Back out again in the Valley for part of this week, to attend EclipseCon 2007 in Santa Clara, the annual conference of the world wide open source community contributing to the Eclipse toolkit. Primarily wearing my Cloudsmith hat, of which more in due course..
I was delighted yesterday when IONA formally announced our acquisition of Century 24 Solutions (C24). We’ve been working with these folks for some time and I’ve heard some great things about them both at Board level and directly from our field organisation, although I personally only met Wayne and John at our annual sales kickoff in Boston back in January. The deal was an all cash and although the amount was not specified right now, it will presumably be pretty much deducible soon from the regulatory filings. C24 consists of 12 great people based in London, with a background mainly in the financial services industry. It is exhilarating to have them join, and I believe that we will have a lot of fun together causing a significant impact on the industry.
Just to summarise for you. The C24 technology has both a design and run time aspect. Their design studio builds data models, either from scratch or derived from metadata from various databases, UML models, XML schema, simple text or even extracted from binary. The model can then be tagged with constraints, to ensure the consistency of data such as verifying one category of events or data occur before another. The expressiveness of their consistency rules is quite extraordinary, and is a key feature.
The output generated from the studio is stand alone Java code (a POJO) which parses a data stream natively, applies the various specified constraints, and provides the results via XPath 2. Exceptions – broken data – are filtered out into a separate stream. The XSLT 2 and XQuery actions can be applied natively, bypassing XML, and the resultant subsystem is extremely performant.
Regular long haul flights are inevitably a time for reflection for me, and on the way over here last weekend (Dublin via Schiphol to SFO), I picked up a copy of Ray Kurzweil’s “The Singularity is Near”. Extraordinarily powerful. A core thesis, which will encourage the humanists amongst us, is that intelligence is exponentially more powerful than the physical sciences. In an understanding of the evolution of the universe, he brings the reader through the first epoch of information in atomic structures, physics and chemistry; then information in DNA, leading to biology; then information in neural patterns, and the evolution of brains; then information in non-biological systems, including today’s software and hardware; and then to the singularity – which is the title of the book – of the fusion of intelligence in biology and technology leading to the “waking-up” of the entire universe. Given exponential rates, he places the singularity – the point at which our intelligence and brains merge with external technology – remarkably near: his best guess is just 40 years time. A wild book: read it on your next long haul.
Powerful interconnection competence is fundamental to intelligence and information processing. IONA’s core technologies hitherto have focussed on the fast – high performance and high throughput – interconnection of collaborating services, distributed across a network of machines. The technology elegantly manages the challenge of secure communication, partial failures of the system, disparate technologies, and dynamic reconfiguration. However, self-aware, self-repairing and self-replicating competencies are also fundamental to intelligence. C24 now brings this capability into our core technologies. Data has to be timely and accurate to be of value.
As software practitioners, I think that many of us are contemplating the direction of the industry and its technologies right now. It is a truly fascinating time in the software industry, with the fusion of the power of Service Oriented Architectures (web services, ESBs, mission critical systems), with the rapid emergence and validity of Web 2.0 social technologies and the emphasis on human productivity (including the power of Ruby, PHP, Ajax, etc.). There are also new business models, in Software as a Service, and in open source. There is the emergence of a truly global community of developers and creators, with the growth of the industry in particular in China and India.
It is a great opportunity to architect new structure, and to make money doing so.