Light blogging today

Traveling back from Germany today, so not much blogging. It’s been a rough week, I flew out on Tuesday for some meetings yesterday, which means I went right from the airport to my afternoon schedule and turned around this morning to come back.

I had a really interesting day yesterday, which made my brutal travel schedule worth it, talking about the 3 things that I care most about (professionally): web 2.0, open source, and social media. I have been critical of SAP for a little while now because we don’t seem to be grasping the significance of the first 2 topics on a broad scale, but I have been encouraged to see some changes in attitude lately. Just yesterday we explored, as a rather large group of 40+ people, the significance of scripting languages in our future competitive landscape and then for a bonus we installed and dived into Sugar as an example of how business applications are embodying both open source and new development tools. We also looked at the cultural shift that is occurring with salesforce’s appexchange, which ended up being a pretty lively discussion.

Dabble DB

I’ve been hearing a lot about Dabble DB lately, with some calling their application development capability lightning fast and rich while others have pointed to the data modeling as an example of a truly next generation web 2 development ideology. Whatever the reasons this company has captured the imagination of some people who see these innovative companies on a regular basis. Ismael has a post about Dabble that is worth reading because it has not only a historical footnote to it, but details of a sample application he built with the service.

I would love to see this generation of tool start to make inroads into enterprise markets for the simple reason that current generation platforms (all of them) are throwbacks to earlier toolsets. At some point you have to break from the past and create something new otherwise somebody else without your baggage will and smoke you. That’s exactly what is happening with startups who are building on LAMP today.

There is too much surface tension in enterprise software and that greatly limits the ability for innovative groups within large companies to break free from what has been done before them. Perhaps this is the innovator’s dilemma that Christensen writes about, but maybe it’s as simply explained by saying that technology companies overvalue what they have already built rather than looking at old code as worthy of replacement by something simpler and better; maybe this helps explain why Microsoft is having such a hard time getting Vista out. This inability to innovate without a box also limits the ability of these companies to attract the kind of engineering talent that the consumer internet technology market does.

Speaking of innovation, how many developers coming out of school today are working in open source tools and consider the community driven approach of open source to be normal? I’d wager that the majority of these future engineering leaders fall into that category, but we’re trying to stuff them in the NetWeaver or Fusion or Websphere box like the proverbial round peg in a square hole… and then we wonder why attracting rockstar engineers is so difficult.

I realize that what started out as a post about Dabble DB has turned into a rant about some other issues that aren’t even related, but thinking about this company made me reflect back to the early 1990’s when the successors to Cobol (the dominant business application language) looked a lot like Cobol with better controls and a graphical developer environment, and then Visual Basic came along and fundamentally disrupted these tools because it did not try to be like them. VB was not destined to become a language that major enterprise business applications were written in, but it served as a model for tools that ultimately did, like Peopletools, Blyth, and Gupta.

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