Thursday, January 31, 2008

A World of Change

Jeff Mischkinsky drew my attention to this interesting article by Parag Khanna that appeared in the New York Times recently. Parag deals with the geopolitical and economic developments that are unfolding before our eyes: specifically how the world is transitioning from US-based unilateral order toward a multi-lateral world dominated not only by the US but also by China and Europe. There is much to disagree with in the details, but the central point is an important one. There is a changing reality that Americans in particular need to come to terms with quickly.

Parag talks a lot about the "second world": countries that aren't really emerging in the sense in which the term used to be used. They have in many ways arrived and they are building important alliances with the major global powers. Of continuing interest to me is the innovative thinking that is happening in these countries; thinking to which we in the US should be paying close attention.

A few examples: the recent announcement that Israel is jointly working with Shai Agassi's new organization and Renault-Nissan to move the entire country to oil-independence. And we have seen similar bold thinking before: Brazil has been steadily moving toward energy independence for some time. This is incredibly exciting stuff. Here we have small and so-called "developing" countries leading the way to the future. Brazil, by the way, is trying to tackle issues around development and income inequality by pushing very significant investments in education.

It's very hard to say what the world will be like a decade or more from now. One thing is almost certain: the world will be a smaller place; hopefully, a better one as well.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Venture Capital in Russia

I spent a few hours last evening attending a panel discussion in Palo Alto on venture capital investing in Russia. The meeting was organized by the American Business Association of Russian Professionals. I was there because Russian economic development is becoming a serious area of interest and a topic on which I am doing some research work at Wharton. It took me about an hour and a half to get from Redwood Shores to Palo Alto, as 101 was shutdown the entire way at rush hour due to a major accident. The ride home was better, but 101 north was still closed most of the way.

When I finally arrived, things were just getting started. Most of the audience of about 100 spoke Russian (I do not): there was not a representative subset of the tech or finance community in the valley as a whole. I mention this because I find it odd: Russia strikes me as one of the few genuine and relatively untapped opportunities available to investors. Three factors to consider in this:

1) Russia has a very well educated population of top-notch scientists and engineers.

2) The government is dedicated to bringing private equity money and expertise into the country, developing technology businesses, and opening up investment opportunities to foreign sources (more on this later).

3)The Russian economy is growing at around 8% a year, as compared to 2-3% and slowing in the US economy. With world demand for energy continuing to grow, the economy and living standards are only going to go up.

From what I can tell from the panel, the deficits in Russia are: experienced managers, investor experience with early stage companies, and the web of specialized resources that characterize a culture of entrepreneurship. I find it hard to believe that this won’t change very rapidly.

Among the panelists were Ilya Shirokov, a young Russian Entrepreneur who shared his experiences founding the professional social networking business Moi Krug, which was acquired by the search company Yandex in 2007, and Yan Ryazantsev, Investment Director for the Russian Venture Company. The Russian Venture Company is a government fund with about 1.3 USD to invest as a limited partner in funds focused on Russian companies. My understanding of the RVC is that it will match investments in large funds with a very low required return on investment (5%). Currently, there are only two RVC backed funds. The third panelist was San Francisco VC Marc Friend, who shared his experience investing internationally, including in France, Israel, China and India.

These turn out to be useful experiences, as Russians are looking at three countries in order to learn from their successes in creating successful venture funds: China, India and Israel. There are notable differences from each of those countries: Russia’s population is an order of magnitude less than India or China and currently shrinking; Israel, though much smaller, has established a collaborative business model that is deeply linked to the US and also European markets. Russia will undoubtedly have to find its own model, but its clear they are looking at what has worked for others as a first step.

You can see the signs of change already. As of this month, the Russian laws have been updated to allow funds to use conventional capital commitments as opposed to pooling funds up front prior to investing; this was a major barrier to outside investors. Tax laws are being examined to attract investors. And there are plenty of other innovative models (the point was raised in the panel discussion that Israel and Canada match corporate R&D to stimulate investment) that could surely raise interest in Russian investment as well.

It strikes me that the biggest problem with Russia from an outside investor perspective is information asymmetry. Forget about individual deal prospecting: it’s very hard to understand what is happening in the markets as a whole. US press coverage of Russia tends to focus on either politics or Gazprom. I certainly feel I have a better handle on Israeli, Chinese and Indian markets, partially based on personal relationships, but primarily because the US business and financial press is flooded with coverage. I subscribe to feeds for several US language Russian newspapers, but I am hard pressed to understand whether I am getting accurate or biased information. It’s also unclear how to get deeply embedded in Russian business from the outside. Indeed, if you google Russia Venture Corporation, you have to go through several pages before you get a lot of solid information.

My own opinion is that all of this looks like it adds up to something special: the opportunity to participate in the start of the development of a new economic model.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Why live in the Northeast?

Most of my friends find it astounding that anyone would live in the Northeastern United States: cold winters, humid summers and far from the center of technology in the US. I often find it difficult to convince them that it can be a special place. I think Cameron did a better job with a picture that speaks a thousand words.

Too bad there's been no snow in NJ...

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Venture Capital and China

When I was in China last year, we had a chance to talk with several private equity funds. A recent post by David Hornik gives his thoughts on PE in China.

This may be of interest to you WEMBA 33 Westers... good choice, by the way.

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Oracle 11g SOA Platform Preview

We recently published a preview download of the next release of our SOA platform: I'm very proud of all the hard and innovative work that our team has done on this project. The project was a real team effort from its inception. It brought together some of the brightest folks in our middleware organization. I am convinced that nothing else in the industry comes close to combining the key elements of technology required for a SOA deployment into a single, integrated platform.

We use the Service Component Architecture as the overarching model for application development: it ties together process orchestration, declarative XML transformation and routing, human workflow, business rules, and sophisticated policy management. I like to think of it as an "application server for integration": a service platform that supports domain specific languages and technologies required for integration and SOA scenarios.

Download it and try it. I think you'll be impressed.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

DOA 08 Call For Papers

Here is the CFP for this year's conference on Distributed Objects, Middleware, and Applications. I'd really like to see some solid papers on changing paradigms in application development and new directions for middleware systems. If you have some good ideas or interesting projects, you have until June to gel things up. The conference itself is in Monterrey Mexico, so it should also be a pleasant setting....

The 10th International Symposium on

Distributed Objects, Middleware, and Applications (DOA'08)

Monterrey, Mexico, Nov 10 - 12, 2008

http://www.cs.rmit.edu.au/fedconf

Many of the world's most important and critical software systems are based on distributed object and middleware technologies. Middleware is software that resides between the applications and the underlying operating systems on every node of a distributed computing system. It provides the "glue" that connects distributed objects and applications and is at the heart of component-based systems, service-oriented architectures, agent-based systems, or peer-to-peer infrastructures.

Distribution technologies have reached a high level of maturity. Classical distributed object middleware (e.g., CORBA, .NET and Java-based technologies) and message-oriented middleware (e.g., publish/subscribe systems) have been widely successful. We are now witnessing a shift to coarser-grained component-based and service-oriented architectures (e.g., Web services). Middleware for mobile applications and peer-to-peer systems (e.g., JXTA) is also gaining increasing popularity, as it allows bridging users without reliance on centralized resources.

Common to all these approaches are goals such as openness, reliability, scalability, awareness, distribution transparency, security, ease of development, or support for heterogeneity between applications and platforms. Also, of utmost importance today is the ability to integrate distributed services and applications with other technologies such as the Web, multimedia systems, databases, peer-to-peer systems, or Grids. Along with the rapid evolution of these fields, continuous research and development is required in distributed technologies to advance the state of the art and broaden the scope of their applicability

Two Dimensions: Research & Practice

Research in distributed objects, components, services, and middleware establishes new principles that open the way to solutions that can meet the requirements of tomorrow's applications. Conversely, practical experience in real-world projects drives this same research by exposing new ideas and unveiling new types of problems to be solved. DOA explicitly intends to provide a forum to help trigger and foster this mutual interaction. Submissions are therefore welcomed along both these dimensions: research (fundamentals, concepts, principles, evaluations, patterns, and algorithms) and practice (applications, experience, case studies, and lessons). Contributions attempting to bridge the gap between these two dimensions are particularly encouraged. As we are fully aware of the differences between academic and industrial research and development, submissions will be treated accordingly and judged by a peer review not only for scientific rigor (in the case of "academic research" papers), but also for originality and relevance (in the case of "case study" papers).

About DOA

DOA 2008 is part of a joint event on the theme "meaningful Internet systems and ubiquitous computing". This federated event co-locates five related and complementary conferences in the areas of networked information systems, covering key issues in distributed infrastructures and enabling technologies (DOA), data and Web semantics (ODBASE), cooperative information systems (CoopIS), Grid computing (GADA) and Information Security (ISS). More details about this federated event can be found at http://www.cs.rmit.edu.au/fedconf .

TOPICS OF INTEREST

The topics of this symposium include, but are not limited to:

* Application case studies of distribution technologies
* Aspect-oriented approaches for distributed middleware
* Component-based distributed systems
* Content distribution and multimedia streaming
* Dependency injection
* Development methodologies for distributed applications
* Distributed algorithms and communication protocols
* Distributed business objects and components
* Distributed databases and transactional systems
* Distributed infrastructures for cluster and Grid computing
* Distributed middleware for embedded systems and sensor networks
* Formal methods and tools for designing, verifying, and evaluating distributed middleware
* Interoperability with other technologies
* Microcontainers
* Middleware for mobile and ad-hoc networks
* Migration of legacy applications to distributed architectures
* Novel paradigms to support distribution
* Object-based, component-based, and service-oriented middleware
* Peer-to-peer and decentralized infrastructures
* Performance analysis of distributed computing systems
* Publish/subscribe, event-based, and message-oriented middleware
* Reliability, fault tolerance, quality-of-service, and real time support
* Scalability and adaptivity of distributed architectures
* Self-* properties in distributed middleware
* Service-oriented architectures
* Software engineering for distributed middleware systems
* Testing and validation of distributed infrastructures
* Ubiquitous and pervasive computing
* Web services


IMPORTANT DATES

Abstract Submission Deadline June 8, 2008
Paper Submission Deadline June 15, 2008
Acceptance Notification August 10, 2008
Camera Ready Due August 25, 2008
Registration Due August 25, 2008
OTM Conferences November 9 - 14, 2008

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

Papers submitted to DOA'08 must not have been accepted for publication elsewhere or be under review for another workshop or conference.

All submitted papers will be carefully evaluated based on originality, significance, technical soundness, and clarity of expression. All papers will be refereed by at least three members of the program committee, and at least two will be experts from industry in the case of practice reports. All submissions must be in English.

Submissions must not exceed 18 pages in the final camera-ready paper style.

The paper submission site will be announced later
Failure to comply with the formatting instructions for submitted papers will lead to the outright rejection of the paper without review.

Failure to commit to presentation at the conference automatically excludes a paper from the proceedings.

ORGANISATION COMMITTEE

OTM'08 General Co-Chairs

* Robert Meersman, VU Brussels, Belgium
* Zahir Tari, RMIT University, Australia

DOA'08 Program Committee Co-Chairs

* Mark Little, Red Hat, UK
* Alberto Montressor, University of Trento, Italy
* Greg Pavlik, Oracle, USA

Program Committee Members

* Santosh Shrivastava, University of Newcastle upon Tyne
* Nick Kavantzas, Oracle, USA
* Stuart Wheater, Arjuna Technologies
* Aniruddha S. Gokhale, Vanderbilt University
* Michel Riveill, Université de Nice, Sophia Antipolis – France
* Gero Mühl, Berlin University of Technology, Germany
* Fernando Pedone, University of Lugano, Switzerland
* Graham Morgan, Newcastle University, UK
* Barret Bryant, University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA
* Michael Stal, Siemens, Germany
* Jose Orlando Pereira, University of Minho
* Luis Rodrigues, INESC-ID/IST
* Francois Pacull, Xerox Research Centre Europe
* Aad van Moorsel, University of Newcastle, UK
* Gordon Blair, Lancaster University, UK
* Pascal Felber, Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland
* Joe Loyall, BBN Technologies, USA
* Mark Baker, Coactus Consulting, Canada
* Rui Oliveira, University of Minho, Portugal
* Harold Carr, Sun, USA
* Fabio Kon, University of São Paulo, Brazil
* Judith Bishop, University of Pretoria, SOUTH AFRICA
* Arno Puder, San Francisco State University, USA
* Shalini Yajnik, Avaya Labs, USA
* Benoit Garbinato, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
* Calton Pu, Georgia Tech, USA
* Geoff Coulson, Lancaster University, UK
* Hong Va Leong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
* Nikola Milanovic, Technical University Berlin
* Jean-Bernard Stefani, INRIA, France
* Andrew Watson, OMG, USA
* Gregory Chockler, IBM Haifa Labs, Israel
* Gian Pietro Picco, University of Trento, Italy
* Patrick Eugster, Purdue University, USA
* Eric Jul, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
* Jeff Gray, University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA
* Medhi Jazayeri, University of Lugano, Switzerland
* Richard Solely, OMG, USA

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Spring Framework continues to accelerate

Something very interesting has happened, as noted by Rod Johnson: Spring framework skills are now in higher demand for Java developers than EJB skills. One implication is that the model for Java development has shifted to Java developers and away from standards bodies. For a long time now, we've seen standards bodies serve as collaboration or even research facilities for new programming models: while this has created new markets (J(2)EE, for example), it has also meant that many standards are being built by standards folks cooking up elaborate models, rather than building common standards based on proven models.

I wonder if this will serve as a wake up call and help change how the software industry develops standards? Or will we ignore this signal at our own risk?

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

DOA 08

I'll be working as a co-chair for the Distributed Objects, Middleware and Applications conference, which is part of the federated On The Move technical conferences that are held every year. Look for the Call for Papers in the coming days.

The conference itself will be held in November in Monterrey, Mexico, which may be an added incentive to submit a paper this year.

More details to follow...

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Infoq picked up transaction discussion

JJ Dubray picked up the discussion Mark and I had bouncing back and forth between blogs.

And, yes, I owe a comment update to Mark.

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