Mar. 27, 2007 SDF Platform 2.0

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On Tuesday, March 27, 2007 at the Network Meeting Center in Santa Clara SDForum held an Application Platforms Conference called Platform 2.0: The Next Generation.
The first generation of the platform was a place where developers created applications running on operating systems like DOS, Windows, Mac, Unix, Linux or mainframes.

The second generation of the platform grew from the Internet where web applications ran on servers with CGI, Cold Fusion, PHP, JSP, ASP.NET and RoR. All of this required programmers to create features for the applications.

This conference covered the third generation of the platform that is emerging. It helps ordinary users connect people, processes and information to create measurable business results. The average user can add power features to their applications themselves and to do this with no knowledge of programming. Bloggers can add PayPal donate buttons. MySpace members can list their favorite music. Users can contribute to wikis.

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The first presentation was by Charles Fitzgerald, GM of Platform Strategy at Microsoft. He discussed “Software + Service = The New Platform World”. At Microsoft everything is a platform, whether it is Windows, Office or Xbox. By this definition, a platform has capabilities for customers and opportunities for companies, creating an ecosystem or community for business to take place. Platforms evolved from mainframes to client-servers to the web. If you want to understand where enterprise software is going, he recommends looking at Xbox Live. It brings Microsoft’s software, hardware and online strengths together for the user. Local software plus an online service results in a better experience like Apple’s iTunes. As time goes on there will be multi-headed experiences for using the same software services ranging from desktop to mobile devices. Applications must mesh with existing delivery standards to give users a consistent experience. Users will keep developing mash-ups in a federated mesh to create a customized experience. The key to monetization is to make subscription and transaction models easy to implement for businesses.
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Dave Nielsen, Director of Partner Programs of StrikeIron, moderated the first panel on the Application Platforms Ecosystem. It consisted of Richard Probst, VP Platform Ecosystem Group at SAP, Adam Gross, VP of Developer Marketing at Salesforce.com and Adam Sah, Architect Google Gadgets at Google.

Dave Nielsen started off with defining terms. Products are software or web applications or even a component of an application like a widget. A platform is a framework to run the application, a set of capabilities or APIs that re-use components or services. A company sets up a partner ecosystem so third party developers can offer products or services to users of the platform. Applications used to run on thin clients viewed on a static browser. They now run on thin servers with the complexity running on some third party service provider. PayPal is an example of a web application that can be installed on one site and run from another. Widgets, gadgets, APIs and hybrids of hosted components are other examples.

The panel talked about users increasingly customizing their experience with web services. The results are innovative ways of displaying and understanding data like mash-ups. Recognizing this and delivering tools to users is where the money can be made. Applications that can streamline business processes are in demand. Simple portable bits of HTML that can install and run on a computer or cell phone, connected or offline can become runaway hits. All the companies have opened up their environments to encourage partner development in their ecosystems. The results are accelerated development and deployment cycles from years to days.

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Jeff Nolan, formerly of SAP and now CEO at Teqlo, helps users build the applications to do their jobs. Employees don’t do business processes. They do tasks. Teqlo snaps together personal applications from widgets on a web desktop. This is basically an application exchange where users can find what they need or share what they build. A user should be able to integrate web applications for sales leads, scheduling, databases, documents, mail, spreadsheets and finance. If you are using a clipboard to transfer data from app to app, Teqlo can help by adapting RSS technology to move data from widget to widget. Users drag and drop applications instead of crunching code.

Nolan demonstrated the Teqlo user interface or mash-up. In the upper left corner was a window or scratch pad of web applications or widgets. Other windows were applications like Google Calendar, Yahoo Pipes, eBay and Linked-In. Users can schedule an event, make a purchase or notify his contacts on one screen. Users can develop their own web applications and make them available to others.

How does this make money? Google has advertising. Amazon has e-commerce. EBay has auctions. Salesforce.com has Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Teqlo looks for opportunities to integrate the strategies of ads, commerce, auctions and CRM. Teqlo gives vendors the chance to monetize their API through licensing.

Essentially users are picking and choosing their own applications off the web, driving software development from the ground up. Teqlo understands the grassroots adoption of web apps and how it will percolate from users all the way up to enterprise systems.

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Jeff Barr, Senior Web Services Evangelist of Amazon, talked about their view of platforms called web-scale computing. Essentially their platform is in the clouds that you see so often in networking presentation slides.Customers want elastic capacity that adjusts to demand. They need fast response time no matter how much traffic. It should be available 24_7 and rock-solid reliable. Businesses want to pay only for the resources used and not extra capacity.

Amazon offers three services in this computing cloud. Amazon Simple Storage Service lets customers put storage in ‘the cloud’. Each object can be up to 5 GB. Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud where you can rent Linux servers by the hour. Amazon Simple Queue Service is glue mechanism where you have different pieces of a process happening. It can link instance-to-instance or process-to-process in the cloud.

These services allow software developers to focus on their product or service and not on building or maintaining infrastructure. It speeds up innovation and helps build business.
Barr says there is a community of almost a quarter of million developers creating applications for Amazon to support this platform.

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The fourth presentation was by Maciej Ceglowski, Software Engineer at Yahoo Pipes talked about how easy it was to use Pipes with other development tools.

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Rod Smith, VP of Internet Emerging Technology at IBM talked about how their Enterprise software works with Web 2.0 platforms. IBM software services supply the infrastructure for content developers who need to move data from place to place. They use Open APIs to build and extend the Internet Service Vendor’s (ISV) ecosystem. Better user experience results in more revenue.

The major element of Web 2.0 is the rise of user-generated content is the mash-up. Users actively participate and organize their data they way they want. Users customizing their own experience must drive any company’s product development. To accommodate these users, companies need the kind of capacity IBM offers.

Developing and delivering prototypes can go much faster than traditional IT development. Smith gave an example of how the create a dashboard for AccuWeather that lead to a mash-up to supply weather information to railroads. They also help Reuters and the shipping industry process and display information about piracy on the high seas. That’s right; IBM helps fight pirates with mash-ups.

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Luis Polanco is Senior Apollo Product Manager for Adobe’s new free runtime called Apollo. Just released as an alpha version, Apollo is a cross-operating runtime that allows developers to build and deploy desktop Rich Internet Applications (RIAs). Apollo allows developers to go beyond the limitations of the typical browser to build applications with learning native code. A web app can run offline and behave like a desktop app no matter what operating system is running.

He showed examples of Apollo working with eBay so buyers and sellers can have a customized interface to better keep track of purchases. They can even create and upload their own commercials of what they are trying to sell without switching apps.

Apollo makes it possible to develop a sophisticated app without ever learning or using Java. It provides APIs for HTML, CSS, Javascript, Ajax, Flex or Flash. Not only that, Adobe plans for Apollo to run on mobile devices to provide the same apps on any platform.

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Josh Jaffe of The Deal moderated a company jam, a series of speed demos by bleeding edge companies.

Jep Castelein of Backbase demonstrated an RIA that goes beyond the traditional three layer approaches of data tiers with XML databases, logic tiers with .NET, J2EE or SOAP, and presentation tiers with AJAX. Backbase has a presentation tier tool that is already adopted by everyone from Abbot Laboratories to Vanguard Investments.

Michele Ursino of Foldier Inc. allows users to aggregate data gathered over the web no matter what the source.

Ed Anuff of Widgetbox an online gallery of widgets for blogs and other web pages. It works on TypePad, WordPress, Blogger and others.

Mark Drummond and Joshua Levy of Sourcemix a new JavaScript-based programming environment for collaboratively building Web applications and services.

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The SDForum Platform 2.0 panel on Investment Trends was moderated by Brian Goncher Relationship Manager at Deloitte and consisted of Mitchell Kertzman, Partner at Hummer Winbald, Tom Cole, General Partner at Trinity Ventures, Gary Little, General Partner at Morganthaler Ventures and Ray Wu, New Business Ventures at Hewlett-Packard. It was the funniest and smartest panel I’ve seen in months.More…

According to Brian Goncher, a third of the venture capital in the United States is invested in Silicon Valley software companies. Web services are a growing share of that investment and recognized as a separate category from traditional desktop or Internet software.

Mitchell Kertzman is skeptical of anyone pitching a new platform. It is not necessary to create a new platform. You can add value to existing ones. He doesn’t know what Web 2.0 is. If someone pitches an idea to him with those words in it he passes, but if it’s Web 3.0, he’ll invest in it like crazy. A successful platform has technology and a community built around it that can build businesses upon it. He likes Widgetbox because it naturally creates an ecosystem. To succeed in venture capital it is more important to pick the right wave than the right company. Software as a service is such a wave.

Tom Cole joked he was very active in Web 1.0 companies. The strict definitions of a platform are a pretty high bar and there are few true platforms. The current wave offers services in the clouds and ways of interconnecting them with things like Ruby on Rails. Web services need rapid iterations like Codefast that automate the build quickly and run it in record time. Another idea is creating a horizontal web service for consumers like Photo Bucket, where you can link your video to your MySpace page. He advises start-up companies not to advertise themselves externally as a platform because it is like painting a bulls eye on their back. It is better that people see the advantages to your software and adopt it bit by bit like Salesforce.com.

Gary Little says that venture capitalist swim in schools and agreed with his colleagues. It is important to differentiate between a platform and developer tools. To him, a platform is a layer that persists in time through different changes in technology across applications and verticals. He doesn’t invest in tools because they are hot and then cool. He likes SQL databases because they have been around and keep kicking around. They have been used from mainframes to web services. Creating a permanent place in the stack adds value to your investment. He likes to invest in services that have platform characteristics, like Ingris, Illustra and Atria. It is key to build a developer community with the software like MuleSource. MuleSource is an open source integration program that is growing so fast it had its most recent convention in Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Ray Wu says that HP is very much in the IT structure space and therefore a platform vendor. All these e-commerce companies will need services in the cloud to scale up or down. HP is in the software, middleware, hardware, front and back end. Over 70 percent of SMS goes through HP’s OpenHub. No matter what platform arises, HP will work with it in some way.

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Ian Murdock just started his job as Chief Operating Platforms Officer at Sun Microsystems the week before. I thought Sun should have given him more time, but he did fine. He talked about his long experience with Linux and how it will interoperate with Sun’s broader platform strategies. Sun is open sourcing all of its software assets.

Do operating systems still matter in Web 2.0? Is the web a platform? Murdock thinks that what happened in the Linux will happen in web services. Linux started off very geeky and gradually the tools got easier for more people to use. Like Linux, web services will disrupt existing business models and create new ways to make money.

Copyright 2007 DJ Cline All rights reserved.