The latest addition to the middleware stack from Sun Microsystems Inc. is not updates to integration technology it acquired from SeeBeyond or identity management directory software acquired from Netscape, it's a home grown SOA philosophy.
Nearing the mid-point between this past May's JavaOne 2006 and next May's JavaOne 2007, Rob Beauchamp, vice president of middleware at Sun, says new products released in the next six months will be accompanied by a new attitude.
In keeping with Sun senior vice president James Gosling's argument that SOA is a service-oriented approach, rather than an architecture, the company plans to market its own somewhat unique corporate culture as the new SOA paradigm.
"Sun is very open," said Beauchamp. "Sun is very collaborative. What we're going to be doing in middleware, how we're going to be promoting SOA going forward is going to be consistent with the characteristics that make us who we are."
Sun has learned a lot about openness and collaboration, Beauchamp said, working with the community of Java developers in the decade-plus since Gosling created that now ubiquitous programming language.
"Our objective is to leverage open communities and then enable other companies to become open, too," the middleware vice president said. "We've got one of the most successful open source communities on the planet and that's Java. We've learned so much through that, so much so we think the loyalty of the developer community has as much to do with Java itself, as how we nurture the community."
In the Sun view of a service-oriented approach, the architecture, software tools and coding are simply the enablers of a paradigm shift in corporate culture that not only provides transactions among businesses and customers but forges new relationships.
"Transactions and functionality have been increasing at decent rate for the last several years," Beauchamp said. "That's not so much what I'm talking about because I think those services will continue to expand. What I'm talking about is embracing their customer base and allowing the social network to drive where they go."
In this way Sun sees SOA revolutionizing the way businesses do business.
"It's our belief that the Global 2000 will have to change the way it operates in order to retain customer loyalty," Beauchamp said. "And not just how they operate from a transaction standpoint or technical standpoint, but transition in the way that it operates in interacting with its customers. What we hope we'll be able to do is help the Global 2000 transition to a more open and collaborative way of doing business, to embrace its social network."
If this sounds like Web 2.0 with its wikis and blogs, that is what the Sun executive is talking about. He advocates bringing some of the ideas popularized by Wikipedia and MySpace into the world of global business.
Beauchamp says, "There are a lot of issues that require middleware to be able to offer services to their customers to get open and direct feedback from their customers by having blogs, by inviting their customer base to provide feedback on the products and services they offer. Being able to engage their community in whole new ways that they haven't previously."
Asked to provide an example of how social networking would operate in the business world, the Sun executive points to the "Get in Touch with Us" feature on the Proctor & Gamble corporate Web site, where the household products giant asks customers to provide feedback on the company's products.
"They have 60,000 product managers that are basically homemakers," Beauchamp said. "They've discovered that the most valuable feedback they get about their products doesn't come from their product management group. It doesn't come from the focus groups. It really comes from people who use their products everyday. So they have learned to embrace the social network of their user base and those people are essentially a collective product management group."
In the months leading up to JavaOne 2007, which is Sun's premier new product showcase, Beauchamp said customers for its middleware products should expect to see new software tools released to support this kind of social networking for business.
"Some of the things that Sun is going to differentiate itself from the middleware standpoint and where you're going to see some innovations and new product announcements going forward is in enabling companies to turn themselves inside out," he said. "Not just focus middleware and SOA inside the enterprise, but being able to expose it openly and invitingly to the outside world."