Thursday, August 31, 2006

On finding a revolution...

For over 15 years, I have been involved in the development, deployment and management of distributed application systems. Most of my career has been in the application development space, working as a systems analyst for a small manufacturer and a large systems company, a consultant/contractor for a variety of development projects, and as senior prinicipal consultant for Forte Software, Inc. before its aquisition by Sun Microsystems.

A lot of my focus was on large scale distributed systems, such a online reservation systems, automatic toll collection systems and CRM environments. In addition to the difficult problem of building applications that could handle tens of thousands or even millions of users, I was often exposed to the problem of delivering these applications to a distributed infrastructure that could, in turn, deliver the application's potential capacity.

It was with this experience in mind that I set out looking for "the next great opportunity" in distributed software development earlier this spring. My initial feelers were telling me that there was tremendous momentum in the open source space, specifically around AJAX and the new scripting languages (Perl, Python, Ruby on Rails, etc.). However, I was disappointed by the strong sense that I had in each of these opportunities that I had already "been there, done that". I wanted something truly new.

Around this time I was introduced to Cassatt Corporation, the latest venture of Bill Coleman, the legendary former CEO of BEA Systems. Bill is perhaps best known for building BEA from 0 to 1 Billion dollars in revenue in record time. A powerful accomplishment, yes, but I was also aware of his tremendous reputation as a visionary, so I was very interested in talking to his team about what he was up to. The answer was the "next great thing" I was looking for.

Cassatt is one of a few companies (if not the only one) working to deliver a true Service Oriented Infrastructure. Nice hype words there, but the basic question being addressed at Cassatt is, if we have made great advances to decouple software components from each other, why has so little been done to decouple the software from its host hardware?

In future blogs, I will address this question, and discuss in depth a vision of Service Level Automation in the datacenter. Service Level Automation focuses on allowing businesses to define the required runtime characteristics of an application, and having an intelligent infrastructure maintain the resources and capacity necessary to achieve those characteristics.

My intention is to have this blog discuss a wide variety of both technical and social implications of this vision, and not focus as much on Cassatt's role in all of this. However, I should disclose that I liked Cassatt's vision so much, that I joined the company, and am honored to be part of the birth of such a critical yet disruptive technology.

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