The perfect storm is brewing

Issue 4, 2012 Download pdf

A technological storm of opportunity is a brewing. The four technology trends of big data, cloud, social, and mobile are emerging as forces that will reshape the market place, competitive landscape, and company survival. This article will try to explain what these four forces are about and how your company can take advantage of them.

Who can forget the film “The Perfect Storm”, which came out in 2000?  In it, the captain and crew of a small fishing boat are caught in an amazingly bad storm and have to fight for their survival as their boat is tossed around by gigantic waves. This perfect storm occurred as the forces of nature came together at the same place and same time to create huge waves that nothing could stop. Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes from the movie is that of the small boat climbing up the face of a huge mountain of water.

Today, the IT industry finds itself in a similar situation. Four huge market trends are coming together at exactly the right time to create huge potential. Those companies that can see it coming and harness it will profit while those who fail to take advantage of it could wind up like that small boat facing a daunting wave, struggling for survival. 

Figure 1:  The Perfect Storm

The four technological trends that I am referring to are big data, cloud, social, and mobile. Like the radar of the small boat in “The Perfect Storm”, Gartner was the first to publish articles alerting us of these trends and identifying their amazing potential. Gartner refers to these four trends as the “Nexus of Forces”. A quick google of “Nexus of Forces” shows 309,000 hits—not bad for a concept that was unheard of a year ago.


Let us examine what is causing this technological perfect storm. As is usual for the IT world, it’s about data and the desire to turn that data into usable information. The four forces identified (mobile, social, cloud, and big data) are all dealing with the production or consumption of data at a rate that has never before been experienced.

Mobile. Mobile usage is expanding at an amazing rate. Research firm Ericsson estimates global mobile penetration reached 87 percent in Q1 2012 and mobile subscriptions now total 6.2 billion. Ericsson forecasts that mobile subscriptions will reach nine billion in 2017, of which five billion will be mobile broadband connections. This is a huge number of devices both producing and consuming data.

The surge of data is not just coming from browser usage. Every time a person opens an application to search for a local restaurant, for example, the device transmits the device’s GPS location, executes a query and then returns back data about each restaurant location. This simple transaction, multiplied by 6.2 billion subscribers, creates a mountain of data in its own right. To compound the volume of data, no one has only one application on their smart phone. iPhone users typically have 40 applications loaded while Android devices have 25. Everyday petabytes of data are created worldwide. 

Social.  Social is big…really big. FaceBook has more than a billion active users. Yes, FaceBook is big, but so are the other major players: Every sixty seconds YouTube users upload 48 hours of video; Google receives over 2 billion search requests; Twitter users send over one hundred tweets; Instagram users share 3600 new photos; and WordPress users post 347 new blog updates. Aside from mobile adoption, social media interaction is the fastest growing technological trend. Don’t miss my in depth article on Social in What’s New of this TECHniques issue.

Cloud.  Say good bye to enterprise data centers and welcome cloud-based enterprise applications. Cloud-based enterprise applications are fundamentally changing the way enterprises think about applications. In the past, users would identify a need for functionality, write an RFP, review vendors, seek budget, procure that application, have the internal IT center install the application, train users and eventually start using the system. Today, users can simply search for the functionality needed and then pull out a credit card to pay for it (if there is a charge). Cloud-based systems dramatically reduce the friction it takes to introduce new functionality into an enterprise.

Cloud-based applications are often substantially better than their on-premise counterpart, as new functionality (such as mobile and social interaction patterns) is added in frequent updates. As more and more vendors move their applications to the cloud, usage will explode in much the same way as social and mobile. This movement will also create a huge amount of data across various cloud-based hosting platforms.

Big Data. While mobile, social and cloud are producing and consuming vast amounts of data, emerging big data technologies are focused on storing that data. The world's technological per-capita capacity to store information has roughly doubled every 40 months since the 1980s; as of 2012, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day. Just to give some context, 2.5 quintillion pennies, if laid out flat like a carpet, would cover the surface of the earth five times. New technologies like Hadoop and Terracotta have emerged to address these new massive data sets as traditional database technologies can no longer keep up.

Addressing these new trends in technology can certainly be a challenge, but luckily Software AG saw these trends coming and has made strategic investments in technologies that will help companies cope with the upcoming storm of data and harness the potential benefits. 

Terracotta for Big Memory.  In 2011, Software AG acquired in Terracotta Inc., a recognized leader in distributed caching and in-memory computing for Java that radically improves application performance and scalability for enterprise and cloud applications. Terracotta is the company behind some of the most widely used software for application scalability and performance, including the de facto caching standard for enterprise Java. The company’s software is deployed in more than 500,000 enterprise installations, including the majority of the Fortune 2000.

Terracotta’s product portfolio includes:

  • Enterprise Ehcache, an easy-to-deploy solution for hard-to-solve scale and throughput problems. Enterprise Ehcache gives business-critical applications the capacity for non-disruptive, cost-efficient growth and migration to cloud environments.
  • BigMemory™, a breakthrough solution for the universal problem of garbage collection in Java applications. BigMemory builds on and extends the capabilities of open-source Ehcache, the most widely used Java cache.
  • Quartz Scheduler, an enterprise-grade commercial product that can be integrated with or used alongside virtually any size Java application to provide fast, flexible and extremely reliable job execution. 

webMethods Mobile Designer for mobile app development. Software AG acquired Metismo (now called webMethods Mobile Designer) in 2011. Software AG customers are now able to quickly and easily extend integrations and process interactions to virtually any mobile device such as an Android™, Blackberry®, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7.

webMethods Mobile Designer saves developers months of design time when creating mobile applications. Developers are able to design abstracted code once, and then create native applications on multiple mobile devices simultaneously. Integrated with the popular Eclipse development framework, the product employs a powerful abstraction layer to make development extremely easy and quick.

The resulting mobile apps created and deployed in native format, take full advantage of end-device features such as GPS sensors and custom user controls. Pixel-level control of the user interface ensures full use of each mobile device’s graphics capabilities to produce visually stunning applications.

webMethods Mobile Gateway for mobile access. Announced at ProcessWorld 2012, webMethods Mobile Gateway secures and manages the connectivity between mobile apps and internal enterprise resources. As a result, Software AG customers can quickly build enterprise-grade mobile apps that securely tap into existing internal infrastructure and prevent malicious threats by monitoring and acting on intrusion attempts.

webMethods Pulse for activity stream visibility. webMethods Pulse extends the reach of the enterprise by pushing business event details to mobile devices. Built on top of the existing webMethods EDA infrastructure, Pulse allows companies to tap into their enterprise service bus and identify events of business interest. Business users can then use their mobile devices, as in Figure 2, to subscribe to and collaborate on the events as they happen. Imagine a sales person being able to subscribe to all things about their customer: sales force wins, service requests, consultant engagement status, etc.

                                                                                                                                   Figure 2: Business activities on your mobile

ARIS Connect for collaborative process modeling.  ARIS Connect enables Software AG customers to unlock the wisdom of the crowd to improve their processes. ARIS Connect gets your employees, partners and customers to connect and collaborate on your business and IT assets as shown in Figure 3. No one needs to be an expert in BPM to participate.

ARIS Connect creates a collaborative social network, where you can host open discussions about processes; visualize processes, applications and any other company-related information; watch an activity stream on the network; and transform process models into easy-to-read Web pages.

Figure 3: Collaborative process modeling with ARIS Connect

webMethods CloudStreams for cloud integration. webMethods CloudStreams lets Software AG customers design, deploy and govern integrations between multiple SaaS  (i.e., Workday) and on-premise applications with modeling with ARIS Connect full governance and monitoring capabilities. CloudStreams provides out-of-the-box connectors to common SaaS applications making integration drastically easier.

If the cloud data you need is not provided within the application, CloudStreams offers a wizard-driven tool set to easily integrate with any other cloud-based application. All of the interactions driven through CloudStreams are monitored so that companies can gain tremendous insight to behavioral patterns and usage. 

While the four forces are definitely causes for concern, companies do not need to feel like the lone fishing boat tossed about in “The Perfect Storm”. With the right tools and software partners, companies still have time to brace themselves and prepare for the onslaught of data and opportunities ahead.