud perspective, Drupal will be used by enthusiast and enterprises that need more power and have more resources to kickstart and operate that power.

So some people will use an iPhone and the cloud service "Mobile me", others will build Android. Some will use digital TV solutons from their cable providers, others will build MythTV. Some will run an OpenID service themselves, others will use it from a Google/Yahoo! And some will use voicemail (the most used cloud service in the world) and others prefer a local answering machine. I, I use all kind of differtent services, cloud and local, like most people will do.

PS: This posting as very late for last years' Drupal prediction posting or very early for next year, whatever makes more sense to you

PPS: Sure, you can have Open Source "SaaS" solutions as well, for example hosted and managed Drupal instalations but it will be a niche crossover, if that makes sense to you. Also, when I say "build", it can also mean "let other build", aka buy.

PPPS: I do think that SaaS is a complete wrong term; it is a technological acronym. First, people do not want "Software" as a service, but they want a service (as a service). As long as the ICT things about acronyms like SaaS, true adoption of using a "Service as A Service" will only stall. It is time to stop the technology lingo where it should stop; at the door of the customer and think of services instead of software. Second, Software as a Service is a very limited view on what truly can be accomplished with services; it might be disk capacity from the cloud (like S3, Storage as a Service), it might be CPU capacity (like EC2, CPU as a Service), it might be housing (Rackspace as a Service), hosting (Linux box as a Service) or to give an everyday example we are used to, voicemail (Answeringmachines as a Service). Therefor I plea to stop using the term SaaS and use XaaS ("Anything as a Service") or use SaaS for the acronym "Service as a Service", whatever makes more sense to you.

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