What is it all about, and what does it mean to
on demand: A developer's roadmap)
Manager, IBM developerWorks
Developer Skills Program
17 February 2003
IBM has defined e-business on
demand as an enterprise whose business processes -- integrated
end-to-end across the company and with key partners, suppliers, and
customers -- can respond with speed to any customer demand, market
opportunity, or external threat. Are you wondering just what this means
for you? Developers and IT professionals will be expected to build the
technical infrastructure to support the integrated business processes of
e-business on demand. To help you get up to speed, this article
describes the e-business on demand environment and gives you the
technology roadmap to get there.
It's all about return on investment. In the beginning, the Internet
linked scientists in academia, government, and research. It evolved to
provide e-mail and then the World Wide Web, which was good for
communicating market messages but didn't have a lot of business value.
Technology quickly evolved and enabled computing on the Internet, driving
business processes. But this capability has come with a cost -- it has
required serious investment in technology. And when a business invests in
information technology, it expects to derive benefits from its investment.
Issues of cost reduction never go away.
So what's the
There's a gap between what IT promises and what it
delivers. You're a developer -- you know that integrating disparate,
heterogeneous systems and networks is complex. This complexity is the
number one issue troubling CIOs today. Just trying to get technologies to
work together eats up more than 40 percent of IT budgets. That means
almost half the IT investment goes toward things that don't directly drive
business value. Because it's complex, it can take months, maybe a year,
before an IT investment delivers any value. Because it's complex, skills
are in short supply, and it will get harder to hire the people to
integrate, implement, and maintain technologies. Complexity costs.
And then there's utilization costs. Did you know that:
- Mainframes are idle 40% of the time.
- UNIX servers are idle 90% of the time.
- Most PCs are idle 95% of the time.
Of course, the industry grappled with cost of ownership and utilization
long before the Internet and e-business introduced a new era of computing.
Now we have the Web, but the promise of complete business integration
efficiency still lies in the next generation of e-business technology
infrastructure. And this is where you -- the developer -- come into play.
In this article, we'll take a tour of the e-business on demand
environment and look at what businesses are demanding from a technology
infrastructure. Then we'll talk about how you can integrate heterogeneous
systems and platforms using a roadmap that incorporates these technology
- Java and open standards
- Web services
- Grid computing
- Autonomic computing
- Utility computing
Just what is e-business on
You are in an e-business on demand environment when
your organization connects its core business systems to key constituencies
using intranets, extranets, and the Web, allowing you to:
- Build and enhance business relationships through the thoughtful use
of network-based technologies
- Leverage Internet technologies to transact and interact with
customers, suppliers, partners, and employees to achieve and sustain a
Getting to e-business on demand is a natural progression that typically
goes through these stages:
- Access: Enable transactions against core business systems
using simple Web publishing and point solutions.
- Enterprise integration: Use the Web to integrate business
processes across enterprises. Link internal and external systems, both
across enterprises and beyond enterprise boundaries.
- e-business on demand: Use the Web to adapt dynamically to
customer and market requirements. Change business models. Combine
people, technologies, and processes in new ways.
Figure 1. A natural evolution
Phases of e-business on
e-business on demand evolves in phases. In each
phase, the Internet transforms the business processes.
- Access to digital information: This phase is all about
publishing content, most of it of the static "look-up" variety. Simple
database queries allow us to check a bank account, look up airline
flight information, or see where our overnight package is. It's pretty
easy to get in the game here. All an enterprise needs is a home page.
All an individual needs is a browser.
- Real transactions, real e-business: Don't just look at your
bank account--move some money. Don't just check a flight departure
time--book your seat. Trade a stock, buy a book, apply for a loan, renew
your driver's license, take a college course. Doing this requires more
than a Website -- this requires behind-the-scenes integration of
technologies and business processes.
- The advanced stage of e-business: In a fluid system of
customers, suppliers, partners and employees, the Internet is the
primary way to communicate, transact, and connect. Business processes
shift from manual to automated. A relationship could last only as long
as a single transaction. The environment is real-time computing. You
form networked communities so that organizations can:
- Create new products and services faster
- Reach new customers and economically add new relationships
- Dynamically change existing relationships
- Simultaneously engage in multiple e-business models
- Improve access to information by constituents involved in these
Which phase is your enterprise
in?About 75% of all businesses are in Phase 1.
Another 20% are in Phase 2 and are already reaping the benefits.
These businesses have identified key processes -- from procurement
of raw material to the manufacturing floor, to shipping and
distribution, to customer relationship management -- and they're
applying networked technologies to transform them. These enterprises
have determined that transforming a stand-alone process is a
beginning, not an end.
What's the return on investment for an enterprise that progresses
through these phases? An increased share of customer spending, a better
return on assets, new revenue opportunities, and better shareholder
Every industry segment has the common requirement to integrate
end-to-end so that products, services (private sector and government),
invoices, images, decisions, and answers are all available on demand. Who
will have the competitive advantage? The enterprises that get there first,
and the software and services providers that know how to make it
Any globally connected enterprise must have the ability to handle
whatever comes its way, such as changes in customer preferences or
competitive actions, fluctuations in capital markets, labor situations,
natural disasters, or political unrest. An advanced e-business must be
able to respond to the unpredictable and the unforeseen and never question
the ability of the infrastructure to deliver.
So what kind of computing environment is required for an on-demand
business? What does "on demand" mean for the way a business buys and
manages its computing technology? Before tackling these questions, let's
look at the four business characteristics of an on-demand business:
Business characteristics of an on-demand
An on-demand business has these characteristics:
- Responsive: Able to sense changes in the environment and to
respond dynamically to unpredictable fluctuations in supply or demand,
emerging customer, partner, supplier and employee needs, or unexpected
moves by the competition.
- Variable: Able to adapt cost structures and business
processes flexibly, to reduce risk, and to drive business performance at
higher levels of productivity, cost control, capital efficiency, and
- Focused: Committed to concentrating on core competencies and
differentiating tasks and assets; able to use tightly integrated
strategic partners to manage tasks ranging from manufacturing,
logistics, and fulfillment to human resources and financial operations.
- Resilient: Prepared for changes and threats like computer
viruses, earthquakes, or sudden spikes in demand.
A business with these attributes requires technology that can support
it, but that's not the computing environment that's operating today. No,
today's environment is heterogeneous, widely distributed, vertically
isolated, and generally more complex than businesses would like. The same
IT that's essential to a business' ability to create strategic advantage,
is also a major obstacle to becoming the kind of fluid, responsive,
dynamic business that's been talked about for years.
Technical characteristics of an
Based on the above business
characteristics of an on-demand business, what kind of technology
environment is needed to support it?
transformation department by department, business processes and
applications need to integrate horizontally to link data, legacy systems,
and custom applications, and this integration requires new levels of data
integrity and transaction processing. You will need an infrastructure
built on Web services, new development tools, and open standards.
Applications that had previously integrated vertically -- with an
operating system and stand-alone processor -- must now integrate
horizontally, application to application. You will write applications to
the middleware layer, not to the operating system. Applications are being
decoupled from the underlying infrastructure.
no other way. In a networked world, you have to do more than simply
integrate everything inside your enterprise. You have to connect your
enterprise with other enterprises, other business processes, other
applications, and billions of pervasive computing devices. You can't just
rip and replace your existing data, applications, and transaction systems
to make them homogenous with those of your business partners. Open
specifications and industry standards are the only realistic way that all
of this can connect.
that has made capital outlays for technology is sitting on enormous,
unused computing capacity. Server consolidation and capacity-on-demand
offerings begin to address the issue of under-utilization. But now there's
an opportunity to virtualize the entire data center with an emerging
technology called grid computing.
Grid computing allows distributed computing resources to be shared and
managed as if they were one, large, virtual computer. Initially most grids
are being built in government laboratories and universities. From there,
they will be implemented inside companies. These "intra-grids" will allow
enterprises to increase the utilization of their own computing assets.
upward spiral of complexity will soon exceed the ability of skilled
technical, human resources to keep up with it. The solution? Computing
systems that take on more of the management themselves. In the same way
that the human autonomic nervous system manages basic functions like
respiration, autonomic systems will self-manage, self-protect, balance
workloads, install device drivers, and upgrade software. This requires
innovation, real science at both the component and overall system level.
In 2001, IBM's technical community articulated the capabilities and
requirements for this kind of autonomic infrastructure. IBM Research
defined the kinds of innovation required at the component, product, and
systems levels. The industry has been invited to join us in the mastery of
this computing challenge.
been discussing transformation on two levels:
- Transforming business processes
- Transforming the underlying technical infrastructure
Together, these transformations bring yet another transformation that
may prove to be the most exciting aspect of the movement to e-business on
demand: the way a business buys and manages its computing power.
Until now, your choices were limited. You needed more computing power?
You bought more computers, or you outsourced. Now, on-demand business
requires a fundamental change in the way we access, pay for, and manage
all the assets of the IT industry.
The answer is utility
computing. You virtualize the data center and build internal computing
utilities that drive up utilization and value delivered to the business.
When this kind of virtualization moves to the Internet, you'll be able to
tap into external utilities, get computing from service providers, and pay
only for what you use.
adaptive, dynamic integration is the goal, and utility computing is how
you're going to implement it, where do you start? Focus on the key
technologies: open standards and Java, Linux, Web services, grid
computing, and autonomic computing.
Figure 2. Landmarks on the technology
Open standards and
You don't want to rip and replace. Instead, you want to
link together your disparate, distributed, heterogeneous systems, and you
can do this using open standards. You can use open standards to ease your
integration burden and tie new products and technologies into your
existing infrastructure easily and at low cost.
In your on-demand environment, you must be able to add or reduce
capacity quickly as the business requires. In today's heterogeneous
environment, open standards with common interfaces let you choose function
from a variety of vendors and snap it into the infrastructure. The IT
industry is evolving into a culture of open standards.
Figure 3. Open standards speed
Why choose Linux?
First, it's reliable, scalable, and secure. It's an enterprise-quality
operating system, and you can trust Linux with your enterprise
applications because it's a stable and mature base.
Second, Linux is about the lowest-cost alternative on the market, and
that's a major factor in its growing appeal to business and government.
It's easy to migrate your code from UNIX to Linux, and there's a sizeable
pool of developers with Linux skills.
Linux and the IBM eServer
productsFor IBM, Linux is consistent with our
principles of open standards-based computing and platform
independence. We have solutions for Linux across all our hardware
platforms, and our middleware provides extensive support for Linux
across the entire eServer
set of platforms.
Plus, the applications you write for Linux can run on any platform. You
can choose the server that's right for the application instead of the
application that's right for the server. This flexibility frees you to
innovate and create new applications, rather than spending your time
rewriting old ones.
Finally, Linux provides an open, standards-based application platform,
especially when combined with J2EE and Web services. Open standards make
sense because they allow you to choose the best from among a wide variety
of products and integrate them easily, rather than having to settle for
whatever fits into a proprietary environment. This is a new model for the
industry -- companies compete to produce the best products on this open
standards base, instead of competing to establish a proprietary hold in a
particular industrial segment.
Figure 4. Comprehensive Linux support in IBM
Businesses have been searching for a technology
solution to enable their infrastructures to be as flexible as their highly
fluid business models. They've found an answer in Web services
architecture, a set of industry-standard methods that enable simplified
programmatic connections between applications. Web services focuses on
simple, Internet-based standards to address heterogeneous distributed
Web services and IBM softwareIBM
has enabled its software portfolio (from WebSphere to DB2, Lotus,
and Tivoli) to support the development, deployment, storage, and
management of Web services solutions.
Applications designed within a Web services architecture can seek each
other out, integrate and execute transactions, all in an automated
fashion. The advantages for a business are clear. A manufacturer could
automatically connect with the supplier that best meets its cost and
technical demands, while that supplier in turn could connect automatically
with manufacturers that have similar needs.
A grid is a
collection of distributed computing resources available over a network
that appear to an end user or application as one large virtual computing
system. A Grid can span locations, organizations, machine architectures,
and software boundaries to provide unlimited power, collaboration, and
information access to everyone connected to the Grid. The effect of Grid
computing is to make network computing more like a utility. You deliver
computing power to where you need it only when you need it; you pay for
what you use, when you use it.
Like the Internet, Grids started in the scientific community but are
now being deployed by business enterprises. Recently, IBM and Globus
collaborated to combine open grid protocols and Web services standards,
producing the Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA).
Autonomic computing systems are:
- Self-configuring: Able to adapt to dynamically changing
- Self-healing: Able to discover, diagnose, and act to prevent
- Self-optimizing: Able to tune resources and balance workloads
to maximize use of IT resources
- Self-protecting: Able to anticipate, detect, identify, and
protect against attacks
When you implement autonomic systems, you are free to focus on more
strategic and higher-level issues. For the business, the core benefits of
autonomic computing are improved resiliency, ability to deploy new
capabilities more rapidly, and increased return from IT investments.
Autonomic computing capabilities play a critical role in the
development of grid computing. Grids can become the most complex computing
environments available. Autonomic computing will allow grids to be easily
managed and to ensure that they deliver the levels and quality of service
demanded by businesses.
concept of e-sourcing is simple. It's Information Technology as a utility.
Think of electricity, or telephone service. You don't need a generator to
get electricity to your home or office. You just plug into the the
electrical grid, use what you need, and pay for what you use. An
enterprise will be able to focus maximum resources on its core business,
on what differentiates them from their competition.
Where's the data center? It's in the enterprise. It's outside the
enterprise. Or it's shared between them. It doesn't matter where, because
the infrastructure becomes a pool of resources available on demand. Like
electricity, computing becomes an on-demand, pay-as-you-go service -- a
utility so reliable that a business can take it more or less for
Once grids enable computing resources to be shared globally and managed
autonomically from end-to-end, an enterprise's infrastructure becomes
incredibly flexible. It can deliver computing power itself, but also
switch to a supplier for peak power, since they both operate on the same
standards. The infrastructure is a pool of virtual resources a customer
can call on as needed.
In an on-demand future, a company might respond to increasing demand
for computing resources first with spill-over services from their own IT
utility and, if that isn't enough, with capacity from a service provider,
purchasing only the extra capacity needed at the moment. Because provider
and customer share common, open protocols and use grid and autonomic
technologies, all sorts of services can be provided dynamically in the
smallest, most economical blocks. Imagine paying for increments of
computing power as used instead of for large volumes, long- term. The
potential impact on budgets and the bottom-line is huge.
The concept of IT delivered as a utility isn't new; but only now are
technological advances making it possible:
- Reduced cost of bandwidth, which enabled the creation of new data
services and high-speed network delivery of a variety of services to a
broader range of customers
- Distributed content and application architecture deployments that
shift delivery to the edge of the network
- Server and storage virtualization, which enables a new level of
shared infrastructures with the potential of reducing customer
Over time, as the focus turns more toward the application and the
business rather than the infrastructure, the question will become: "Do I
really need all that infrastructure?" To put it another way, "Do I want to
generate my own electricity, with all the investment in people and
equipment that entails? Or am I comfortable leaving the generation of
electricity to the experts and IT to the IT professionals?"
all together: You have applications and systems integrated using open
standards. Plus Web services that provide definitions, discovery, and
access to self-managing, autonomic IT resources on a grid. And what do you
get? You get computing resources capable of being shared globally and
managed end-to-end. You get an infrastructure that's incredibly flexible
and that will allow new capabilities to be deployed with relative ease.
This is the technical environment on which an on-demand enterprise
With e-business on demand, information technology will change. IT will
be delivered as a utility. Utility computing will offer fundamental
advantages over the current model. You'll get there in stages, and you can
start today by following the technology milestones we've outlined: Java
and open standards, Linux, Web services, grid computing, and autonomic
standards and Java
Alfredo Gutierrez manages the IBM developerWorks
Developer Skills Program. By staying in tune with developers and the
IBM technical professionals who help them solve their integration
issues, Fred helps the developerWorks team provide relevant
information and technical content through articles, tutorials,
developer briefing days, Webcasts, and workshops. You can contact
Fred at firstname.lastname@example.org.