NoSQL and Elastic Caching in Papyrus

Mike Gualteri posted on his Forrester Research blog on Application Development about NoSQL and Elastic Caching. Quote: ‘The NoSQL idea is pretty simple: Not all applications need a traditional relational database management system (RDBMS) that uses SQL to perform operations on data. Rather, data can be stored and retrieved using a single key. The NoSQL products that store data using keys are called Key-Value stores (aka KV stores).’ Mike sees the difference as: ‘Ultimately, the real difference between NoSQL and elastic caching may be in-memory versus persistent storage on disk.’

I already posted about the powerful clustering and caching algorithms of the Papyrus Platform some time back. It was now interesting to read about combining NoSQL and Elastic Caching. The Papyrus Platform uses both the same concepts on the lowest layer to support the metadata repository, rule engine, and the distributed, object-relational database and transaction engine. Even the strict security layer and easy to use thick- and thin-client GUI frontend benefit from the powerful object replication and caching.

  • Reliability and Scaling: Papyrus offers the benefits of reliability and scaling through replication. Persistence and storage management concepts are defined on a per object type and node type form. Data can be spread across thousands of nodes. Also user PC’s can have their own local node and storage. Actually, that will be even true for mobile phone users once our mobile kernel will be available later this year for iPhone, WinMobile, and Symbian.
  • Fast Key-Value Access: Papyrus supports straight key-value access but also PayprusQL object-relational access (similar to Xpath), offering query and search across data in widely distributed KV storage nodes. Those can also be offline (dumped to tape or DVD).
  • Distributed execution: Papyrus executes object-state-engines and methods (implemented in PQL), events, and rules. The deployment of the application is automatic to the local node where the data is or any other chosen node. It does not take developers (clever or not) to distribute the load across multiple servers.
  • Change of data structures: Due to Papyrus WebRepository and its class versioning we can add fields to objects without the need to restructure database tables. New instances will simply have the new fields. Data storage IS NOT XML format because the performance to parse it is dreadful. Papyrus uses field-length-keyed hex-codepaged strings that can be parsed 20 times faster.
  • Latency: Papyrus can use transient objects that not saved to disk when the data does not have to be persisted. This significantly reduces the latency of data operations. In-memory operation is thus not a downside for large or persistent objects because it can be chosen per object type (class or template).
  • Reliability: Papyrus provides distributed caching with data replication algorithms to store the data on multiple nodes. If one of the nodes goes down, the load balancer in V7 will move the user session to another node and continue with the proxy objects there. A more efficient object distribution for a HA cluster will be available in Q410.
  • Scale-out: With Papyrus you add and remove nodes during operation. Currently the application can choose how the objects are distributed across nodes. The next release in Q410 will provide this distribution on system level as a part of the backup and recovery procedure.
  • Execute in data location: Using distributed code execution, developers can distribute the workload to where the data resides rather than moving the data to the application. Execution of methods on the owner node of the tool is the basic functionality. Full Distribution  is no problem with PQL.

It does not require enterprise application developers and architects to create architectures with the above features as they are embedded in the Papyrus Platform peer-to-peer kernel engine. Papyrus thus provides all the benefits of NoSQL and Elastic Caching without the technical complexity:

  • Achieve savings by reducing RDMS licenses and maintainance.
  • Add scaling layer in-front of databases, SOA or MQ messaging.
  • Build Web applications with shared session and application data.

Innovation and Opportunity

The ISIS Papyrus Platform is one of the most innovative IT products available. Here is a list of truly unique features that have no competitor:

  1. Peer-to-Peer object-relational database and transaction engine
  2. Distributed enterprise service bus with central metadata management.
  3. Version controlled metadata repository for distributed database definitions.
  4. Deeply imbedded security and authorization concept.
  5. Automated network discovery and communication tuning.
  6. User accessible metadata repository and vocabulary for business architecture.
  7. User definable GUI with recording, training and natural language input.

Analysts such as Forrester, Butler and Strategy Partners are slowly waking up to the fact that the ISIS Papyrus Platform is a force to be reckoned with. Our competitors claim that they are more innovative, flexible and modern simply because they have been in the market shorter. A company such as ISIS simply has to be old-fashioned because it has been in business for over 20 years … I would hope that any CIO worth his money would see through that pitch, but I see business being named innovative just because they jumped on the XML/Java bandwagon. That is not innovation!

A serious software company with many satisfied customers such as ISIS has one problem: Supporting existing customers and keeping new product versions upward compatible. Also ISIS has to try to achieve that as well as possible. A new business has no customer base and therefore they can do things any way they want. But that is not yet innovation. Apple has in difference been there long and is still one of the most innovative businesses.

ISIS has not only been first in many capabilites but has always pushed the envelope. Papyrus document formatting in transactional, on-demand and interactive mode is still the most powerful and by far more capable and performant than anything using XML such as XSL-FO. The document classification of Papyrus Capture still defines the state of the art. The metadata state/event driven modelling of processes is unique and more advanced than your basic BPM Suite. The machine learning for processes is an industry first as well.

I have challenged our competitors to head-on comparisons many times and they always decline. I have asked analysts for functional comparisons and they rather go by market share. Finally I don’t understand that these products are still bought without a proof of concept installation. Try before you buy is the only approach that makes sense.

The recession offers many opportunities and more scrutiny when buying software is certainly much more in vogue. All vendors claim to be innovative so call them out and put it to the test. Just adding buzzwords to the marketing pitch is not even innovative marketing.

Flashy GUIs versus Longterm Business Benefits

Put yourself in the shoes of the average IT user in a business department. Armed with little IT knowledge the user will make a choice based on what he sees – the user interface. Therefore software vendors sell ‘cool’ GUI looks with little solid architecture underneath. The long-term issues of maintaining enterprise applications are mostly ignored.

For Web-based document applications, Adobe owns two of the most popular plug-ins on the Internet: PDF and Flash. One can only admire them for having had the perspective to make these plug-ins free of charge and thus promote widespread use. Being free does not mean that using them saves the business money. There are several independent (which I am not despite trying) experts who see the problems of hard-coding for i.e. FLEX applications. I have pointed to their blogs in my previous posts. I on my part have long argued against hard-coded PDF (with or without the use of XML) documents. Using XML makes neither PDF nor Flash/FLEX any less complicated. The programmer has one more layer of interfacing to consider and is even further from the user, while files sizes, required bandwidth and CPU needs immediately quintuple!

For these FLASHy GUI applications a horde of programmers creates a singular hard-coded construct. Yes, I admit that today more tools are available to administer some functions but not for example the GUI in Java, AJAX or FLEX. It is like programming any other graphics environment. To compete with Papyrus many vendors renamed their control files or tables to ‘repository’. Can they define object types freely in all their features like in Papyrus? You better find out what RIA and repository means for them.

As a matter of verifyable fact, Adobe LifeCycle with FLEX does not make an application more FLEXible, but the GUI can be used in the browser. Adobe for example flogs the benefits of using the same form in PDF and FLEX, which I see of little to no value. A FLEX GUI would be dynamic while PDF does can not produce a dynamic document. It is a static page presentation language. There is however something going on within Adobe to enable PDF dynamical formatting by adding some proprietary XML. That this enhancement process is owned by a vendor makes Acrobat/PDF by definition as proprietary as Papyrus and not a standard.

Well, we could have added some triangle brackets to DOCDEF and PQL so we could call it an XML standard. But as this hurts the business by making applications slower and more CPU and network intensive we refrained. Dumping XML as a transport format for Flash GUI definitions in Papyrus EYE substantially improved performance on server and in the Flash plug-in.

ISIS Papyrus delivers such applications since 1998 using its Papyrus Client with the DOCDEF language to create dynamic documents. We are many years ahead of Adobe.  ISIS Papyrus invented the Internet correspondence market that was soon overrun by vendors with hardocded Java frontends, odd XML editors or using Word as an editor.  Analysts promote the use of ’standard’ tools such as InDesign for creating dynamic documents. It shows that they do not understand what correspondence means because InDesign has no means to create dynamically assembled documents and all document logic and data embedding has to be hand-coded.

Creating, deploying, administering and maintaining applications is where the real cost is and it is hidden behind the ‘free’ plug-ins Acrobat and Flash. Enterprise size installations of other products can easily be half a million dollars (or a lot more) in software products and possibly another million dollars in implementation coding for a sizeable installation with several hundred documents. These are my estimates and prone to error. If you have numbers that prove different I am interested to hear them. I will publish them here. The real crunch comes however with maintaining these applications. Any change in screen presentation, data interfacing, and business logic will most likely be again an expensive coding/testing exercise in most other products. An average ISIS Papyrus installation can also be half a million but it will be 250k to implement at most. The business then has total control over the application without needing programmers. With Papyrus the definitions are in the repository with maybe some scripting.

Papyrus offers definable data population into a form, allows entered data to be validated, enables digital signatures (as well as SmartCard and Biometric authentication since 2003) and rights management, and certainly allows web services to be integrated since many years. We have dynamic paginating documents in true WYSIWYG that PDF will not have for some time for Acrobat. We only generate the PDF when the dynamic pagination has been completed based on the data input and document interaction with the user. Yes, Papyrus is not dependent on FLEX but its Papyrus EYE technology is at least as powerful, but more flexible and does not require any programming.

Those vendor’s claims of full batch (structured), on-demand and interactive functionality should be considered with caution. The functionality is compared to ISIS Papyrus is limited.  You might ask whether analyst studies would not show the differences. Many comparison studies do not look at the products. Gartner and Forrester just send out EXCEL sheets to fill out. That is it. No true assessment.

So could Papyrus not also possibly be all smoke and mirrors? Sure. Which is why we always propose to do a Proof of Concept installation to verify feasability before buying anything. But as always dear vendors, I am willing to do an independently assessed heads-on comparison of product functions and long-term impact ANYTIME with ANYONE.

Butler Group: Papyrus Platform Technology Audit

I am pleased to inform you that Butler Group has announced the findings of its well-known Technology Audit for the Papyrus Platform. The process was quite lengthy and I was surprised at the depth of questions and research.  I was even more astounded when I saw the first version of the audit, because it was extremely detailed and technical. Butler Group Analyst Mike Thompson had worked into the core functions of our very broad system. I actually had to ask to use some less technical language (i.e. business objects instead of object-oriented metadata model). This research is clearly directed towards CIOs, IT experts, project managers and not the business user.

The report is either available through Butler Group or can be requested from ISIS. Here are some relevant passages from the research:

Product Analysis:
The ISIS Papyrus Communication & Process Platform (Papyrus Platform v7) is a consolidated solution that brings together Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Business Process Management (BPM), Business Rules Management (BRM), and operational Business Intelligence (BI) using data federation to create composite knowledge applications with front- and back-office collaboration.

Product Operation:
The Papyrus Platform manages a Business Architecture meta model in its central WebRepository and uses an application life-cycle change-management infrastructure to deploy the model metadata into its productive servers, portals and end-user PCs via the completely transparent Enterprise Service Bus that connects all platform nodes.

The Papyrus Platform has been designed to ease the integration with existing IT infrastructures and applications; it enables the creation of reusable objects that map processes to existing applications, and it facilitates rapid process development and immediate distributed deployment. These document and process templates are stored and deployed throughout the enterprise from the Papyrus WebRepository to mainframe, UNIX, PC, and Web environments without conversion, reprogramming, or even recompilation.

These cost-intensive integration aspects of creating process-centric service applications is all too often overlooked; as though simply abstracting the processes will somehow remove the pain of integration and mapping the process activities to underlying source systems. By using a business-architectured model, ISIS Papyrus has not only addressed many of the unanswered questions posed by BPM, but also implemented a workable solution.

Product Emphasis:
The ISIS Papyrus Platform has been designed to hide the deeply technical nature of the solution (and the problems it solves) behind a set of technologies that create an environment that is both user friendly and user valid. The solution crosses a number of boundaries and that is one of the issues that ISIS Papyrus has to overcome in moving the solution to market; it does not fit neatly into a recognised space, but that does make it any less useful nor any less relevant to the market, it is simply a question of helping the market understand the true depth of the problem.

Mike Thompson also fully understood the problem that we face with bringing a radically new solution to the market. I certainly hope that over time we will be able to make the market see that powerful business solutions do not have to be complex and difficult to implement. Nor do they need to come from the big vendors …

Sir Walter von Ockam had defined his famous ‘Occam’s Razor’: “All things being equal, the most simple solution to a problem is most probably the right one.” The Papyrus Platform is a lot simpler than most other options to implement consolidated ECM, BPM and CRM environments.

Forrester’s Henry Peyret on EA Evolution

This is my response to a Forrester publication on Enterprise Architecture Evolution:

Quote: “The recently published Forrester Wave™ on enterprise architecture (EA) tools demonstrates that the real benefit of these tools is not in the modeling itself, but in the modeling that supports real EA objectives — such as knowledge-sharing, collaboration on standards, and providing aggregated dashboards that help decision-makers choose from different scenarios.”

I happen to not fully agree because while all the above is important the EA tools proposed are outside the actual application and purely in the development environment. Evolution is however an internal function of the execution itself. Here my response:

Henry, interesting subject indeed!!! But does the term EVOLUTION not imply a seamless functionality within the application system? Nature seems to evolve without someone performing simulation and analysis and then makes an assumption as to which changes might bring an improvement? Well, we could have a religious discussion here on ‘Intelligent Design’ but let’s stay away from that. Evolution works by taking fitness information straight from the execution and feeding it right back into the next cycle of execution. Darwin was even apparently wrong that fitness happens by chance because he was not aware of the functionality of GENE EXPRESSION. Genes do not have to change to improve the design, they just have to be expressed in a more fitting way.

We need to do the same with software! Analysis, simulation and monitoring are NOT AGILE, Henry! They are just little less rigid. In any case I propose that no-one wants or needs rigid processes no matter how well analyzed or simulated! Simulation is guess work and yes, using the Monte Carlo method the guess work can be optimized but it still is a ‘gamble’ (sic). Las Vegas calling. Business needs an environment in which processes – and applications representing those – tune themselves with fitness information coming straight from user interaction in real-time into the next execution cycle.

This is what the Papyrus Platform does with its User-Trained Agent. Let the users do their work and feed real-time performance data right back into the execution environment to improve the processes by discovering decision patterns based from user interaction. Analysis and simulation are – like process I might add – outdated concepts from manufacturing. Running a business well is not manufacturing, it is about empowering the business user to service the customer and not by putting BOTH into a process straight jacket.