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Flashback: The End of Middleware – Exclusive 2004 Perspective by Sun President, Jonathan Schwartz

Schwartz Explains Why He Believes That Middleware is History

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      The marketplace tells you that "middleware is everywhere" when all along it should wise up and recognize that "middleware is dead." Because that's the new reality of enterprise computing today, according to Sun's president & CEO Jonathan Schwartz.

      What's more important: Running your business or integrating middleware?

      Should be an obvious answer, right?

      Then why is the marketplace spending so much energy wallowing in the history of "middleware is everywhere"? Habit. A habit to which thousands of IT professionals devote their lives. But integrating middleware to build one-off business systems is about to perish with the rise of shared services - the services you'd like to build once, then execute on behalf of all your business systems.

      As an example, when's the last time you hired someone? Remember what it was like getting them "badged" and into the company? You had to grant them access to payroll, benefits, a desktop login, e-mail, the CRM, and forecasting systems, then assign them an office and a phone.

      Most likely, your company built a unique provisioning mechanism for each of the systems I just cited. One for HR, one for the sales force, one for information security, and yet another for physical security. And then you likely created even more redundancy by building one set for your intranet employees and another for your Internet customer or supplier systems. That's inefficient, and in the world of Sarbanes-Oxley, a real problem - who has access to what? And why did you build 17 different systems?

      Because it looked like a good idea at the time.

      The same is true for most services that now make far more sense in a shared environment, from portals (how many does your company have?), to e-mail and application services, down to clustering and Web servers. There's no real utility in having multiples of these services, as Nicholas Carr would point out, where your implementation doesn't generate a competitive advantage. How you authenticate users and provision them with access to your systems is an unlikely competitive advantage. So why build a one-off solution instead of relying on an integrated system?

      Good question.

      Our belief is that the vast majority of Web services are better run as shared services. What's the holdup, then? When we looked into this a year ago, we found three challenges:

      1.  Roadmap sprawl
      There's no coordinating force causing all the required elements of shared services (from authentication to portals, Web services to clustering) to coalesce around a common release, interoperability, or support matrix. So you have no choice but to build your own.

      2.  Pricing
      Middleware pricing is anything but shared - per CPU, per identity, per mailbox, per portal, per cluster node - pricing opacity obscures the real savings in running shared services. And if you can figure it out, you probably can't afford them.

      3.  Licensing
      The industry relies on "common access licenses," often tripling prices for services that touch the Internet - that's clearly an obstacle to shared services.

      So here's how we solved the problems:

      1.  The rise of Sun's Java Enterprise System
      Sun's Java Enterprise System offers all the basic components, from directory and identity management to Web services, even e-mail and clustering. All in a single deliverable, prequalified, tested, and supported on multiple platforms.

      2.  Pricing goes to a $100/employee subscription
      Why buy software differently than how you buy office furniture - by the employee? If your workforce decreases, you pay less, and vice versa. The ultimate in predictable, transparent pricing.

      3.  Licensing - infinite RTU
      If the distinction between the intranet and extranet is disappearing, so should the distinction in our licensing. So $100/employee buys you the right to use (RTU) all these services on all systems. At infinite scale - once you've paid for your employees, your customers are free. Free. It's your software.

      The vendors who believe hardware is commoditizing suggest the same forces won't affect software. We believe it affects both.

      And as the world moves to recognize the value of a shared services infrastructure, it's our belief that middleware is history. Long live the system. The Java Enterprise System.

    • More Stories By Jonathan Schwartz

      Jonathan Schwartz is president and chief operating officer of Sun Microsystems. In this role he is responsible for operations and execution of Sun's day-to-day business including Systems, Software, Global Sales Operations, worldwide manufacturing and purchasing, customer advocacy and worldwide marketing. Prior to this position, he served as EVP of Sun's software group where he was responsible for the company's software technologies and business. While in this position, he revolutionized Sun's software strategy with the introduction of the Java System, an innovative collection of highly integrated software for the development, deployment and operation of Java technologies.

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      Most Recent Comments
      Unconvinced 02/10/04 04:17:22 AM EST

      What a load of rubbish.... this guy is just giving a sales pitch! In a true services environment, the middleware is the enabler allowing for the connectivity to available services. Without it you are just left with single platform centric services which is not where the the rest of the industry is moving. Who said was it that said SUN was the centre of the universe?!

      Sundre 02/09/04 11:58:32 PM EST

      What a dumb ass.

      GS 02/09/04 11:19:53 PM EST

      If middleware is dead then why "Message Queue" is included in the Java Enterprise System? To achieve real reuse?

      Randall Heresy 02/09/04 10:19:11 PM EST

      Ah, yes. I see. Start with a shocking phrase like "middleware is history" and use it to hock Sun''s latest pile of binary vomit. Certainly worked for SunONE, didn't it? If sales pitches like these are what pass for editorials these days, then IT has become nothing but high fashion with a higher price tag and uglier spokesmodels.

      I''m glad I quit this arena.

      Yadi Hooshmand 02/09/04 08:18:33 PM EST

      It is true that the article might look like a sales pitch, but in reality it points out the software architecture design and methodology changes in the near future.
      Service-oriented Architecture (SOA) is the future of all architecture designs. To achieve real reuse we are bond to provide reusable-shared services. J2EE can provide such services if the application architecture is designed with SOA in mind.
      I don''t think the article is an Info Week type article; it is a great hint for J2EE architect and developer to pay attention to.

      David 02/09/04 11:53:11 AM EST

      Well, at least it wasn't a _long_ sales pitch. Its funny how many different ways executives can spell 'abstraction'. That's what he's selling. If you purchase the Sun solution, then there is supposed to be a reduction in your workload because you will be configuring different pieces of the same product instead of different subsystems of a distributed system. At any rate, this stuff belongs in Info Week.

      greTysrg 02/06/04 12:46:37 PM EST

      You gotta love the world of multiple perspectives! Here was how a recent editorial contrasted Schwartz''s views with that of, say, Big Blue:

      "One highway, two vistas. In late December, someone driving south on US-101 in Silicon Valley would have seen two billboards. A conventional billboard from IBM, put up first, states, Middleware is Everywhere. A few miles farther down the road, a glaring electronic sign from Sun retorts, Middleware is History.

      Which approach is right? there''s no such things as right. Right is history, not middleware.

      joeprogrammer 02/06/04 11:21:21 AM EST

      Great unbiased journalism.