Articles from Architecture

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) vs. Platfrom as a Service (PaaS)

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:05 PM :: 30887 Views :: Architecture :: Digg it!

Okay, "story" is a bit much. I just wanted to share perhaps the best picture that I've seen that compares two types of cloud offerings: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Microsoft, of course, supports both with Azure. Enjoy!

IaaS vs PaaS

2008: Year of the Cloud

2008: Year of the Cloud

Every year, there's one underlying theme that seems to be pushed in the technology arena more than anything. This year, I feel like it's the year of the cloud. The last time I did this was five years ago, so I'll have to back-fill a few years, but here are the themes I've noticed over the past 11 years.

  • 2008: Year of the Cloud
  • 2007: Year of User Experience
  • 2006: Year of AJAX/Web 2.0
  • 2005: Year of SaaS
  • 2004: Year of Offshore Outsourcing
  • 2003: Year of the Architect
  • 2002: Year of Web Services
  • 2001: Year of XML/.NET
  • 2000: Year of Enterprise Java
  • 1999: Year of Linux
  • 1998: Year of the Web

We've been approaching "the year of the cloud" for a while, now. You can actually look back to 1998, when the web started to really catch on. A few years later, as Java started to build momentum and then .NET hit the scenes, which is when XML as a standard communication language started to catch on. Also tied to the .NET release was a huge push for web services. As this was more and more successful, service-oriented architecture (SOA) started to boom. In my mind, that was a big boon to the outsourcing trends, which have seemingly quieted down a bit, but not completely. SOA also led to the software as a service (SaaS) trend, which triggered Microsoft's software plus services (S+S) push, but that was more of a side story. With everything moving to the web, backed by [typically open] services, asynchronous Javascript and XML (AJAX) was the next big push. This was tied to the "Web 2.0" moniker, which I'd argue wasn't quite what Tim Berners-Lee intended. Either way, this led to the big push for better user experiences, which many people confuse with user interface design. The Web 2.0 push also kept the industry on its web focus, which is where we are left today.

It's easy to look back and see how we got here. Trends show that architectural changes typically take two or three years to gain momentum in the community, so we'll probably have a couple of years before the next major architecture peaks. The trend towards distributed computing has grown more and more, but I have a feeling things are going to start coming back a little. We've been pushing out to the web for a lot of reasons; one of which is the rise of the Mac. What we've been losing out on, however, is the power of the desktop. I see the S+S push to continue, but more as an underlying theme than a strong focus. Services will continue to be the foundation, maintaining the importance of cloud computing, but the desktop will be where the processing occurs. I see Silverlight proving a huge success, which will eventually bring .NET to the Mac. This will probably bring Novell and Microsoft a little closer together, with respect to Microsoft's relationship with Mono, but this may simply be a change in focus for Mono. Oh, and when I say, "bring .NET to the Mac," I'm not talking about the scaled-down version in Silverlight. I'm talking about the real deal. I see WPF and Silverlight merging along with the smart client architecture built into .NET today. This will take more than a few years, but it seems to be inevitable. Most likely, by the time all this happens, multi-core will be a way of life, as opposed to the we-should-be-thinking-about-threading thoughts most developers have today. Armed with a strong multi-threaded foundation, which is easy to use, the combined WPF/Silverlight presentation tier will quickly overtake Flash and Air. By this time, we should also start to see more integration into our everyday lives...

Okay, I'm probably getting a little out of hand here. If I go much further, we're going to be on the USS Enterprise, so I'll stop while I'm ahead. I'll just leave it at, it'll be interesting to see what's next. My money's on the power of the desktop, which we've lost over the past 10 years.

IE7 on Windows Server 2003

By Michael Flanakin @ 6:08 AM :: 3859 Views :: Architecture :: Digg it!

Single sign-on (SSO)

I've been working on a single sign-on (SSO) solution for a client for a while and I've run into an issue with IE7 on Windows Server 2003. To get SSO to work, there are a number of issues you need to be aware of -- I'll probably write a post on that later. In my experience, the root of all SSO issues is either Kerberos delegation or DNS configuration. Unfortunately, due to the default configuration of IE7 on Windows Server 2003, the browser won't send a Kerberos ticket to the web server. Obviously, SSO won't work without this. If you're an admin, you can go into IE options and toggle a few settings to get this to work, but when you're using test users without admin rights, you can't.The problem is that the default configuation does not accurately determine if the website you're browsing to is in the local intranet zone.The following registry changes will fix the issue.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\ZoneMap]

I'll go into this in more detail when I write the post I mentioned. To apply the change, you can either do it manually or save the above to a file ending in .reg and then double-click that to update the registry.

Microsoft's Official Position on UML

By Michael Flanakin @ 3:44 AM :: 2713 Views :: Development, Architecture, Microsoft, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!

I made a few comments about Microsoft's work around MDA and how I don't quite understand Microsoft's official position on UML. David Cutler pointed out that I should take some initiative and dig around for some reasoning behind that. Well I did, and I found out that things are changing. Visual Studio "Rosario" will have a number of UML designers built on the DSL Tools designer framework. I'm very glad to hear this because I've been looking for them for quite a while and remember scoffing Microsoft for not investing more than a class diagram in Visual Studio 2005. I had hoped Visual Studio 2008 would have included some new designers, but alas, it didn't. The November 2007 CTP includes two new designers in Team Edition for Architects (Team Arch) and obviously the all-up Team Suite. I haven't used the new sequence or logical class designer, yet, but I'm definitely intrigued by them. I doubt the sequence diagram will be auto-generating at first, but you never know. Either way, I'm glad to see Microsoft is embracing UML more.

Of course, this doesn't answer the question of what Microsoft's official position on UML is. That's a hard one to answer, considering we're a company of individuals who have individual thoughts and ideals, just like any other company. Most of the people I talked to were the vocal few, but it's clear that UML isn't the unanimous terror that Microsoft seems to have made it out to be. I'm glad I'm not the only one to believe that. While I'm not making any anouncements today, I can say that we will get a clearer message of where Microsoft is going with respect to UML. As I understand it, there will be more designers on the books for the next CTP in the March/April time frame, so I think I can finally say we're on the right track. Better late than never, right?

Mix or SD West: The Decision

In early December, I asked myself whether I'd rather go to Mix or SD West this year. I haven't been to either, but have wanted to go to Mix since its inception. After some thought, I've decided to go to SD West. The main reason for that is because I feel like it'll have better content given my focus. The first year of Mix was all about the web and the second year was a mixed designer+developer event, but still heavily rooted in the web world. I definitely feel at home with that mix, but things seem to be changing again. This year, it sounds like there's going to be even more focus on designer content, so I'll let Mix shake itself out one more year and check out SD West. I look forward to it.

Mix o SD West: La Decisión

En Español

En Diciembre, me pregunté si debo ir a Mix o SD West este año. No he estado a tampoco, pero tengo quise ir a Mix puesto que comenzó. Después de pensar en él, decidía ir a SD West. La razón principal es porque pienso tendrá mejor contenido, basado en mi foco. El primer año de Mix estaba todo sobre la web y el segundo año estaba un acontecimiento para los diseñadores y desarrolladores, pero todavía basado pesadamente en la web. Soy cómodo con los dos, pero el acontecimiento está cambiando otra vez. Este año, pienso que habrá más foco en contenido del diseñador. Dejaré Mix solidificar uno año más y iré al SD West.

Microsoft's MDA Foundations

By Michael Flanakin @ 11:16 PM :: 5522 Views :: .NET, Development, Architecture, Microsoft, Open Source/Standards :: Digg it!

I don't know if I'll ever understand Microsoft's official position with respect to UML. Sure, the concept behind domain specific languages (DSLs) is sound, but is it truly necessary? I haven't seen any proof of that. Well, to be more specific, I should say I don't see a need for DSLs when it comes to software analisys and design -- UML has just about everything I've needed and extending it seems to be the logical answer. On the other hand, DSLs are absolutely fantastic for applications that can visualize their data. Honestly, I think more apps should consider DSLs, but when most developers either don't know or don't use software modelling tools, I have to say I'm not surprised. I, for one, have been meaning to dig into Microsoft's DSL Tools, but haven't had the time. One of these days, perhaps. Either way, this is the foundation for Microsoft's MDA approach... well, the development environment, at least. There's an interesting story there, but I'll blog about that later.

Mix or SD West?

By Michael Flanakin @ 4:30 AM :: 3564 Views :: .NET, Development, Architecture, Patterns & Practices, User Experience :: Digg it!

A few weeks ago, Mix 08 was announced. I started to check it out and contemplate how much I wanted to attend, since I missed the first one and decided to skip the last one and go to PDC instead... which was cancelled *grumble, grumble* Well, I'm not making that mistake this year. However, another conference I have an interest in attending just popped up: SD West 2008. At first, I was thinking how nice it'd be to check out both. Mix started out being a web developer conference, but has become more about user experience, which I have a great deal of interest in. SD West is an architecture forum. Unfortunately, I just found out they're both happening the same week. Decisions, decisions...

Given the fact that Mix has slightly moved away from the more technical developer content, I think I might opt for SD West. Of course, SD West has more non-Microsoft content I may not be interested in. I'd be lying if I said location doesn't matter. Mix is in Vegas, which is definitely fun; but SD West is in Santa Clara, which would be a first. I've been to San Fancisco, but that was quite a while ago. I'd like to get some feedback from someone who's been to both, but I guess I'll have to take a deeper look at the content of each to see which one would be more valuable.

JSR 168 and WSRP

By Michael Flanakin @ 4:29 AM :: 3379 Views :: .NET, Java, Architecture, Open Source/Standards, Tools/Utilities :: Digg it!

Someone briefly mentioned Java Specification Request (JSR) 168 Mobile-ready link to me a little over a month ago. As most would, I asked what the heck it was about. I know what JSRs are, but I don't make a habit of knowing each one. JSR 168 turns out to be all about portal applications and, specifically, calls out a Java-specific way to implement Web Services for Remote Portlets (WSRP) Mobile-ready link. Any time I'm asked about integrating Java and .NET, two things come to mind -- and, no, one is not replace the Java with .NET... although, that is a good idea  Those things are JNBridge Mobile-ready link and Mainsoft Mobile-ready link. I don't know much about these tools besides their existence and high-level goals. After talking to Simon Guest a month and a half ago about user experience Mobile-ready link, he mentioned how JNBridge works. I'm going to liken it to how Visual Studio allows us to easily consume web services. JNBridge creates a proxy class on the target platform that hooks into their system, which wraps the original code, be it .NET or Java, if I understood it correctly. I'm not sure how MainSoft does the job, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's a somewhat similar method.

Of course, anyone who paid attention to the fourth sentence above will notice I said JSR 168 is about web services, so you might ask why one would need to integrate Java and .NET at a component level. I'm going to chalk this one up to a mild case of stupidity. I say mild because there is some logic here, but not enough. Being the brilliant person that he is, an "architect" at a client's site determined that web services were too slow to accomplish what they needed. At first, I started to accept that. Then, I thought about how web services can be streamlined and asked what numbers they had to back up that claim. Apparently, there aren't and never have been any benchmark tests. People: If you're going to claim something is too slow, at least have some numbers to prove it. Later, I found out JNBridge was mentioned to this person before, but was shrugged off. I don't know if it's the presence of Microsoft that made him change his tone, but he was very accepting of the idea. To me, this guy is one of those zealots we run into occasionally. They always have something hateful to say about the competition, but rarely add to the conversation. In this case, he was (and still is) trying to push Microsoft solutions out of the conversation. I find that funny because... well, let me just say Microsoft has brought a lot of value to the client in the past year. We're not alone, by any means -- we work with some really good... and, with any project, some not-so-good people. I guess one of the key differentiators is our extensive training mantra along with our connections and resources back in Redmond and abroad.

Simon Guest on User Experience

By Michael Flanakin @ 11:23 AM :: 5833 Views :: Architecture, Patterns & Practices, User Experience :: Digg it!

If you're not familiar with Simon Guest Mobile-ready link Syndicated feed, he's on Microsoft's Architecture Strategy Team. While the name may not mean a whole lot to you, you'll probably recognize the Architecture Journal Mobile-ready link, of which Simon is the editor. If that's still not ringing a bell, I suggest you at least give it a look-see. A lot of devs find the concepts too abstract, so it's not for everyone. Each edition is very themed, so you'll usually have a good idea of how much you'll get out of it pretty early. Either way, that's not what this is all about... Simon started pushing user experience for architects about two years ago, if I remember correctly (probably not). I kind of latched onto this because I'm a huge proponent of user experience. Like most developers, I'm no designer, but I think I do have some artistic ability... at least moreso than most developers I've met. Of course, it's not all about graphic design; behavioral design (aka human-computer interaction Mobile-ready link or HCI) is actually the biggest part of user experience. Admittedly, I have a lot to learn in this arena. I'm finding out a lot of it has to do with merely thinking outside the box and trying to imagine simpler ways to get tasks done, but even that isn't as simple as it sounds.

I was lucky enough to see a presentation on user experience Simon put on at Microsoft's internal conference for those of us in the field, TechReady. His presentation was absolutely awesome. I left psyched about one thing: getting him and his team out to a project I'm working on. We have a number of systems that could seriously use some re-engineering on the UI front. Then again, what system doesn't? I don't know if it's going to work out or not -- there are a lot of factors that come into play. Nonetheless, I'm hopeful. I'd seriously enjoy the opportunity to leach off the process Simon and his team use.

If you have an opportunity to see Simon's user experience presentation, I highly suggest you take advantage of that. He recently posted Mobile-ready link the slides from his recent appearance at the San Diego UX Summit, so that's a start; but I have to let you know you won't get the same experience. Simon's presentation is something you need to see in person.

Application- vs. Database-Driven Design

By Michael Flanakin @ 1:26 PM :: 3039 Views :: Development, Architecture, Patterns & Practices :: Digg it!

With all the good and bad that goes with it, I focus a lot on the design of the applications and application components I work on. This, in part, stems from my appreciation for both the art and science of software development, which is a topic I've been meaning to post about for some time. Since I put a strong emphasis on architecture and design and I'm usually supporting other people's projects, I tend see a lot of different design approaches. Most of these approaches have been centered around the database, which I think is inappropriate for most systems. What I mean by this is that the developers start with a relational database structure and design their domain objects and business services around that. This is typically done by developers who either don't have a lot of design experience or have a strong background in database development. While I admit that every approach has its pros and cons and every project has its priorities, I typically try to focus developers on the application first, whether or not a data store already exists. I've seen bad data structures drive the application's design too many times. I actually discussed this with a coworker a few days ago and we both agreed that most applications should focus on the domain model and core business services during design rather than developing them from a pre-existing data model. Jeremy Miller Mobile-ready link talks about this in a recent post, Don't Let the Database Dictate your Object Model Mobile-ready link. I'm glad to see others professing this practice because I think it's very important and not enough people take it into consideration. All too often, database-driven application designs force unnecessary constraints on the system, limiting innovation, growth, and extensibility.