April 2013 Archives

IBM revs up automotive vehicle system M2M

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The car is dead -- the automotive vehicle system has arrived.

Well, our traditional view of the car is dead if we accept that the Internet of Things has made its way into the new breed of cloud-connected cars.

Cloud-connected cars, really?

Well, if you believe the messages coming out of software-focused firms like IBM and its introduction this week of IBM MessageSight, a new appliance designed to help manage and communicate with the billions of mobile devices and sensors found in "systems" such as:

1. automobiles,
2. traffic management systems,
3. smart buildings and...
4. household appliances.

According to IMS Research, there will be more than 22 billion web-connected devices by 2020.

These new devices will generate more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data every day, while every hour enough information is consumed by Internet traffic to fill seven million DVDs.

IBM sees IBM MessageSight being used in potential deployments like the Ford Evos concept car as pictured below.


Although this car will almost certainly never make it into production, Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president of Ford Research and Innovation has said that the Ford Evos car "gets to know you" the driver.

"[The Ford Evos] can act as a personal assistant to handle some of the usual routines of a daily commute. It could automatically play the same music or news programme that was just streaming at home, or heat or cool the interior to an ideal temperature before the driver gets in without having to be requested by predicting departure time based on his calendar," he said.

15 years of exploding sensors in an instrumented, interconnected and intelligent world...

Over the next 15 years, the number of machines and sensors connected to the Internet will explode.

Building on the Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) technology, IBM says that MessageSight is capable of supporting one million concurrent sensors or smart devices and can scale up to thirteen million messages per second.

"When we launched our Smarter Planet strategy nearly five years ago, our strategic belief was that the world was going to be profoundly changed as it became more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. IBM MessageSight is a major technological step forward in continuing that strategy," said Marie Wieck, general manager, WebSphere, IBM.

Automated car servicing?

As an example, an automotive manufacturer can use IBM MessageSight to help manage the features and services of its automobiles. With thousands of sensors in each car, a dealer can now be notified when a "check engine" light turns on in a specific car. Based on the information transmitted by the engine sensor, the dealer could then notify the owner that there is a critical problem and they should get their car serviced immediately.

The truth is that vast majority of the 22 billion sensors will be found in devices that are mobile.

As a result, IBM MessageSight is designed to complement the firm's MobileFirst offerings -- introduced in February of this year, IBM MobileFirst is a collection of mobile enterprise software, services, cloud and analytics capabilities.

A core element of IBM MessageSight is its support of MQTT, which was recently proposed to become an OASIS standard, providing a lightweight messaging transport for communication in machine to machine (M2M) and mobile environments.

Sensors are often small in size, have low power and typically low communications bandwidth capabilities. MQTT can be used in conjunction with these devices. Its low power consumption, high performance and reliability allow real time updates that can be acted upon immediately.

New of this product announcement emerged during IBM's Impact 2013 conference and exhibition held in Las Vegas.

The ten-week developer career switch

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Industry figures suggest that over the last "few" years the number of university students studying computer sciences has increased by just 1%, while the number of jobs needing such a software application developer-centric qualification has increased by somewhere around 21% as a differential.

Many would argue that this sets the scene for the UK economy to witness a major skills crunch in the next few years unless education in the sector improves and evolves.

If it takes between three to five years to achieve a developer-level qualification in computer sciences, then we could argue that this lag is never going to be fully addressed.

Aiming to make some impact upon this situation is Makers Academy, an organisation that runs an office-based ten week intensive training programme teaching web development to novices.

At the end of the course, Makers Academy 'graduates' are introduced to a selection of London-based technology companies looking to hire entry-level developers. The firm says that "the majority" are offered jobs on completion of the course

"This course isn't free, it costs £5,000, but set against the debt most students come out with after studying for three years -- plus the entry level salary for hired developers (nearing £35k, as opposed to the (not guaranteed) £20k for a degree grad) we hope this seems a worthwhile investment. [This is a workable route for a] career switch -- invest ten weeks, rather than three years; indeed, one recent grad has just turned developer after training as a pilot for a leading airline, said Robert Johnson, founder and CEO of Makers Academy.

The company says that its model is also helping firms bring developer skills in-house, rather than outsourcing for them; this could in theory allow companies to stay more agile and develop new applications and LOB (line of business) processes as they need, tailored for the individual business.

This can only be a good thing says Johnson - as it showcases the bigger picture developers can contribute toward, and the role they have to play in building the UK economy.

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CA CTO: the bottom layer is commoditised

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CA World closes up in Las Vegas today with the firm having announced more acquisitions and product launches then perhaps even its top brass had expected and anticipated.

In breakout sessions with CA senior VP of corporate strategy Lonne Jaffe, it appears that the company is quite open about its financial balance sheet for planning strategic "middle sized software firm purchases"... a stratagem that has steered the firm towards two of this week's announcements.

CA this week announced the acquisition of Layer 7 Technologies.

Layer 7 is known for its backend data and application integration technology that comes packaged with developer management tools, which encompass the areas of mobile optimization, cloud orchestration, and developer management.

CA's Mike Denning has commented that, "[Developers need to program for the fact that] there are billions of API calls a day -- and that number is going to increase with the proliferation of smart devices, ranging from vehicles, meters, TVs, and so on, as they start interacting over APIs. Without API security and management, thousands of business services are vulnerable to disruption."

CA world.JPG

CA also this week announced the acquisition of Nolio.

Operationalizing DevOps

The integration of Nolio's technology stack means that CA Technologies is expanding its LISA application delivery suite solutions to address what it calls out as the most critical challenges today in "operationalizing" DevOps methodologies.

The firm's application delivery GM Shridhar Mittal insists that developers today need automated application delivery processes and tools to cope with rapid Agile development and complex hybrid infrastructures.

"The goal is streamlined application releases, plus the ability to develop and test applications rapidly so that they can be moved into production automatically with higher quality. For developers, the Nolio technology in CA LISA promises to provide standardized execution of application releases, plus automation of application rollbacks for faster recovery and service continuity," said Mittal.

The word from the CTO

In yet more breakout sessions, CA EMEA CTO Bjarne Rasmussen explained how CA is now positioning itself as a management and security focused software firm with a specific eye on facilitating certain parts of the application development process.

"The bottom layers are becoming commoditised," said Rasmussen, by which he means areas such as network monitoring technologies and other streams of management software.

"So this means that the message to developers must be - how can I help my CIO deliver more value to the business. We acquired Nolio so that we could work better with developers at helping to advance application performance and overcoming bottlenecks where they existed. For many years, our focus with developers has been all about how to monitor the application and provide advice and direction on how to reconfigure and manage the app as necessary," he said.

Rasmussen explains that his firm is now looking to capitalise upon the information learned in this process and feed it back to the developer during the application build process so that engineering itself can be improved.

CA's Rasmussen advocates the following four-C's principal going forward for better code:

Constraint-free development
Continuous delivery
Complete monitoring
Collaboration between developers and operations

According to a recent 451 Research report, Nolio is growing both its service-provider and enterprise customers, which "bodes well for its future" and for the release-automation and DevOps market.

CA Technologies is not Computer Associates, the company has progressed.

HTML5 apps that run like native for trading & finance

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Financial markets and trading companies looking for an option to move towards implementation of HTML5 technologies for next-gen applications have a new avenue to explore.

An alliance between "finance-grade" runtime technology company OpenFin and "web trading specialist" Caplin Systems has created a technology proposition intended to allow the development and deployment of high-performance HTML5 trading applications.

The firms have combined Caplin Trader (a development suite for HTML5 trading front-ends) and OpenFin App Desktop (a secure application container based on Google's Chromium open-source technology) -- so that the technology stacks now sit together as one.

This dual engineered product claims to be able to tackle two of the main challenges faced by financial software applications developers when attempting to build HTML5 apps:

1. The first problem is that "many" financial institutions run Internet Explorer browsers which are not HTML5 compliant, requiring applications to fall back to relying on HTML4.

2. Secondly, native applications have traditionally been able to provide better user experiences (such as pop-up windows, push notifications etc.) and they are also much better at "seamlessly integrating" with local applications that financial markets companies will need to use such as Microsoft Excel.

This joint solution claims to be able to address these issues by enabling HTML5 applications to run outside-the-browser with the same user experience and capabilities as native, installed applications.

NOTE: Caplin Trader's HTML5 content (built for trading applications as it is) then becomes "enhanced" when running in the OpenFin container. But, it still provides continued compatibility with existing web browsers.


"By partnering with OpenFin we can now cater to those customers who want to run HTML5 trading apps in a local container on the desktop. We are using OpenFin's API to extend and improve the desktop experience for these users with new features such as borderless popups and drag drop integration with spreadsheet applications," said Patrick Myles, CTO of Caplin.

CA World: MDM is the only way for mobile

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CA World this week sees the company push harder than ever before towards the mobile space.

More specifically, the firm is augmenting its Mobile Device Management (MDM) stack to the point where it says it will be capable of taking "an unmanaged device to a managed device" in 90 seconds using SAP Afaria technology for deploying, securing and maintaining devices at the enterprise level.

The only way is MDM (for full utilisation and orchestration of mobility)

The firm says that today, the only way to manipulate mobile devices (from smartphones to tablets to whatever comes next) is to implement MDM (for full utilisation and orchestration of mobility) on every device in the business.

This week's news sees CA announce new MDM software that tackles the modern mobile problem as we see it today i.e. the need to embrace mobility and ensure the security of enterprise assets.

This means dealing with the "proliferation of heterogeneous devices" and the diversity of managing different of mobile platforms.

But the biggest challenge may be the most simple one ...

... making applications 'mobile-ready' in the first place.

Conjoined and concatenated

CA Technologies GM for new business innovation Ram Varadarajan says that MDM must be conjoined and concatenated with technologies that also enable mobile application management (MAM), mobile content management (MCM) and mobile services management (MSM) -- oh yes, Mobile Application Acceleration (MAA) is in the mix too.

So then, for mobile MDM "transformation" we can state the following:

"Our customers are looking for us to provide essential technology solutions to take advantage of the mobile opportunity. After thoughtful evaluation, we have licensed the proven and market-leading SAP Afaria mobile device management solution to provide this capability to our customers and serve as a key component for us to build other solutions," said Varadarajan.

CA mobility.jpg

As a piece of software, CA MDM is delivered in a software-as-a-service model or as an on-premise solution. It positively "enables a BYOD strategy" says the firm by providing a self-service enterprise app store with automated IT management. This is, to lapse into "vendor speak" for a moment, all about so-called real-time insight into mobile device status and usage.

In basic terms please?

Basically, we're talking about automated device enrollment, configuration and decommissioning.

"SAP has had tremendous success partnering with CA Technologies to help our customers further secure and manage SAP solutions within the enterprise," said Sanjay Poonen, president of technology solutions and head of the mobile division, SAP. "By choosing SAP Afaria as a key component of its mobile strategy, CA Technologies is now equipped with the industry's leading enterprise mobility management solution, which will play a critical role in transforming the role of IT management."

CA is also attempting to push forward in the area of mobile payments with incubation projects focused on payments with mobile devices and mobile wallets, CA Technologies is clearing the path for new, future transactional models to drive business growth.

"A key differentiator in CA Technologies solutions for enterprise mobility is the ability to facilitate the transformational shift in the mobile marketplace that is centred on APIs and their importance for accelerating mobile application development and delivery, externalising core business assets and driving new revenue channels for business growth," said the company, in a press statement.

Part of the rationale for making this happen is CA's acquisition of Layer 7 Technologies this week.

CA Technologies will offer secure MAA (remember that was Mobile Application Acceleration) and access by seamlessly integrating and managing mobility initiatives across backend systems, security and infrastructure.

By incorporating Layer 7 solutions into its portfolio, CA says it will will connect to existing application environments; enable third party developer networks; and secure and govern API usage.

In terms of products here...

In terms of products here, CA AuthMinder, CA RiskMinder and CA CloudMinder Advanced Authentication help reduce the risk of fraud with enhancements for transactions on mobile devices. CA DataMinder helps secure collaboration for mobile users with data-centric security for mobile messaging and file sync and sharing - -and CA SiteMinder helps improve mobile user engagement and productivity by providing single sign-on for mobile or web applications to manage user access and security.

Security, like other IT management functions, is a must-have across any computing paradigm -- from mobile to the mainframe -- and this is the mantra that we will hear from firms including CA and others going forward.

CA World: big data needs to be "productionalised"

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The CA World conference and exhibition is staged this week in Las Vegas in a market currently populated by a number of large consolidated-via-corporate-acquisition (and OK yes, some organic growth) enterprise-level software-centric data management firms.

Opening keynotes on the Sunday night of the show featured CEO Mike Gregoire as well as Peter Griffiths, exec VP and group exec in the enterprise solutions and technology group.

The CA VP team suggests that the role of the CIO is changing and getting closer to the so-called "dynamic nature" of real business.

The focus now for CA is the management of applications, infrastructure, security and applications in the face of what is a massive explosion in data quantities...

Cisco predicts that we will use as many as 50 billion online connected devices by 2020 - and that is leading us to produce as much as 7.9 zetabytes of data globally by 2015.

This will mean that we will between us produce 35 zetabytes by 2020... and if you find 1 zetabyte hard to picture, then consider that...

1 zetabyte = 250 billion DVDs

Freeform Dynamics technology analyst Tony Lock held a pre-keynote press session at this CA World to explain that he was not interested in predicting major changes, but more interested in seeing what firms are really doing inside their datacentres.

The datacentre evolution happening right now is typified by six major factors says Lock, in light of reflections to the CA roadmap:

Virtualisation - as a broad brush trend
Management - driven by increasing levels of accountability
Automation - tools can do much of the routine processing for us
Service level monitoring - how can we monitor end-to-end from the datacentre to see whether what customers get and see if they get enough... or perhaps even not enough
Business reporting - explaining things to the board is not simple, getting reporting right is not simple
Service delivery management - are you managing your IT infrastructure? Or are you managing direct services... and the latter can allow IT to be managed and be perceived as more valuable to the wider business as a whole.

"The cloud has a problem, very small companies do not understand what third party services can do for them (as they come in the shape of cloud) and if they do to a degree, then they fail to understand the mechanics and process behind how these new services should be INTEGRATED into the company," said CA's Griffiths.

Big data news now making really the headlines tends to be "research projects" in the main he says.

But the crucial point now is that you have to know WHAT QUESTIONS big data can answer before you start to implement any level of analysis.

Big data needs to be "productionalised"

Big data needs to be "productionalised" so that it can be engineered into the business by means of management tools and automation so that value can be extracted from it on an ongoing basis.

We need "excellent integration" with the way things are already, says CA.

So where IT goes next really comes down to management... getting hold of (and developing) the best practices to be able to get to the point where these technologies can now be productively implemented is our major challenge.

So how is CA working to differentiate itself?

"Innovation is extremely important to CA Technologies. We have approximately 5,900 engineers globally who design and support our software. Our engineering organisation focuses on continuous innovation and making sure that customer insight and market intelligence play a key role in our development activities. We spend over $600 million a year on R&D," says the firm.

NOTE: One of CA Technologies largest research and development sites for mainframe technologies is in Prague -- the centre has 300 developers and the site also works with three local universities to help promote mainframe knowledge and skills.

This somewhat fragmented summary of first thoughts relating to this year's conference set the scene for some interesting discussion and they may also through up a few questions.

"Analysis is set to the become THE big data application of choice," suggests CA's Gregoire...

... but surely it already is!

i.e. big data without analysis is just white noise in the form of unstructured or semi-structured data.

Is CA taking us back to basics on this the first day of its annual convention or has it taken too simplistic an approach? One suspects it is only the former, but interesting stuff is to come for sure.

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What is grid-based data?

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The Internet lacks an 'easy to search' definition of grid-based data.

This technology is starting to feature more prevalently than ever before, especially in the realm of in-memory data grids (IMDGs) which are used in big data analysis environments such as Hadoop.

So then, by way of a definition:

Data grids combine distributed caching with in-memory analysis and management tools to provide a solution for managing fast-changing data in a server farm, compute grid, or in the cloud. This technology typically features powerful APIs for data access, query and analysis along with supporting management tools.

In-memory data grid (IMDG) solutions are typically found deployed in financial services, e-commerce and other mission-critical applications.

According to ScaleOut Software, "[IMDG technology] opens the door to the next generation of scalable application performance and parallel data analysis - and take full advantage of the cloud-computing revolution."

Image credit: GridGain

According to GridGain, "In-Memory Data Grid is the core technology behind GridGain's capability to process large data sets with low latency in Real Time context. Easily scaling from a single computer to terabytes of data and thousands of nodes GridGain In-Memory Data Grid technology provides capability to parallelize the data storage by storing partitioned data in in-process memory - the closest location the data can theoretically reside in relation to the application using it.

Kate Moss on a Microsoft Azure cloud

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Microsoft has announced the general availability of Windows Azure Infrastructure Services along with Windows Azure Virtual Machines and Windows Azure Virtual Networks.

This infrastructure services software works to move existing applications to the cloud.

The rationale being that this will typically help save time and money and provide developers with an additional boost to help push applications into a hosted virtualised managed service environment.

From a commercial perspective, Microsoft is also announcing a commitment to match Amazon Web Services prices for commodity services including compute, storage and bandwidth services.

1000 Windows Azures per day

The Redmond Azure cloud team claims that it is witnessing "record highs" in Windows Azure customer adoption with nearly 1000 customers signing up for Azure daily.

This growing adoption shows Microsoft is outpacing Amazon by 2:1 says the company.

"Taking a legacy web application to the cloud is a daunting prospect... [we have refactored] our web services to leverage the power of Azure IaaS, along with other Azure services," said Madhushan Gokool, IT manager at Storm Model Management, an international model agency which manages the likes of Kate Moss, Lily Cole and Emma Watson.

"The move to Azure has helped give our web applications a new lease of life and provided us with some breathing space to strategically plan our next technical steps, and avoid making significant capital investment just to maintain business as usual," he added.

Microsoft's Bill Hilf has stated that (as a result of client feedback) his team has learned that customers don't want to rip and replace their current infrastructure to benefit from the cloud; they want the strengths of their on-premises investments and the flexibility of the cloud.

Windows Azure Virtual Machines is designed to enable developers to deploy and run what Microsoft likes to label as "durable" VMs in the cloud.

"You can easily create these VMs from an Image Gallery of pre-populated templates built-into the Windows Azure Management Portal, or alternatively upload and run your own custom-built VHD images," explained Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president in the firm's developer division.

"Our built-in image gallery of VM templates includes both Windows Server images (including Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2008 R2, SQL Server, BizTalk Server and SharePoint Server) as well as Linux images (including Ubuntu, CentOS and SUSELinux distributions)," he added.

Is Microsoft unique, yet?

The $64,000 question here is whether Microsoft is now truly "unique" in the marketplace by offering both a true hybrid IaaS and PaaS environment.

"Other providers have both parts, but none have a unified platform with unified networking and unified identity. Windows Azure Virtual Networking also offers compelling hybrid scenarios where Windows Azure can become part of one single, unified IT infrastructure. This notion of multi-datacentre fabrics is what underpins the Cloud OS, Microsoft's vision for enterprise IT," said Dan Scarfe, CEO of Dot Net Solutions, a firm which develops cloud-based solutions for the likes of the Cabinet Office and Citroën."


Intel Inside HTML5: new development environment

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Chip giant Intel has used the IDF (Intel Developer Forum) conference and exhibition in Beijing this week to announce its new Intel HTML5 Development Environment.

The company is providing just a few details at this early stage, but does confirm that this is intended to be an integrated software development system to develop (and of course test, debug and deploy) applications across multiple operating systems.

NOTE: Operating systems supported here include iOS, Android, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.

Intel explains HTML5 as an open standard that allows developers to write once and run anywhere. This cross-platform approach greatly increases a developer's total potential audience while providing users a more consistent experience across different screen sizes.

It's all about scale

Intel says a good part of the impetus for creating this new programmer offering is the need to provide HTML5 developers with the opportunity scale their apps to reach more users faster.

"Essentially, by leveraging the Intel HTML5 Development Environment, app-builders can develop once and potentially reach billions of devices and consumers," says the firm.

NOTE: The environment is available free of licensing fees and other costs.

"Based on web standards and supported by W3C, HTML5 makes it easier for software developers to create applications once to run across multiple platforms," said the company, in a press statement.

"Intel continues to invest in HTML5 to help mobile application developers lower total costs and improve time-to-market for cross-platform app development and deployment."

The Intel HTML5 Development Environment is available on the Intel Developer Zone.

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Treat cloud servers like cattle, not puppies

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Piston Cloud Computing has announced a new release of its eponymously named Enterprise OpenStack bare-metal cloud operating system.

NOTE: A bare-metal environment is a computer system or network in which a virtual machine is installed directly on a hard disk rather than within a host operating system environment.

This OS is targeted at cloud developers looking to deploy a private Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud environment upon which to build their applications

The company claims that this is the "industry'’s first commercial OpenStack solution" no less.

Ending Amazon dependency?

Piston Cloud Enterprise OpenStack is built to deliver what has been called a "lights-out model" for the software-defined datacentre with improved API support for developers who want to handle their application management in an environment where they can "end their dependency" (says the firm) on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

"“Our turnkey OpenStack software allows organizations to take full advantage of OpenStack without the administrative complexity, so they can focus on building and deploying applications instead of on their infrastructure,"” said Jim Morrisroe, CEO of Piston Cloud.
Morrisroe asserts that “Piston Enterprise OpenStack 2.0 will work for enterprise DevOps teams and AWS customers that want to reduce operating costs and dependencies with a private cloud solution, while maintaining the agility and scalable performance of a true cloud architecture.”

NOTE: Piston Enterprise OpenStack also offers storage, compute and networking virtualisation through the OpenStack interfaces with additional system orchestration features.

Puppies and cattle

"“The servers in today's data center are like puppies - they've got names and when they get sick, everything grinds to a halt while you nurse them back to health,"” said Joshua McKenty, CTO and co-founder of Piston Cloud. “

"Piston Enterprise OpenStack is a system for managing your servers like cattle - you number them, and when they get sick and you have to shoot them in the head, the herd can keep moving. It takes a family of three to care for a single puppy, but a few cowboys can drive tens of thousands of cows over great distances, all while drinking whiskey.”"

The real meaning of 'mission critical': DevOps in space & avionics

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DevOps and application release management specialist Serena Software has strung out the bunting to celebrate its new partnership with Critical Software Technologies.

Southampton Science Park headquartered Critical is so named to reflect the firm's work producing software for the avionics, space, energy and defence industries.

The firms are working together on a new safety-critical certification management solution.

This effort is designed to help software developers make sure that their projects meet safety standards such as DO-178C from RTCA, Inc. and EUROCAE.

NOTE: DO-178C is known as Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification.

This then is when mission critical REALLY does mean mission critical.

Process automation = mission critical software DevOps management

The solution will (so says Serena) manage the certification requirements and process demands needed for these types of deployments using a set of pre-defined procedures, reports, dashboards and document templates based on the "process automation" capabilities available within Serena Business Manager (SBM).

The thechnology featured here includes:

  • Document templates with associated process driven activity for creation, review and approval for all key documents
  • Specific dashboards aligned to status of document progress throughout the lifecycle
  • Dashboards and reports against activities associated with objective alignment and governance (audit) reports to confirm process adherence by the customer in support of specific safety critical requirements.
The Critical Software team is providing expertise in DO-178 to support the customisation of SBM. This will increase its value to avionics software developers and support the creation of DO-178C certified software.


The developer's dilemma is native or HTML5?

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This is a guest post to the Computer Weekly Developer Network by Gary Calcott, technical marketing manager at Progress Software.
Different types of application provide different experiences for the user, through different UIs and content delivery.

However, with the increased emergence of mobile as the flavour of the month for businesses of all sizes, which works best for them?

HTML5 flexibility

Does the flexibility that HTML 5 web-based applications offer through the comfort of adaptable mobile browsers provide the required levels of richness in the user experience?

.... or do business users prefer the fidelity and security of using a native application that can optimise the way content is presented, depending on the device?

Businesses are NOT sure

What's becoming increasingly clear is that many businesses aren't sure which method can provide users with the best experience until they are already some way down the path of developing their applications.

Some will make the decision to go with an HTML 5-based application, based on factors such as cost and time, only to realise further down the line that a native application will suit their business need much better.

Perhaps the best answer to this developer dilemma is to ensure a 'faster time to value' for developers by allowing them to create applications and test them on their own individual merits in a way that is platform and device agnostic?

The developer's answer?

By embracing platforms that allow them to write the application once, but run anywhere, developers can also concentrate more on end-user benefits. This will also allow greater emphasis on more qualitative aspects of the development process, allowing developers more bandwidth to iron out any tweaks or bugs, instead having to worry about the distraction of how the application will be coded for different platforms. As a direct result, we'll not only see better business applications, but also increased reliability and greater end-user satisfaction.

Clearly, native, device-ecosystem specific APIs will always provide the highest possible fidelity for users. However, perhaps the question of whether they are more effective than web-based applications misses the point.

Take a step back

Instead of focusing their efforts on weighing the cost of fragmented, highly specialised skills to lock themselves into a specific vendor platform, perhaps they should take a step back and look for a broader solution?

The ability to offer applications across multiple platforms, but to only write it once should not be treated as the lowest common denominator... and could hold the key to enhancing the application experience for developers and end-users alike."

Editorial note: Don't be fooled by the use of 'marketing' in Gary's job designation, he is a coder, an evangelist and a software application development purist at heart and he also likes fish & chips i.e. he is sound.

HTML5 apps about to enjoy "enlightened coexistence" with native

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Esteemed IDC analyst Al Hilwa has put forward his software application development predictions for 2013.

What do you mean it's April already and people only do this kind of thing in January, it's still snowing in most of Northern Europe isn't it?

IDC's Hilwa suggests that there will be a new "enlightened coexistence" between web and native device application platforms.

In other words, we may be about to see a new era where native deployed applications will remain dominant; but web platform (HTML5) technologies will make significant inroads.

Hilwa also points to embedded software platforms and their usage (Linux being a primary candidate here alongside Windows) and says that these will gain greater cohesion to the rest of the software universe

Other predictions include:

"We will also see device frameworks for integrated multiscreen or second-screen applications evolve to support new usage scenarios exploiting the convergence between personal tablet devices and shared big-screen TVs."

"PaaS platforms will make inroads in the enterprise by offering private cloud options and stronger operational support capabilities; PaaS value extends beyond developers to engage IT operations in enterprises. Multi-tenancy techniques in PaaS platforms will be the subject of experimentation as they are recognised as essential for providing efficiency and the required density to successful PaaS."

"Developer clouds will evolve to offer a 'broader and richer' set of programmer (and possibly other stakeholder) services such as team collaboration, social interaction, project and code repositories, device and browser testing, etc."

Certainly these predictions seem to be more focused on real world developer issues and use case scenarios that the fluff and puff that heralds the start of the festive season...

... perhaps we should insist that all forward-looking IT predictions get held to at least April in future.

Image credit: http://www.zeewe.com/

Microsoft's mousey plan for Windows 8

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Microsoft's latest peripherals are somewhat perplexing; the Wedge Mobile Touch Mouse is good enough to stop you using the 'touch' empowerment offered by Windows 8 devices.

So does Microsoft want us to touch, or just keep mouse-ing around?

This mouse has no tail and is essentially just the two front right and left buttons presented on a surface that is in fact a mini touchpad in its own right.

mouse 1.jpg

This is a nice unit with the convenience of BlueTrack technology allowing the mouse to work on almost any surface -- the Computer Weekly Developer Network tested it out on the following surfaces successfully:

• Wooden desk surface
• All black glass surface
• All white painted surface
• Completely clear window pane
• Hugo Boss light blue jumper
• Fluffy puppy toy (no honest, we did, it works)

The clever stuff continues, when your PC or tablet is shut down or hibernating, the mouse goes into so-called "Backpack Mode" meaning that can throw it into your bag and not worry if you turned it off because it senses that it no longer needs to be on.

So should developers still consider the mouse input mechanism as the user paradigm to program to?

... and should programmers start the move to touch with the potential for wider (scrollable) screen real estate?

The answer (inside the Microsoft universe at least) is mostly still touch.

Here's why...

Microsoft has provided four-way scrolling on the Wedge Mobile Touch Mouse and this will be (arguably) somewhat indispensable for users of Windows 8 users who don't actually have a touch screen to work with themselves.

Scrolling up and down and also horizontally has come of age then, but will this help Windows 8 and its overall questionable level of popularity?

It may do because remember, the hardest part of technical change is the cultural aspect of getting used to something new rather than the technical functionality obstacles - ask any fan of open source that!

mouse 2.jpg

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