A number of developments in 2012 may be setting us up for big changes in the coming years, both at Red Hat and in the enterprise IT world at large. It has been an exciting year in the areas of integration and business process management, due in large part to acquisitions that accelerated the time line around work that we’ve been doing to build out our integration and BPM capabilities. This year we delivered one of the first open source instantiations of the unification of rules, processes and events in a common development, deployment and management environment. That’s a big step for the developers building business processes and rules, and will lay the foundation for business analysts to participate holistically in automating their businesses with IT. Red Hat now has an accelerated path to the next generation of business process management, or intelligent BPM.
On the BPM front, I think we will see continued consolidation among closed source vendors. Several years ago we saw the market start to consolidate and I expect there will be more. My prediction is that cloud will drive a lot of it. To-date, the cloud hasn’t really played a big role at this level in the stack beyond some experimental and early adopter activity. Don’t get me wrong – people are collaborating and leveraging cloud assets for various projects – but generally the scenario is that BPM development environments are being built in the cloud and then deployed on premises. I expect that to change as organizations become more comfortable with the notion of deploying applications and services in the cloud, particularly where business processes have "spiky" workloads or may be related to a temporary phenomenon.
The issue that many of these vendors face is that hefty license fees are likely to become taboo in this cloud-enabled world. I expect this to affect the BPM industry in two huge ways: first, BPM will become more affordable, thereby expanding the size of the market; and second, it will drive a more "open" approach by vendors.
Closed source middleware vendors – whether they are doing BPM, integration, application platforms, etc. – may be challenged to remain competitive in a cloud paradigm. I think the next five years could be very painful for these companies. Not only will competitive pressures likely fuel further consolidation, but the cloud model could disembowel large middleware businesses that are based on old licensing models.
On the flip side, as cloud computing forces greater transparency and openness, we will likely see innovation grow like never before. Innovation comes from different places, but I think open source has been a key driver in the enterprise. Some technologies, like enterprise integration, are hard to do. Integration involves touching multiple systems – integrating them with different notions of data and different notions of API interactions, etc. There is a level of complexity associated with it no matter what. Those challenges make integration a great place to innovate, and I think we’re seeing innovation take shape in the Apache Camel community.
Camel is a huge driver right now in the integration space in terms of developer productivity, tooling associated with development, and lightweight footprints so that users can put integration where they need it rather than on central hubs. This kind of technology and thinking are at the core of Red Hat’s strategy. As an open source technology, there are opportunities for many people to innovate here, including customers, partners, Red Hat, and other integration vendors (if they so choose), so I think the Camel community is a great example of where we’re going to see integration innovation occur.
In BPM, there are some interesting things happening in terms of simulation planning and other activities associated with business rules, processes and activity monitoring. I think there will be an interesting opening up of innovation around this last one in particular, chiefly because there really haven’t been any open source projects in the business activity monitoring (BAM) space to-date. I can’t predict what it will be – BAM itself isn’t a new space; but I predict that BAM will become accessible to a new set of players and communities that will drive innovation. It will bear watching over the next few years to see what comes out of it.
That said, these changes are likely to usher in a new set of challenges for developers and business analysts. Developers are going to have to deal with new systems and technologies. It’s no longer about connecting application A to application B to application C. More and more things will need to be connected, and more and more data will be flooding the systems. Social networks, mobile and embedded devices, etc. are all generating "big" data driven by business events. This data needs to be captured, analyzed, and integrated into the business processes and applications. Lightweight messaging and integration patterns are going to be very important for developers, hence the attention to things like Camel, cloud-based integration and subscription-based integration.
Business analysts are going to have to become familiar with and understand their business processes better in the context of these new phenomena. When constructing business processes, they will need to know how it relates to the social and mobile worlds, business events and extra process events, and codify all of it from a business perspective. I think we’ll see the relationship between developers and business analysts continue to mature in the next few years.
Overall, I think innovation is healthy. Not only within existing technologies and paradigms, but also in fringe areas that will begin to come together over the next few years into more formative and powerful tools. I wouldn’t be surprised to see existing technologies like complex event processing, business intelligence, business analyst tools, BPM and the like come together into something like the ultimate executive and business dashboarding tool. The capabilities exist today, but not in a single cohesive offering.
That’s the exciting part. Knowing that many of the revolutionary technologies of tomorrow likely already exist in one form or another makes the reality of our vision more palpable. Just think about something like home automation. Five years ago, we had the ability to program our thermostats, appliances and security systems. Today, we can do those things and more from a thousand miles away with a mobile device.
As you can clearly see, I believe that we’re in for big changes. Some of the changes will breed new challenges, but I think the reality will be that we see an evolution that favors the everyday lives of consumer like you and me. At Red Hat, we have this notion of a vision for our customers called the Intelligent Integrated Enterprise – a vision to help them be able to deal with business events in real time with high quality products, answers and services. Ultimately, it’s about helping our customers delight their customers, and I think we’ll continue to see the enterprise IT landscape change with that goal as its motivation.