Next time you get worried about offshoring …

… have a read of this instead. Ireland is probably unique in having , within the last 10 years , benefited hugely from offshoring (why do you think all the US Companies are here?), then benefited again from being about to offshore work itself.

Thanks to Bill for the link.

Knowledge Base is Back and (almost) better

Following our recent outage, our Knowledge Base is back. More the ‘base’ part , as the Knowledge still has to be uploaded again.

Media Wiki Logo

Following ‘Clouds have silver linings’ we’ve moved to using MediaWiki, the same tool that powers WikiPedia. This has the largest user base of any wiki, and a good supporting toolset. In particular , to allow local editing of wiki pages, there is the Eclipse Based Plog4U.

Not a Web 2.0 Company – Scandanavian Airlines

I don’t think these guys will be joining the Web2Ireland (even Web 2.0) group anytime soon. Basically , their website says ‘We couldn’t be bothered using any of the Ajax toolkits out there, so we’ll get you Mr Customer to do all the work for us’. I wonder what their look-to-book ratio is ( I used to do some work for Aer Lingus – LinkedIn Profile).

Scandanavian Airlines (SAS) Website.

Hint to SAS: Here is how to fix this (pdf), or hire us and we’ll fix it for you.

Or if you prefer , reassure yourself that you’re not the only airline with Ajax problems.
More blogposts on Ajax.

Architecture? One size fits all

No matter what your system does , be it insurance , banking , online travel booking or telecoms, the chances are it does the following things:

  • Gets information from users over the web
  • Does some business processing on that information
  • Saves the information in a database.

At a conservative estimate , about 99% of Enterprise systems would fall into this category.

If so, why do you need an architect , when you can use our ‘one size fits all’ architecture diagram (below)?! Most non-trivial systems, regardless of the language they are written in (be it Java, .Net , or your language of choice) follow the pattern seen in this diagram.

3 Tier Enterprise Diagram

There are 3 Pieces to the Solution:

  • Web Browser (for the user / client).
  • Web and Application Server – carry out business logic.
  • Database Back End – to store data and ensure data integrity.

Within the Application Server (the middle bit above, which as Java Architects is the bit we are interested in), there are a further 3 tiers

  • A Presentation tier (or layer), which is mainly about talking to the user (it gets and sends requests to the web browser).
  • A Service layer , which is mainly about talking to back end such as databases, legacy systems (such as mainframes) and XML-Web services that we may use.
  • A Business layer, the ‘meat’ of the sandwich, where the ‘Value add’ is in terms of business processing and validation.

For each of these layers , your priority in building them are slightly different.

  • The Presentation layer is the bit the user sees. You want it to be fast and give a good impression to the client. Underneath, use a standard framework (link: pick your framework here) and then customize the look and feel.
  • The Service layer you want to work fast and well (e.g. no data faults), but then then forget about. Unless things go wrong, no user is going to complement you on the quality of database persistence! Use standard libraries for the entire layer.
  • Unless your company is a clone or franchise, the business layer in the system is going to be completely different. Aside from the user-interface , concentrate most of your project effort here as this is the core of what system does. We’ve written quite a bit about how to increase the value-add of the business layer (link to O’Reilly Technical Articles)

By the way , we’re only half-joking about the ‘why do you need an architect’ bit. We can be contacted here.

It's been very quiet over here (aka what has Paul been up to) – Enterprise Web 2.0

It’s all been very quiet over here , too quiet. And not just because of the hosting issues (the people at Netbunch, you know that I’m talking about you)

It’s been very quiet , because I’ve been very busy. On top of all this , we’re coming to the end of the year for the (part time) Masters at UCD in Dublin, so we’ve also got exams coming up. Thankfully it’s the last year, the downside being I have a dissertation to write.

Being a blogger , I’m not happy putting together a weighty tome that will sit gathering dust on a shelf. Instead , I want something that will solve some business problems , and that I can use as interesting content. So after much thought , the proposed title of my dissertation will be …… cue drum roll ….. ta-da!

Enterprise Web 2.0

Now, if you’ve talked to me , you know I spend a lot of my working day as an Enterprise Java Consultant , working for various banks. The idea is to take some of the Web 2.0 ideas (and you don’t need me to repeat them) and apply them to the sort of problems large companies have. Or , if you want the catchy subtitle , ” it’s all about sucking the knowledge out of people’s brains and putting it onto (ugly) websites”.

So an obvious topic to cover is the use of Ajax , which while big on the web at the moment , is going to be huge once companies realise what it can bring to their internal applications. The rest of the topics cover knowledge management (what is web 2.0 if it’s not about sharing knowledge), but also some tools and techniques that will all Enterprise Java (with all it’s robustness and scalability) compete with the nimbleness and tricks of Ruby.

Business Problem 1: How to present this information to people in a easy to deploy, but powerful way.
Solution: Update to Sun Java article – this one on how to do Web 2.0 / Ajax ‘right’ in Enterprise Java (i.e. not worrying about legacy code)

Business Problem 2: Where you have documentation, but don’t know how to find it.
Solution: Write up of the Red-Piranha Adaptive Search engine that ‘learns’ what the team wants , and finds more of it.

Business Problem 3: Where you have information in Excel sheets, but can’t do much with it.
Solution: Update to previous O’Reilly Articles on JBoss Rules – this one on JBoss’ ability to ‘run’ Excel Spreadsheets.

Business Problem 4: Where you have information that people ‘know’ , but that a machine finds it hard to ‘learn’
Solution: Simple Neural Networks using Joone, applied to a ‘real life’ business problem.

Business Problem 5: Where several people have to work together on a set of information , following a strict set of steps.
Solution: JBoss workflow, with a simple online example