Friday, February 01, 2008

A new era? Or a new Chapter?

Superbowl, New England or Giants?

That's a pretty hard question to ask me because I like to watch for the sake of the game and I put aside favoritism for the win!

This is how I see work as well. I have spent the better part of the last eight years working on webMethods. I started with version 3.x and now work with version 7.x.

So, could the rhetorical question be: "Software AG/webMethods or TIBCO?"

As many of you know, I consider myself one of webMethods' biggest fans. I am extremely enthusiastic about the product and even more so now since their acquisition. webMethods certainly compliments the other product lines of Software AG. Within the last few weeks, I had an opportunity to sit down with Software AG's Global Director of Alliances and talk about the direction of webMethods and what it means to consultants.

Even though the last few blog entries have been about me getting back into the saddle, moving forward, I will move between issues relating to running the business, and technical/architectural entries.

So, this is my business plug.

Software AG is moving forward to solidify and unify the webMethods platform. Based on what I heard and some of what I have recently seen, I look forward to the next version of Fabric. I believe that they will indeed be a real player in the SOA market. In addition, I believe that there will be significant business opportunities for consultant firms to help deploy Fabric.

Software AG didn't tell me this directly. Part of my return to the workplace included calling a bunch of my old contacts. Unfortunately, many of them left as part of the acquisition, or they left shortly thereafter. However, some were still at webMethods/SAG and I met with a few of them and spoke to many of the others on the phone. The focus of the company will be more on the product development end and less on the implementation side. This will leave a huge gap for those who provide these services.

During my absence, the company restructured and redefined the career paths available. Now, there are three distinct tracks: 1) Business, 2) Management, 3) Technical. I currently am in the Management track with a focus on technical delivery. Under the new protocol, I will most likely fall under the Technical Track. My title will change from Manager to Technical Architect. This is ironic, since it is actually a demotion for me in title, however, read on.

In the beginning of this BLOG, I mentioned TIBCO. I have a greater appreciation for TIBCO since I have had an opportunity to examine the product. However, I am not totally sold on the idea of using TIBCO when I am firmly entrenched with webMethods solutions.

But, with everything else in life, you have to embrace change, or be left behind. Unlike Commercial Services where you can specialize, Public Services is structured a little differently. I am in the integration space, but it is sliced into two halves: java technology and microsoft technology. I sit squarely in the java technology space which encompasses all java solutions. Eventually, I will have the opportunity to examine the gambit of solutions.

In order for me to climb the ladder higher to become a "Sr Technical Architect", I have to become cross-trained and develop an expertise on several solution platforms. It seems like webMethods, TIBCO and java messaging will become my focus.

To VM or Not to VM: The last crazy two weeks

The last two weeks have been absolutely crazy. I spent one of these weeks up in Virginia where I had an opportunity to meet with some of the members of the new team.

Public Services certainly has some perks that Commercial Services just never had. For one, we have a lab where we can stand-up environments on-demand. Name it, we can make it happen. Any OS! I like that. Also, this department is a big user of Virtual Machines. This is an area where I have had little to no experience before I left for Afghanistan.

While over in the sand box, I had the chance to work with the 82nd Airborne Division's civilian web master. He introduced me to the concept and use of virtual machines. Although the 82nd ABN DIV deploys their applications to a "normal" production platform, he was able to demonstrate a complete enterprise setup via VM.

This leads me to my next chore, which is to stand up an entire base webMethods Fabric Solution in VMWare. I have a little time researching VMWare and will utilize VMWare's workstation product. Once I have a base configuration, I will save a copy that I will always be able to utilize as a base as well as distribute to other members of my team, who can then open up the VM on their laptops if need be.

Please keep in mind the licensing ramifications if you decide to use this for your client or your company. I am not sure how the licensing agreements address the deployment of software in a VM. Is it then by CPU or by node?

I spent this week working from home. In between conducting research and project shopping so I can get busy, I moved my home office.

While I was away in the big sand box, my wife confiscated my office and I have been relegated to working out of the living room area. Even though the amount of space was generous, the amount of noise was also generous and made it impossible to concentrate. Additionally, anytime I needed to take a phone call, I had to hunt for the spare room or go outside. Of course, this is Florida, so going outside is always a good thing.

Along with my change from Commercial to Public Services, I had to get ready for long-term work out of my house. The company is getting smarter about how they treat employees and seem to following the same path as Lockheed in that they consider it highly desirous to have employees telecommute. I realize that this isn't possible 100% of the time, but I believe that I may be able to travel perhaps less than 50% of the time rather than 100% of the time as was previous.

I digress. So in between bouts of research, phone calls, emails and the like, I installed my desk, moved the internet connection, VOIP, etc.

The amazing thing about this is that my wife was the big driver and I thought she was doing it 100% for me, but as usual with a spouse, there is always an ulterior motive. She did an extraordinary job of locating a $4K desk and then paying only $300.00 for it. My brother-in-law helped me install it. He can lift a house with his little finger, so helping me out by holding the cabinets up to the wall while I drilled holes and attached them was quite helpful.

Once the cabinets, desk, and fold-outs were all installed, I had to move all the technical stuff: Internet router, cable modem, VOIP interface, UPS bank and the servers. I also dug through some of my legacy purchases and found my US Robotics (yep, now owned by CISCO) conference phone and installed that. The only casualty of the move was my main computer. I believe that the power supply gave up as I unplugged it the very last time for the move. I have since ordered another power supply.

Believe it or not, the biggest problem I had with the move was the printer. Each pay cycle, I have to submit my time and expense report electronically and on paper. Since my main desktop is down, I needed to install the printer driver to my corporate laptop and then just plug-in the USB cable so I could print out this paperwork. Installing software is usually easy but this proved to be vexing. No matter what I did, I couldn't install the printer drivers. Oh wait, there was an instruction guide. Hmmm, the guide said to make sure your bloody virus scanner is turned off.

Wait wait, I got it. That did the trick and I am fully back in business!

Oh, and what was my wife's ulterior motive for giving up our spare bedroom for my office? I thought you would never ask!

Since I was away for so long, I missed my daugher's FIRST birthday, so this Saturday, we'll celebrate her 2nd birthday. By moving my work area from the living room to the spare bedroom, we were able to commandeer an entire room for her party.