Tag Archives: transformation

Innovation that matters – Node-RED

IoT Innovation that matters – Node-RED

With 33+ years of Enterprise IT solutions and architectural experience, it’s not often that I come across innovations, ideas and solutions that are truly new and/or transformational.

However I have to say a recent IBM OpenWorks Node-RED webinar and IoT solution / device integration webinar really made me sit up and take note, the event replay can be found here.


In the webinar the team of presenters and founding Node-RED developers from IBM’s  Hursley Development labs, Nick O’Leary and Dave Conway-Jones (IBM Senior Inventor), in conjunction with Dr Mike Blackstock and Dr Rodger Lea from Sense Tecnic Systems, Inc (and the University of British Columbia) really knocked it out of the park for me.

It looks like an excellent combination of a logical, simple, effective idea and combined with ease of use and flow execution. It combines a set of API driven device integrations and data inputs/outputs into “flows”, leveraging a flow based programming model, that in turn was originally defined by J. Paul Morrison at IBM in the early 1970’s.

Node-RED has now been adopted by Linux Foundation JavaScript js.foundation

This model essentially combines a network of asynchronous processes communicating by means of streams of structured data chunks or elements, where each process is in effect “a black box”. Each step does not not need to know what went before, or indeed what comes after: it just acts on the data it receives and passes the result on.

In this respect it is similar in concept to one of the founding principles of IBM’s MQSeries, deliver once reliably and only once, and/or subsequently MQTT as a lightweight pub / sub messaging protocol that sits behind Facebook chat etc.

Remembering childhood games of “pass the parcel” where participants could leave (or indeed re-join) the game, whilst executing their specific step until the music stopped.


The Node-RED solution (which has now been adopted and is being further developed by the Node.JS open source community) looks like a very elegant, cost effective and simple solution to complex IoT / Manufacturing 4.0 device and data integration requirements.

To me, I really enjoyed the IBM OpenWORKS talk and would commend it to IT Strategy teams and architects that are engaged in Front Office / IoT Digital Innovation solution deployments and platform strategy definitions.

You might also call this Node-RED solution the “yin” to a blockchain / IBM Hyperledger “yang”, where both are now founded on significant Open Source principles whilst one does not mind what went before and after, and the other executes principles of immutability in a trusted network of asset flows (fiscal or physical).

Also this week I really enjoyed the annual British Computing, Alan Turing lecture by Dr. Guru Banavar is vice president and chief science officer for cognitive computing at IBM.

Guru is responsible for advancing the next generation of cognitive technologies and solutions with IBM’s global scientific ecosystem, including academia, government agencies and other partners, he leads the team responsible for creating new AI technologies and systems in the family of IBM Watson, that are designed to augment (and not replace) human expertise in a broad range of industries.

For me it was an interesting and logical co-incidence that Guru was previously, the chief technology officer (CTO) for IBM’s Smarter Cities initiative, where Node-RED also has very logical use cases for building climate control systems and solutions, described by Dr Mike Lea and Dr Roger Blackstok in the second part of the Node-Red update.

Guru Banavar designed and implemented big data and analytics systems to help make cities, such as Rio de janeiro and New York, more livable and sustainable.

When I logically put together Node-RED IoT / Manufacturing 4.0 / IBM Watson IoT enabled innovation with IBM’s Bluemix Dev/Ops platform and the IBM Watson Cognitive, Analytical and HyperLedger capabilities in a secure Hybrid Cloud, API / Microservices enabled “Choice A” scenario the opportunity for Open Source enabled digital innovation seems to be truly significant!

The opinions within this blog are the authors, they do not represent a formal IBM corporate point of view.


Developing flexible, business aligned IT innovation and capability delivery strategies

After my prior LinkedIn item on when does SAP S/4 HANA make sense for your business?

I received a question through a colleague in respect of a large European client who was effectively defining a Choice A over Choice B forward IT strategy.


This prompted me I to sit down and put some further thought into a IT Executive view of a business into IT strategy model and approach that could result after an Enterprise client makes Choice A.

A Business Domain / IT Transformation Viewpoint

Getting straight to the point, as a direct consequence, I then sketched out the following high level architectural thinking and strategic business into IT building block based approach (having further researched various recent IBM C Suite and IBM Institute of Business Value (IBV) studies) that places an effective API and Enterprise Service Bus “inner / outer ring” strategy as the key enabling capability.

An Open Business Domain : IT Transformation Viewpoint v2 180717
It was also interesting to read a recently (31/01/17) published summary of a study by the DSAG (German Speaking SAP User Group) which in addition to discussing various S/4 HANA adoption rates amongst the surveyed SAP DACH clients.

This study highlighted plans to significantly increase forward IT investments and focus in front office “digital transformation and business / IT enabled innovation projects” within the surveyed German and Swiss speaking / based companies (similar to Panalpina) leading in this area, with up to 60 and 70% respectively of funding being targeted at these critical area’s and “competitive advantage” or simple “stay in business” IT transformation and investment requirements vs disruptive adjacent industry or new physical “asset lite” digital disruptive competitors (Netflix vs Blockbuster retail outlets comes to mind) .

It is possible to say that a number of industries including global logistics companies naturally already have complex extended digital supply chains which are facilitated by standards based messaging, API’s, data exchange with supporting back office EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) platforms and web enabled consumer and partner .

After creating this high level model and approach I naturally started to think further the critical business into IT capabilities that are required to ensure success when implementing a business aligned IT innovation strategy of this type.

When I net these out, to me they seemed to distill into six or seven strategic IT capabilities and imperatives in combination with the profile of the individual business appetite from a forward risk / reward and rate of IT innovation and management / adoption of change point of view.

These included the business aligned development, governance and practical implementation of:

  1.  An effective API development, brand, portfolio management and delivery strategy
  2.  An effective data governance and management strategy to pool, integrate and actively manage data for trusted, timely and accurate business insight
  3. An existing, defined and working ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) application messaging platform or platform/s (I refer to this as an “inner ring / outer ring” ESB / EAI strategy)
  4. The appropriate and targeted selection of buy (& Integrate) vs build (Dev/Ops) and run application capabilities
  5. Aligned Business and IT Executive sponsorship, funding and organization / cultural factors
  6. Structured, thoughtful analyze to select the most appropriate IT capability building blocks
  7. A plan to explore, target and integrate cognitive computing, ML / AI capabilities

Crucial also is timing, as various new and emerging technologies typically traverse the Gartner “technology hype” curves (or Forrester Waves) at different speeds, with specific vendors, technologies and/or platform/s emerging to becoming a or the “de-facto” standard or dominant provider in a particular function or area.

Within this context it’s clear that some fundamental and basic “table stakes” still apply including:

  1. A real, demonstrable, sustained commitment to Open Source offerings and capabilities
  2. The selection and integration of at scale, viable “top right” quadrant platforms, products and/or technology partners
  3. Appropriate Business into IT funding to phase delivery – Start small, prove, then scale fast
  4. Understanding when to buy vs build – The Factory IT vs Competitive Advantage IT question
  5. Understanding that multi source, highly cost optimized, outsourced IT strategies are relatively unlikely to provide a firm foundation for the agile delivery of new business into IT capabilities – as Business into IT Driven “Digital Innovation Requirements” become ever more critical

Which in turn relates towards the phased evolution vs revolution question that is described and nicely summarized in a GA Moore technology model below.

Where often within individual global enterprises various Business into IT delivery programmes will sit in different segments under the “cross the chasm” curve.

In a prior Imperial College Business Innovation course it was clear that the most successful and effective business innovation strategies and platforms (including the Apple’s iPhone), were in the majority of successful cases, actually combining proven prior individual technology components and eco system building blocks in new innovative ways.

It was the innovative new combination of these proven capabilities and technology building blocks often within new value based networks that creates the greatest and/or most disruptive business value, often not brand new or immature technology.

It was also interesting to observe a recent joint Schaeffler Group / IBM Watson IoT / Manufacturing 4.0 partnership announcement and youtube video that is grounded on a number of these principles as described below:


In addition to a recent LinkedIn CIO / Data Management forum item that nicely described effective Data Management and IoT strategies as the “King and Queen” partners of aligned IT Innovation capabilities in the complex game of chess that is successfully implementing viable, long term IT strategies.

If these are the King and Queen I’d also then say that Hyperledger and blockchain represent the Castles in chess terms, enabling swift directed movement combined with protection and security.

Additionally in my view as described in a short you tube video about IBM’s Hyperledger blockchain pilot system within IBM Global Financing (IBM IGF process $44 Billion Dollars of transactions, within a network of 4,000 partners, suppliers, shippers, banks).

Where the implemented open source based IBM Hyperledger solution provides an “individual client ledger” neutral, secure, immutable, auditable digital asset / document and transaction supply chain without seeking to force change the participating partners back offices platforms which is costly, risky and typically has extended cycle / lead times vs speed to value.

Approximately 10 years ago a number my IBM colleagues in our Consulting, Hosting and Global Services teams invested significant time and effort in a structured review of large scale complex IBM / Client project deliveries both successful (and a few unsuccessful) to help better inform future joint projects and joint IBM / Client success.

The output of that study is as valid now, if not more so now than before (in our Hybrid Cloud, Cognitive world), in that it logically identified and confirmed what we all know to be true, but is unfortunately often ignored or lost in the heat of an early project life cycle.

In particular these structured approaches become even more important as many large, medium and small Enterprise clients seek to successfully deploy and manage relatively complex “Hybrid Cloud” scenario’s.


The success of any significant IT initiative crucially depends upon the initial business aligned requirements definition and closely managing and defining the interfaces and hand offs between the different partners and functions that are described in a 10 box IT operating and innovation model.

With the 1st and most crucial box being the initial terms of reference and requirements definition box prior to developing a 9 box “design, build and run” model in 3 layers:

  1. The business transformation requirements, value into the application delivery layer
  2. The business application, integration and data management layer
  3. The IT Infrastructure, platform and IT service delivery layer/s

The success of this model and approach is then defined by the success (or otherwise) of carefully defining and managing the interfaces between the 9 boxes in people, culture, technology, funding, capability teamwork and strategic terms as follows:


One of my Client IT Architect colleagues working in the Retail and Consumer products industry also recently highlighted that it’s never been more important to manage these interfaces effectively to avoid the unwelcome emergence of the “IT to IT Gaps” that will inhibit successful delivery, in combination with the critical success factor of selected and assembling proven building blocks in new innovative ways that is at the heart of the most successful Business into IT innovations:


Where the basis rule applies more often than not, assembling proven capabilities and building blocks (using a Lego like analogy) will typically yield more predictable and effective outcomes.


I hope this item is helpful, in highlighting the requirements and prerequisites for successful “Choice A vs Choice B” business into IT innovation delivery.

IBM provides a combination of proven scalable, virtualized building blocks for Enterprise scale SAP Hybrid or Private Cloud platform delivery including DB2 v11.1 LUW, IBM POWER8, AIX, PowerVM, Linux, IBM System z, DB2 and/or Linux One, System I with DB2.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this blog reflect 33 years of experience in Enterprise IT and ERP / Application platform delivery are my own and do not represent formal IBM views or strategies. Vendor trademarks are respected






Will Open Source Enabled Big Data, IoT / API Enabled Innovation prevail – YES or No?

In this section (4) we consider the question

– Will Open Source Enabled Big Data, IoT / API Enabled Innovation prevail – YES or No?

It is also clear that unless IT Functions embrace and lead in an API / IoT enabled economy we will continue to see the development of “Shadow IT” capabilities that are closely aligned to and embedded within the individual lines of business (sales, marketing, supply chain, manufacturing, distribution, multi-channel, partner enablement).

Indeed I believe we will continue to observe a switch from Business to Consumer (B2C) towards Business to Individual (B2I) insight based targeted enablement based on location, weather, preference, event, location insights (which follows IBM’s acquisition of the Weather Company) in addition to prior IBM alliances with Twitter, Apple and/or more recently Cisco in the IoT / Edge and Data Analytics area .

Indeed IBM already delivers solutions in this area with our Metro Pulse solution for Consumer Products Industry clients where multiple sources of un or semi structured Big Data (SQL Schema After) and/or Little Data (SQL Schema Before) are seamlessly combined with location, weather, preference, local event, historical POS data and promotional data etc to increase sales and product availability in “Metro” city based locations like London, New York or Singapore.
Also a high rate of innovation (and change) is currently being observed in the Big Data platforms and analytics solutions area where it seems that the majority of the Enterprise IT Architects and Clients I’ve spoken to are firmly committed to Open Source aligned Big Data solutions and platform choices. This then naturally raises the following question

Will Open Source aligned Big Data solutions eventually prevail?

In my view the answer is a 100% YES, although I also believe that a balance between open source driven innovation and large enterprise scale IT non functional requirements is required as summarized below:

Open Innovation

Indeed in the area of Proprietary vs Open Systems (at one time these used to be defined as Unix based Client / Server systems vs the IBM Mainframe), IBM previously tried a relatively closed and proprietaty approach when the IT market was rapidly transitioning towards Unix or “Open” distributed client / server platforms in the early 1990’s.
IBM subsequently / consequently suffered a near death experience in business terms as prior continued M/Frame MIPS platform capacity growth rapidly switched towards these alternative Distributed / Client Server platforms. Indeed SAP delivered SAP R/3 vs R/2 over the Mainframe with DB2 before to align with this “Open Systems” choice and market trend.

Although it is also true to say in more recent times IBM M/Frame MIPS capacity growth (combined with Open platform M/Frame Linux enablement) continues at a pace, often for mission critical systems of record / big batch scenarios.

Something rather similar happened in the PC market where IBM developed a technically superior but incompatible IBM PS/2 MCA (Micro Channel Architecture) as a follow on to the original IBM PC and/or PC AT IO adapter architecture.

Just as we technically turned right the rest of the market turned left with an ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) PC Input / Output (IO) adapter and bus strategy the rest is history as IBM’s PC Company went from having a largely dominant “IBM PC” market share to a significantly smaller share over time, is the same thing happening now in the core ERP / Systems of Record market?

As a direct result and subsequently IBM’s commitment and contribution to Open Source driven projects and innovation has been second to none amongst the major IT vendors, in summary IBM essentially previously learnt a very hard business into IT lesson in IT innovation and industry change terms.

This commitment includes significant investments and technical alignment to the following:

  • The Apache Software Foundation (1999) subsequently Eclipse (2001)
  • Linux (2007), OpenStack (2012), Cloud Foundry (2014)
  • jS (2014), Docker and the very significant Apache SPARK in-memory analytics operation system (2015) investment
  • In addition to the more recent innovative Blockchain based Hyperledger project (2016).

These commitments are in addition to the ODPi (Open Data Platform) Hadoop initiative are now both pervasive and very significant within IBM, indeed IBM recently published a paper that summarises this commitment and the resulting rates of Open Source driven innovation that in the longer term, in the view of the author will always eventually prevail over proprietary aligned alternatives no matter how big a single vendor or aligned partner eco system commitment.

Hence in my view, It’s not really a case of if, simply a case of when Open Source based innovation prevails.

Indeed in support of this viewpoint, Vinnie Mirchandani (in SAP Nation v1.0) mentions the success and growth of the Cloud Integrator Appirio with BoB / SaaS integration solutions and a large TopCoder community, in addition the rapid growth IBM is experiencing in the Bluemix and/or API Connect area’s.

Of course this Open Source commitment does not mean clients will not require a prior trusted solution partners to help them to safely bridge between their existing system of record and planned front office API enabled strategic IT platform investments, either Public, Hybrid Cloud or indeed prior Private Cloud / On-Premise often for mission and business critical data protection and/or privacy / IP reasons – It all starts with the data !.

The above mentioned paper can be found here, it nicely summarises the evolution of various Open Source platforms over time.


More recently one of the potentially most significant and innovative Open Source projects is the rapidly emerging Blockchain “Hyperledger” distributed ledger project that will in my view be truly transformative for many clients and industries.

Indeed I’d also recommend a rather detailed report published by the UK Government Office for Science, Chief Scientific Advisor, Mark Walport in December 2015 called :

Distributed Ledger Technology: beyond block chain, which can be found at:


Commencing initially with the Financial Services industry but then likely rapidly extending into other industries like Consumer Products and/or Discreet Manufacturing where complex extended and distributed supply chains and resulting financial transaction flows and ledger entries are the norm.

I’d also recommend the following short youtube video that describes the future impact of the this project in addition to this item on the Financial Times ft.com as follows:



Having covered some of the strategic IT investment choices in the above lets now dive back into the details of some of the “hype” and largely commercially driven pressure to migrate to SAP S/4 HANA and/or HANA OS/DB migrations (vs prior Oracle, DB2, MS SQL etc SAP AnyDB platform choices)

Now we move onto the final section in this series of blog entrances – In-memory marketing hype vs reality, section 5.

Disclaimer – This blog represents the authors own views vs a formal IBM point of view

The views expressed in this blog are the authors and do not represent a formal IBM point of view.

They do represent an aggregate of many years (20+) of successful ERP / SAP Platform deployment and IT strategy development experience that is supplemented with many hours of reading, respective DB2 and/or SAP HANA roadmap materials and presentations at various user conferences and/or user groups, in addition to carefully reading input from a range of respected industry / database analyst sources (these sources are respected and quoted).